Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Indicating Occurrences On Search/Replace Dialog

I'd like it if the search and replace dialog boxes in text editors and word processors would give you an indication where in the document the next, or even all, the occurrences of the search term are. With all the ones I'm used to using, when you click to find the next occurrence, it just jumps you wherever in the document it is, which I can find disorientating.

It could, for example, give you a small visual map of the document, which highlights the occurrences. The sense of where the occurrences are located would enable you to see, for example, whether your search term has picked up all the occurrences you expected it to (if there's one section of the document where you were expecting matches but where there aren't any, this could lead you to realise that you've entered in a slightly wrong search term, or misspelt the items in that place).

There are various other ways this sort of information could be conveyed. For example, it could have a special display containing an entry for each occurrence, showing the line it is on and perhaps a line or two above and below it for context, and also something like a little image of the document to show where the lines for that entry are located. The entries could be listed one after the other, to give you a view upon the document focusing on the occurrences.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a system out there that does something along these lines, or if not, that someone will try something like this sooner rather than later.

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