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Here's a part of iMovie UI that confuses me. All clip&audio settings can be only adjusted by manipulation on sliders.

There's no way to type in specific number.

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My first thought - this is just silly. Perhaps you know some data or you have your own experience with sliders that prove them to be an excellent type of input, that doesn't need help of text fields?

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I agree -- this might be good for 90% of the time, but for that 10% you need an exact value (a specific number of frames) this fails totally. –  jlarson Jan 13 '13 at 22:25
    
It's worth pointing out that with keyboard focus you can "nudge" these values by one unit at a time. Not sure why they don't at least let you double-click the output value to enter an explicit number –  Kit Grose Jan 14 '13 at 0:13
    
@KitGrose: yes, but how many people would know/discover that? –  Marjan Venema Jan 14 '13 at 9:32
    
This isn't a proper answer, hence the comment. For me personally yes, I suffer from autism and although there are many traits, one major one for me are things which fail to "line up"; in this case it is the numbers which are 'floating' from the common increments. Silly I know, but on your screen that 11% is REALLY grating me - I see 0.5 and 15 but then I see 11 and that's an odd one out. I'd want to correct that to either 10% or 15% and if I couldn't easily do it I'd drop your application. On the other hand I'd still want the flexibility to have say 11% if I wanted it. –  R4D4 Jan 29 '13 at 4:56
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2 Answers

The lack of choice is (mostly) a bad idea.

Only giving the slider as an input method can be good for novice users and/or when accuracy is not important as there is less cognitive load. They don't have to think about the different input methods.

This starts to fail when you want to enter a specific value quickly and fails even more if the range of values is large (accuracy becomes difficult).

An input field can be quicker, particularly when using tab to advance to the next field, and more accurate.

A slider makes it easier to compare values of a similar range and to see trends in cases such as a graphic equalizer (in fact in this case it is unlikely you would want text input for each value).

It is interesting to note that MS Windows (and most media players) only gives a slider for volume control. Even more interesting is that in Windows 7 (not sure about others - this is what I am using at the moment) only tells you the actual value as a tooltip either when hovering on the volume icon or while actually dragging the slider - it is not permanently shown at all.

Photoshop has an interesting take on these types of input. A slider is used in conjunction with a text input but when the text input is focused the mouse wheel can also be used to adjust the value.

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In my opinion, wrong part about this UI (in this specific context) would not be about not being able to enter a specific value since there is nothing on that UI which would need a specific value.

Wrong part (only slightly) would be to not show the preview of the effects of the changes made by user while moving the slider, saving the changes and not giving a button to default to previous saved changes. Cisco's VOIP phones does this and that works for me. But I guess preview is only required when this activity is done quite rarely, for example adjusting contrast of TV is done rarely so it will need a preview but volume adjustment is not frequently so that doesn't need a preview.

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