Preferences are a total mess

Since I'm here once again: Am I the only user that has to search several minutes in the preferences window for a certain option? I think the whole window seriously needs some usability treatment.

And technically, resizability wouldn't hurt...

Sometimes I'm not sure whether to look under Folders->Options or Listers->* for a few settings but apart from that I think all the Preferences options are logically categorised (apart from the Miscellaneous section, which goes without saying). Okay, I'm in there every day helping people on these forums so I'm quite familiar with where the settings are and maybe not a good person to judge how intuitive the organisation is.

If you've got suggestions on reorganising the settings then go for it. But a big part of the complexity is that Opus simply has a lot of different options. Maybe some of them should be removed or relegated to the registry, but often that's a hard choice because almost all of the options are used by somebody...

In terms of resizing, which parts of the dialog do you find don't have enough space? I am Mr. Resize and almost always complain when something can't be resized (I think it was my nagging that helped get the File Types and Customize dialogs to resize years ago) but I honestly have no issues with the Preferences dialog. All the lists that I can think of have plenty of space. Unless you have 50 saved layouts or folder formats or something I can't think of a list that isn't already a reasonable size. Not that I'm against the dialog resizing (sure, why not, unless it's a lot of effort for very little benefit) but, well, it seems fine as it is to me.

(I'm thankful that Opus isn't a Microsoft product where you tend to get fixed-size dialogs with lists containing 100 items which are only 3 items high and, since the items are also wider than the list and trigger a horizontal scrollbar, you can only actually see two at a time, lol... Jesus, I can feel my blood boiling just thinking about it.)

I know that this is a complicated issue. You are more experienced than most of the users. Ia m more experienced than some of my friends. At times it happens that I get questions from them and it goes like this:

Me: "Oh you use those ugly Office 2003 menus?"
Friend: "Oh, yes, they are ugly but I can't change that."
Me: "You can. It's something about Windows integration. Let me show you."
[opening Prefs, nothing labeled 'General display and layout' to be found]
Me: "Hm, it's not 'Layout', which would me my first call. Let's look in 'Misc'.
Neither? Gosh, this is some crappy stuff. Where is it?"
Friend: "Yeah, I never find most of the settings. I know there's more power in it but I just can't unleash it."
[minutes later, checking everything from top down]
Me: "Oh, it's by the 'toolbar' definitions! Yeah, Opus has this clever but unintuitive approach that menus are in fact just toolbars. It's logical. Really. Afterwards!"

Perhaps it would make sense to put more stuff behind "Enhanced options" buttons. Or, even better, in VLC (VideoLanClient) one can activate a 'Show Enhanced' checkmark for every page. Or, like in Eclipse, where I can filter a tree of option pages by entering a term into a search text field above the tree. And with a larger window (resizable?) there would be the opportunity to present options at ALL places where they make sense.

Just some recommendations...

Maybe it could also make sense to just spend half an hour going through the Prefs to familiarise yourself with what is in there?

In this particular example I guess the problem would be solved by renaming "Toolbars" to "Menus & Toolbars".

Having advanced/simple modes for each page, where lots of options are hidden, would make Preferences even more complicated and hard to find things in, unless it magically only hid the options you never used. But those options are different for every person.

You mention Eclipse... I find the Preferences dialog in Eclipse really confusing. If I want to change a font do I look under Appearance? Editor? Editor/Java? Java/Appearance? Java/Editor? They seem to have a lot of very similar options and identically named categories in multiple places in the tree and there are several places you can set fonts and text styles**. I'm sure if I used Eclipse every day like I use Opus every day I would become familiar with it, though, and the first time I loaded Eclipse I went through each and every part of its Preferences dialog so that I had an overview of what could be configured. When I then need to change a setting I know I can do it and just have to find out where the setting is. That can still take a while for me in Eclipse because there are so many layers of preferences and so many different places that a given option could be, and I'm not very familiar with it all but that's life when programs have a lot of options.

I guess an alternative is the Firefox approach where the Preferences dialog is really cut-down and shows about 5% of the available options, and then you have a very basic list of all the other settings which you can filter by name... But I'm not sure about that approach. For really obscure options it's possibly better than having to edit the registry, but even then...

** As there are in Opus, since you can set fonts in Prefs/Display but also overrride them for individual toolbars in Customize, but that makes sense as soon as you understand what Customize is for (editing individual toolbars/menus/hotkeys). In the case of Eclipse the placement of font-editing options in Preferences seems more due to how the program is structured (around plugins for the IDE, the editor and different programming languages) rather than how it makes sense to organise a set of options.

