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jasonhuck

"combo box" instead of dropdown for fonts + preference to disable previews

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On a mid-2011 MacBook Pro w/8GB of RAM and 421 fonts installed, rendering the font dropdown with previews takes about 11 seconds the first time. That's a lot more fonts than I thought I had installed, but I bet a lot of your prospective users have that many or more, and not everyone uses font management software to disable seldom used fonts.

 

Once the menu is rendered, you can start typing the name of the font you want and skip directly to it, rather than scrolling through the menu, which is nice, but there's no way to start typing without invoking the dropdown. If you do decide to scroll through the list, the scrolling is a bit jittery, even after the previews have been cached.

 

A couple suggestions:

 

1) Add a preference to disable the font previews. It's a great feature, but one you might not always need, and I'm sure that menu would render a lot faster if it didn't have to create all of those previews.

 

2) Change the font dropdown to a "combo box" control (e.g., http://dev.sencha.com/ext/5.0.1/examples/kitchensink/#form-combos), and only render previews when the user clicks the disclosure triangle side to open the dropdown. Otherwise, when typing directly in the text input side of the combo box, render an autocomplete menu in plain text.

 

 

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Just for the sake of comparison:

 

- Pixelmator only has a dropdown menu, but it renders instantly on the first use, including previews.

 

- iDraw only has a dropdown menu, but it renders instantly on the first use, by first displaying all of the choices in the system font, and then replacing them with previews.

 

- Sketch has a popup with a list in a scrolling window, including previews, with the ability to filter the list. There's a very slight, but noticeable, delay when it loads, and scrolling the list does get slightly jittery, but it's not bad.

 

- OmniGraffle uses a combo box. The left side launches the standard OS X font dialog, The right side reveals a multi-level flyout menu with the same categorization system as the font dialog. It's fast, but there are no previews unless you use the font dialog and explicitly enable previews there.

 

- Illustrator (CS5, anyway) uses a combo-box as I described in my original post, although without previews.

 

 

Based on that quick review, it seems like Pixelmator, iDraw, and Sketch have all found different solutions to optimize the drawing of the font menu with previews. Perhaps you'll be able to optimize the performance here?

 

For quickly getting to a specific font by name, being able to quickly click into a text input, start typing, and see what you're typing -- the way Sketch and Illustrator do it -- feels the fastest and provides the best feedback to the user, IMO. Sketch gets bonus points for also providing font previews to browse fonts visually.

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