Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Edit- and View-Mode

Programs that involve markup language usually have an edit and a view mode. Some desktop wikis are mode-less, but they usually pay for this with more complicated linking procedures.

There is nothing wrong with different modes. Even Emacs has them—and major and minor modes to boot. In any case, typing Alt-e, which switches view- or edit-mode on or off in ConnectedText has become second nature during the five years I have been using it. I don't even notice pressing these keys.

This is where some programs a program like RedNotebook is are very weak.[1] It also has edit and view mode, but it does not allow you to switch between them with a simple keyboard command. It has some for search, save, quit, etc. But for edit and view, which arguably you use the most: nothing. Instead, you have to click a small icon. RedNotebook is by no means the only program that lacks this feature. It bothered me already in Will Duquette's Notebook way back in 2003.

There is a problem with the edit and view modes in RedNotebook: they are not clearly identifiable. In ConnectedText, I use a different font and color for the editor (light yellow) versus white. So I allways know which mode I am in. Yesterday, while fooling around with RedNotebook, I pasted a few pages into it. Or rather, I thought I had pasted a few different pages into it. But I was in View Mode, and it just looked as if I had pasted something into it. (This is particularly devious. If it did not "take" a paste at all, I might also realize that I did something wrong. But then again, I don't think that I did anything wrong. It's the program that is wrong.

Conclusion: in a modal program it should be easy to switch between two modes (using shortcut keys) and the modes should be clearly identifiable without any effort.

1. Monday, June 28, 2010: Changed in lights of WelcomeTo Isherwood's comments.


welcometosherwood said...

FYI - Control-P toggles between preview and edit modes in RedNotebook... The app is now at release 1.0, so this may have just been added.

MK said...

I did not see it, but it was there before—sorry. It was/is under "Preview" which I still find a bit strange for "View." View/Edit.