When doing Edit > Find or Edit > Replace, four icons are displayed to the right of the “Find” field. The first one specifies whether and how to match the case of the letters, and the third one allows multi-line search strings; both are obvious in their operation.
But the same cannot be said for the second and fourth icons. The second one specifies whether to match whole words. Clicking it changes its color; the particular two colors depend upon the chosen color scheme, e.g., anyone using the Default color scheme will see the icon go from white to blue, and anyone using the Cupertino scheme will see the icon go from gray to a lighter gray. Neither color change actually tells the user whether the Find operation will or will not match whole words. So the first thing the user does is hover the mouse pointer over the icon, in the hope that a tooltip will appear to say whether or not whole word matching will take place. But regardless of which of the two possible states the icon is in, in both cases the tooltip text is identical, namely, “Match whole words”. So the user doesn’t know. And for users who have difficulties differentiating some colors, this would be even more frustrating.
The fourth icon specifies whether to use regular expressions during the Find operation. Just as with the second icon, the color changes and the (unchanging) tooltip provide no helpful information to tell the user which state of the icon will use regexes and which one won’t. The only difference (compared to the second icon’s behavior) is that for this fourth one, in one of the two states, an additional icon appears to the right of it, with the tooltip “Open in Rx”, which is a good clue for anyone who knows what “Rx” is, but isn’t for anyone who doesn’t know.
Recommended call to action:
- Modify the tooltips to indicate when the whole words and regex icons are in active states, such as by appending “(disabled)” to the end of the current tooltip text to show that feature is OFF, or rewording them, e.g. “Use regexes” and “Do not use regexes”.
- If time and other resources allow, add icons that depict the active state.
- If time and other resources allow, make the shading of the disabled icons a gray rather than a bright white.