Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 25th Nov 2007 23:05 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces This is the seventh article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms [part I | part II | part III | part IV | part V | part VI]. On the internet, and especially in forum discussions like we all have here on OSNews, it is almost certain that in any given discussion, someone will most likely bring up usability and GUI related terms - things like spatial memory, widgets, consistency, Fitts' Law, and more. The aim of this series is to explain these terms, learn something about their origins, and finally rate their importance in the field of usability and (graphical) user interface design. In part VII, as promised in part VI, we focus completely on CDE, the Common Desktop Environment.
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Z
by Janizary on Sun 25th Nov 2007 23:16 UTC
Janizary
Member since:
2006-03-12

You've covered the efforts to remedy the closedness of CDE on OSNews before: http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=16158

http://www.marutan.net/cde/ has the news with regards to progress. Basically, a buyout a la Blender may be possible, if The Open Group can come up with a price.

Reply Score: 2

CDE?!
by jdub on Sun 25th Nov 2007 23:22 UTC
jdub
Member since:
2005-08-19

If "CDE" were ever a "common usability term", it would be a four letter word.

Reply Score: 3

RE: CDE?!
by renox on Mon 26th Nov 2007 08:45 UTC in reply to "CDE?!"
renox Member since:
2005-07-06

Agreed, I don't like CDE because it breaks the networks transparency!!

That is to say that some CDE applications can not use 'export DISPLAY', very annoying..

Reply Score: 3

Ah, CDE.
by meianoite on Sun 25th Nov 2007 23:36 UTC
meianoite
Member since:
2006-04-05

Sigh. Still the best CPU monitor applet I've come to know. If only Activity Monitor was just a tiny little dock applet, instead of a real, full-fledged, ahem, activity monitor =P


(Note: eventually I needed a change, as CDE really is, as Thom so aptly put, ugly as sin and makes kids cry. For quite some time I had a locally-compiled blackbox binary, but with 10mb disk quotas I had to give up that luxury. I used to hack the hell out of my init scripts back in the day to run a blackbox session, over SSH, from a Linux machine elsewhere on the CS department; then came the FreeType enhancements and Linux apps began to have antialiased fonts. I was sold; aliased fonts on 20" Sun displays can really harden one's heart, and I'm still too young to deal with that (/tongue-in-cheek). And well, some day the .dt scripts broke so badly that I was completely unable to log into CDE, and was too afraid to touch something there and never recover my other miscellaneous customisations. In the end I never logged back to CDE, and later switched from blackbox to fluxbox, and that's what I use to this day when I log onto the CS dept. boxes. Aye ;) )

Edited 2007-11-25 23:40

Reply Score: 3

RE: Ah, CDE.
by butters on Mon 26th Nov 2007 02:24 UTC in reply to "Ah, CDE."
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

My gripes with CDE are that the dock takes up too much real estate and that it seemed remarkably awkward to add new drawers or launchers to the dock. Once I figured out how to get the dock to launch my preferred terminal (2-3 hours and some "unexpected" behavior), I removed everything except for that launcher and the workspace switcher and moved the dock over to one side of the screen.

Then I devoted a whole weekend to getting fluxbox to build on AIX so that I could work in a more comfortable environment. I guess CDE just wasn't suited to my particular needs. Fluxbox is better for managing a few dozen terminals. Lately I've been eying the tiling WMs like wmii and ratpoison. There's definitely something to be said about them in terms of usability theory.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Ah, CDE.
by Volt on Mon 26th Nov 2007 18:22 UTC in reply to "Ah, CDE."
Volt Member since:
2006-06-23

Sigh. Still the best CPU monitor applet I've come to know. If only Activity Monitor was just a tiny little dock applet, instead of a real, full-fledged, ahem, activity monitor =P


In 10.4, you can actually go to the View Menu -> Dock Icon, choose the dock icon you want, and close the Activity Monitor window. But I've never used CDE, so I don't know if this will provide what you want.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Ah, CDE.
by meianoite on Mon 26th Nov 2007 18:31 UTC in reply to "RE: Ah, CDE."
meianoite Member since:
2006-04-05

In 10.4, you can actually go to the View Menu -> Dock Icon, choose the dock icon you want, and close the Activity Monitor window. But I've never used CDE, so I don't know if this will provide what you want.


