UI: Consider using dual note-entry left toolbars

edited August 2014 in Symphony Pro
I first suggested this idea in another post, but the more I think about it, the more I think it deserves its own post. So I'm posting it here.

Show All Note-Rest Lengths All The Time with Second Toolbar

Currently SP uses one left-side toolbar for note entry. In landscape mode on the Ipad, all toolbar slots are full (15 of them). The top two slots are "global" buttons that switch global editing modes to/from notes and symbols (the Toolbar Menu), and to/from insert/select mode (the Entry Mode Menu). The remaining 13 slots are devoted to note length (7 of 13), note characteristics such as sharps, ties, etc (5 of 13), and one bottom key to control the Keyboard or 2 Fretboards.  As a consequence of being full, the toolbar uses pop out menus to provide access to other popular features, functions, and note/symbol types.

The current note entry UI model is not optimal because too many taps are required to do the most frequent task in SP -- enter notes and rests into the score. In particular, because the toolbar slots are full, users are required to tap to pop out menus to toggle between entering notes and entering rests. The current method (using pop out menus) requires too many taps (2 taps to switch, always), so I posted in a previous posting an alternate UI model (using single-tap toggle buttons) that is more efficient (about 1 tap to switch, on average).

But even my suggested single-tap toggle model is not optimal (it still requires 1 tap to switch), and leaves a lot to be desired. I think, "Why do I have to tap to switch in the first place? This is the most activity in SP - entering notes and rests - and so shouldn't it be an extremely polished and efficient process?" 

A better approach would be to have both note and rest buttons showing all the time, so that there would be no need at all to flip toolbar buttons between notes and rests. That way, users could just single tap to pick the note or rest length that they wanted, and place it on the score. You can't get more efficient than that -- select and place, place, ... select and place, ..., select and place. This is the extremely polished and efficient note/rest entry process that I was thinking of.

This approach requires a second toolbar (in note entry mode only) located vertically inside the existing note entry toolbar. I would put the rests on the inner toolbar, since they require a slightly longer thumb reach, and are less frequently used than the notes. It seems to me that a second toolbar on the left side (for my left thumb in Ipad landscape mode) would work well, since there would still be lots of room for the score to the right of the dual toolbars. (In portrait mode, a second left toolbar would be more noticeable.)

If a second toolbar was implemented, it would make the note-rest entry process as efficient as possible, and would create more new toolbar slots as well, that could be used to make other note entry tasks more efficient. Using two toolbars would (1) reduce the number of taps for all users who enter notes and rests in SP, (2) would preserve user mental context for a more focused user experience (notes and rests would always be visible, so users would not have to think about popping out menus), and (3) dual toolbars would make thumb tapping for note/rest selection easier (fewer taps required, by far, going from 2 taps in the current model to 0 taps in this dual-toolbar model).

Having some free toolbar slots would be very nice. (5 new slots at least on the second toolbar, or 9 across both toolbars if users get to enable/disable 32 and 64 lengths in the setup preferences). If it was my product, I'd try this idea out in a heartbeat, because it creates max efficiency on the most popular SP task, and adds lots of extra toolbar room for future growth and changes.


  • I strongly agree that Symphony Pro needs to make it easier to switch between notes and rests. I proposed a similar approach in which the user could choose the number of columns in the toolbar, where notes are in the first column and rests are in the second column, instead of being limited to the current single column. Failing that, I also like your idea of single-tap toggles between notes and rests.
  • I think this idea is outdated now, since I've posted much better solutions in other posts. See the post "UI: How to fix the core note entry problem" for the bottom line of my current thinking. I think the "drag-and-configure" model described in that post is a much more efficient, and more complete, model than the dual toolbars described here.
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