I'm working on a file manager where the user can change text properties, the same way as in programming editors: font-family, font-size, antialiasing, background-color, foreground-color.

Currently I have just two dropdowns, the first one controls the font-family. And the second dropdown controls the coloring: white, gray, black. I want to provide more options for the user to customize colors and fonts, but how to do it in a way that is userfriendly is what I'm unsure about.

my current preference window

I have looked at TextMate, Xcode, iTerm, TextWrangler. These are somewhat complicated.

Perhaps you ui-experts have tried some other applications that I haven't yet tried.

  • What are you specifically looking for? More examples?
    – Gelatin
    Aug 28, 2010 at 19:04
  • Yes, more examples of how other programs solves it. I know how to write the cocoa code and I have used the Mac colorpicker in other of my programs, so this is not the problem. I like the extras on demand ui-pattern, which you see on my screenshot. Have you tried some other editor with a decent ui for tweaking colors?
    – neoneye
    Aug 28, 2010 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


If you want to offer the full color spectrum, then a dropdown is definitely NOT the way to go. Color pickers are way more suited for that. If for some reason that's not possible, you might consider using a scrollbar to, with the far ends being the ends of the spectrum. Also, a segmented scrollbar can be used to define font height. Either way, providing an accurate preview of the settings is always a good idea, no matter what the controls are.

  • I intend to use the interface pattern: extras on demand. So that you first select the theme you want. And afterwards tweaks the colors using colorpickers. I long time ago made a programming editor which had a really cluttered preference window and I don't want to go there again.
    – neoneye
    Aug 28, 2010 at 19:50

For selecting fonts, it's usually a droplist with the name of the font (often in the font it represents), sometimes with the most often used fonts on top.

For colors you can so something similar to what Microsoft Word (and many others do): alt text

The "drop area" contains the standard colors (it's usually better to show the actual color, rather than just writing its name, but you should show the name as a tooltip when the user hovers over a specific color). Should all these not suffice, the user can choose "more color" to customize completely, even enabling the user to specifically enter the color's number.

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