Making cross references hurt less

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Greg Phillips
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Making cross references hurt less

Post by Greg Phillips » Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:58 pm

The new cross reference feature is phenomenally flexible, cleanly implemented, and (so far) appears bullet-proof. Well done to the Redlers team, and thanks!

On the other hand, at least for my most common usage, cross references are more than a little cumbersome to use. I'd like to explain how I made the process slightly less awkward, and propose a small user interface addition that would make things even better. Cutting right to the chase:

It should be possible to select an auto-title from the Outline bar and drag and drop it onto the document. Doing this would insert a cross-reference to that auto-title, formatted according to the auto-title's defined reference format.

Now, the rationale and details:

Most frequent usage. I'm writing a textbook, and frequently need to cross reference tables, figures, sections and chapters. All my cross-references are to auto-titles. If I'm cross referencing, section 2.1 or figure 3.5 that's exactly how I want my cross reference to look ("section 2.1", "figure 3.5") in almost every case. Sometimes I'll want to say something like "figure 3.5 on page 6", but that's much rarer. So, the common case is: cross reference to an auto-title, using a type-specific format. I suspect this isn't just my most common usage either, especially since this kind of cross reference is the only kind supported by a lot of other word processors.

A setup for cross-referencing auto-titles with minimal awkwardness

It's possible to set up Mellel so that this is reasonably straightforward, however, figuring out how to do it took a bit of experimentation. My technique:

1. In the "title flows" dialogue, on the "ref format" tab for each auto-title type, define a reference format that looks the way you want it to. Don't forget to format it to <use surrounding> character style.

2. In the "edit reference" dialogue, edit the reference format so that it includes only an "Auto-title Format" element, and then use the "reference format" popup to save this format with a new name (I used "Auto").

3. In Mellel Preferences, on the Styles pane, set the default reference format to be the new reference format ("Auto") that you just created.

So, now, to create a cross reference to an existing auto-title, all you need to do is (a) hit the "insert cross reference button", (b) choose "auto-titles" in the "reference type" box, (c) select the appropriate auto-title from the "auto-titles" box, and (d) bang the OK button or hit return.

User interface suggestion

This is pretty good, but it's still a lot of pointing, clicking and navigating for the most common usage (references to auto-titles). And you're stuck selecting your auto-title from a rather small list box that doesn't distinguish auto-title types and gives no sense of document structure, making it hard to spot the auto-title you want in the long list.

But, there's already a very nicely structured list of auto-titles in Mellel, over in the Outline bar. So, as I noted above, I'd propose that it be possible to select an auto-title from the Outline bar and drag and drop it onto the document. Doing this would insert a cross-reference to that auto-title, formatted according to the auto-title's defined reference format.

One quick drag operation and the auto title is in—it just doesn't get simpler than that. Thoughts?

Greg

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by ozean » Thu Jun 19, 2008 4:19 pm

nice suggestion! :D

verma
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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by verma » Thu Jun 19, 2008 4:51 pm

Greg Phillips wrote:The new cross reference feature is phenomenally flexible, cleanly implemented, and (so far) appears bullet-proof. Well done to the Redlers team, and thanks!

On the other hand, at least for my most common usage, cross references are more than a little cumbersome to use. I'd like to explain how I made the process slightly less awkward, and propose a small user interface addition that would make things even better. Cutting right to the chase:

It should be possible to select an auto-title from the Outline bar and drag and drop it onto the document. Doing this would insert a cross-reference to that auto-title, formatted according to the auto-title's defined reference format.

Now, the rationale and details:

Most frequent usage. I'm writing a textbook, and frequently need to cross reference tables, figures, sections and chapters. All my cross-references are to auto-titles. If I'm cross referencing, section 2.1 or figure 3.5 that's exactly how I want my cross reference to look ("section 2.1", "figure 3.5") in almost every case. Sometimes I'll want to say something like "figure 3.5 on page 6", but that's much rarer. So, the common case is: cross reference to an auto-title, using a type-specific format. I suspect this isn't just my most common usage either, especially since this kind of cross reference is the only kind supported by a lot of other word processors.

A setup for cross-referencing auto-titles with minimal awkwardness

It's possible to set up Mellel so that this is reasonably straightforward, however, figuring out how to do it took a bit of experimentation. My technique:

1. In the "title flows" dialogue, on the "ref format" tab for each auto-title type, define a reference format that looks the way you want it to. Don't forget to format it to <use surrounding> character style.

2. In the "edit reference" dialogue, edit the reference format so that it includes only an "Auto-title Format" element, and then use the "reference format" popup to save this format with a new name (I used "Auto").

3. In Mellel Preferences, on the Styles pane, set the default reference format to be the new reference format ("Auto") that you just created.

