A Comparison of Techniques for In-place Toolbars

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Selections are often carried out using toolbars that are located far away from the location of the cursor. To reduce the time to make these selections, researchers have proposed in-place toolbars such as Toolglasses or popup palettes. Even though in-place toolbars have been known for a long time, there are factors influencing their performance that have not been investigated. To explore the subtleties of different designs for in-place toolbars, we implemented and compared three approaches: warping the cursor to the toolbar, having the toolbar pop up over the cursor, and showing the toolbar on the trackpad itself to allow direct touch. Our study showed that all three new techniques were faster than traditional static toolbars, but also uncovered important differences between the three in-place versions. Participants spent significantly less time in the direct-touch trackpad, and warping the cursor's location caused a time-consuming attentional shift. These results provide a better understanding of how small changes to in-place toolbar techniques can affect performance.