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ViEmu status bar in Word & Outlook

One recurring complaint about ViEmu/Word&Outlook is that its status bar obscures the bottom side of the document being edited. The status bar is the pale yellow line that shows the current mode (“–NORMAL–“, for example), and partially typed commands (be they normal mode commands, ex commands or even ‘/’ or ‘?’ searches).

This problem is more severe with Outlook, because Outlook disables scrolling beyond the end of the document. Technically, it’s because Outlook  uses the “Web layout” view mode of Word’s visualization engine, which causes this problem. But anyway, Word editing is usually done in “Print layout” or “Normal” view modes, so you can always scroll a bit to unobscure the area of interest.

I’ve been researching methods to avoid this problem. The main possible solutions I’ve come up with for Outlook 2003 revolve around putting the status bar somewhere else – namely, on top of Word’s own status bar, or on top of a special toolbr which would be docked at the bottom of the editing window. I’m investigating using the Word status bar first, as this looks more sensible and sensible. I’ll need to put the input somewhere where it won’t obscure the built-in status bar information areas, which will probably involve pushing to the right. Not the best solution, but possibly fine.

I already have some prototype code mostly working in this way, and it definitely helps. I still have to make sure it handles all conditions correctly, that it works fine with split-view windows, etc… It will all be configurable in the end, so it will only be a net win.

The best solution would be to stash it in a dockable toolbar, but I’m not all too sure whether I can configure a special control on one of this toolbars. I will investigate it though.

The main problem with this approach, though, is Outlook 2007. Outlook 2007’s mail composing window is actually a kind of container for a Word-engine window. It works fine, and it’s actually cleaner than the way Outlook used Word in previous versions, but it also means it uses Word 2007’s ribbon interface. And here comes the problem: I have been unable to make it show either a status bar, a toolbar docked at the bottom, or anything else for that matter. This means there is no place where I can overlay ViEmu’s status bar. I’ve gone through Outlook’s mail editor settings several times now, and I’ve found no “Show Status Bar” option. Bringing up a toolbar also seems impossible – the current interface paradigm seems to have gone out of its way to remove them.

One possibility is to have a “floating” status bar below the window. It would be a top level window, which would probably have to disappear when focus is lost by the editing window. This will not be nice, but it will work – as long as you don’t maximize Outlook. If you do maximize it,  then the status could end up anywhere: on top of the horizontal scroll bar, on top of the windows task bar… who knows.

Anyway, if anyone of you has an idea on a better way to approach this, please share it with me.  This is something I want to address as properly as possible, and I’ll be happy to give some thought to all suggestions.

Once this issue is addressed, I plan to do a few improvements to ViEmu/W&O and release version 1.1. It’s about time ViEmu/W&O leaves 1.0 status (technically, it’s in 1.0.23 now, so a far cry above a fresh 1.0 release, but anyway).

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