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All About Buttons (Command Rectangles)
Overview

In Classic Helix, Buttons (aka Command Rectangles) are not true Mac OS buttons. They are actually objects drawn by Helix to look like buttons. Of course, you probably noticed that buttons in Helix actually look like Mac buttons as they appeared in System 6, the version of the Mac OS that was out when buttons were introduced.

Because of this, the look of buttons in Helix did not change when Apple introduced the Appearance Manager in Mac OS 8. Where real buttons took on a three dimensional look, Helix’s buttons continued to look as they always had.

The Problem

For macOS, we want Helix buttons to look like they belong in macOS. Unfortunately, where Helix allows you to create all sorts of different button types, the macOS API for buttons is more limited.

For example, a standard button in macOS is always 20 pixels high. Programs that need to present buttons in other heights can do so, but there are tradeoffs.

We already have standard macOS style buttons functioning in Helix, but before we went any further with this task, we thought we’d stop and find out how much each button variation is actually used. This survey asks you to rate various button features on how important they are to you.

Time Frame

This survey ran February 22 – March 26, 2007.

104 unique and identifiable customers participated in this survey. Thank you.

Survey Summary

The bars below show how the relative importance of each area of Helix, according to your votes. What this doesn’t tell you is the spread of the results. (Whether everybody rated an item at 50%, or half rated it at 0% and the other half rated them at 100%.) If you want to examine the dispersion of responses in greater detail, you can log in to our tech support database and look at the ‘Survey Stats’ list. Double click a line to drill into the specifics.

So, what was deemed ‘absolutely essential’ by the most respondents? Amazingly, the results of this survey are essentially the opposite of the previous one. In the general survey people tended to not rate the ‘more advanced’ features as highly as the standard ones, but in this case the advanced features were deemed most important. Leading the way at ≈70% are Default Button, Conditional Sequence, and the functions related to changing the status of a button (renaming or disabling) based on the output of an abacus.

And we were pleased to see that you tend to keep your designs in line with Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and you avoid some of the more esoteric features available. (Styled Text in a button came in dead last at 22%!) Non-standard alignments (37%), fonts (49%), colors (≈45%), etc. all rated at the bottom of the importance rankings.

Most of the button work is done already, but we can now see that we won’t have to delay our first release while working on allowing you to present the end user with a green button filled with 36 point Hobo text. :^)

The Results
Which Button Features Do You Use? < I don’t need that … I must have that >
The 8-nn below each function refers to the page number in The Helix Reference where it is described.
Basic Button Attributes
Oversized/Undersized Buttons Essential & Done
8-39 (Standard size is 16-20 pixels high x 70-90 pixels wide)
Oversized/Undersized buttons. (Other than 20 px high)
Non-Standard Proportions Essential & Done
8-39 (Standard proportions are approximately 4x as wide as high.)
Non standard proportions (tall, square, etc.)
Frameless Buttons Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-41 (Frame Rectangle Attribute: Off)
Frameless buttons
Default Button Essential & Done
8-41 (Default Button Attribute: On)
Default Button (Enter key trigger)
Non-Printable Essential & Done
8-41 (Printable Attribute: Off)
Button does not Print
Visibility Attributes Essential & Not Done
8-41 (First, Middle, Last Page)
Page visiblily (show on first, interior, last)
Button Text Attributes
Non-standard Text Face Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-39, 8-41 (Standard: Appearance Manager’s System Font)
Non-standard fonts (not System Font)
Non-standard Text Size Essential & Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-39, 8-41 (Standard: 12 Point)
Non standard size (not 12 pt)
Non-standard Text Alignment Not Done
8-39, 8-41 (Standard: Center)
Non standard alignment (not centered)
Non-standard Text Style Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-39, 8-41 (Bold, Italic, etc.)
Non standard style (not plain text)
Mixed-Style Button Text Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-39 (Styled Text)
Styled Text in name (mixed styles)
Button Color Attributes
Non-standard Frame Color Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-41, 8-42 (Standard: Black)
Non standard frame color
Non-standard Background Color Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-41, 8-42 (Standard: White)
Non standard background color
Non-standard Text Color Not Done — Not Available in macOS
8-41, 8-42 (Standard: Black)
Non standard text color
Picture Buttons
Picture Pasted Into Button Not Done
8-39, 8-40
Picture pasted in button
Transparent Buttons Essential & Done
8-40 (Overlay a Background Rectangle)
Transparent buttons (Overlay a background rectangle)
Advanced Button Options
Button Name: Use Abacus Output Essential & Done
8-39, 8-43 (Dynamic Text Label)
Name uses abacus output
Invalid Abacus: Disable Button Essential & Done
8-42, 8-43 (Dim when abacus output is Undefined)
Disable on invalid abacus output
Invalid Abacus: Make Button Invisible Essential & Done
8-42, 8-43 (Disappears when abacus output is Undefined)
Disappear on invalid abacus output
Conditional Sequences Essential & Done
8-42, 8-44 (Secondary sequences that run x times based on an abacus’ output)
Conditional Sequences