Some of my observations in using Central applications:
Interface / Usability:
Context-sensitivity: In desktop applications, using the right mouse button for context-sensitive commands or help is fairly standard. Currently, Central apps do not support this important feature; right-click shows the standard Flash settings menu. This is something that the Flash Player 7 addressed, but since Central is based on Flash Player 6, perhaps we’d have to wait for the next release of Central?
Full Screen: I chose this option from the menu and the application went full screen, nice. Now how do I get it back to the normal size? I couldn’t find any button or indication to do that. I then tried pressing F11 (standard browser full screen key) and that did the trick. To someone who may not be aware of this key (even though it is listed next to the menu item when the application is not full screen), this is a usability issue.
Grouping of applications: Currently there is no way to group and place applications into sub-groups (as in sub-menus). The closest alternative is to click the Category column to sort applications by category; however, in a year or so, the number of installed Central applications may become difficult to manage without further grouping.
Scrollbars: Although the new Flash MX 2004 v2 components support the mouse wheel, the Central scrollbar (target for Flash Player 6) does not work with the mouse wheel. This is one of the biggest usability issue for me.
Toolbar: It’d be nice if there is a smaller (scaled down) version of the toolbar icons. Right now it is either big icons or no toolbar.
Waiting indicator: It seems there is no standard cursor for things like the hour glass or stop watch when an application is loading or doing some operation that requires the user to wait. Sometimes after clicking a button, I’m not sure if the application has started the operation or not. An indicator of some sort is needed.
Zooming: This is a great feature (of all Flash/vector-based applications, including the upcoming Avalon in Longhorn). Central supports view zooming into an application from 50-300%, or increase/decrease the zoom factor.
Active Content Resources: Under the Browse tab, clicking an item in the Source column changes the word-wrapping of the text.
Central Dev Chat: The Command Picker (lower left-hand + button) dialog box does not mask underlying events. Placing the cursor in blank area (such as above the words “command” and “description”) changes the cursor to text insertion, which is for the underlying textfield. The close button in the dialog box does not seem to work either.
MovieFinder: The ZIP code input text box used to accept Canadian postal codes (such as M5V2T6) and the application showed listings in Canada. The latest version (1.2) filters input to only U.S. ZIP codes (5 digits). It’s a shame to lose the usefulness of this app locating movies in Canada because of this input filter.
Impression so far
I’m excited by the implications of Central applications: unplugged internet applications, background agents, notifications, sandboxed desktop functionalities. This is a great version one release and the future looks bright.
One reply on “Central observations”
very nice article.
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