12. Managing preferences

DEMETER has a mountain of preferences available for the user to tinker with. This may, I suppose, be a problem. There is a school of thought in user interface design that asserts that a program should be simple, offering the user a small number of carefully considered configurable options, all of which have sensible defaults. That sort of thing is usually considered “user friendly”, while a dizzying array of configrable options is considered to be hostile to the user.

I don't disagree with that. However, I am not so lucky as to have teams dedicated to user interface design and product testing. I don't have the luxury of testing design decisions to determine if they are successful.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of aspects of the software that need sensible default values. In general, I have a good idea what a sensible value might be, but I am rarely certain. My solution for any option or parameter whose sensible default is open to interpretation is to make it configurable. As a result, there are 100s of aspects of DEMETER that can be configured, ranging from default parameter values to the colors of things that get plotted.


Fig. 12.1 The preferences dialog in Artemis.

ARTEMIS presents all of DEMETER's configuration options in the Preferences window, which can be displayed from the File Menu. Shown here, the artemis group has been opened and the ♦Artemis→plot_after_fit option has been selected. Since it takes one of predefined list of possible values, you are presented with an option menu for selecting among the possibilities. The default value can be restored by pressing the button labeled as DEMETER's default. In the text area, the option is described. Once you change an option, you can apply it to the current session or apply it and save its value to DEMETER's initialization file.

Different configuration options take different kinds of values. For example, some are filenames, strings, real numbers, integers, colors, and so on. Controls appropriate to the value type will be provided when the option is clicked on.

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