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Success Stories ‘08: Toolbox and Palette Interaction for KOffice

Published on October 4th, 2008 by Ellen Reitmayr

The goal of this project was to improve the toolbox and palette interaction for KOffice, the office suite of the K Desktop Environment.

Along with her mentors Celeste Lyn Paul, Ellen Reitmayr and Boudewijn Remp, Neha Pahwa analyzed the tool options of KOffice. She identified the major interaction problems and created first paper mockups for an improved tool interaction in KOffice.

Read on for Neha’s project report:

Project background

The work for the project “Toolbox and Palette Interaction for KOffice” started with working on four applications of KOffice 2.0:

  • KWord, the word processing application,
  • Krita, the image manipulation software,
  • Karbon, the svg editor
  • and KPresenter, the application to create presentations

Due to time limitations, I have been able to work on KWord more intensely than other applications.


My work included interviewing developers to create User Research Profiles for KWord, KPresenter, Karbon, and Krita. The user research profiles helped the developers understand who their target audience is and what kind of tasks will they perform using the application. Scenarios were also created for each application against which the application was evaluated.

The next step was to evaluate the KWord application against the scenarios. The evaluation was done on the criteria such as:

  • Are there many unnecessary clicks involved in performing a task?
  • Are all functions available, easy to find and use?
  • Are they offered in the right context of use?
  • How is the grouping of functions done?

Also 10 usability heuristic rules were also used to evaluate the application design. This evaluation produced some significant results.
A document was presented to the mentors regarding what functionalities work and what functionalities don’t work for the use case scenarios. Some major results are as follows:

  • KWord’s palette interaction is not efficient. It is too slow and hinders the user to work efficiently.
  • Toolbars and Dockers should be defined as separate menus instead of putting them under settings. This will reduce the number of clicks and will also improve the ease of navigation.
  • Functionalities such as mail merge should be included.
  • Frames are difficult to control. Number of clicks increases tremendously.
  • Grouping of functions need to be reconsidered.
  • More intuitive terminology should be used.

The next step was to study the entire list of dockers present in the KWord. A document was submitted to mentors indicating what does a particular docker do; what more functionality should be added to a particular docker; what needs to be improved in the current docker; problems in the docker with their solutions were given. The final conclusion made was that a single docker should have all the related tools in it rather than making a separate docker for a small set of tools. User should be able to see all the related tools in just one look instead of just flipping through different docker options.

Now, the idea was to improve the Tool Options docker which can be used both with the text and shapes. This was confusing as same terminology (tool options) was used for both the text and shapes. Study was performed to understand the features of tool options for text such as font, style, indent, colors, size and alignment. The tool options on the left has the tools to create path, free hand drawing, gradient editing tool, pattern editing tool, pan tool and zoom. This is confusing, left and right. Due to this, numbers of clicks are definitely increased. User need more time to perform these functions. Clearly, the tool option feature is scattered on the whole window and needs to be grouped together. A new design was proposed for this and mock up designs on paper.

This project was mentored by:

User-Centered Design, Inc. Keeping Users in Mind

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