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RE: [ui-best-practices-working-group] Prep info for discussion on useof ellipsis

It fascinates me the amount of time and energy that has gone into three little dots.  Perhaps we should make it a preference? :)

Martin, its too long to try to replay the arguments but the issue was around notion of completion, which both guidelines share to some degree but treat regard Preferences differently.  

>>Change is work and produces confusion, so I'm only in favor of
>>change when there is some advantage.

I agree, but this was an attempt to be consistent with *some* guideline (which in general has always been MS) because people copy the platform.

Today is basically our RC1 deadline... I can't think more on this at this moment sorry.


"Mik Kersten" <mik@xxxxxxxxxxx>
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05/15/2008 04:44 PM

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RE: [ui-best-practices-working-group] Prep info for discussion        on        useof ellipsis

I’ve been using Eclipse without the ellipses on Preferences for a few weeks now, and purely from a selfish user point of I definitely prefer having them.  I would have figured that I’d be used to them missing at this point, but I’m not, because all the Microsoft/Adobe/Apple apps that I use on Vista still have them.   In terms of overall consistency, my thinking is still along the lines stated on the bug:
From: ui-best-practices-working-group-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ui-best-practices-working-group-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Oberhuber, Martin
Thursday, May 15, 2008 1:21 PM
User Interface Architecture Working Group
RE: [ui-best-practices-working-group] Prep info for discussion on useof ellipsis

Hi Kevin,
I'm not on the UI WG, but I have a clear opinion here: pick Apple
where it makes more sense, especially if it is what we already do.
Change is work and produces confusion, so I'm only in favor of
change when there is some advantage.
In this case, the Apple guideline is clearer and without ambiguity;
Microsoft's argument of "Reducing Screen Clutter" is a non-argument
for me, compared to the advantage of knowing when choosing a
menu item performs some work right away versus when I still
have a chance of reviewing stuff (in a new window) before it fires.
Gimme those Ellipses back!
Martin Oberhuber, Senior Member of Technical Staff, Wind River
Target Management Project Lead, DSDP PMC Member

From: ui-best-practices-working-group-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ui-best-practices-working-group-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Kevin McGuire
Mittwoch, 30. April 2008 00:45
User Interface Architecture Working Group
[ui-best-practices-working-group] Prep info for discussion on useof ellipsis

Hi gang,

Problem Statement

Based on our read of the Vista guidelines, we changed "Preferences..." to "Preferences".  This triggered bug which requested it be changed back. See the bug for the discussion.

In addition to answering the specific question, there's is of course the general issue of either which guideline to follow, or how to intepret the Vista/XP guideline.  

I thought it'd be fun, since this is a guideline issue, for us to decide as a group.


My read of the Vista guideline, suggests it shouldn't have ellipsis (my bold):

While command buttons are used for immediate actions, more information might
be needed to perform the action. Indicate a command that needs additional
information (including confirmation) by adding an ellipsis at the end of the
button label.
Proper use of ellipses is important to indicate that users can make further
choices before performing the action, or even cancel the action entirely. The
visual cue offered by an ellipsis allows users to explore your software without

This doesn't mean you should use an ellipsis whenever an action displays
another window only when additional information is required to perform the
action. Consequently, any command button whose implied verb is show another
window doesn't take an ellipsis
, such as with the commands About, Advanced,
Help (or any other command linking to a Help topic), Options, Properties, or

Generally, ellipses are used in UI to indicate incompleteness. Commands that
show other windows aren't incomplete they must display another window and
additional information isn't needed to perform their action. This approach
eliminates screen clutter in situations where ellipses have little value.

"Preferences" is much like "Properties", which they do specifically mention, and seems to fit the case description of being an implied "Show Preferences".

With respect to XP, the Windows Interface Guidelines book ( reads approximately the same and calls out Properties as not deserving, so I don't think there was a guideline change from XP to Vista, just clarification.

I should add that we've always deferred to the Windows guidelines in cases where there wasn't something Eclipse specific worth calling out.


The Apple guideline is more liberal with use of ellipsis

Use an ellipsis in the name of a button or menu item when the associated action:

Is performed by the user in a separate window or dialog.

For example, Preferences, Customize Toolbar, and Send Feedback all use an ellipsis because they open a window (potentially in another application, such as a browser) or a dialog in which the user sets preferences, customizes the toolbar, or sends feedback. see why such commands must include an ellipsis, consider that the absence of an ellipsis implies that the application performs the action for the user. If, for example, the Send Feedback command did not include an ellipsis, it would imply that feedback is generated and sent automatically by the application.

The Apple guideline is simpler and basically states that if a new window results than you should use ellipsis.  It specifically calls out Preferences and iTunes indeed has "Edit"->"Preferences...".  One plus of the Apple guideline is that there is no ambuiguity.  Another argument is that it more closely matches what we generally do, although this may be through a lack of knowledge of the Windows guideline.  However, easier to interpret guidelines IS helpful for Eclipse.

Additional Reading

  • The bug that started it all, regarding "Reset Perspective":
  • My blog entry on the subject:


So the questions are:

1.        Did we correctly interpret the Vista/XP guidelines?
2.        Should we always stick to the Vista/XP guidelines in the absence of something Eclipse specific which wouldn't be covered by them? (e.g. our view stacks)
3.        Or do we in this particular case (and possibly future ones) pick the Apple guideline? Reasons for doing so are that it matches more closely what we already do, or that its easier for people to interpret.
Ladies and gentlemen, the facts are before you.  Your verdict?


Bob Fraser <bfraser@xxxxxxx>
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04/28/2008 04:31 PM

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Agenda so far:

- Update on UI top ten "Don't do" list
- Discussion on use of ellipses

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