3.3 User interface
User interface is the means by which the user can communicate with the computer and its applications. Usually it involves such elements as menus, typed commands, function keys or mouse clicks. The first generation of interfaces had the inherent limitations e.g. hindering the simultaneous accessibility of termbase entries for editing and reference (Fontenelle&Mergen 1998). Nowadays, virtually all personal computers are equipped with the GUI consisting of windows, panes, bars, buttons, icons and menus. The same is true for the modern terminology management tools. However, there are sometimes significant differences between the applications in the way the program communicates with the user and displays data. Figure 1 represents the interface of Multiterm iX, while Figure 2 shows the interface of DVX (see: Figure 1. Multiterm iX interface - sample termbase provided with the application; Figure 2. Deja vu X interface - termbase created for the purpose of this project; Figure 3. SDLX 2004 - termbase created for the purposes of this thesis).
As we can see, even though the content of termbases may be identical, it will be displayed in a different way in the different applications. Some tools display the termbase contents in the form of a grid, occupying one of the several panes e.g. DVX; while others, like Multiterm iX and SDLX, display the entries in the form of text files indicating fields with colors, indentations and font sizes. The interface usually allows a number of primitive actions in order to achieve the same effect e.g. a new entry can be created either by clicking a button, selecting the function from a menu or by striking a hotkey. Another feature is the dialog language, i.e. the language in which all the menus, commands and messages are displayed. In most cases several dialog languages are available and can be switched while working with the tool.
Further elements of the interface are the forms of help available to the user. In terminology management tools, usually a user manual or getting started manual are provided with the software or can be downloaded from the manufacturer's webpage. Other forms are tutorials and demos which can best illustrate the usual workflow and basic functionalities of a given tool. Sometimes, also sample files or termbases are provided along the tutorials. Unfortunately, the documentation is rarely available in many languages, thus, it is unavailable to those who do not know English. Furthermore, documentation rarely covers troubleshooting. In order to receive assistance in solving problems the users usually register in a mailing list. The listmates share the solutions and workarounds they came up with over the years of experience with the tools. This kind of help is extremely important, even though there is usually a possibility to contact the manufacturer and report the problems.
It may also be significant whether the information on the internal workings of the tools - their architecture - is made available. In most cases the codes of a tool are protected by the manufacturers and very little information is given to the users in order to prevent dishonest use of such information by competitors or software piracy.