maandag 2 september 2013

Sidebar – avoiding it or improve it for using Styles?

Since LibreOffice 4.1 there is the Sidebar as a experimental feature. While devs work on improvements and stabilising for future releases, I mostly avoid that Sidebar :) Meanwhile many people are positive about the nice looking feature... Well indeed it shows nice. And it shows huge...
You may get the feeling here that I'm not so happy with the Sidebar? Indeed! I'll explain why. And of course will try to give a shot about a maybe possible improvement.
Reasons why I'm not too happy is first because it eats space. Double: most of the formatting settings offered are directly available in the formatting toolbar already.
Furthermore, and that's much worse, the nice presentation of all kind of formatting settings, promotes direct formatting. And direct formatting, thus hassling around without using styles, is one of the largest problems when exchanging documents with people that pay for being licensed to use office-software. All this unstructured settings may give problems when working with documents over different programs. (Apart of course from the troublesome way in which Word handles pictures and numbering ;) – but that's a different story.)
So for me, two reasons to dislike the Sidebar: for eating space and for promoting bad habits :(
Now, before bringing a suggestion, as a side step, a way in which the Sidebar can bring some sort of fun: when opening the Navigator both apart and in the Sidebar, one with only headings shown and the other with all other content.
With only headings shown, the view in the Navigator (the one left in the screen shot) nicely follows the position in the document.
Then for a maybe possible improvement – I try to bring this careful, because ideas are often easily written down, and hard to realise ;)
From my objections with the current implementation, it's clear that I would rather see support for the use of styles. So I mocked up a little version with various style categories shown at the same time. And maybe also something can be done with the presentation of the font, as is the cast in the list Select Style.
And to recover some space, I simply hided the Formatting toolbar. Only the list Apply style deserved a new place on the Standard toolbar.
That's all that there is for now.

6 opmerkingen:

  1. I'd suggest that sidebar should best be used for Find & Replace, possibly extended to include the extension Alternative dialog Find & Replace for Writer.

  2. Hi Cor,

    Generally speaking I don't agree with your objection of the sidebar "eating space". In Writer and Draw, where most of my documents tend to be "portrait", the sidebar is using mostly unused screen space. Your objection makes more sense in Impress and Calc, where documents are not inherently "portrait".

    Your objection of the sidebars hiding the use of styles is spot on, however. I believe that sidebars could actually help convey the notion of styles as predefined sets of settings.

    Prominently display the styles choice box at the very top op the sidebar. Choosing a style there visibly changes all settings in the sidebar.

    1. Hi SvdA, space consumption can of course also improve when the superfluous toolbar is removed.
      Thanks for the idea for the styles.

  3. For a sidebar, I really would like more a "Calligra-like" sidebar. It pomotes the use of styles, and even an easy way to create and manage them.

    1. thanks Francisco. I don't know that sidebar (shame ;) ), but will forward that idea to the discussion on the LibreOffice lists.

    2. Well, this is the Calliga Words sidebar: