A user interface is the portion of the application that allows you to control and to interact with the program. Depending on the application, you can use a mouse, a pointer, a keyboard, and/or your voice to communicate with the application. Most general-purpose applications use a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI) that displays graphical elements called icons to represent familiar objects. The mouse controls a pointer on the screen that is used to select items such as icons. Another feature is the use of windows to display information. A window is simply a rectangular area that can contain a document, program, or message. (Do not confuse the term window with the various versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, which are programs.) More than one window can be opened and displayed on the computer screen at one time.
Traditionally, most software programs use a system of menus, toolbars, and
dialog boxes. (See F igure 3-1.)
- Menus present commands that are typically displayed in a menu bar at the top of the screen.
- Toolbars typically appear below the menu bar and include small’ graphic elements called buttons that provide shortcuts for quick access to commonly used commands.
- Dialog boxes provide additional information and request user input.
- Many applications, and Microsoft applications in particular, use an interface
known as the Ribbon GUI to make it easier to find and use all the features of an application; this GUI uses a system of ribbons, tabs, and galleries. (See Figure 3-2.)
- Ribbons replace menus and toolbars by organizing commonly used commands into a set of tabs. These tabs display command buttons that are the most relevant to the tasks being performed by the user.
- Tabs are used to divide the ribbon into major activity areas. Each tab is then organized into groups that contain related items. Some tabs, called contextual tabs, appear only when they are needed and anticipate the next operation to be performed by the user.
- Galleries simplify the process of making a selection from a list of alternatives. This is accomplished by graphically displaying the effect of alternatives before beingr selected.