Writer: Default Tabs Setting

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Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby Mohawk » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:57 am

It doesn't seem very sensible to me that the default tabs setting (which, I have discovered, correctly becomes a property of the document) is buried in the options for Writer itself:

Tools >> Options... >> OpenOffice Writer >> General >> Tab stops

Yes, this is an appropriate place for the user to set his preferences for the default tab setting on any new document created (ditto the preferred measurement units on the same dialogue), but it is not an intuitive place for altering the default tab spacing in the current document, and it is not at all obvious whether doing so then only alters the current document or becomes a default setting for all new documents.

It is only by trial and error that I discovered multiple simultaneously open documents can have different default tab spacings (and therefore that the default spacing is a property of the document itself).

May I suggest that the default tabs document property is made accessible via File >> Properties..., and the link from Tools >> Options... to the default tabs for an open document is removed - it should then be clear that the Tools setting defines the user's default tabs preference for new documents, and the File setting controls the default tabs for the specific document.

Also, I don't understand why the Tools menu does not provide access to Writer settings from the OpenOffice "home" page (when there is no document open), especially when it includes Base settings (when I don't even have the database package installed). Surely the user may want to configure defaults before creating a new document!
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby acknak » Sun Jun 12, 2016 2:47 pm

It is odd. I think (maybe) it's to discourage people from using default tabs. They often lead to more trouble and I recommend that people avoid them. Still, they are used, and changing the setting is a pain.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby Mohawk » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:18 pm

The alternative is to define every tab in a paragraph style - which would be a pain, and unnecessary if you simply want standard tabs. Sometimes a simple default page is all you need!

The OOo team should not dictate how the software is used, just make it logical and consistent for users to use it as they want. They are more likely to be software people than word processing or user experience experts. A property which is obviously per-document should not be in the user settings.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby RoryOF » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:24 pm

If one uses Styles properly one rarely needs to resort to tabs; these are often a relic of "typewriter mentality"
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby keme » Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:10 pm

If you set tabs in the default style, most other styles will inherit those tabs (possibly not specialized styles like page header/footer content, which have their own tab defaults).

Save that document as a template and set that as the default template, and you have your own default tab settings for new documents.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby Mohawk » Sun Jun 12, 2016 7:11 pm

Yes, I thought that's what somebody would say. How about addressing the illogicality of having a default tabs setting embedded in a document file with no access to it (except via the global setting)? The point is that if you want to combat a "typewriter mentality" and force people to use style settings, then there should be no default tabs at all.

Please don't try to force your own views on everyone else - just address the consistency problem. The issue I have raised is one of the user interface, not one of functionality - please don't treat it as one.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby RoryOF » Sun Jun 12, 2016 7:18 pm

You are the one forcing your ideas on everyone, by attempting to limit other users' replies. If you dislike the tabs situation, lodge an enhancement request based on your criteria.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby Mohawk » Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:01 am

I thought that's what I was doing: feedback on the user experience. This is the user experience section of the forum isn't it? However, I will follow up your suggestion if there is a better place to make the bug report.

I'm not forcing my ideas on anyone - I'm just asking for an alteration in the menu system to correct an inconsistency. I don't see why having proper access to the default tabs setting for the current document affects anyone else's ability to use styles or templates or whatever.

I teach practical word processing to a variety of groups and individuals of various ages and experience. You don't throw people in at the deep end with styles and the like, you start them off gently. Some people come from typewriter experience and just want to use it that way to start with, and then you gradually introduce concepts such as styles - and show them the benefits - when they are ready to take that step. Some people are never ready to take the step and wouldn't understand it. They need the tools that suit them. Most beginners even have to have tabs explained to them - they usually start by trying to tabulate text using spaces. Are you saying OOo Writer is for word processing experts only, or should it be amenable for everyone to use, regardless of their experience or needs?

Even when using styles, tabs after the last tab explicitly defined in a paragraph style are governed by the default tab spacing effective for the document, so the setting affects even non-"typewriter mentality" users.

I prefer to teach OpenOffice Writer because anyone can install it for free, because it has a conventional toolbar instead of the damned ribbon interface, and because its quirks are easier to understand than Word's quirks. This is one of the quirks, and I don't see why it can't be eliminated now it's been indentified. There are others, such as my long-running complaint that "reveal non-printing characters" still doesn't reveal every non-printing character (although v4 is much better than v3).

Frankly, I find this defensiveness against a perfectly simple suggestion for an improvement in the toolbar menu system (in common with observations I have made previously) flies in the face of the Open ethos.
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Re: Writer: Default Tabs Setting

Postby keme » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:22 am

Mohawk wrote:... The issue I have raised is one of the user interface, not one of functionality - please don't treat it as one.

Sorry!

Even though this subforum is for "user experience", this is a user community (as has already been established above), which is why I jumped to the conclusion that a it be a request for advice on "best practice".

I see your point. I also have users stuck on typewriter reflexes (even pressing return at the next space each time the computer beeps - the "margin bell", remember?), and sometimes you can't teach the old dog a new trick.

Your suggestion is a logical one, and I can't imagine that it would require much effort in way of programming. However, it would also increase differences between development branches of the suite, require a rewrite in documentation (whic is already behind schedule) and previous advice given in forums (such as this) will become misleading. No major problems either way I guess, but if that request be entered in the bugtracker, I wouldn't hold my breath in anticipation ;-)
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