Border widths under user control

halfsiesAt present, the width of a window’s border is decided by the current theme.  However, some people find it harder either to see thin borders or to click on them.  They would prefer thicker borders than most people want.

In addition, Metacity measures border widths in pixels.  The higher the resolution of a display, the thinner the borders will appear, exacerbating the problem.

Of course, since borders are under theme control, one solution is to make a new theme; this is after all what we do for users who need high-contrast window borders.  However, this modification will need to be made for every theme a user wants to use.  Furthermore, the Metacity theme format is not easy for the general public to modify.

CSS themes would circumvent the problem by allowing widths to be specified in millimetres, rather than pixels.  However, this is not currently supported by the underlying libraries, and even if it was, the problem of themes which still used pixels would remain.

GNOME bug 496536, which mirrors Launchpad bug 160311, discusses this issue.  Two suggestions are made:

  1. A setting to allow the user to override the width of borders.  There is a patch to allow this, but it has not yet been committed. For example, here is the Crux theme with the border width set to 100 pixels.
  2. Make “the mouse stick to the border”.  If this means making the cursor pause briefly while moving over the border of a window, it may pose a problem with implementation.
  3. A third suggestion, not made on either bug, is that the clickable area of a border should be a few pixels wider than its visible area.

Your chronicler would like to hear from readers who have this difficulty, particularly because of an accessibility problem, as well as your opinions on what should be done about the matter.

Photo © Lauren Marek, cc-by-nc.

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    My main concern is making the borders easier to grab. But I’m also a fan of slightly thicker borders. Perhaps 100 is too wide, but I love me a good 5 pixels or so.

  2. Posted January 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been following the bug a bit, and I saw this in my blog reader today.
    I don’t like resizing windows via the borders since they are very hard to grasp.
    However, making them visibly huge is quite ugly.
    Since moving windows is generally in a similar problem scope, I’ll mention my preferred solution to that: instead of trying to grasp the “window bar” at the top (which is fairly easily grasped btw) I prefer to hold alt + click anywhere in the window (even easier to grasp!)
    Using Alt+middle click seems to accomplish something similar, but for resizing. My only comment is that it seems this behaviour is a bit buggy and doesn’t always work on the first shot. It’s definitely my preferred way to resize a window. So I would recommend to add an invisble border to aid in normal resizing with the hopes that it doesn’t change the visual appearance of existing desktops. (eg: will we see gaps between two adjacent windows? – this might be bad.)
    Secondly, make sure the middle click resizing is solid. Maybe even add a Shift-modifier to enable snapping, (similar to the Shift modifier for alt-mouse moving).

    Hope this was helpful, and thank you for reading and free software.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By This Week In Metacity « ᛏᚦ on January 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    [...] Can we set border widths independently of the theme? Lots of people are asking. [...]

  2. By Media types - CSS on window borders on February 16, 2010 at 6:58 pm

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