I know so, you're just forgetting the whole "If only Activity Monitor was just a tiny little dock applet, instead of a real, full-fledged, ahem, activity monitor =P" part ;)

I.e., unlike the CDE dock applet, you can't dissociate the Activity-Monitor-animated-dock-monitor from the larger - and quite resource-consuming by itself - Activity-Monitor-the-application-proper.

Reply Score: 3

The panel
by zizban on Sun 25th Nov 2007 23:56 UTC
zizban
Member since:
2005-07-06

The front panel is my biggest gripe. You can move it and minimize it but not resize it. Aggravating.

Plus being able to use jpegs or pngs as backdrops instead of xpms would go a long way to (yes you can get around this, but it would be better built in).

Reply Score: 2

RE: The panel
by Doc Pain on Mon 26th Nov 2007 06:19 UTC in reply to "The panel"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

"The front panel is my biggest gripe. You can move it and minimize it but not resize it. Aggravating."

Because there is no imaginable need to resize it, there is no way to resize it. The panel resizes automatically if you place more icons into it or remove icons.

"Plus being able to use jpegs or pngs as backdrops instead of xpms would go a long way to (yes you can get around this, but it would be better built in)."

XFCE 3 is what you're describing. I've installed it on some slower boxes (300 MHz Intel) for users who were familiar and comfortable with CDE, and they liked it. XFCE 3 looks much like CDE and can be combined with CDE color schemes and focus behaviour. Plus, it lets you use JPG and PNG images as backdrops.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: The panel
by gustl on Mon 26th Nov 2007 16:39 UTC in reply to "RE: The panel"
gustl Member since:
2006-01-19

Because there is no imaginable need to resize it, there is no way to resize it.

That is simply not true. My taskbar on KDE takes about 1/3rd of valuable monitor height, and can incorporate the same functionality, therefore ther definitely is very much need to resize the panel.

When I had to work with CDE I constantly asked myself: Why oh why have the desktop designers been so stupid, to not allow the front panel to become smaller.

And the maximize button has also been next to unusable, because it maximizes the app above or beneath the panel, which is not really multitasking-friendly.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: The panel
by Doc Pain on Mon 26th Nov 2007 18:09 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: The panel"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

"My taskbar on KDE takes about 1/3rd of valuable monitor height, and can incorporate the same functionality, therefore ther definitely is very much need to resize the panel."

I think you're refering to the ability to scale the elements inside CDE's front panel. Hmmm... that's a good question, I never saw a need to change the icon size, so I can't tell you if it's possibl or not. At least I can tell you thatt the XFCE 3 panel can be "resized", more correctly: The icons can be set to a smaller size so the panel consumes less height.

"When I had to work with CDE I constantly asked myself: Why oh why have the desktop designers been so stupid, to not allow the front panel to become smaller."

The discussion about CDE offers an interesting fact: There seem to be only two opinions about it: Hate it or like it.

Sadly, I've got no CDE at hand so I can't tell you if there's eventually a dialog that allows you to change the icon size to a smaller value. And I've never seen a CDE that differed from the standard settings regarding panel height.

"And the maximize button has also been next to unusable, because it maximizes the app above or beneath the panel, which is not really multitasking-friendly."

At least in XFCE 3 you can define an area that is explicitely excluded when maximizing, so the panel and minimized windows won't be covered (~/.xfce/xfwmrc: Margin Top / Left / Right / Bottom).

Reply Score: 2

Iconify
by RandomGuy on Mon 26th Nov 2007 00:55 UTC
RandomGuy
Member since:
2006-07-30

The whole iconify thing makes a lot of sense to me.
Can you also iconify to any folder or just to Desktop and dock?

The whole non-modal thing on the other hand has me a little confused:
Does this mean you cannot run applications that depend on modal dialogs under CDE or how is this problem solved?

Now somebody gauge out my eyes! ;-)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Iconify
by zizban on Mon 26th Nov 2007 01:09 UTC in reply to "Iconify"
zizban Member since:
2005-07-06

You can iconify any folder since the folder is just an instance of the file manager. So you can have many folders iconified.

