Saturday, August 11, 2012

Of Mouses And Men

This isn't really about programming. At all. Just something general about computers that I felt like writing down and sharing with all 3 of this blog's readers.

I think computer mouses need to have another standard button, preferably under the thumb.
Yes, I know, I could get me a crazy gamer mouse with 76 programmable buttons, 17 LEDs, and built-in touch screen, printer and fridge. No, I'm specifically interested in this extra button being a standard thing that everybody has, like the left button and the right button. Yes, I have a reason.

When you're on your desktop, you click to select an icon, double click to activate, or drag to move.
When you're using, say, Photoshop, with the selection tool, the same button is used for a new selection or for moving the existing selection. I haven't used 3DSMAX in some years, but as I recall you had a similar situation there.
When you're writing in any standard text box, be it in Notepad or VS2010, you use the same button to select a text or to move the selected text (does anyone even use that function on purpose?).
In Windows 7 you can click on an item in the task bar to open it or drag to move it.
You click on a menu item to select it, but if you've had the misfortune to install some MS Office application less than a decade old you're all too likely to accidentally undock and move the menu while doing so.
When you're playing World of Warcraft (I can only assume this applies to other similar games) you can click a button to use it or drag to move it elsewhere. You can also click somewhere in the world to select an object or NPC or player or whatever... or you can drag to move the camera.
You can click on a link in your browser, or you could drag it somewhere (I don't know, the address bar? I never said these features were useful).
I could go on, you know.

The pattern, I think, is clear. Clicking the left button often means "select" or "use"... but dragging while the left button is down tends to mean "move". That's ridiculous and often conflicting, and there should be an extra button for moving things.

In my opinion, it would make sense to put this new button under the thumb, because then the motion you'd be making is sort of like grabbing and moving... which is exactly what you're trying to do inside the computer. And the best part, except for not having to worry about your undocked menus and stretched task bars, is that by separating these two functions you can make better GUI for everything. Why should I have to aim my cursor at this tiny little title bar to move a window? What if I want to move the window above the top of the monitor so I just see its bottom? I want to drag the emails in my gmail inbox into another folder, why on earth must I aim at a virtually invisible little marker for that? Just grab the window/ email/ something anywhere with this new dedicated button and drag away to your heart's content!

If this button were as standard as the left one, and everybody had it, GUI designers would not have to figure out ways to let you move things and stop you from moving them accidentally. Yes, you can lock your task bar, and most bars in World of Warcraft too, but why should you have to?
It'd be a new world. Why aim at that little minimize/ maximize button when you can just grab the window and throw it down/ up? Windows 7 already lets you maximize by moving the window to the top of the screen, obviously the idea is solid enough.

I know all this sounds like the ranting of a madman... but you have to admit it's a pretty tiny change, and it would have made everything so much more comfortable. I think the addition of the middle mouse button helped a lot, even though it doesn't do that much; I don't know where I'd be today without the easy scrolling, opening links in a new tab with one click, and the extra button to bind to Babylon. 
So, you know, if anyone reading this happens to be a really important manager in Microsoft or something... could you please get someone to work on it?

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