Yep, but that's solving symptoms, not problems.

I dislike this idea, too. But I dind't want to leave the idea out. Perhaps something good might grow out of it. On the other side, attempts at this have failed. You know those menus from Office where only the functions you really need are hidden :wink:

No, actually Eclipse has the most clever Prefs I've ever seen! I don't need to remember the places! If I want to change a font I go to the prefs and type "font". It then filters the tree of option pages and only shows the part of it regarding fonts:

Here's another example with multiple results:

The result list is so clear that I find what I search immediately.

The problem with Opus would be to integrate with the arbitrary number of settings I can save for my listers and toolbars. Some thinking would have to go into this.

To this separation of options into GUI and about:config I prefer to draw the parallel to Opus' commands and their richness in "hidden" switches (not really hidden, just buried in the docs and sometimes one has to seek through different Upgrade-PDFs) that pop up when someones asks in the forum. Firefox though has a clever way of grouping into multiple hierarchies.

I forgot about the filter in Eclipse. That is indeed a good idea!

If there was a search box which searched the text of each tab control (and child items), dropdown, checkbox and list in each page of preferences then it would make finding things much easier.

Maybe the search could highlight matching sections and tabs and also actual items (e.g. checkboxes) by drawing their labels in a different colour when they match the search string? I think that would work better with the current dialog than removing items which don't match, plus it means you can filter right down to the actual items, not just the pages that contain them. It also means that you get used to where things are amoung the other options so you can find them again faster the next time.

(I quite like Opus's List->Tabs organisation in the Prefs dialog instead of a tree of preferences, where I find I'm always clicking around in a tree to find things, rather than flicking through categories and instantly seeing each one's tabs.)

Sounds very good, and I have a few more ideas here: This could be a brilliant place for a (no more) "next generation" feature: alpha-blending. Why just highlight the matches? Why not also set the non-matches to a faint, fifty percent opacity look? And: with Opus it is important to not only highlight the matches themselves but also the labels of the tabs/categories containing them. Of course in Opus-style all this should be configurable: Matching/Non-Matching: Text normal/bold, Text FG/BGcolor for both, change opacity. And yes, then it is better than removing items.

Plus, resizability with no change of actual content. So enlarging the window just adds free space which would greatly please the eye on larger monitors beacuse all the content is not so crowded anymore.

[quote="AllOlli"]Since I'm here once again: Am I the only user that has to search several minutes in the preferences window for a certain option? I think the whole window seriously needs some usability treatment.


Up front, Directory Opus is by far the best Explorer-replacment. I think it is really a wonderful tool and has a tremendous lot of features that 'simple end-users' (like me!) will never discover.
The support in this forum is magnificant!

Having said the above, pls allow me to support the above idea. Frankly speaking, I have been spending (and often still am spending) lots of time to search for specific options, that most likely are not there where I am looking in the first place.

I agree, like every application one needs to get accustomed as to how things are set up.

However, my feeling says some thought may be given to try and regroup many options in a more logical order, meaning that options and settings that are more or less dealing with the same matters are grouped together.
(e.g.: Under "Display Options" - group: display+folder+layout+listers)

Keep up the good work!


But a few options in Listers refer not to their appearance, but to their operations- so they definitely don't fall into 'Display' category.

IMO current preferences are quite OK; of course they could use some touch up.


I've sat back a bit to see what sort of comments would pop up here... but this is sort of the kind of conversation (albeit with the intent of soliciting more concrete ideas of what could be changed) I was hoping to kick up not too long ago relating specifically to the display/appearance configuration interfaces within opus.

Up front... I am a huge fan and advocate of Opus, and have no reason to believe I'll do anything other than happily pay for major version upgrades until Jon and Greg retire to some remote kangaroo farm in the wilderness.

But I gave up on Opus when I first tried v6, and didn't come back until almost a year later to v8 when I felt I had enough time to devote to learning it. Granted, I was not aware of these forums when I first spotted Opus... and after I joined, my learning curve went way up. Also granted... if all you want to do is manage your files in the same way as Exploder, then no real time is needed. The Jo(h)n's are right... any worthwhile payoff you want from a good application can take some time to uncover. And for as active a development team as GPsoft is, it probably comes as a bit unrewarding to offer customers continual function enhancement and benefit only to turn around and hear "hey, your prefs interface needs to be overhauled" with no 'functional' upshot to such an effort... I guess it's an odd sort of frustration... to have in your hands a tool that promises to be so helpful a thing but to not exactly know how to get it to dance to your tune.

