Monday, April 11, 2005

Why I hate the system tray

I think I figured out the key reason why I hate the system tray:
Applications that use the system tray make the user feel like they have less control.

Most application that use the system tray have some config option hidden somewhere to go either to the system tray or the taskbar so in theory users have complete control over where the application should go, but when you try to quit the application it laughs in your face telling you that it isn't going to quit, but go hide. As a user the reason I would put something in the system tray is because I want notification that its status has changed and/or I want to run it all the time. But as a developer I can't guaranty that either of these will be true for everyone that users my applications, so I am forced to screw some of them usability wise. What would be so much better would be if applications either started up in the system tray or not (whatever the developer though would be more likely) and then the *user* could drag the application from the system tray to the taskbar and vice versa and it would startup like that from then on. Those applications that didn't have systray support wouldn't have much use in being in the sys tray other then being a small image that runs all the time. Technically this would take a bit of thought on how to implement. But to a user closing application in the system tray would make it go back to the system tray (without the annoying slap in the face message box) while closing an application in the taskbar would make it quit.

I may want Juk in my system tray for a day or two while listening to a class seminar, but then when I don't use it as much I'll drag it out and it will go back to the task bar where it is just another application.

One definite area where KDE and windows both suffer is that the system tray and taskbar are so close together. In Gnome and OSX it is on the top of the screen. As a user I know what three or four (small icons) applications that I have running all the time and on the bottom of the screen much larger are my current running applications. Placing running applications right next to the system tray both of which are the same height doesn't distinguish them very much.

The current systray behavior is anti-intuitive and a bad user interface because it give the perception of letting the user be in control even if it isn't true.

No comments:

Popular Posts