What did I just do?!

Image this scenario, although you probably don't have to imagine very hard since it's happened to virtually everyone:

Your typing along, head down cranking on something really, really important when you press the ENTER key. Unfortunately, milliseconds before you press the ENTER key, a dialog box pops up. What did it say?? YOU HAVE NO IDEA because it went away with your keystroke before you could barely even make out the size of the dialog box.

This, my fellow bloggers, is simply a bug. What did I just do? Erase a file? Ignore a cookie? Eat a cookie? Was it "OK"? "Was it "CANCEL"? It happened so fast that "RANDOM" would be a more accurate default action.

IMHO, if the [default keystroke] on a dialog box is handled within milliseconds of it displaying, it should come back with yet another dialog: "Um, wait, hold on, OK now try". Now, if pressing [default keystroke], [default keystroke] in rapid succession, it should ask "Are you sure you're sure?". If you are holding down the [default keystroke] key when a dialog appears it should ignore it until you let go, wait some odd milliseconds, then accept it.

All kidding aside, simply flash an audio or visual cue the equivalent of "I, the GUI, wasn't ready" (or more accurately "you, the user, weren't ready").

Can you tell I just ran into this GUI bug? Hopefully it wasn't "Are you sure you want to reformat that partition?" After all of this ranting, someone is going to tell me "oh, John. that's an undocumented GCONF setting ..." :)

Anyway, you can now return to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Comments:

The way to handle this is quite simple: don't let one application steal keyboard focus from a different application! Instead, it should display an audible/visual indication to get your attention.

Ideally it would be up to the desktop environment to enforce this.

Posted by Tom Shaw on January 12, 2005 at 11:08 AM PST #

"The way to handle this is quite simple: don't let one application steal keyboard focus from a different application!"

One related thing that drives me nuts is how Flash ads in Firefox will steal the keyboard if the mouse is over the ad. Suddenly page-up and page-down won't work and it takes me a second to see the mouse cursor sitting right over the Flash ad.

Posted by guest on January 12, 2005 at 12:00 PM PST #

Wasn't it the dialog box on a pop-up to sell you an X-10 camera? After all, you did consent; you pressed enter on the dialog box, right? ... ;-)

Posted by Mark Michael on January 12, 2005 at 12:04 PM PST #

What I really think it's amazing is that most "senior" people don't bother to read dialog boxes.
Don't you just love when you're trying a new product and the guy next to you just says "enter, ... yes, ... no, ... enter, ..." when you're just trying to read he bloody installer's questions?

Posted by Jaime Cardoso on January 12, 2005 at 07:49 PM PST #

"Don't you just love when you're trying a new product and the guy next to you just says "enter, ... yes, ... no, ... enter, ..." when you're just trying to read he bloody installer's questions? " I do that all the time when I have to install something at my parents pc. And I \*hate\* it when they insist on reading the installers questions, because they have been the same since stone age and I can recite them in my sleep. IMHO applications should install without asking any questions, and allowing to change options later on. Default install - Custom install is a step in the right direction. About the keyboard focus, been there, I hate it when I'm typing code and I'm not looking at my screen, then typing enter, and when I look back at my screen I see somebody told me something on Gaim and I just spammed the person with a piece of code. Although I don't think the proposed solution with the delay etc is very useful, because a lot of times, you use dialogs you have used so much, you just press enter as soon as you the dialog popup

Posted by Nico Mommaerts on January 12, 2005 at 10:36 PM PST #

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