Tag Archives: usability

My take on gnome shell

Sorry to say this, but i think the GNOME Shell (short: GS) looks totally senseless to me. There is not much you can do with it, it reminds me a bit on a mix of the Windows Start button and the Exposé from Macos X. Or add Novells “great” idea of a new Windows XP like menu.

It make me a bit angry to see intelligent people put together so much crap – overloaded menus, lists of applications or lists of recent documents. And then add to all this some animated smooth switching, which eats up some working time.

I am not at all impressed of GS. The opposit. i dnt get the point where it helps me. Similar thought as with GNOME DO. I always used Alt+F2 if I wanted to quick start an application without the terminal. I am not against making that kond of starter better – or if you add that somehow also in the panel. But the gnome shell adds a lot of things to the screen which I never used.

Has starting an application ever been a problem to one of you? Or opening a file? Or moving windows between workspaces?

Maybe I am noit the typical user, but when it comes to what I do often I could not comprehend this to one document or one application. I will try to compile what is important from my viewpoint:

  1. Integration of applications. So like lets assume GNOME is a desktop – I dont want to waste my time knowing about applications. I expect the desktop to know which applications to know for what I plan to do. This is also true for actions like attaching files to mails or saving attachments  (which is a real pain)
  2. I do get messages. And I like the desktop to save and sort them from me and allow me to manage them, copy them, add notes to them, move them from one application to the other (add a link from jabber to my bookmarks or to a mail) Messages for me are
    • Emails, Jabber-Messages, forum posts, RSS Feeds
    • System Messages, Application Messages
    • System protocols,…
  3. What is a task? This is like visitting a website or checking my mail, or sending a mail – or working on some documents. There are documents that I do read often and some I only write once – and others I need ot send often. There is no such thing as “Recent Documentes”. What is this? Recently read, recently written or recently sent? Like you have a protocol that you want to send to a bunch of people.
  4. Another problem is finding documents. This is a problem of the place or also the keyword. It would be necessary to be able to tag documents or even categorize them –  making the location secondary. Do I need to know where a document is saved? No – I can leave it to the system where a document resided. What I need is to find it, when I need it. Beagle a s a desktop search also needs some functionality – but sure its as well important to find bookmarks and contents of web pages. Sometimes I need to find a web page where I have read some stuff. Integrating a web based search might help – but my desktop needs to save some search results as I dont want to use Google or Yahoo more than needed.
  5. Essentially there is Reading, Writing/Editing , Receiving, Sending of documents and messages. My take on this is, that with the classical object oriented model put into place into a desktop this would be a great thing. If you ask me why I would not have that much of an idea – I really think we do not start with a new GUI. What we would want is a combined effort to redefine the underlying structure and to work out new models of interaction between applications. And we would also need some serious applications which allow navigation into their functions from outside. I mean it must be possible to start an office application with the exact task that I am planing to do. It cant be the way that you start an appication and then need to find out yourself. The desktop should provide an interface to do what you want – and the applications should be the working horses. Right now applications like Firefox or OpenOffice.org are dominating everything and you need to do everything inside of them.

I dont think we will see such things from classical desktops. The GNOME shell is nothing new – its because people still think in the same categories. If GS is what GNOME 3.0 (Topaz) will be I sure will leave GNOME behind.

I have see that Windows XP now sells a tabbed interface as their own invention. Bravo GNOME – leave it to Microsoft to integrate that. I am sure now GNOME will try to copy – because before nobody at GNOME really cared to make applications ready for tabbed interfaces. I have used some tabbed window managers in the past and found the whole idea great – just that I dod not want to switch to tabbed only – and did not want to configure those managers by hand. Regards to Microsoft who just did, what GNOME thought was too innovative for their users. When MS does it, or Apple GNOME follows, but never leads the way. Just my impression. I still love my current interface because it remindes me still (but less and less) of my old Mac OS 7.x interface. I hat that they removed the application switcher applet at the default place on the right side of the panel (just where it was in the Mac Finder). Now what is dominant is that I need to shut down the computer, switch users or change my status. I really do all those things not more than 1-2 times a day – so I have removed Ubuntus “great” FUSA (fast user switch applet). And I constantly ask myself why all the things I need are removed while at the same time more and ore crap is added.

Sorry for not sounding nice. You see I have not written a lot of stuff in this blog for a while. I have watched things develop and have written more  in german in other blogs about other stuff.

I am in the mood to switch to a distribution with  a clean layout – that does not do experiments (hey, where did they dump the whole default desktop search thing?) other than Ubuntu. I need a work environment right now. Fedora is trying to be innovative too – there is currently no distributions which tries to bring you the best of open source on a stable basis. Maybe there is some Ubuntu clone I havent tried yet? I am ok if a distribution adds some innovative new desktop as an option and allows me to test it. But what I hate is when GNOME and Ubuntu make experiments and use us users as a testbed.

