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Key bindings... (user agents - was accesskey was ...)

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2006 11:56:09 +0100
To: geoff@deering.id.au, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <op.s25snvgiwxe0ny@pc063.qadoc.oslo.opera.com>

On Tue, 10 Jan 2006 00:40:32 +0100, Geoff Deering <geoff@deering.id.au>  

> Charles McCathieNevile wrote:>
>> [blablabla]
> I agree with your points in general. But there must be more learnt from  
> the history of software apps.
> My point.  For general browsing, I use Firefox most of the time (and I  
> have real issues with it), and Opera some of the time.  Often I hit  
> Ctrl+T for a new tab, and Doh! I'm in Opera and something else happens.   
> I know I can go in and changed the keyboard mapping for Opera, but the  
> builders of software editors (and other applications) learnt a long time  
> ago that this approach wasn't enough, what they had to provide was  
> default sets of keyboard maps for the user to load based on their most  
> familiar editor and keyboard maps.  Why are user agents so out of touch  
> with such good software design principles?  Aren't they aware of this  
> problem?

We are indeed. (In fact, in my version of Opera cmd-T opens a tab, cmd-D  
makes a bookmark, cmd-N opens a new window. Stay tuned...)

> Not only is this good usability, it is also good marketing, because it  
> makes it much easier for a user to move from one product to the next.

This  is true. One of the other things changing the default does is  
"punish" existing users. Having had a Multiple Document Interface (it is  
the same as tabs, but in the old days the common approach to multiple  
documents in one interface looked different) and basically total keyboard  
control for longer than any other browser I know of, there is a lot of  
pressure from habitual Opera users to protect the shortcuts they are used  

On the other hand there is value in matching common trends - the earlier  
we switch (assuming increasing usage) the fewer people are going to suffer.

As well as making it easier for people to switch *to* your product, you  
make it easier for people to switch *from* it - if you didn't believe we  
had the best browser, you would be even more reluctant to make the changes  
necessary for compatibility, and just rely on market share to let you  
promote a new shortcut.

(In Opera you can configure your own keyboard/voice shortcuts for  
virtually every single functionality, and maintain multiple configurations  
- including macro sequences...)

> So I think user agents need to provide this level of user configuration,  
> and I guess the same applies to keyboard binding via hypertext  
> applications.

No argument about user agents.

Hypertext applications are served to a range of different devices, and  
that range is growing. (Opera alone ships on 6 "desktop" platforms, a  
number of mobile OSes and Opera mini which is customised to a huge range  
of phone, plus a large number of "embedded device" versions - TVs,  
Bar-code scanners, factory-floor special units, etc etc) in number and  
diversity. Basically, they should not make assumptions about the delivery  
context - they might provide some hinting based on common assumptions of  
familiar cases, but they should expect the user agent to ignore those  
hints in the majority of cases, or to use themm simply for guidance.

This is why the rel attribute is good - it doesn't specify what the  
behaviour should feel like, but what its function is, so the user agent  
can provide sommething sensible in the context. It ain't broke, but the  
HTML group thinks that changing it to role would be an improvement. There  
are other ways, I think, but they are on the right track.

The accesskey attribute (or key, as they would like it to be in the brave  
new world) is a useful hint from an author, taken in context of a set of  
such hints, and used as a guide when there is no rel/role information.  
(Authors who do that should be slapped. Authors of specs that encourage  
that even more so). That's its place. It isn't intrinsically evil,  
although there are some really counter-productive implementations out  
there. It plays a very useful role in identifying that there are some key  
parts of a page that are probably intelligible navigation constructs -  
"recognisable landmarks". And the value inside, the hinted key, may even  
be useful at times. Although that's the least of its benefits, and the  
thing that has caused most of its problems.



Charles McCathieNevile                     chaals@opera.com
   hablo español  -  je parle français  -  jeg lærer norsk
      Peek into the kitchen: http://snapshot.opera.com/
Received on Tuesday, 10 January 2006 10:56:20 UTC

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