Many new users (and some experienced ones) find greyed out options very frustrating. They often spend a long time trying to figure out how to make the option operative (in some cases, by thumping the mouse harder and harder!). How about this idea? When a user clicks on a greyed out option (or maybe, when they drift the mouse over one), a message pops up telling them why the option is currently unavailable. John
Perhaps items should not be grayed out at all - if an item is disabled perhaps it should just be hidden? After all, if it is not usable, why show it?
Options that (to the user) randomly appear and disappear, are a lot more confusing than grayed-out ones.
It's a major sin to remove menu items instead of graying them. It's one of the best ways of getting an end user really mad. If it's not where it was yesterday, they search through the whole UI to find where it's gone off to.
It could be hard to write a good tooltip (correctly) explaining why an item is grayed out. But I like the idea alot!
IMHO, It will be better to make a first step resolving reason why this options is greyed instead of writing cool message - "You need to do some magic and dance around your computer".
In case if option greyed out due to limited access - show an explanation text and prompt for login/password.
In case if options greyed out due to compatibility with other options - list options and make it's possible to uncheck/change them.
In case if application need some additional functionality or plugins - prompt to download them.
In case if options disabled due to corporate policy - show an support phone/address options or corporate support contact dialog with part of message prepared.
and so on ...
Instead of giving advice how to solve problem - make a first step solving it. But take care - not all options must behaive in this way. Trivial options must not assume idiot using mouse.
I agree with the idea that there should be a tooltip to show what the greyed out section is for, although to me it is usually pretty obvious what it is connected to, some users might not find it that easily.
I also agree that making them invisible is not going to be helpful at all.
However I thought that at least in some programs that there is an option that can tell you what greyed out sections are, the ? in the upper right corner of the window. Most times if you click that, and then click in the window somewhere, you'll get an explaination. Not all programs use that, but it is there.
Thing is greyed out options and tooltips are both set by the application developers and windows has no control over it. I think that if windows took away the creative control of the developers by adding a pre-set greyed out tooltip people would revolt and not use the enable/disable option but instead use another method.
New users find a lot of things frustrating, changing this now would cause more problems that leaving it in place regardless of how good bad it is. Computers are in general supposed to be a metaphor for the real world so if someone can think of a real world metaphor for greyed out options please tell.