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Often I'll set some process off, then change focus to another program and be typing away in a textbox (for example), when the first thing pops up into view, maybe with a Yes / No box which I'd then accidentally interact with as I'm still typing.

I just accidentally sent a license agreement for something that was downloading & installing, to the printer as it popped up once it had downloaded, while I was typing a url into Chrome. If I didn't quickly cancel it I'd have had to wait while 53 pages printed while I reflected on what had happened.

What can application developers, or the OS itself do to minimize these problems?

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I would say the OS should take care of that, and the standard settings on Ubuntu are not strict enough for my liking, when I start Firefox and then start working in a terminal, the focus will be stolen by Firefox when it has finished loading. –  Pesikar May 14 '13 at 7:13
    
Isn't the obvious answer "Don't implement such behaviour unless it's obvious that the user wanted this popup to show up now and gain focus"? –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 6 '13 at 8:42
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Two things are possible:

  1. Do not force the application to gain focus. Show the message and keep waiting till user switches to the application.

  2. Implement blinking notifications. This is OS dependent. May or may not be feasible in other OS but in Windows operating system, there is system tray (systray in short). Application can be coded in such a way that if user attention is required and the application is not in view, application can put a blinking or baloon notification in the systray. Looking at that, user can switch to the application and respond to the confirmations / queries thrown by application

Systray with baloon Notification from an Application

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My view is prevent applications being 'arrogant' and demanding immediate attention. A well mannered application will wait it's time whilst somehow making you aware it's there. On macs this is done by bouncing the application icon. Too many applications assume they have your full and undivided attention when, increasingly, we're bouncing beween multiple applications.

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