BlackBerry 6 New User Experience: Action Menu (Part 1)

How-to

BlackBerry® 6 brings exciting enhancements to the BlackBerry® development platform by providing a rich set of new APIs for developers. Over the next few months, we will walk you through some of these new APIs and show you how you can utilize them in your application to provide the most integrated BlackBerry 6 experience!

We will be kicking off with one of the core enhancements introduced in BlackBerry 6: the action menu. This topic will be covered over two blog posts – the first part will cover a brief overview and impact on existing applications, and the second part will get into the details of API itself including code samples. So let’s get started with Part 1.

An action menu provides users with a quick way to access the most common actions for a highlighted item. From an application development perspective, it allows you to group a list of most commonly-available actions that users can perform into a 3×3, 2×3, or 1×3 visually appealing pop-up grid. Every action can include descriptive text, an application icon, and a command. The menu is also context sensitive, so you can assign specific actions depending on the current user context.

For the user, bringing up the action menu is simple and intuitive. On touch screen devices, it can be displayed by tapping the touch screen. On devices supporting a trackpad or trackball, it can be displayed by clicking the trackpad or trackball. If a primary action is assigned to a tap or click (for example, opening an email message in the message list), then the user can bring it up by touching and holding a finger on the screen, or clicking and holding the trackpad or trackball.

When using the action menu in your application, positioning of the items is critical in order to create a consistent user experience. As shown below, the best practice is to place the default action of the menu in the centre position and the contextual actions in the numbered positions. The full menu option is automatically added at the last position, giving the user the option to invoke the full menu at any point.

When choosing the positions for the action items, you should place them as consistently as possible to leverage muscle memory. This ensures that users get accustomed to the placement and don’t have to look for actions every time the action menu is invoked.

Order of items should be chosen as the most common to least common according to the numbered positions. If an action involves choice, display the choices in a dialog box. For example, if a contact has more than one phone number, provide a “Call” item in the action menu and then display a dialog box to allow users to choose a phone number. If your use case requires dynamic action items, then don’t display them when they are unavailable – instead, shift the position of the available items and resize the action menu as necessary.

So what impact does this feature have on existing BlackBerry applications? If you have an existing application that was created for a BlackBerry Device Software version prior to BlackBerry 6, all short menus in your application will automatically appear as action menus, with short menu items automatically laid out in the pop-up grid. This means you will be able to use your existing application on BlackBerry 6 without any changes.

More details about migrating from a short menu to an action menu will be covered in an upcoming developer resource article. In the meantime, stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post!

About Pratik Sapra

As an Application Development Consultant on the Developer Relations team I work with developers across the globe to bring their games and apps to the BlackBerry platform. My expertise includes native C++ development and gaming.

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