And I would love to have a defauilt mail program based on GNOME which does not such. Currently Evolutions sucks big time. Its absolutely unusable – I am currently using Thunderbird 3 beta4 and its really, really nice. Why does Ubuntu continue to suggest Evolution as the default option? At the same time I currently do not use Epiphany instead of Firefox because I always had some stability issues in the Ubuntu packages – and I was waiting for Epiphany-Webkit becoming ready. Currently that did not work out for me and I also found out that Firefox was not a second slower than Epiphany.

I still think Epi is the cooles browser, but it lacks integration and support from GNOME, same is still true for Gnumeric and Abiword. Some days ago I witnessed how Gnumeric taking just a few seconds opening a 1.5 MB Excel file, while OO.orgs calc took 4 minutes.

There is so much good in GNOME, but thinks do not work out well. Other applications do get more money and attention and now get more ahead of GNOMEs applications. There comes the day where OO.orgs Calc will open that file faster than Gnumeric. And then having GNOME not supporting Gnumeric because of it lacks behind OO.org will become the self fulfilling prophecy.

What I would like to see is a new GNOME initiative outside the old GNOME community but which like to bring money and attention back to all the good GNOME stuff – and not running after some mobile devices and the newest hype.






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Stop button abolishment – a very bad idea

As far as I know it started with Apples iPod. To make things more “simple” it was decided that this box did not need a stop button. The open source world was excited about this decision and made similar things in many audio/video applications. Actually I think thats one of the worst decisions they could ever have thought of.

Example1: Rhythmbox

If you download PodCasts and start one – you can only pause the play – if you then you switch to radio you cant start the radio right of – because when you press play/pause again the podcast you have paused will continue to play. The only way I could play the radio was to close rhythmbox and start it again. WTF?

Example2: Miro

Miro has a similar problem. Like you are in the media library and start playing one of the videos – then you like to stop the one you watch and want to look at the others. The way you can do it is by selecting another navigation item (both Miro and Rhyhtmbox use the iTunes style left hand navigation bar) and then switch back to media library again. There is no stop.


Thinking that everything Apple does is a smart idea is stupid. I might accept Apples decision for their iPod, because it has very little space. But also it is not able to do multiple tasks. Why shouldn’t I be able to tell “STOP – I dont want to play this media any more now”. it also tells the application that if I would come back to the file I rather would start from the beginning. Actually I think more often people would start from the beginning of a video or a music piece than ton start somewhere in the middle. And if they would like to I think some kind of time based bookmark would be a better solution. On Miro I then found out that when I drag the progress meter to the very left it works a bit like a stop button – or better as a jump pack and play. But still I am not able to say go to second 0 and then do nothing. Am i stupid? Am I the only person n the world who likes to stop the playing of videos or music? I very seldomly pause a media file. This only happens when somebody is at the door and I either do not want to share my content to the ears fo the visitor or if I do not want to miss any second. Usuallly I rather let it play through. Somebody has guessed that nobody needs stop because play and pause are the same. I followed that discussion on Jokosher and gnome-usability list a while ago. I could not get my arguments through. But today I see that the use of play/pause/stop is even different on every application because now you have to guess more what the combined buttons mean. On Miro I also find it confusing that even switching to a differen navigation area stops playing. Why shouldn’t I listen to a files while searching or another and then come back to the media display. So they remove the stop button bu then make “navigating=stop”?
Rhythmbox doesnt do that. But then RB has the problem that if you see a play/pause in radio area this does not mean that pressing play will start the radio – it might rather start the podcast that you had paused. So from my perspective this all is awful usability now. Parts of it depend on the silly iTunes clone infrastructure. I never considered iTunes to be good in usability – in fact it is more kind of a list browser in the sense of a file manager with search capabilites and other enhancements (like downloading album covers, …) – but then why a second file manager and not improving the old ones?

I dont feel comofrtable with the newest multimedia applications in open source – I dont know how to use them – and I am 37 now. How do you smart programmers think your grammies will work through this? It took me years to tell my parents how play, pause and stop look like. And now we start throwing away the only distinguished symbols that we have and only have one button? How can we explain the functionality of that button? You see its even the case that different applications interpret the functionality differently – which means in fact that users have to learn EACH application. That was one thing Apple used to do better in the time before iTunes – try to make all interfaces behave and look more alike. iTunes was very “unapple” but strangely many think this is a cool application. But personally it reminds me more on old “Norton Commander” style of interface – so that was the pre-Windows area 1986.


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