Helpless Icon Carnage

Last week I went on a toolbutton slaughter, and now the carnage has expanded to the icons in FeedDemon’s newspaper.

Each article in a FeedDemon newspaper has a series of icons beneath it, and over time the number of icons has grown to the point that they’ve become a serious distraction.  For example, with the addition of the sharing and tagging icons in the upcoming FeedDemon 2.8, each article would have 10 icons beneath it:

 

Most customers use only a few of these icons, so I’ve removed most them by default in FeedDemon 2.8:

Power users, of course, will want to customize the icons, so I’ve added an “Icons…” button to Options|Reading which displays this dialog:

 

While I’m still in the mood to clean up FeedDemon, where else should I target for simplification?

38 thoughts on “Helpless Icon Carnage

  1. Good work Nick, I like what you are doing in this series. It makes the items themselves, the things I use a feed reader for, easier to read. That makes it easier and faster to get through a lot of info.

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  2. @Nick – that’s an easy fix – remove the News Item List once and for all (g,d,r myself :) )
    In all seriousness, will the post icons still be addable through the regular way – ie, can we edit postactions.inc – for us stylehackers? Or is that changing to accommodate the new dialog?

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  3. Here are a few that I’ve been battling all week now that I’m using FeedDemon more for managing (basically I have feeds into the forums I need to be active on and use the clippings to put things into todo/follow up/finished buckets).
    1. The “Add to clippings folder” icon looks like a trash can. I always think that means “Delete” even though the delete X is right next to it.
    2. “Send To” should allow you to send to a clipping folder. Again, even though I know better I do it over, and over, and over again. In fact I’d dump the whole “Add to clippings folder” icon and add a new “Send To” -> “Clippings Folder” -> “/New Folder”
    I’m *greatly* looking forward to tagging support. I’m finding my whole way of treating feeds is changing and I need multiple ways to slice the data, to shape it, to bucket it and use it later.

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  4. Can you please add here a choice of the ‘T’ button to open the article in a new tab/external browser (as chosen in Options)? It would be nice to not have to go to the keyboard when there’s only a few articles to review.

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  5. Am I the only one who uses zero icons and zero buttons? Everything I need to do can be done from the keyboard. So as far as I’m concerned, you can make them all optional.

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  6. How about a Vista-style auto-hiding menu bar? I never need it since I can’t figure out what that whole mess of menu items means anyway. Ditto for most, if not all of the icons on each post, the toolbar buttons, and the status bar. Maybe a FeedDemon “clean mode” with barely anything? I only have one interaction with FeedDemon – I focus the app, hit Ctrl-D to see the next page of unread items, repeat until done, minimize the app.

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  7. Top of the list for the UI for me would be (at least to have the option) to fix the title bar for the feed (with the feed title, sort by feed/date/title, and headline/summary toggle) to always be at the top, rather than scrolling up with the page.

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  8. @d_p: I’m working on making the header fixed right now – I had some problems doing this in the past, but assuming I’ve worked around those problems, this will be in v2.8.

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  9. @wataru: No, you’re not the only one, I don’t use any of those icons either. As far as my usage is concerned, they’re just a waste of a line. So Nick, if unticking all the Newspaper Icons options removes the line entirely, that would be great.
    Nick, I know you’d love to remove the News Item List. In a previous post, I argued strongly for keeping it, but since then, I’ve been living without it quite happily, so simplify away :-)
    (A couple of things would make me happier with the Newspaper View though – moving the Full Posts/Summaries/Headlines buttons from the top of the Newspaper view to the toolbar, and having each feed remember which of those buttons I use for that feed.)

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  10. Sorry Nick, my last post crossed with yours – I see you’re already fixing the Newspaper header at the top, so that’s great.

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  11. When in the newspaper view, I’d love to have a status bar (or balloon?) to indicate the URL of links. I feel so “not in control” when I can’t see where a link is going to take me. Thanks.

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  12. @Nick: Interesting… I’m not seeing a status bar. Maybe that’s the problem. ;-) I’ve looked throughout the menus and can’t find any place to enable the status bar.

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  13. @Shawn: Agree with you about the clippings folder icons – they *do* look like trashcans in the newspaper, and I need to correct that. BTW, I think you’ll find the tagging features work even better than clippings for the way you use FeedDemon.

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  14. @Shawn – the reason the clippings icon looks the way it does is because before the NewsGator acquisition, they were called “Newsbins”.
    @Nick – If View->Show Toolbars is unchecked, the status bar disappears. Also re: the Clippings icon – how ’bout a pair of scissors?