So, now, to create a cross reference to an existing auto-title, all you need to do is (a) hit the "insert cross reference button", (b) choose "auto-titles" in the "reference type" box, (c) select the appropriate auto-title from the "auto-titles" box, and (d) bang the OK button or hit return.

User interface suggestion

This is pretty good, but it's still a lot of pointing, clicking and navigating for the most common usage (references to auto-titles). And you're stuck selecting your auto-title from a rather small list box that doesn't distinguish auto-title types and gives no sense of document structure, making it hard to spot the auto-title you want in the long list.

But, there's already a very nicely structured list of auto-titles in Mellel, over in the Outline bar. So, as I noted above, I'd propose that it be possible to select an auto-title from the Outline bar and drag and drop it onto the document. Doing this would insert a cross-reference to that auto-title, formatted according to the auto-title's defined reference format.

One quick drag operation and the auto title is in—it just doesn't get simpler than that. Thoughts?

Greg
It probably depends on how much info is stored in the Outline view pane: page numbers, I fear, is perhaps a bit trickier. Furthermore, you also lose the capacity to specify the reference format. There's a default one you can set, but in general I use a load of different formats for different things. Examples, tables, pictures, notes etc. are referenced differently for me. I agree that it would be even better if the Reference section of the autotitles flow edit pane would allow us to specify already beforehand how the reference format could be for a specific level and type of autotitle; but that's a suggestion the Redlers are already aware of. Let's hope it makes it into the next updates.

Greg Phillips
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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by Greg Phillips » Thu Jun 19, 2008 5:52 pm

verma wrote: It probably depends on how much info is stored in the Outline view pane: page numbers, I fear, is perhaps a bit trickier. Furthermore, you also lose the capacity to specify the reference format.
With my suggestion you don't lose anything—I'm not suggesting that the current mechanism be removed or changed in any way, just that a really quick method be added to cross-reference an existing auto-title. And if you don't like the format you get from the drag, just double-click the cross-reference, which will open up the cross-reference format dialog.
verma wrote:There's a default one you can set, but in general I use a load of different formats for different things. Examples, tables, pictures, notes etc. are referenced differently for me. I agree that it would be even better if the Reference section of the autotitles flow edit pane would allow us to specify already beforehand how the reference format could be for a specific level and type of autotitle...
You can already do that—you can set a format specific to each kind of auto-title on the "Ref Format" tab of the title-flow dialog, and then access that in the cross reference formatting by choosing the "Auto-title format" element from the format elements pop-up. And, in fact, that's exactly the format I'm suggesting be used for the drag-and-drop insertion.

Greg

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by verma » Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:19 pm

Greg Phillips wrote:
verma wrote: It probably depends on how much info is stored in the Outline view pane: page numbers, I fear, is perhaps a bit trickier. Furthermore, you also lose the capacity to specify the reference format.
With my suggestion you don't lose anything—I'm not suggesting that the current mechanism be removed or changed in any way, just that a really quick method be added to cross-reference an existing auto-title. And if you don't like the format you get from the drag, just double-click the cross-reference, which will open up the cross-reference format dialog.
But does the outline pane store page number info? I don't know. So that would have to be either implemented, or added.
You can already do that—you can set a format specific to each kind of auto-title on the "Ref Format" tab of the title-flow dialog, and then access that in the cross reference formatting by choosing the "Auto-title format" element from the format elements pop-up. And, in fact, that's exactly the format I'm suggesting be used for the drag-and-drop insertion.
Greg
I was hinting at language variation, for example. The only way you can do that now is by using the document variables for different languages and different settings and use those. But that means you have to create different autotitles for different languages if it's defaulted to the first variable option, an option possible for the flat autotitles (pic, table, etc.) but not for the levelled ones. I'd really rather have a dialogue window where I can set the requested variable, and then follow through with the rest. In short - a combination of dropping the required autotitled element into the text as you suggest, with then a automatically opened Edit Reference window that has all default settings for a simple reference, but still allows the user to specify variables, or adapt to a specific environment.

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by Greg Phillips » Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:50 pm

verma wrote:In short - a combination of dropping the required autotitled element into the text as you suggest, with then a automatically opened Edit Reference window that has all default settings for a simple reference, but still allows the user to specify variables, or adapt to a specific environment.
I agree that one might need access to the Edit Reference window to select a specific format, but I'd hate to see it pop up automatically every time I did a drag-and-drop cross-reference insertion (in the imaginary day when this feature actually gets implemented). That would mean that in the simple, almost-certainly most common case, where I just want to accept the default, there's One More Action that I need to do: close the window. Not a lot of work, no, but every click counts, especially for frequently-used defaults.

