NiXPS
Thursday, September 24, 2009
  NiXPS View 3.0 features: UI
This is the first of a series of posts that takes an in-depth look at our latest NiXPS View release.

The subject of this post is UI, one of the most , if the most, important aspects of a desktop application. I've written before about how important, and how much work it is to get a UI right.
We've invested a lot of time and effort to make the UI of NiXPS View v3.0 more efficient, and aesthetically pleasing.

Toolbar
One of the things that you'll first notice when starting up the application, is the new toolbar:


We have chosen not to fill this up with 'everything but the kitchen sink', like a lot of applications tend to do, but in stead we have opted to only offer the most used features, and put all others on the menu. This makes the application look a lot less complex, which is good, as complexity alienates users. Advanced functionality can be discovered in the menus.

So the toolbar contains:


These are the most important functions one need when interacting with an electronic document.
We have decided against putting the 'print' in the toolbar, as it would add to the visual clutter, and everyone is accustomed to finding the print feature in the file menu.

Sidebar
The sidebar contains all kinds of 'lists': an optional document outline (aka table of contents), page thumbnails, document thumbnails and the search results. These are very useful lists, but showing them by default make the UI too busy. We chose an approach to only show the sidebar when there is a reason for it (if the document has an outline, it will show by default; if the user searches, the results will be shown), otherwise it is hidden, but can be discovered by the user via the sidebar button.

Quick search
Searching through a document is a very important function; we spend a lot of time speeding it up, and made sure it works well with large documents. The moment you start typing in the quick search control, the app will start searching, without blocking the UI. This is a very natural, and pleasing way to do a search. We also provide extensive feedback during the search, so the user knows what is going on when the search takes a long while, which can be the case for very large documents.

OS specifics
We carefully crafted the application to really 'fit in' the native OS it runs on.
On Windows this means that we start-up with an empty windows, which is a drag target for opening files. Dropping a file on the icon will also open the file.
The application will open documents in separate windows, as this gives a clear 1 file = 1 window metaphor, which we fee is more natural than an MDI interface, which quickly gives a 'cramped' and 'busy' feel.

On OSX we make sure we do not show an empty window on start-up. We also implemented the proxy icon, which is a great way to map a document to it's place in the finder.
Being a document centric app, we also made sure that starting in v3, XPS files can be viewed via QuickLook - all you need is the NiXPS View v3.0 installed on your Mac.

Here's a small demo of our NiXPS View v3.0 running on Windows 7:

NiXPS View v3.0 UI Demo from nixps on Vimeo.

 
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