For a group that prides itself on simplicity and consistency, Gnome is lacking in these two key attributes when it comes to the save confirmation dialog in many applications. It is the very simplicity and consistency throughout the rest of Gnome that makes this weak point stand out. Following my “Cleaning Your Bedroom and Improving the World” technique, I would like to see more consistency throughout these important dialogs.
Not all of the applications I cover are specific to the Gnome platform. However, those that are not Gnome-specific still strive for as much Gnome consistency as possible and already have significant customization for the Gnome platform.
The first place to look for an issue of consistency like this is naturally the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). The HIG contains an example save confirmation alert figure.
This simple example does not not appear to have proven effective in preserving consistency across the Gnome applications. For example, the HIG does not mention how to deal with confirmation dialogs when multiple unsaved documents are open (discussed further below). The HIG example also includes a mistake (bug #162947), showing both the “Close without Saving” button and the “Cancel” button with the same keyboard-shortcut key (C).
For the situation to improve, each individual application will need to be fixed. However, before this can happen completely, there must be some clarification in the HIG (or at least concensus on the issues left open by the HIG). Fixing Bug #162947 in the HIG (clarifying the Cancel and Close without Saving shortcut keys) is critical to fixing the wording of the inconsistent "Close without Saving" buttons.
There has been discussion of a Gtk stock "discard" button or a full GtkSaveConfirmationAlert widget, both of which would help ensure consitency. While this discussion is valuable, I do not want to set aside fixing the current set of save confirmation dialogs in light of a potential solution that is as of yet just an idea (and maybe a good one).
Legend: consistent/compliant, inconsistent/non-compliant
|Close without saving||Cancel||Save and close||Key Behaviour|
|Application||Alert Window Title||Label||Hotkey||Label||Hotkey||Label||Hotkey||Enter||Escape||Screen shot
|Gnome HIG Recommendation||<none>||Close without Saving||Alt+C||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||???||screen shot|
|GEdit 2.8.1||<none>||Don't Save||Alt+N||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Gimp 2.2.2||Close [filename]||Don't Save||Alt+N||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Evolution 2.0.2||Warning: Modified Message||Discard Changes||Alt+D||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||<none>||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
(confirmations disabled by default)
|<none>||Do Not Save||<none>||<none>||<none>||Save As||Alt+A||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|AbiWord 2.0.12||<none>||Close Without Saving||<none>||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Gnumeric 1.2.13||Warning||Discard||<none>||Don't Close||<none>||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|OpenOffice.org Writer 1.1.2
Note: Buttons in reverse order
|OpenOffice.org 1.1.2||Discard||Alt+D||Cancel||<none>||Save||<none>||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Thunderbird||Save Message||Don't Save||Alt+D||Cancel||<none>||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Bluefish 1.0||bluefish||Don't save||Alt+N||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Dia 0.94||Close Diagram||Discard Changes||<none>||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Glade 2.6.0||Glade||Quit||Alt+Q||Cancel||Alt+C||<none>||<none>||Close without saving||Cancel||screen shot|
|Meld 0.9.4.1||Save modified files?||Quit||Alt+Q||Cancel||Alt+C||OK||Alt+O||Cancel||Cancel||screen shot|
|Inkscape 0.39||Warning||Close without saving||Alt+W||Cancel||Alt+C||Save||Alt+S||Save||Cancel||screen shot|
|Gnome Sound Recorder 2.8.0
(no confirmation alert shown)
When an application can have multiple documents open that call all be closed with one action, there are a few options in how to present the save confirmation alerts. There seems to be even less consistency in the save alerts for multiple documents than there is in the normal save confirmation dialogs.
The HIG doesn't seem to cover the scenario of save confirmations for multiple documents. I can imagine several possibilities on how to handle save confirmation dialogs for multiple documents in a single application: