The SOCET GXP v3.0 Multiport image viewing and exploitation window, shown with the new Ribbon user interface.
Submitted by Troy Hepfner
Senior software engineer
SOCET GXP v3.0 features new design
SOCET GXP® v3.0 features a brand new look and feel based on the Microsoft® Office Fluent™ user interface. The new user interface — the way it looks, the way it’s organized, and the way users interact with it — is designed to simplify workflows and make the software easier to use for every kind of task.
Before reviewing the details of the new SOCET GXP v3.0 user interface, it is important to understand why it has changed, and the goals for adopting the new user interface. The main reason for changing the user interface is that SOCET GXP had outgrown the traditional menu and toolbar system. With each release, as new features were added, the software was becoming progressively more difficult to navigate. The SOCET GXP v2.3.1 Multiport had more than 1,000 commands on nearly 40 toolbars, menus, and submenus that were four-to-five levels deep. To keep the software from overwhelming the user, less frequently used toolbars and individual tools had to be turned off as part of the default toolbar configuration. As a result, users did not recognize many advanced features and customers were asking BAE Systems to add features that the software already had.
Furthermore, it was becoming more challenging to add new functionality to SOCET GXP. Each new release added additional menus and toolbars to the clutter. As SOCET SET® functionality was transferred to SOCET GXP v3.0, the engineering team noticed that there was no room to accommodate the functionality. The menu and toolbar system was full.
Fortunately, Microsoft had identified similar problems with Microsoft Office and was working on a solution — a new user interface for robust applications. The Microsoft Office Fluent user interface introduces a new way of working with large-scale applications. It organizes tools and uses contextualization to simplify the number of choices available at any given time, and provides a scalable platform to build on for the future.
A tour of the new SOCET GXP® user interface
The main component of the new user interface is called the Ribbon. The Ribbon organizes tools in tabs that correspond to each task. The tools on each tab are grouped by function, and many of the tools are labeled to make them easy to identify.
Ribbon components include: (1) SOCET GXP button, (2) tabs, (3) groups, (4) commands, and (5) Quick Access Toolbar.
The main component of the new user interface is called the Ribbon. The Ribbon user interface organizes tools by tabs that correspond to each task. The tools on each tab are grouped by function, and many of the tools are labeled to make them easy to identify.
Ribbon components include: (1) SOCET GXP Button, (2) tabs, (3) groups, (4) commands, and (5) Quick Access Toolbar.
The Ribbon stretches across the top of the Multiport viewing window and includes the following components:
- The SOCET GXP Button is the round button with the SOCET GXP logo on it, located in the upper-left corner of the Ribbon. It replaces the File menu. All workflows begin and end here.
- Tabs are designed to be task-oriented. The Home tab contains basic commands for using the application. Other tabs are organized by task.
- Groups within each tab break tasks into subtasks. Each group contains a set of related commands that support the selected tab and tasks.
- Commands within each group are represented by controls like buttons, sliders, and combo boxes. The controls work the same as they did in earlier versions of SOCET GXP.
- The Quick Access Toolbar is the only customizable portion of the Ribbon. It is used to display the commands used most often in a particular workflow. The user can add any command on the Ribbon to the Quick Access Toolbar by right-clicking on it and selecting the Add to Quick Access Toolbar option.
To maintain an organized workspace, some tabs are contextual and are displayed only when relevant to the current task. For example, the Graphic Tools tab, which contains commands for changing a graphic’s color, line style, or fill pattern, appears when a graphic is selected. Therefore, if a graphic is not selected, these commands are not shown on the Ribbon. Contextual tabs bring functionality to the user’s attention at the most appropriate time, and keep functionality out of the way when it is not needed.
Contextual tabs are a different color to make them easy to identify when they appear. The top screen features regular tabs, the bottom screen highlights contextual tabs.
Some groups on the Ribbon include a small icon in the bottom right corner called a Dialog Launcher. A Dialog Launcher provides additional options or advanced functionality related to a group of commands.
Dialog Launcher icon.
For example, to draw a graphic, the user refers to the Shapes group on the Draw tab. All graphics associated with drawing shapes are located here. If the desired shape is not displayed, the user can click the Dialog Launcher to see the full set of shapes available in the Drawing Toolbox.
SOCET GXP v3.0 operates on many different systems, from laptops with small screens to desktop systems with multiple 30-inch monitors. Therefore, the Ribbon is designed to be scalable. It can automatically scale up or down depending on the size of the Multiport window. If the window is wide, the Ribbon makes use of the extra space by labeling commands and replacing small icons with large icons to eliminate excessive mouse clicks. If the window is smaller, the Ribbon packs more information into less space by dropping labels, replacing large icons with small icons, and ultimately collapsing groups into a single drop-down button.
Unlike the former toolbar configuration, no matter how large or small the Multiport window is, the Ribbon height never varies. Previously, when a user resized the window, toolbars would often wrap to the next line, which shifted the tools. When a user resizes a window that has a Ribbon, all of the commands remain in the same relative position. This makes it easy to find and select commands, no matter what size the window is.
Minimizing the Ribbon
For people who use SOCET GXP v3.0 on a computer with a small screen, such as a compact laptop, the Ribbon can take up valuable screen space. In previous versions of SOCET GXP, you could turn off most or all of the toolbars to minimize the footprint of the user interface and maximize the viewing area. In SOCET GXP v3.0, this can be accomplished by minimizing the Ribbon.
One of the goals of SOCET GXP v3.0 is to help users do their jobs more efficiently. The new user interface achieves this by organizing the tools in a way that makes sense to users. The Ribbon gives users the tools they need when they need them, and hides tools that are not relevant to the task at hand. There are many other new tools that help users navigate the SOCET GXP v3.0 application. For example, the Quick Access Toolbar and Mini Toolbars make command access quick and efficient for mouse users, while KeyTips allow keyboard users to access commands with a minimum of keystrokes. As a result, users will find it much easier to do their jobs with SOCET GXP v3.0.