Personally, I think there are some functional areas of Opus (mainly stuff added since v6) that overlap a bit and add to the perception of preferences confusion or disorganization. I think the display, format, layout, styles, and etc handling pieces of Opus are the best example of this. So... my take on this thread is more than just simply 'moving' preferences around and grouping them differently, because in the end; once I've learned where a given option was I haven't thought 'oh god, why the hell did they put that there???'. Stuff is organized logically, maybe just not as ergonomically as it could be. But the fact is... it's a big damn program, and moving all the stuff around might just... well... move stuff around? I think the best way forward might be for a few people to put their heads together, come up with specific recommendations for functional consolidation and prefs re-organization, and then pitch the ideas to GPSoft with the knowledge they might just say - no good, forget it. So in other words, it might be a waste of time. But otherwise, I don't think Jon or Greg think their preferences are enough of a 'total mess' to invest their own time reworking it over say - adding more functionality - which we're always askign for as well :laughing:.

Steje - thank you for your views. Up front, again, I wish to emphasize that DO is a fine program, it has a lot of features and power that is missing in other, similar programs.

I have not been 'around' since v6 or earlier, but got hooked up to DO since v8 only. As you know I am very much a newbe and tfore look at the program with much less expertise. You and some other 'forum-friends' helped me out on some issues.

That having said, I look at the program from a newbe point of view. Quite often I feel that I find myself searching for a specific setting much too long.
Cud it be this? Cud it it be that? Maybe someone wrote about this setting in the forum. Ah, bad luck, no-one did, maybe it is thát setting...?
(I donot want to be asking all and everything here...)
For cracks like you and a lot of other folks here, they all know where to find the settings and features.

But pls have some consideration of the 'less giften' ... :wink:

The 're-grouping' of display options is just an idea. There may be a little bit of improvement on the way how these are organized (being my personal feeling though). I am not in a position to advise hów things shd be re-organized: missing the knowhow...
Well, anyway, by no means i want to critize DO - just wanted to put in my views, as a newbe.


First of all: I think we all agree that we love Opus. Why would I be so concerned about it if I didn't like it? No, it is the serious wish to improve the best that drives me :wink: Opus is powerful but the power is hidden. Why not make it a bit more "apple-ish"?

One problem is the huge amounts of terms: "folder formats", "lister formats", "folder tabs" (why not lister tabs?), "virtual folders", "lister styles", "lister layouts", "folder options", "file collections". These terms may all be logical but they are not really comprehensive. The configuration could definitely be improved here.

Example: The tabs and lister styles and folder options could all be put into a single configuration dialog in an "example-style". Another column at the third position? OK, drag it from the sort columns list into the example and move it top the third position, just like you would do when using the regular window. Resize it till you like it. Doubleclick to reactivate autosizing for this column (one more unclear current setting: why do I have to walk two tabs to the left to set ALL columns to autosize? I thought for a long time that deleting the numeric value for a column width would make this column into auto-size but it didn't. And the checkmark to activate autosizing wasn't even on the same tab of the config dialog...). From this "example dialog" I could perhaps define what settings to store for a certain template. I could build column style templates or lister arrangement templates or anything else. Perhaps this would be done by blurring the settings I don't want to save for a certain template.

This are just some quick ideas to open the eyes. Settings don't have to be categorically divided into tons and tons of dialogs! Sometimes power lies in simplicity.

AllOlli, DOpus is lots of power- why dumb it down Apple-style? How would you like the concepts you enumerate to be presented?

If application is feature-rich, how would you like to learn these features- without learning? They won't pop at you by themselves (oh, unless you like popup window every 5 minutes presenting each feature). If you don't like some complex options, ignore them. When you need them, you'll be able to quickly learn them- they are in manual and all clearly presented on Preferences pages.

Some things are complex by nature, when you try to simplify them, you cut down on functionality, configuration possibilities etc.

And, ahem, it seems to me that your example is, more or less, DOpus put into Customize mode :slight_smile: It is too sketchy to discuss it further.

You write that power can lie in simplicity. Well, if you present whole concept, not one detached example, simplifying Preferences, I will be all for you. But remember, the functionality must be there.

It is easy to write- "make it simpler because it is complicated". But do you know how, if at all, it can be done? Would you accept the answer that it is the best way there is from a man who makes his life on the subject?

