Search function for menu options and settings

The menus for Scrivener 3 (Windows) are gigantic. I find myself spending minutes at a time searching for a function or option.

I grew up when intricate menu systems like these were the norm for user interfaces, but today it’s much more common (in UIs designed for domain-expert users) to provide a “menus and settings search” function. I would LOVE to be able to search menus and setting, choose the one I want from a list, and be taken to its location in the UI after my selection. I envision this working the same way as Microsoft VS Code.

For the command search, have you tried the function in the Help menu?

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I had not. I didn’t even know that was there. It provides some of the functionality of this request, but it doesn’t deliver the same level of convenience. I can use that tool to learn the menu path for a setting I want, but I then have to memorize the path (because the result disappears when I use the menu) and then navigate to the item. I’d much rather have the search result take me to the menu item when I click on it. And I’d like a way to search options and settings in the same way, preferably in the same search window.

Given they were aiming for what the macOS system provides by default on all software, and how that does indeed do what you want here, my guess is that there are technical difficulties with actually opening up other pieces of UI from a search result like that (so that would probably also make preference searching difficult).

With stuff like Visual Code, that’s all running in something more internally contained than a traditional development toolkit. If I’m right in my assumptions, it’s really more like an extremely elaborate web page (it’s Electron these days, right?), so opening up different areas of the UI is a lot more second nature.

I imagine you’re right! I’ve no doubt about the difficulty of getting (what I presume is) a WPF app to behave like anything built on more modern technologies. Nonetheless, my expectations for usability have evolved, and I’m asking “them” for something much much more usable than the current options-and-settings UX which often feels like searching for a mushroom in the forest.

Regarding the menu search, you should be able to select the command directly from that menu, and this is working in my tests. But the commands are only available there if they are available within the current context, the same as if you’d navigated via the full menu path. Could that have been the complication you were seeing?

For instance, if you have a text document loaded in the editor and select some text, then use Shift+F1 to open the menu search and type “Comment”, you should be able to arrow down to the “Insert ▸ Comment” option and press Enter to create a comment on the selected text, just as if you had selected it via the Insert menu. Is there a particular case that’s not working for you?

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I’m playing with the Typewriter Scrolling option. Trying to test what you describe using both keyboard navigation (arrow down the list and hit enter) and mouse (click on the item in the list). I saw it activate/deactivate once when testing just now, but most of the time there’s no effect. Maybe the feature is buggy?

Ah, thank you. Yes, that’d be a bug. So I found two issues, which I’ve filed for the developers:

  1. The Help menu doesn’t properly dismiss if you’ve invoked it via Shift+F1 unless the command opened a separate window. Otherwise, you need to hit Escape twice to get back to where you were.
  2. Some commands that toggle a state, like Typewriter Scrolling or showing/hiding the binder, are not being set correctly when accessed via the menu search results, so after the initial invocation, the command does nothing until it’s been “reset” by invoking it via the full menu path (or shortcut). At that point, the checkmark in the menu will be added or removed to match the actual current state, and after that choosing the command via the menu search will work again to toggle the state once–but again, without setting the new state, so the cycle repeats.

So yes, that’s a nuisance for items like this. Until it’s fixed, another option for making these easily accessible would be to add this sort of setting as an icon button to the toolbar. Not everything is available that way, but many of these state settings are, and it would bring them “top level” so you wouldn’t have to dig in the menu for things you use frequently. You can modify the toolbars via View ▸ Customize Toolbars....

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