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  15. @Nick: I can verify that critter42’s assessment is correct.
    I’m not a big fan of the Office 2003 toolbar look. So in that case, I kindly ask for a way to have the status bar displayed without the toolbar. If that wouldn’t be possible, some reworked icons with proper anti-aliasing would go a long way. Thanks!
    ps. Just found that you can change the interface style to ‘Classic’, which I definitely prefer. My stance on the icons still stands. ;-)

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  16. @critter: Wow – I’d completely forgotten my own feature :) Thanks for the reminder!
    @Jeff: I agree about the icons. I doubt they’ll be reworked in this version, but new icons are definitely on the roadmap.

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  17. I’d love to see better customization in the toolbar for us to be able to decide where the buttons go. I always use the NEXT button and the “Next Unread Feed” so that I can skip some from time to time, but the two buttons are so far apart from each other.

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  18. Well, if you’re still working toward the eventual goal of eliminating the news item list, it’d be good to give some CSS love to the newspaper view, making the formatting as much like the item view as possible – headline, date, summary, that’s it. No icons or extra links or thumbnails.
    UI-wise, I’ll get shot for suggesting this, but: Give a look at the Office Ribbon. No, better: give a look at the original Story of the Ribbon.
    Presentation:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2008/03/12/the-story-of-the-ribbon.aspx
    Blog entries:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/tags/Why+the+New+UI_3F00_/default.aspx
    Even if you don’t like the way the ribbon came out – and, after some initial confusion, I’m loving it for both keyboard and mouse – the underlying principle is key. Microsoft was having exactly the same problem you are; their most-requested features were features that were already IN Office.
    Plus: After collecting metrics, they discovered that the old pareto-curve assumption was wrong. The top 10 commands were roughly the same for everyone (and another surprise here: the Paste button is the most-used button on the toolbar, even though “everyone knows” it’s CTRL-V and on the Edit menu). Once you get past the top 10, the curve flattens out; everyone uses a different subset of Word. The difference between command #100 and #400 is the same as between #1 and #11. So they had to find ways to make commands more discoverable *in the context they’re needed*. Hence: the Ribbon.
    Sounds a lot like what you’re going through.

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  19. @Jay: I’m also a fan of both the Ribbon and Jenson Harris’ blog. A couple months ago I experimented with replacing FeedDemon’s toolbars with a Ribbon UI, though, and it just didn’t work. A Ribbon is great for toolbutton-heavy apps like Office (and I think it would be great for TopStyle), but it was overload for FeedDemon, IMO.
    But you’re certainly right about the Ribbon attempting to address the same problems I’m trying to tackle in the latest FeedDemon.

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  20. Controversial I know – but I’d get rid of the Pages in the newspaper view. In the context of FeedDemon with the variable sizes of each post it seems unnecessary to have both page views and to scroll down the list. All the page does is to make the scrolling shorter, but not in any logical way – simply by the number of posts.
    For example if you have a page length set to 10 – for example – and you want to read post 15 then you not only have to go to the next page but also page down to it (depending upon your settings). Without the page feature you simply keep scrolling. I run the page length at 200 to effectively disable it.
    So it might be better if the pages were chosen by Group – I group by date for example. Or alternatively give the the facility to turn pages off altogether – either with a check box or by setting the Page length to 0.
    Maybe this should be into the forums, but we are talking simplification here.

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  21. @Robin: I definitely see your point, but performance-wise, browsers just aren’t that speedy when it comes to rendering hundreds of articles on a single page. Perhaps I should increase the default number of articles per page, though – I admit that 10 is a little whimpy.

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  22. The pages concept is useful, since it allows long feeds to be divided up into manageable bits (helpful, for example, when going back to check on a post you dismissed too quickly when browsing). Two things would improve it, though: (1) allowing single-article pages, and (2) being able to set different page sizes (number of articles) per feed. This is needed because some feeds with short articles (or summaries) can be viewed several at a time, while other feeds with longer articles are best viewed one article per page.

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  23. @Nick – thanks for your response. From my perspective an option to disable pages would be good. Why did you choose 200 as the maximum articles per page? (Sorry, that is off topic but is relevent to a post I am considering for the forums.)
    @wataru – fair point, I like your suggestions as well although they will add to the complexity of Nick’s work!

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  24. @Robin – it was for performance issues. More than 200, it would start to take FD (technically IE) forever to render a single page. I mean rendering times in double-digit MINUTES once you start getting close to 500 items…

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  25. @Critter: performance-wise, FD is much better than it used to be when rendering that many items – but of course, if each of those 500 items has a large image or video embedded in it, then you’d probably want to go get some coffee while the page renders :)

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