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We got a classic Windows tool bar with command buttons with icons. If you right click the toolbar you can choose Customize toolbar to open a dialog from where you can pick out the buttons to be shown from a range of let's say 30 buttons. This is because different users will have very different needs of buttons. There are no standard buttons that will be useful for all users.

The same right click menu also directly offers the options that are currently not shown as buttons.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Here, the user has added three more options, Delete, Pie and Cell phone. They are now shown as buttons in the toolbar, and removed from the additional options in the right click menu.

mockup

download bmml source

The problem is that it is hard to find the command you are looking for, as the commands sometimes appear as buttons, and sometimes as right click menu options.

How could we improve this? Some approaches we thought of are:

  1. As above: Only show the commands that are not already appearing as buttons in the toolbar, too keep the right click menu as short as possible.

  2. Always show all commands in the right click menu, no matter if they appear as buttons too. Please note that the mockups above only displays a few options, but the actual list is much longer.

  3. Not showing any commands at all in the right click menu: they will have to be added as buttons first via the Customize Toolbar dialog.

  4. Other.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Why not go with a Dropdown at the end of the list that says «more actions»?

more actions

I think this solves your issue of users looking for actions they cannot find, and lets the user customize the toolbar if he wants to.

If this is not an option, I would go for the right click showing all options of the buttons for accessibility reasons. If the user did right-click the menu, he is looking at the dropdown list of the rightclick and not at the menu anymore, so listing all option alphabetically helps finding the right command.

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Unfortunately not. The users will have totally different needs of buttons. There are no standard buttons that will be useful for all users. I'll add this to the question. –  JOG Jul 17 '12 at 14:49
    
If so, I would add a cogwheel / settings button at the right side so the user can directly customize. On the other hand, you say the user already selected the buttons he wants, why is showing more actions with all the buttons he didn't select not good? I think it's much more intuitive than showing them on right click. –  Beat Richartz Jul 17 '12 at 14:54
    
You promote alphabetical sorting. The buttons are already categorized though (New/Edit/Delete as a category, etc), so would that not confuse more than help? –  JOG Jul 17 '12 at 14:56
    
Ok, I get your point with the "More Actions" drop down now. It's a great suggestion. –  JOG Jul 17 '12 at 14:57
1  
Just the ones that are not currently shown, because by clicking on it the user confirms that he understands he's searching for more actions like the ones in the list, but has already checked the ones in the bar. You could also label it «all actions» and show all actions, but I think that would unnecessarily clutter your UI –  Beat Richartz Jul 17 '12 at 15:05
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There is a traditional way of approaching this problem which can be exemplified by visual studio's implementation

Visual Studio Menu Group Customization

They group the menu bar into functional sections, and each section has a little arrow drop at the end of it that shows all of the tool and an customization link. It feels a little complicated using it but it does accomplish the goals rather successfully.

I feel as though there may be a more elegant way to solve this problem but this was the best solution I could think of off the top of my head. I will be keeping an eye on this post to see what other users come up with :)

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A sophisticated solution is the toolbar configuration of Mac OSX toolbars. You can drag the required commands to the toolbar and move their positions in the toolbar. Toolbar configuration in Mac OSX here

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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Thanks, but that's kind of what like happens when the users choose Customize toolbar. The question is about how to organize direct access to the buttons that are not chosen to show in the toolbar. –  JOG Jul 18 '12 at 8:33
    
Question is how often users change their toolbar preferences and how much items are available? Is it rar, you can use your 3. approach. With a two list control users can see the correct order of items and can add/remove items. See mockup above... –  sysscore Jul 18 '12 at 8:51
    
Thank you, but I think we have a misunderstanding. Please see the problem phrasing in the original question. –  JOG Jul 18 '12 at 9:36
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