Java TM Look and Feel Design Guidelines: Advanced Topics > Part I: General Topics > 3: Menus > Window Management and the File Menu   Previous Next Contents/Index/Search


 

Window Management and the File Menu

The correct design for an application's File menu depends on how the application manages windows that display top-level objects. A window's top-level object is the object that the window represents--such as a file, mailbox, or computer.

In most applications, users create top-level objects or open them by choosing the New item or Open item from the File menu. Some applications have one or more variants of these menu items--for example, New, New..., New Object , or New Window.

To determine whether your application's File menu needs one or more of these variants, you need to decide how the application will manage windows that display top-level objects. For example, your application might either:

  • Open a new window for each top-level object
  • Reuse a single window for all top-level objects

This section helps you decide which menu items to include for creating and opening top-level objects. The section is based on several example File  menus, each for a different type of window management.

For general information and guidelines about the File menu, see Typical File Menu.

When Window Reuse Is the Default

This section provides examples of window-management styles that, by default, open and create objects in the primary window from which a user has chosen the New or Open menu item. For examples of styles in which the default action is to open a new window, see When Opening a New Window Is the Default.

Using a Single Primary Window

Figure 34 shows the File menu of an application with only one primary window. The File menu's New and Open menu items always reuse that primary window.

Figure 34   File Menu for an Application's Only Primary Window

 

Typically, such a File menu is suitable only for simple applications whose users need to view only one object at a time.

Reusing the Current Window and Creating Windows

In Figure 35, the New and Open items always display objects in the current primary window. To create more primary windows, users can choose the New Window item. Typically, an application's New Window item displays the same contents as the window from which it was created. Alternatively, the New Window item can open a primary window containing nothing or a newly created object.

Figure 35   File Menu for Reusing the Current Window and Creating Windows

 

The File menu in Figure 35 is suitable for applications that display one object at a time, but whose users sometimes need to view two or more objects at the same time--each object in its own primary window. For example, a user might need to compare two documents.

In Figure 35, opening an object in a new window requires that users choose two File menu items, in order--the New Window item followed by the Open item. Design a File menu like the one in Figure 35 only if a task analysis has shown that users rarely need to open an object in a new window. (To learn about task analysis, see a book such as User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, described in "Related Books" on page 4.)

Reusing the Current Window and Opening Objects in New Windows

In Figure 36, the File menu enables users to open an object in the current primary window or in a new primary window. The File menu's Open item reuses the current primary window. The Open in New Window item opens an object in a new primary window.

Figure 36   File Menu to Reuse the Current Window and Create New Windows

 

The File menu in Figure 36 is appropriate only if a task analysis has shown both that:

  • The application's users need an Open menu item and an Open in New Window item--for example, to compare two objects by displaying one in the current primary window and the other in a new primary window.
  • Most of the users prefer to open an object in the current primary window.

In Figure 36, the New Window menu item always creates an object in a new primary window.

When Opening a New Window Is the Default

This section illustrates window-management styles where the default action is to open a new window for each newly created object or newly opened object.

Placing All Objects in Separate Primary Windows

In Figure 37, the New and Open items always create a primary window.

Figure 37   File Menu for Placing All Objects in Separate Windows

 

The File menu in Figure 37 is appropriate only if users often keep two or more objects open at the same time. Such menus require a Close item because more than one primary window can be open at the same time.

Displaying Objects in Separate Windows With Duplicate Window Operation

The File menu in Figure 38 displays each new object in a new primary window. The File menu includes a New Window item as a shortcut for creating a copy of the current object. The New Window item always displays the same view of the object as the window from which it was created.

Figure 38   File Menu to Display Objects in Separate Windows With Duplicate Window Operation

 

In Figure 38, the File menu is identical to the one in Figure 35. The New menu item and the Open menu item, however, behave differently in each menu. If you have correctly matched the behavior of the menu items to the users' tasks, users will notice no inconsistency between applications after using the menu items a few times.

Displaying Objects in Separate Windows and Allowing Current Window Reuse

In the File menu shown in Figure 39, the New and Open items create primary windows.

Figure 39   File Menu to Display Objects in Separate Windows and Permit Current Window Reuse

 

The Open in Current Window item supports tasks where users do not want to create an additional window. An application's New Window menu item can show the same object as the window from which it was activated, or it can show an empty window, depending on which operation users will perform more often.

Each of the designs described in this section is suited to a different situation. To determine which design is appropriate for your application, perform a task analysis.




Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines: Advanced Topics.
Copyright 2001. Sun Microsystems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Previous Next Contents/Index/Search
Left Curve
Java SDKs and Tools
Right Curve
Left Curve
Java Resources
Right Curve
JavaOne Banner Java 8 banner (182)