Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Adding CheatSheets Interactive Help to uDig

I have been putting together the release notes for the upcoming uDig 1.2.3 and ran into a really great usability feature that we have not mentioned on our blog feed yet.

The next release of uDig includes the concept of "Cheatsheets"; these act in a manner similar to a wizard (in that the provide a series of steps); but instead are designed to supliment the running application. What is impressive is the "Click to Perform" button which will perform the task it is describing so it can show you the result.

The Quickstart cheatsheet included in uDig 1.2.3 uses this to great effect when showing the differences between the normal Map Perspective (used for working on data) and the Style Perspective (used for working on presentation).

What is even more impressive is this form of help follows you into dialogs and screens offering helpful advice as it shows you how to perform an activity.

The traditional uDig online documentation is of course still available.

This week in udig - Sep - Week 4

Levi Putna is making progress in the development of Smart Buffer tool, the following demo shows how it works.

Levi has done a great work with Map Status Bar Tool Options. It can now take a preference page id that will be opened when the tool icon is clicked in the status bar option contribution. 

Emily have resolved the following bugs (thanks a lot!):

Jesse, Jody and Mauricio have done the codereview of the issues described above.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tool Palette and Options

Tools have gotten a major usability improvement featuring:

  • ToolPalette - used to quickly explore available tools, configure tool display to show labels, descriptions or large icons for a helpful hand when learning. By default the Palette is displayed along side your Map; you can also Choose Show View > Other and Open the Palette on its own as a tear off View. This is great for users with more than one monitor or when you have multiple maps open side by side. This is the same Palette used during Page printing.
  • ToolOptions - quick access to common tool preferences from the Map Status Line. This has allowed us to reduce the number of tools while maintaining the same functionality.

These change combine to make uDig even more User-friendly with a presentation of tools similar to a paint program. As an example edit tools can use the area to make options such as "snapping" visible (previously available as a keyboard shortcut!). It is also an efficient use of screen real estate as snapping options do not waste space when they are not needed.


Here are a couple examples how how the palette looks using the Large Icons preference.


uDig practices an open development model with a couple Request for Change proposals being closed today.

As part of that the following pages have been updated in the user guide:

For more information about what is new in the uDig 1.2 series see the user guide.

And developer documentation for the new tool option functionality:

The good bit is covered here:
public class OptionContribtionItem extends ToolOptionContributionItem {
     public IPreferenceStore fillFields( Composite parent ) {
            Button check = new Button(parent,  SWT.CHECK );
            addField( NavigationToolPreferencePage.SCALE, check );
            Button tiled = new Button(parent,  SWT.CHECK );
            addField( NavigationToolPreferencePage.TILED, tiled );
            return ToolsPlugin.getDefault().getPreferenceStore();