Tab design, a few thoughts...

  • Kevin Jones
    Kevin Jones


    First off overall RoxTerm is performing just fine for me under AntiX on an old P-III laptop (Compaq Armada M700). Well, I had to change GTK theming after updates incurred by moving from Debian stable/Wheezy to Debian tesing/Jessie broke some app GUIs (RoxTerm included) but otherwise is going well. FYI, it's AntiX 13.1's default 'Zukitwo' theme that failed (via the default rox-icewm desktop).

    Anyway, getting to the topic at hand... I was a bit thrown by how RoxTerm displays two tabs stretched the full width of the window when I first tried RoxTerm awhile back on another system. I'd already come to like rox-filer via Puppy Linux so I thought I'd explore various things 'rox' a bit more. The different tab display format threw off my eye/mouse stride enough that I just went back to LXTerminal which I'd installed previously. As RoxTerm is included by default alongside rox-filer and a rox pinboard desktop on this (AntiX) distro I've decided to adapt and give it another try.

    I found an article recently which uses the wide tab behaviour as a case example to discuss interface design. I thought it might be of interest so here's a link:

    Apparently Safari has the same 'tab' behaviour. And apparently I'm not the only one who finds the format awkward.

    I'd ad to Tog's observations that full width tab expansion seems to break the very metaphor of a 'tab'. That being a -small- projection, specifically, of the sort one finds on traditional physical file folders. Two tabs on a maximized window become some sort of large 'handlebars' with their individually centered title text quite some distance apart. And I find that it is said title text which my eye uses to target the mouse. The thin vertical line marking the actual break between input fields barely registers without making a point to give it direct active focus.

    Once again, overall functionality has been fine, I just wanted to offer some feedback about the tabbed interfaces for consideration.

    Thanks goes out to all who've contributed to making RoxTerm happen. I find free opensource software very useful and full of wonder.


  • Kevin Jones
    Kevin Jones

    p.s.- "The thin vertical line marking the actual break between input fields barely registers without making a point to give it direct active focus."

    I seem to have had something different (old version, different theme,another app, dead braincells?) in my mind while typing that last bit. I just glanced back at a RoxTerm window and in fact the boldface close tab "X" combined with a bit of pseudo-3D gradient shading makes the transition pretty distinct.

    I still find it 'clunky' though. While such feelings often may arise simply from unfamiliarity, I'm inclined to think that there's more to it in this case.

    With two tabs in full screen I find myself double checking left-and-right to be sure just which tab that bold "X" floating in the center of the top of my screen really belongs to.

    Perhaps something in the symmetry and centered-ness of the division contributes to my confusion. I find that if I visualize two tabs stretched full width but in unequal proportions I don't get the same feeling of ambiguity. Interestingly, it matters not which tab (background/foreground, left/right) that I 'weight' with more area.

    Most any distinct weighting seems to help resolve the visual/mental ambiguity. Visualizing a distinct active foreground tab shade (and/or pattern and/or color) vs. inactive background tabs helps resolve most of it as well. I suppose a distinction in height and/or shape of active vs. background tabs would also help clarify the distinction.

    Musing on cues and contexts...

  • Tony Houghton
    Tony Houghton

    I can't really get it working better than it already does. The short story is that it's very difficult to get GtkNotebook to behave nicely when adding and detaching tabs without doing nasty things like changing the window geometry, making the labels inapproriate sizes, or hiding tabs and adding scroll arrows instead of ellipsizing labels (when one version of roxterm did this accidentally it wasn't liked). And there are differences between GTK2 and GTK3 to take into account.

    A terminal has slightly different needs than, say, a web browser, because the window is typically smaller and it's more important not to resize it. Apart from the option to show a single tab roxterm behaves much like gnome-terminal, which most users would probably have got used to first before finding roxterm.