You can run modal dialogs its just they just dont take over the screen and demand your attention.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Iconify
by RandomGuy on Mon 26th Nov 2007 01:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Iconify"
RandomGuy Member since:
2006-07-30

Ah, I see. I'd sure appreciate it if modal dialogs weren't jumping in my face all the time :-)

But I think you've misunderstood my question about iconification.
What I want to know is, is it possible under CDE to take some of the icons from your desktop and put them into a folder and then put that folder's icon into another folder and so on.

That would open up all sorts of possibilities.
You could for example define your own start menu based on nested icons if you wanted to. Is that possible?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Iconify
by zizban on Mon 26th Nov 2007 01:41 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Iconify"
zizban Member since:
2005-07-06

You can't take iconified windows and put them in a folder but you could put links from icons in the file manager in a folder and have that start up when CDE starts.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Iconify
by k6rfm on Mon 26th Nov 2007 04:25 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Iconify"
k6rfm Member since:
2007-11-26

What I want to know is, is it possible under CDE to take some of the icons from your desktop and put them into a folder and then put that folder's icon into another folder and so on.

That would open up all sorts of possibilities.
You could for example define your own start menu based on nested icons if you wanted to. Is that possible?


Not with the minimized-application icons, but this can be done with the action "desktop objects" I referred to in my other comment. In fact, this is the way the "menu editor" that was added to Solaris CDE somewhere around Solaris 2.6 worked.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Iconify
by Chicken Blood on Mon 26th Nov 2007 06:34 UTC in reply to "RE: Iconify"
Chicken Blood Member since:
2005-12-21

You can run modal dialogs its just they just dont take over the screen and demand your attention.

Actually, CDE is one of the few systems I know of where modal dialogs _can_ do that!

It goes like this:

In Windows a modal dialog blocks the app that is running, but it does not block other apps (usually)

In OS X a modal dialog can block the app, but commonly sheets are used that only block the window of the document they are attached to (aside: I have mocked-up this sheet-type behavior for Windows too using Qt).

In CDE, the official toolkit is Motif. Motif has a MWM_SYSTEM_MODAL flag for dialogs, that literally block the entire system and nothing at all can be clicked outside of the dialog. It even changes the cursor to a 'NO access' symbol when it is moved outside the dialog's bounds. http://docs.hp.com/en/B1171-90145/ch18s02.html

That's a fact and I have written apps that have done exacly that (for special purpose kiosk/console-type software).

The good thing is that many motif apps and nearly all of the official CDE-shipped apps use modeless dialogs only and so save the user from modality disasters.

Edited 2007-11-26 06:48 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Funny
by ninjawombat on Mon 26th Nov 2007 01:13 UTC
ninjawombat
Member since:
2007-11-17

My experience with CDE has been that it was frustrating, unintuitive and inflexible. And especially, the iconification of windows was a nightmare for me as I could never find the window I wanted. And teh dock was a complete pain to customize. I hated every machine that had it on by default. I understand that you like CDE, but I have to say that I am very, very surprised to you hold it in such high esteem. I mostly use Gnome and OS X and whatever their flaws may be, at least they don't give me constant headaches. I am happy with the idea of never crossing paths with CDE again (but maybe I needed to spend more time with it to "get" it?). To each his own I guess.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Funny
by Doc Pain on Mon 26th Nov 2007 06:23 UTC in reply to "Funny"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

One big advantage of CDE, on the other hand, was the consistency across operating systems. You could use CDE on Solaris and HP-UX without being interested in what OS is running.

Our university's library has some completely silent (!) Sun Ray workstations running CDE (okay, they don't run it themselves), and I always preferred using them instead the loud and slow PCs.

Okay, maybe CDE is not for everyone, but it has been a big player in computer history. Today, I admit, it's almost less than a footnote...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Funny
by Alleister on Wed 28th Nov 2007 19:07 UTC in reply to "Funny"
Alleister Member since:
2006-05-29

Maybe you just need the experience of watching some "never-used-something-else-then-windows" first semester students trying to get their CD back out of an Solaris machine... that is really priceless, like watching a monkey trying to get sweets out of an glass with a too narrow opening. You almost feel sorry for them...

