Recent Usability Improvements in NetBeans
By Roman Strobl on IV 06, 2005
At first, let me introduce the NetBeans Usability team. The lead is Trung - read [Tshung] with u as in German "Werbung". Welcome him kindly to the blogging world! Then we have 6 guys alltogether from development, UI and QE - I think we got it right by choosing staff from different departments because usability spans the whole engineering gang. We try to influence the NetBeans IDE in our areas in a positive way with an ultimate goal to make it really usable. Or at least more usable then the IDE from our friends from IBM.
We've started with the "low hanging fruit" as we are near to 4.1 release. So what were we busy with recently?
- Increased default font size - now this may sound funny for a change but actually I find it quite important, we had a small font, now we are at 12 pixels which is OK. Well my grandma still won't be able to read it but she's probably not a typical user anyway.
- More space for explorers - we got tired of always looking at people who use the tiny window with both scrollbars trying to browse the file trees on the left. I did it, too... never realizing I could actually make the window bigger and then I could get to my files easily.
- Line with cursor highlighted by default - this option was there for years, it's popular, why not to make it on by default? Improves reading of the code (except for some people who actually thought the yellow line is a bug).
- How to change file templates? - we've added info how to change these into comments on top of java files. So that even users who do not know Tools->Options by heart can find them.
- Improved some of the texts in wizards - cleaned up some of the historical mess.
- Added back and forward buttons into editor - so that users without photographical memory on shortcuts can use navigation.
Are you aware of an important usability issue of NetBeans? Write me! I don't promis we will implement the improvement, but we'll certainly think about it :-)
Update: Improved menu layout if there are no icons - check it out in build 200504062223 or newer. Another hard nut cracked.