There are a lot of advanced GUI concepts, but is it worth to put efforts into options dialog when they are already reasonably laid out now? Yes, we probably could have complex, pop-up configuration wizards, graphical creators and stuff. But every user would have to learn these concepts from scratch- because they are (almost) nowhere else to be met. Everyone is acquainted with good old options.

Just ignore the options you don't know and read from time to time a new chapter from Manual.


A propos, "Folder tabs" because: - there can be two file lists in lister, each with own tabs, and - they refer to folders, not listers or file lists.

You dind't get me here: Mac OS X manages to present a lot of power without the need for tons of tabs and pages. Nowadays this is called apple-ism. In the 80s I called it "Amiga". Example.: Different approaches to copying a floppy disk involved clicking on a disk icon, going to the menu, selecting copy, waiting for a window to open, selecting a target drive and then clicking on OK. On the Amiga I simply dragged the source disk over the target disk, option window popped up to allow me to change copy options, click on OK: DONE! Same functionality, way less hassle.

Feature-rich applications can present their features as a simple list, or grouped into more or less logical groups of pages of options. But really clever applications manage to present the same amount of features just at your fingertips.

Of cource it was sketchy, it was meant to be. This was in no means a solution but an attempt at freeing the mind for new concepts. And no, I can't drag around templates of options in customize mode.

Would that qualify for a monthly salary? Or at least a free major upgrade? g

Oh, I thought the lister is the thing presenting the contents of a folder on my harddisk. So your first sentence would read: "There can be two listers in window, each with own tabs." So I'd call them lister tabs. Perfectly valid description, equally logical, different name. And I think lister tabs is a better name, since a tab doesn't necessarily display the contents of a folder: It can as well be empty or display my printers or my control panels. These are no real folders in the Opus context since I can't set folder options for them.

So: Tabs are a feature of listers, not a feature of folders. And one feature of tabs is to display folders :wink:

You dind't get me here: Mac OS X manages to present a lot of power without the need for tons of tabs and pages.[/quote]

I agree. As long as your concept of power is the same as Apple's :slight_smile:

Would that qualify for a monthly salary? Or at least a free major upgrade? g[/quote]

Do you think it would qualify for a salary? 8)

[quote="AllOlli"]my harddisk. So your first sentence would read: "There can be two listers in window, each with own tabs." So I'd call them lister tabs. Perfectly valid description, equally logical, different name. And I think lister tabs is a better name, since a tab doesn't necessarily display

We are already at changing names for DOpus features. Some steps beyond original subject, I suppose.

Anyway, out of this discussion I still don't know how proponents of simplifying preferences would like it to be done (EDIT: And I mean some real changes, like Eclipse-like search, which btw still is addition not a change, not some eye-candy, like transparent options). I've tried to understand your concept and it seems to create new problems while solving some other (and it revolves just around some of options anyway). Fe. how do I set options that are not easily "settable" with graphical designer, like 'Double-click on title bar zooms Lister'? There could be some options popup in the designer when I move pointer over title bar, but THAT I would call hidden options, and in order to change this little option I would have to run the whole designer and search for it instead of going simply to Lister>Listers Options.
Another way would be separate visual design from "detailed" settings, but now we split options referring to the same item into two parts- not good.

Anyway, current format-style-layout approach is complicated and, as I see in the manual, not quite fully explained (fe. I couldn't find information that Layout saves also unnamed Style). EDIT: Maybe this is the real area for improvement- configuration of GUI? I don't think there is a way to avoid setting detailed options in 'oldschool' style.


OK, I think I got through :wink:

As a user it simply exceeds my available time to present a completely new concept for configuring the system. I suppose it would take me several weeks to fully sort out a concept - reason enough for my "salary" joke.

But the devs thinking about more consistent names and rethinking the documentation already seems to be a small victory. For the near future I'll think about more gradual enhancements that can be integrated into Opus without throwing all existing concepts away.

First one: I already spoke about this here: Autosizing for columns. There should be a possibility to manage the auto-sizing of columns in the "Columns" tab of the "Folder options" dialog. Now this is done on the "Display" tab which makes less sense AND I know of several users that had to be directed to this checkmark because they didn't even search for it when they couldn't see such an option on the "Columns" tab.

Easy solution: Move the checkmark to the "Columns" tab. More complete solution: Integrate a possibility to mark each column as autosized seperately, e.g. a new column between "Width" and "Sort" named "Autosize". When checked for a column this column will ignore the numeric value for width and instead be autosized.
This a) introduces a new feature and b) improves the learnability.