Reply Score: 2

OS/2 Workplace Shell
by PipoDeClown on Mon 26th Nov 2007 01:28 UTC
PipoDeClown
Member since:
2005-07-19

did u talk about the object oriented workplace shell in os/2? i couldnt find it in your articles at all.

Reply Score: 1

Yay CDE!
by S.SubZero on Mon 26th Nov 2007 03:56 UTC
S.SubZero
Member since:
2007-11-26

I've been fooling with virtualization lately and one of my favorite victi..er.. tests.. is Solaris 10. After spending a little time with the "Java Desktop System" (aka outdated Gnome) I decided to try CDE, and I fell in love. It's brutally utilitarian, minimal, and bland. It's exactly what I wanted. Of course my needs are pretty simple, and I can easily see if I was doing more complex stuff how CDE would probably become a hassle, but for just web browsing, tinkering in a terminal, or "I wonder what this does.." it does the job with awesome pink/purple colored borders.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Yay CDE!
by Moochman on Fri 30th Nov 2007 10:27 UTC in reply to "Yay CDE!"
Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

Hehe after reading this article I am forced to go download the Solaris Express 9/07 VMWare appliance, and I can't wait to try it out! I'm not quite ready to hack away at making it run on my laptop natively, but surely a little tinkering with virtualization can't hurt ;) . (Yes, yes, a 2.2GB download and 8GB of hard drive space just to fiddle a little with CDE is perhaps a bit much, but to me it's worth it.) Yay retro stuff! I don't know what it is, but the LACK of bling and the simplicity is somehow really appealing and in its own way beautiful....

Reply Score: 2

"Normal" desktop icons
by k6rfm on Mon 26th Nov 2007 04:19 UTC
k6rfm
Member since:
2007-11-26

CDE does allow "normal" desktop icons (for files, folders, and "actions".) As I recall the CDE docs call them "desktop objects" to distinguish them from "icons" which are the minimized applications. You have to be running both the CDE window manager (dtwm) and the CDE file manager (dtfile) -- the icons are rendered by the window manager, but the file manager actually handles any operations. The trouble is you can't create desktop objects by just dragging the object to the desktop, you have to hold down the menu mouse button (normally right button) and select "place on desktop" from that menu.

Actions as desktop objects can be useful, especially as drop targets; you can drop a file on the action, which invokes the action passing the file's name. However, creating actions in CDE was never pleasant (read "man dtactionfile" if I remember right; don't have a Solaris box up right now to check.) Then to make the action into an object you have to have a file with its name the same as the action's name, with execute permissions turned on; the contents of the file do not matter at all (all my action files were links to the same zero-length file.)

Reply Score: 2

Color modes
by k6rfm on Mon 26th Nov 2007 04:44 UTC
k6rfm
Member since:
2007-11-26


it uses only only one theme with only a few colours (grey, greyer, and 'Solaris purple')


There is a "high color model" (called something like "use most colors for desktop" in the display preferences); but on 8-bit frame buffers (which I think the Ultra 5 has) it's turned off by default since it eats up like 40 of your precious 64 color map slots. It really didn't make things much prettier, either; the most noticeable effect is each workspace gets a different backdrop color, which is used to color the workspace-switcher buttons as well.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Color modes
by Chicken Blood on Mon 26th Nov 2007 06:26 UTC in reply to "Color modes"
Chicken Blood Member since:
2005-12-21

"It really didn't make things much prettier, either; the most noticeable effect is each workspace gets a different backdrop color, which is used to color the workspace-switcher buttons as well."

It also gives secondary dialogs a different background color to main windows.

Reply Score: 1

open solaris?
by alcibiades on Mon 26th Nov 2007 05:44 UTC
alcibiades
Member since:
2005-10-12

Does CDE come with open solaris?

Reply Score: 2

RE: open solaris?
by chicobaud on Mon 26th Nov 2007 11:46 UTC in reply to "open solaris?"
chicobaud Member since:
2005-08-14

It came within my "Solaris Express Developer Edition" DVD.
(Be aware that your pc needs a lot of RAM to run it).
I prefer it to the Sun Gnome Desktop. (I love it).

