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We are redesigning an existing application in which the user has a typical master-detail view with basic CRUD operations for a certain entity type. (Actually, the majority of screens are of this type.) On one particular screen, the user has the option to select multiple entities in the master table and change two special properties for all of the selected entities in the detail pane.

We fear that new users might not find this feature since in the majority of screens it is not present. Is there a reasonable alternative to perform this sort of mass-mutation?

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Usually, if you click on a row in the master view, the data in the details view are updated corresponding to the selected row (entity). Users might overlook the possibility to select more than one row. My suggestion to solve the issue is shown in the mockup below: There is an extra column with checkboxes, clearly titled as selection to change the "special properties". If rows are checked this way, a special detail view allows you to change of the values of these properties. The apply button again clearly indicates that the changes are applied to the selected rows.

If no checkboxes are selected, the detail view should work like in the other screens, e.g. by showing the values for all properties of the entity that was clicked with the mouse.

As far as possible this solution is self-explanatory to the user who is not used to such kind of changes from the other screens. Please provide more details of your problem if my answer does not cover your real problem.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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