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Electric menu ideas

Question posed by Vince:

The electric menu isn't much use, except perhaps for people new to Alpha, with the possible exception of the 'new document', 'create header' and 'function comments' items. Perhaps we can do something new with the menu which is more useful?

Please add any comments, suggestions below.

Here's some ideas from Craig concerning the Electric Menu:

I haven't used it in a long time. As Vince said, it kind of has a built-in obsolescence about it, because once you know how to use keyboard shortcuts to expand a defined completion for a given mode, there's little reason to use the mouse and menu. Given that, I think that some improvements could be made.

  • Better integrate Document Projects with Electric Menu

Many of the Document Projects menu items that are inserted in the "Config --> Packages" menu are of little use unless the Electric Menu is active. At least that's my impression -- otherwise changing the current project doesn't really get you anywhere. Could make a pretty easy case to move all of those into the electric menu instead.

  • Better integrate elecPackages with Electric Menu

All of the elec packages now have their own submenus inserted into the Packages menu for creating global expansions/completions/corrections. These could also go into the electric menu.

  • Create a new Electric Menu Options submenu

More than anything, though, I would like to see an "Electric Menu Options" submenu that contains all of the flag variables that affect how the menu can be built. These are currently in the prefs dialogs, which take a while to come up, and then you have to see what changes were made, go back to the prefs dialog, wait for it to come up again ... How about using menu::buildFlagsMenu to include all of them right in the electric menu?

Vince writes: I'm not that thrilled about the idea of moving lots of prefs out of the single reasonably-convenient location and placing them in individual menus. For simple flags like these, it may be a good idea though. Perhaps only for flags which have an immediate obvious effect on the menu itself.

  • New electric menu building pref

The "ElecCompletions Help" file includes this line:

	showElectricsInMenu --- show electric completions in menu

but I don't see the preference. I would sure like to have it. If you have the "All Procs for Completions" flag set for Tcl mode, go to the electric menu. Yow! This would help make the menu useful for those that don't need these hints anymore.

Note: all four of the above suggestions are based on my belief that a user should be using the "Config" menu mainly to set some preferences that will rarely change of the course of one's experience with Alpha. I think that if there are preferences that might need to be changed with some regularity, they should be more accessible. I'm NOT suggesting that any of these preferences be removed from the "Packages --> Electrics" dialog.

(And as an aside, perhaps "List Functions" and "Create New Mode" should be moved to the Alpha Developer menu ??)

Some more ideas from Craig for better user support ...

  • More support for user electrics/templates

The menu currently has an "Add Electric Item" menu item, but there really should be

   "Remove Electric Item..."
   "Edit Electric Item..."

available as well. I would also like to see a

   "Templates --> Edit Template Item..."

item, too.

  • Better documentation

"DocumentProjects Help" contains a lot of misleading/outdated information, most of it minor, like where you'll find certain items, but it took me several weeks to figure out that some items are in WinUtils, others are in "Config --> Packages", and you need the Electric Menu to actually use some of them.

Similarly, "ElecCompletions Help" includes descriptions of some preferences that have been renamed, others have apparently disappeared ...

mildly amusing but sarcastic comments on unhelpful Help text removed -- cbu

I would be willing to tackle the issue of documentation sometime if the menu is updated, but probably couldn't get to it until this summer. (Any other volunteers?) One idea is to add a short preliminary help text in the electricMenu help argument, with a link to the "ElecCompletions Help" file, something like

   } help {
       The Electric Menu contains blah blah blah.

       The appearance of the menu can be changed by blah blah blah.

       For more help about Electric Completions and Expansions, see the
       "ElecCompletions Help" file.

Another idea is to move anything in "ElecCompletions Help" that is mode-specific into Completion Tutorials, and provide hyperlinks to them.

Also an aesthetic note: could these be renamed "Document Projects Help" and "Electric Completions Help" ?

that's all for now.

DonavanHall writes: First, a question. Is anyone actively working on the Electric Menu? Is there a project leader for Electric Menu and Document Projects consolidation? Second, I've invested some time into documenting Document Projects, see:

I like Craig's suggestions; I think they are good ones. The Electric Menu has the potential to be much more useful if his suggestions are implemented. I would be interested in assisting with these improvements, but I'm not much of a Tcl programmer. Third, I'm very interested in Document Projects for many reasons, (primarily because I use the package for the various documents I work on), but mostly because Alpha Documentation is a big Document Project.

Vince writes: no-one I know of is actively working on any of the Document Projects related code, although I occasionally get small fixes sent to me. I suggest whoever wants to take over any of this stuff should go ahead. It certainly needs a revamp, and I like the thoughts on this page, but I just don't have the time for it! The new code should build off the fileset-attached-information code so that particular filesets can have preferences attached to them for project name, user identity, license information, etc. If anything I would tend to make the Project and Filesets concepts almost synonymous, so that a 'Project' is just a Fileset with some particular information attached (note there are even procedures in the core to, say, return/use only filesets with given information attached).

DonavanHall replies: OK. This might be a good exercise for me. Who knows I might even learn more Tcl! I'll try to implement some of the changes listed on this page. However, given my programming skills, this may not get finished until AlphaX is released! I will provide an account of what I am doing on a new Wiki page: DocumentProjects?

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