Reply Score: 1

RE: open solaris?
by orestes on Mon 26th Nov 2007 21:08 UTC in reply to "open solaris?"
orestes Member since:
2005-07-06

Depends on which openSolaris distro you're referring to. The "Nevada" releases should have it in there, but the "Indiana" discs won't due to it not actually being a part of openSolaris. I'd assume none of the other community based distros would have it either for licensing reasons.

Reply Score: 2

Commenting the article
by Doc Pain on Mon 26th Nov 2007 06:57 UTC
Doc Pain
Member since:
2006-10-08

I really liked this article, let me give a little feedback, having been a (quite happy) CDE user on Solaris and HP-UX years ago (last remains: Sun SS20, Sol. 8).

It has a Sun Type 5 keyboard, and sadly, that one uses a proprietary connector. The special Sun mouse is attached to the keyboard, so you are more or less forced to use the Sun keyboard - [...]

"Forced to"... Don't comlain about the Type 5 keyboard - I'd be glad to use one on a PC! :-) Reason: Better hardware quality than the next models.

For Sun hardware, there are adapters available that allow you to use a PS/2 (6pol. Mini-DIN) keyboard and mouse. Vice versa, you need to build a microcontroller around a MAX232, if I remember correctly, in order to make the Sun keyboard work on a PC. What a luck, Type 6 and 7 have USB interfaces.

The same way, you could complain about Apple's non-standard (or let's say, non-PC) keyboard and mouse plugs, where the mouse was connected to the keyboard, too - an idea I really like, by the way.

[...] which does have some cool tricks, like a dedicated keypad for often-used functions such as copy, paste, and cut. Additionally, it sports Mac-style volume keys, and you can turn the machine on and off (or suspend it) using a special key on the keyboard.

Amd again, today's Apple keyboards have this functions. On a PC with USB connection capabilities, xmodmap and a good window manager (let me call it WindowMaker), you can even to the same, for example, make the function keys on the left open applications or insert text, control the volume, lock the screen (e. g. big "Help" key, good position to simply slap on) log out (top right) or shut down (Ctrl + Alt + top right).

Don't forget to mention the "compose" key which allowed you to construct arbitrary characters, as long as supported by your charset, for example compose(ss) = , compose(A:) = , or compose(ae), compose(o/) and so on.

The integration with all (!) CDE applications was very good. Just think about the fun you have running a Gnome / Gtk application within KDE for internationalization reasons... :-)

This lack of memory does not affect CDE itself in any way. It is extremely fast and responsive, and window management happens without any form of noticeable lag. Any lag that you do encounter is caused by the applications themselves, not the desktop environment or window manager.

I'm glad you stated this.

So, if you believe your reason for existence can only be derived from the amount of bling on your computer screen, then CDE is definitely not for you, and it most likely never will be.

You could say, CDE has been designed for pure work, not for entertainment. I had to setup an X86 PC (300 MHz) in an administration setting in our healthcare system. XFCE 3 which resembles a good CDE equivalent has been my choice. The persons working on this machine are happy with it. This was my biggest surprise: My boss, coming from some "Windows", asked me why his (much faster) "Windows" PC wasn't that fast and comfortable, and easy to use. Strangs, isn't it?

Okay, this was no real CDE comment. :-)

It is hard to put into words, but when you are using CDE, you are rarely, if ever, surprised by the results of your actions.

This is an approach worth to be mentioned in regards of user education: Because of this strict mapping of user actions onto computer behaviour, you can learn to use CDE very quickly, because it constantly confirms what you are knowing to do.

It is focused on just one thing: serving you, The User.

It is an answer to the request: "Stay out of my way and let me work." The emphasizing is in "let me work", don't confuse it with "entertain me". :-)

Where Explorer, KDE, GNOME, and the Finder are more like cats, CDE is more like a dog. And even though I am a total cat person, I really like CDE for it.

So THIS is some elaboration that really surprises me and makes me smile. :-)

In addition, moving a window is done by grabbing the titlebar: the only place any sane graphical user interface should allow for moving.

If I remember correctly, you could also press the Alt key and grab the window whereever you wanted to move it around. But this involves the keyboard.

I am not sure exactly what the reasoning is behind using a dash for the menu button, so this is one of the instances where CDE breaks expected behaviour.

