Standard toolbar in Libreoffice

The Libreoffice design team discussed the results of the last survey about some functions in the toolbar. In this posting we share our conclusions.

Recently we run a short survey about preferences in Libreoffice. In this posting, we present the results and discuss our conclusions.

Introduction

Our goal is to update Libreoffice’s default toolbars by removing seldom used icons in order to give room for more useful functions. Based on statistics gathered from OpenOffice.org 3.1 Usage Data that was done in 2009, our own previous surveys with icons from the standard toolbar of Libreoffice, as well as the assistance of the most used features used in bug reports, a proposal was developed by Yousuf Philips.

LO toolbars

Figure 1: Libreoffice Writer’s toolbars.

But some functions make us wonder if we are doing the right thing. In particular, we were discussing the removal of lesser used cut/copy/paste from the toolbar, which might be controversial.

Results

In the short survey, we asked users for their preferences and we had a total of 271 participants, with a drop-out rate of 11%.

The first question asked was about user’s usage of clipboard functions (copy, cut, paste) and their preferred method of accessing it. The majority of participants use keyboard shortcuts (n=182, 77%), followed by the context menu (n=32, 14%), then users of the toolbar buttons (n=19,  8%), and finally main menu users (n=3, 1%). The next question was about agreement on updating the toolbar:

Table 1: Do you agree with hiding of clipboard functions from the toolbar?
 AllShort-cut
users
Other
methods
Yes  117 (49%)96 (53%)19 (35%)
Yes, but keep
paste visible
39 (16%)28 (16%)11 (20%)
No81 (34%)56 (31%)24 (44%)

Next we asked about the preferred method to change the text highlight color and paragraph background color. Most people responded that they use the toolbar buttons (n=185, 78%), followed by users who change it through the context menu (n=16, 7%), then users who change it through styles (n=16, 7%), then users who change it through the menu bar (n=6, 3%), and finally users who don’t use these features (n=14, 6%). The next question was about agreement on updating the toolbar:

Table 2: Do you agree with hiding the paragraph background color button in the toolbar?
 AllToolbar
buttons
Other
methods
Yes81 (34%)44 (24%)37 (71%)
No138 (58%)127 (69%)10 (19%)
I don't know
what you are
talking about
18 (8%)13 (7%)5 (10%)

Conclusion

With regards to the clipboard buttons, the OpenOffice statistics showed that 5 to 10% of users use the toolbar. Our survey confirms this data. It also showed that about 70% agree with the removal of some or all clipboard buttons from the toolbar, though it was interesting that not all keyboard shortcut users agreed with the removal. When surveying other applications used by users on a regular basis, most of these applications don’t have clipboard buttons in their toolbars. Example of such applications include web browsers and file managers. There are also office suites that do not include these buttons in their toolbars, e.g. Apple iWork, Google Docs.

With these conclusions, it was our intention to go forward with this change, but we have decided to postpone it for the 4.5 release, as many toolbar changes are already planned for the upcoming 4.4 release. A number of users that didn’t mind the removal of the cut and copy buttons, but wanted the paste button to remain, chose this option as it provides quick access to paste special and if removed, a user would need to go into the menus to access this feature. Well those who felt this way will be pleased to know that paste special has already been added to the context menu and will be available in the 4.4 release.

The color buttons survey results were not as conclusive as we had hoped, presumably because a few useful questions weren’t included in the survey that should have been. We believe that there is a misunderstanding that comes from the imprecise wording and overlapping functionality of these two background coloring features. Also the majority of word processors (e.g. iWork Pages, Calligra Words, Corel WordPerfect, Google Docs, Abiword) do not provide a paragraph background color button in their toolbars or sidebars, which illustrates the limited usage and need for this button.

So though 35% agreed with the hiding of the background color and 8% didn’t understand the question, we have decided to go ahead with its removal. Users will still have quick access to change the character background color with the highlight button and users will still have access to change the paragraph background color in the paragraph dialog. And, of course, expert users will still have the option to configure the toolbar to their individual needs.

Please feel free to tell us your opinion (keep in mind that we need to remove buttons from the toolbar in order to make room for more useful buttons).