Right now, simply double-clicking a cross-reference brings up the Edit Reference window. And of course, after the drag and drop, the mouse cursor would be right over the reference, ready for the double-click. Mental process: insert cross reference, change format. Physical process: drag and drop, double-click. It's a nice match.

Anyway, designing UI via an argument on a forum is probably the worst possible way to do it....

Greg
Greg

verma
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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by verma » Fri Jun 20, 2008 2:32 pm

Greg Phillips wrote:
verma wrote:In short - a combination of dropping the required autotitled element into the text as you suggest, with then a automatically opened Edit Reference window that has all default settings for a simple reference, but still allows the user to specify variables, or adapt to a specific environment.
I agree that one might need access to the Edit Reference window to select a specific format, but I'd hate to see it pop up automatically every time I did a drag-and-drop cross-reference insertion (in the imaginary day when this feature actually gets implemented). That would mean that in the simple, almost-certainly most common case, where I just want to accept the default, there's One More Action that I need to do: close the window. Not a lot of work, no, but every click counts, especially for frequently-used defaults.

Right now, simply double-clicking a cross-reference brings up the Edit Reference window. And of course, after the drag and drop, the mouse cursor would be right over the reference, ready for the double-click. Mental process: insert cross reference, change format. Physical process: drag and drop, double-click. It's a nice match.

Anyway, designing UI via an argument on a forum is probably the worst possible way to do it....

Greg
other point that will need to be addressed: clicking on the otuline pane is now automatically bringing you in the text to that position selected in the outline. Would have to change to if we"re having d&d CR entries.

For the UI - I'm firmly convinved the Redlers will do what they see fit. Do send in your suggestion, though.

Greg Phillips
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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by Greg Phillips » Fri Jun 20, 2008 2:58 pm

verma wrote:other point that will need to be addressed: clicking on the otuline pane is now automatically bringing you in the text to that position selected in the outline. Would have to change to if we"re having d&d CR entries.
Actually, you can already click and drag inside the outline pane to rearrange sections; this would just add the capability to drag from the outline pane to the document window. Cheers,
Greg

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by verma » Fri Jun 20, 2008 7:20 pm

Greg Phillips wrote:
verma wrote:other point that will need to be addressed: clicking on the otuline pane is now automatically bringing you in the text to that position selected in the outline. Would have to change to if we"re having d&d CR entries.
Actually, you can already click and drag inside the outline pane to rearrange sections; this would just add the capability to drag from the outline pane to the document window. Cheers,
What you will need is that from the outline pane you can drag into the position in the text where you want your CR to be. At present, you can indeed drag and drop in the Outline pane, but when you click on an autotitle in the outline pane, you're transferred to that autotitle in the text. My point however is that when you now click on an autotitle in the Outline Pane, you're transferred to that position in the text window as well. That will have to be handled differently if you want to insert a CR in your current location while navigating in the Outline window towards a target that appears, say, 30 pages earlier; as you probably don't want to enter a CR in the exact spot where the target is already sitting.

I don't know what kind of code lies underneath it, but if you want drag & drop from an autotitle into the current cursor location (different from the position of the autotitle), the link you now have between position in Outline Pane and position in the text will have to be altered - in other words dragging an autotitle from the outline pane will have to be made sensitive as to whether you drag it outside of the Outline pane (and thus into the text window) or whether you drag it to another location inside the Outline pane itself (thereby restructuring the Outline). Could probably be done, yet I have no idea what it could mean for text rendering. Hopefully nothing problematic.

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by Ori Redler » Sun Jun 22, 2008 1:51 pm

Greg Phillips wrote:On the other hand, at least for my most common usage, cross references are more than a little cumbersome to use. I'd like to explain how I made the process slightly less awkward, and propose a small user interface addition that would make things even better....
Our thoughts here, at this point, are to the following improvements to the procedure:
A. Dragging from the outline directly into the document (with Cmd or Option pressed) to create a reference. The reference format will be the one selected in the preference, of course, so you'll only need to change stuff if you need something else.
B. A hierarchical list in the Reference dialogue -- so as to make visual tracking of a heading or a caption easier.
C. Search a-la preview within the auto-titles: you will enter text from the looked for auto-title and only matching auto-titles will be displayed.
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Re: Making cross references hurt less

Post by DanZac » Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:59 pm

Ori Redler wrote:Our thoughts here, at this point, are to the following improvements to the procedure:
A. Dragging from the outline directly into the document (with Cmd or Option pressed) to create a reference. The reference format will be the one selected in the preference, of course, so you'll only need to change stuff if you need something else.
B. A hierarchical list in the Reference dialogue -- so as to make visual tracking of a heading or a caption easier.
C. Search a-la preview within the auto-titles: you will enter text from the looked for auto-title and only matching auto-titles will be displayed.
SWEET!

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