Keyboard Operation of Custom Task Panes

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Keyboard Operation of Custom Task Panes
 
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Hello,

Is there any information available about how to operate Custom Task Panes (e.g. to close one or shift the focus between a task pane and the office document host window) using a keyboard and not a mouse?

This is essential to my application because we support a large base of blind users.

We could add buttons to the task pane content to do what we need, but it would be preferable to simply advise customers about how to operate the task pane "title bar" controls directly, if that is possible.

Best Regards,

Peter
Posted 21 Sep, 2010 18:08:10 Top
Eugene Astafiev


Guest


Hello Peter,

Please note that http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa942864%28VS.80%29.aspx is entirely Microsoft Office feature which was introduced in Office 2007.

As for the http://www.add-in-express.com/add-in-net/office-task-panes.php you can use the Tab keyboard button for navigating between advanced task pane controls and the Space button for triggering the button click event. Does it suit your needs?
Posted 22 Sep, 2010 05:54:36 Top
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Hello Eugene,

Thanks for the timely response.

I misspoke about "Custom Task Panes". The Add-In in question was using that (Microsoft) technology in an earlier revision, but I converted it to an ADX project last week, using Advanced Office task panes. My question, then, is really about the Advanced Office task panes.

My question is not at all about keyboard control of controls contained within the Advanced Office task pane. We have no problem with that. Instead, I want to know whether the Advanced Office task pane mechanism itself has ability to respond to keyboard control. For example, if I have two such task panes docked on the right side of a Microsoft Word document window, I am able to switch between the two task panes, selecting one or the other for activation, by using the mouse. In fact, there are several ways to do this. Is there a built-in way to do this using the keyboard?

Is there a built-in way to minimize or restore the task pane docking area or to close a the currently-activated task pane within a docking area?
Posted 22 Sep, 2010 10:49:35 Top
Eugene Astafiev


Guest


Hi Peter,

Thank you for the detailed explanation.

Yes, you can switch between two advanced task panes located in the same region programmatically. Please have a look at the http://www.add-in-express.com/support/addin-c-sharp.php#task-panes sample add-in project. You just need to handle keyboard buttons.

Is there a built-in way to minimize or restore the task pane docking area or to close a the currently-activated task pane within a docking area?


Also please see the http://www.add-in-express.com/support/addin-c-sharp.php#task-panes sample add-in project. Is that what you are looking for?
Posted 22 Sep, 2010 13:52:22 Top
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Hello Eugene,

That's still not quite what I'm asking.

It does seem to suggest that keyboard control of the Advanced Office task pane structure itself is not built-in. OK.

I can build by own by intercepting keystrokes. OK. (Presumably problematic to intercept them in every context, but OK.)

The real question, though, is this: is there a standard set of keystrokes that I should use for this purpose? What I'm trying to do is to ensure that, for those who rely on a keyboard, our add-ins work as much like others as possible. It would do a lot to reduce confusion if moving, minimimzing, and closing Advanced Office task panes via the keyboard worked the same from one add-in to another, just as it already does when using the mouse. But, without at least a "style guide" to give a list of "standard" keyboard equivalents for these things, there's no chance of keeping add-ins from different developers working the same with the keyboard.
Posted 24 Sep, 2010 10:46:23 Top
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Any word on this?
Posted 30 Sep, 2010 13:18:53 Top
Andrei Smolin


Add-in Express team


Posts: 18780
Joined: 2006-05-11
Hi Peter,

I'm sorry for the delay; Eugene is out of office for a week and we've missed your question somehow.

In fact this theme is a very difficult one as there are several problems located on different layers:
- what keyboard shortcuts to use? There are four Office applications supplied with Add-in Express task panes. Now add a so-called WordMail, a Word inspector in Outlook 2000-2003; to implement it, they run Word in a separate process and apply some undercover magic so that two processes communicate within a single Outlook inspector window
- should the shortcuts be used globally or only within a given task pane? if locally, then how to activate a minimized pane? If globally, what to do if a shortcut is pressed in one Outlook window and your pane is located in another one?

We haven't found answers to the above questions. It would be really helpful if you share your opinion with us.


Andrei Smolin
Add-in Express Team Leader
Posted 04 Oct, 2010 05:15:30 Top
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Andrei,

Thanks for following up.

It is indeed a tricky question. I don't have a simple answer either.

The best approach I can think of would be to handle only F6 globally. With Microsoft's Custom Task Panes, this keystroke cycles among the set of those task panes and also the main document window. If there is a way to add each visible Advanced Office Task Pane docking area into the "F6 cycle" then this would be a very good start.

Once within a docking area, Ctrl+Tab and Ctrl+Shift+Tab could be used as they are within a tabbed dialog in Windows applicatios: to cycle forward or backward through the various Add-In panels within the single docking area.

Similar keystrokes (and I don't have any immediately in mind) might be used to close a single Advanced Office Task Pane or minimize the docking area.

But, in these cases, you'd probably want to be careful not to interfere with any existing Add-Ins that make use of these keystrokes already. (That shouldn't be an issue with F6.) I see that you place a good deal of emphasis on maintaining compatibility with existing solutions; and, as a developer, I really appreciate that. But I'll have to leave it to you to determine if keystroke support can be added without jeopardizing that.

The one thing I have not addressed is how to restore a previously minimized Advanced Office Task Pane docking area. Can we simply suppose that existing and future Add-Ins will do this automatically when a particular menu item/toolbar button/ribbon button is clicked? That's what we'll be doing ourselves, so I don't see any reason to add a way of restoring a docking area with the keyboard.

If you'd really like to follow up on this, I can ask one or two colleagues here, who are themselves blind, to join the conversation. They are likely to have insight from much greater experience.
Hiding or minimizing the
Posted 04 Oct, 2010 12:10:04 Top
Dmitry Kostochko


Add-in Express team


Posts: 2875
Joined: 2004-04-05
Hi Peter,

Thank you very much for your feedback.

This is a really interesting issue and we will definitely research on it. I don't think we will be able to add something to the native Office F6 cycle, we will have to find some other. If we manage to find a smart solution we will try to implement it. You described the issue very comprehensively and gave us a really good food for thought.
Posted 12 Oct, 2010 08:50:51 Top
Peter Sullivan




Posts: 6
Joined: 2010-09-21
Thanks.
Posted 12 Oct, 2010 10:27:00 Top