Home > Plans > Re-imagining the zkanji user interface.

Re-imagining the zkanji user interface.

I will take a short brake today in the mini-series I was writing recently. I wanted to write about what the title says, or to put it differently, what would I change on the user interface of zkanji aka. how would it look like if I were to start writing the program today.

Design concept

This is obviously just a concept image, but if I were to design the program’s main window with the knowledge of the most used features, it would probably look like this. No kanji list nor dictionary part (just groups). Of course the kanji list and dictionary could still be accessed, but not from the main interface. I can’t remember the last time when I used the kanji list seriously, instead of just looking at some characters randomly. The button that looks like +字 on the kanji groups interface would bring up the popup kanji list (which is accessible in the current version as well if you minimize the program), and once you selected the kanji to add, it would disappear again. The same with the + button on the word groups interface. Not added to this concept image, but the handwriting kanji search button could be used to add kanji to the groups as well. Apart from these obvious changes, I would place the long-term study button above the groups part. The button with the + and the arrow pointing down would add the selection to the long-term study.

I haven’t spent much time with the image, and there might be other changes to simplify the whole interface. The buttons for moving around groups, kanji and words could be removed as well, replacing them with simple drag and drop. The one part I’m not sure about is the kanji readings next to the kanji groups. Those are used as a way to filter the example words for the kanji, so selecting them for the long-term study or anything else can be simpler, but there is no place for the example words on the main window in my mind, and I might place the whole readings part and the example words to a separate window that would float above the main interface somehow.

In the future I might change the interface to something similar to this, or to something entirely different. My current plans only include releasing the next version so I can start fixing some issues I have with zkanji, because nothing can be changed until the next release is out. (I could fix stuff in theory, but then I couldn’t release the program anyway because it is currently in a half-ready state.)

Do you have ideas about the interface? If you have an opinion and don’t want me to start changing everything without listening to my users you can post a comment, (or keep it to yourself in which case I will do whatever I like).


Categories: Plans Tags: ,
  1. Kent
    February 8, 2013 at 3:47 am

    Personally, I use zkanji primarily for the dictionary lookup, with the kanji groups and word groups as secondary. While the current layout is not ideal for my usage, it is still quite usable.

    Specifically, my typical usage is to look up words and kanji, and then add them to groups so that it is both easier to find them again and also to study them in the future.

    I would certainly dislike any changes that made that process more difficult, but I can certainly see a use for being able to arrange the different components in other layouts. Letting the user have control over what features were visible and where they were laid out would be wonderful.

    • February 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Have you tried the popup dictionary? It can be set to stay on the screen and also to be freely resizable when it can be moved around. Words can be added from it to groups with the right-click context menu so it has all the functionality you need. If it is not convenient maybe I could tweak it a little.

      You don’t have to be afraid that the current layout will be gone in the near future, but if you tried using zkanji a bit differently, maybe you would see that it is not bad at all.

      I’m aware that people want to be able to customize the layout of programs (me included) and it is necessary for some tasks, but it also makes development much more difficult without equal usability improvements. There was a time when the parts of the main window could be separated, but the framework I’m using has its quirks when you do that so I got rid of it.

      • Kent
        February 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm

        Yes, I do use the popup dictionary, at least when I am translating something on the computer that I can copy/paste, e.g. a webpage. That function is quite useful when I need to keep the source document visible while I work.

        However, when I am reading a hard copy of something, screen real estate becomes less of a concern, and I would personally prefer to keep everything visible.

        I understand that full customization isn’t feasable, but having the ability to toggle on/off each section would be useful. Perhaps something similar to the current “Expand dictionary” item in the Window menu? If so, maybe functions like the “Long-term study” one could be integrated into the main window that way, rather than in separate popups.

        By the way, thanks for your hard work. Zkanji is wonderful!

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