Currently, the transformation dialogs accessible at Object>Transform are modal. I'm talking about "Move…", "Rotate…", "Reflect…", and so forth. These dialogs, when open, lock the user out of any interaction with the artboard other than the "preview" button, until the dialog is closed.
Even more problematically, they lock the scroll and zoom factor of the current user view, so that there's no way to inspect how a precise numeric adjustment affects a part of the layout outside the current window (or within the current window but very small inside it) without committing the change, inspecting it, and then later undoing if necessary. This creates cycles of tedious user adjustments (especially on small monitors) that really should be possible in one user step, by toggling the preview button on and off, and zooming/scrolling.
This is contrary to most modern UI design principles, which suggest avoiding modes unless they are truly and meaningfully necessary. I don't think this is one of those cases. Photoshop made dialogs for adjustment layers non-modal with CS4, and while there are issues with the newer interface (see John Nack's Configurator workaround), I think it's a win overall. Illustrator needs to catch up in this regard. I realize there is some pretty serious refactoring involved to do this, but it has to be do-able.
In the words of Larry Tesler's immortal Subaru license plate: "NO MODES"!
Thanks Scott, I'm fully aware of the Transform panel. This isn't a "please help me how do I…" type of discussion. My point is that the dedicated dialog boxes in Object>Transform are clunky. (Besides being unnecessarily modal, the "preview" isn't updated on keyboard entry, and the "preview" checkbox need to be manually toggled on and off to work.) So, observing that there's another way to do it, (while helpful to seasoned users) doesn't really address any of my points here, which concern a different aspect of the interface, one which novices and students make use of all the time. Adobe surely knows this, which is why it's still there after all these years.
In other words, if the Transform panel is the only way to visualize these changes elegantly, why not eliminate Object>Transform entirely from the UI? To be very clear, that's not what I'm suggesting. My point is that every dialog should work well, according to well-established principles.
So, what you're posting, just so I'm clear, is that the Transform Panel works and solves the issue. However you still have a problem with the menu items?
Of course novice users will struggle with MANY aspects of the application. I'd hate development time to be alotted to an area just because a novice hasn't discovered there's a panel.
Out of all the dialog windows in the entire application, I'd suggest the transform dialog are the LEAST problematic. And, for the most part, the least useful give the Transform panel and the Control Panel. Simply put, if the Transform panel works, then why even trouble yourself over the menu items? Simply ignore them and move on.
With all respect, I completely disagree. Three points:
1) This is not an isolated problem. The "modal" problem I'm describing manifests itself in a many Illustrator dialogs. But at least the dialogs accessed from the Effect menu (some of which have good reason to be modal) update correctly when a slider is moved, without having to toggle the preview box unchecked and checked again. The Object>Transform dialogs don't even function that well!
2) I teach Illustrator, and this is a recurring stumbling block for students, and it's partly because of antiquated UI principles. Yes, we can agree that there are a range of difficulties in learning any new software. Sorry, what's your point here? That because it's hard we should make it harder?
3) We're speaking to different audiences. You agree that the Object>Transform dialogs are currently crap. Your advice: don't use them. Great: we're on the same page. Your advice is a useful best practice for the committed user. My suggestion is addressed to the development team, to improve functionality and flatten the learning curve.
I obviously can't respond to the other "more important" development priorities you allude to but haven't bothered to name. One issue, one thread, please.
You do realize that this is a user to user forum, right? This is not a direct route to the Adobe dev team. There's no telling if any member of the AI team will every read anything here.
I guess I simply find it funny that new users struggle with modal dialogs. It's not as if Illustrator is the ONLY application with this behavior. it's very common across hundreds of apps from hundreds of developers. I'd suggest, if you really wish modal dialogs to change, you invent something better and spec' it out. Because, to date, I've not seen any app, anywhere, work around modal dialogs compeltely.
Why go to Object > Transform?
Why not use the right tool for the job? Hit R for Rotate, S for Scale etc. and your into the tool straight away
They can all be used either numerically (by option-clicking) or manually.
Most of them have keyboard shortcuts and you can make your own for those that don’t.
And then there’s the Bounding Box that has its points; many people like it but I don’t much.
Some users seem to have forgotten that the specific tools are there at all.
Sorry, but I don’t think I appreciate your problem.
@steve fairbairn: Are you aware that the scale, rotate, etc dialogs brought up by option-clicking are the same as the dialogs accessed by Object>Transform? What you're proposing as an alternative is the exact same thing! And, or course, it has the same defect: that the scrollbars and zoom factor are locked while the settings are tweaked. Your answer speaks narrowly to your workflow and the type of images you work on.
@scott w I've already filed a request with the Dev Team, thanks. I also posted this publicly in case anyone has any constructive observations. You're certainly right that an unnecessary reliance on modes is a common UI mistake. But there are, for what it's worth, plenty of micro-applications that don't have any modes, except for maybe a print preview or something like that. A lot of thought has gone into modeless design in the past decade. There are books upon books of theory written on this. But it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Sorry, that's a phony argument. Design is typically incremental.
And there doesn't need to be a "spec" written. There's simply a desired behavior which I've already described: I want to be able to pan and zoom within the document with a Transform or Effect dialog open. I'm actually pretty clear about it if you take the time to read the original post completely.
...make the "transform" dialogs non-modal...
What, and bring Illustrator out of the 1980s?! Are you mad, man?
Just so you know you're not alone; I've been complaining about AI's archaic dependency upon modal dialogs for many years.
...I'm fully aware of the Transform panel...observing that there's another way to do it...doesn't really address any of my points here...
But it's not "another way to do it," because the functionality is not the same. The modal dialogs include crucial functionality that cannot be done in the Transform palette. For example, moving something in terms of distance and direction (diagonally), instead of merely by lame X and Y factors. Or transforming about an off-object center of transformation, rather than merely by the 9-point proxy.
...the "preview" isn't updated on keyboard entry, and the "preview" checkbox need to be manually toggled on and off...
But the preview does refresh (and does not have to be toggled) in response to keyboard entry if that keyboard entry is by the arrow keys. For example: Select something, doubleClick the Scale tool, click your cursor in the Uniform value field, and tap the up/down arrow keys (or press and hold them). The value will increment and the preview will update with each key tap. (Be sure to teach that to your students.)
That does not, of course, negate the complaint, but it does ameleorate it somewhat. The increments are preset; there are no preference settings for them. (Don't even get me started on preferences that should be doc-specific settings, and vice-versa).
Nor does the valid point that problematic dialogs abound beyond just those associated with the transform tools, but I do agree with it. For just one of many examples, it's nothing short of idiotic that the Scale fields of Transform Each do not have a uniform scaling lock, and that only percentage fields are provided and no explicit dimension fields. Illustrator is quite saturated with such inconsistencies and half-baked implementations.
But...you're often arguing with the emotionally attached Illustrator devoted here. So I wouldn't recommend holding your breath. It would probably be more effective teaching Illustrator's shortcomings to your beginning students. Probably one of the easiest ways to explain the problem of modal dialogs is to point out that you can't change the current selection with the dialog open.