I know, I know! *jump* :-) The dash like symbol has been inspired by early MICROS~1 GUIs. Remember what you needed to press (on the keyboard) to open the system menu (MS's word for the window specific menu)? Hm? Correct, Alt + Space. Now look at your keyboard. What does the space bar look like? Exactly: Like a dash. This is your answer.

It's like Compiz 1991 style, dude.

:-)

Sadly, there really is not a modern equivalent of CDE that you could use on your Linux box. Even though Xfce used to be based on CDE, this is definitely not the case any more. Xfce has chosen its own path, and also made quite a few concessions to appeal to a wider audience.

As I mentioned before, XFCE 3 is a good CDE lookalike (usealike and feelalike), XFCE 4 isn't anymore.

Finally, to have a look at the very special beauty of CDE, refer the the GUI gallery: http://toastytech.com/guis/sol.html

Reply Score: 6

Minimizing
by nonesuch on Mon 26th Nov 2007 08:14 UTC
nonesuch
Member since:
2007-11-13

Disclaimer: I've never used CDE. I have, however, used XFCE 3 and Windows 3.1, which was, of course, a poor clone of CDE.

My only real complaint with it is I could never figure out how to taskswitch comfortably. Here's the problem: I don't minimize much, I just switch between (mostly) maximized windows. But in the CDE style, you don't get an icon for your app unless its minimized (and that portion of your desktop is visible.) How, then, am I to switch between my applications? There is:

--Alt-tab, which is imprecise because it cycles between windows instead of going straight to the one I want. Plus, there ought to be a GUI equivilant.
--In XFCE at least, I discovered I could middle-click the desktop to bring up a window and virtual-desktop list. Cool, but awkward on my two-button laptop. Again, requires visible (read: wasted) desktop space.

How do you CDE lovers multitask?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Minimizing
by Doc Pain on Mon 26th Nov 2007 11:17 UTC in reply to "Minimizing"
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

"--In XFCE at least, I discovered I could middle-click the desktop to bring up a window and virtual-desktop list."

In XFCE 3, you have a kind of little taskbar beneath the symbols at the front panel. Every running app has an entry there, so you can switch from app to app.

"Cool, but awkward on my two-button laptop."

I know, a typical problem with x86 notebooks. The most important mouse button is missing. :-)

"Again, requires visible (read: wasted) desktop space."

You can assign this function to a key combination, for example, Alt+PF3.

"How do you CDE lovers multitask?"

I can only answer for myself: I've used the workspace switch in the middle of the front panel, or Alt+Tab in the usual way. But I have to say that I didn't use much applications maximized due to a screen that was large enough (these times).

Reply Score: 2

unusability
by GregM on Mon 26th Nov 2007 08:47 UTC
GregM
Member since:
2006-01-07

I can't believe that the usability of CDE is actually being held up as something to strive for.

CDE doesn't do much, and one of the few things that it does do, it handles poorly. Looking for an app among the panel's menus is a pain that no computer user should be subjected to. Even worse is that it's a baffling pain. A 'someone must have intentionally made this hard to use' type of pain. When looking through the menus in the panel for a program to run (the main interaction with the panel) one must close the drawers manually. It is like taking one of the worst aspects of life (cleaning up after yourself) and bringing it to the computer. Isn't the computer supposed to take care of those hassles for me? It would have been much better if they had a 'sticky' button (like many of today's floating menus) instead.

Also, I'm glad that you mentioned that it is ugly, but man oh man does that bear repeating. That thing was a beast. Everything is a square, and with so many squares on the screen, you start to lose where things end. Each line blends into the next. I've never taken rounded edges for granted since. The panel uses up screen real estate like it was its job, which come to think of it is a definite possibility as it isn't up to the task of starting programs. Restoring a minimized program means clicking the minimize all windows button, which completely disrupts workflow. CDE is a hideous, disgusting beast. A 'this level of graphics could be expected of a wristwatch, but not a PC' type of beast.

The unusability and lack of any? redeeming features leads me to conclude that the only people touting the virtues of CDE are victims of Stockholm syndrome.

I hope you've enjoyed my rant.

Reply Score: 5

RE: unusability
by bm3719 on Mon 26th Nov 2007 16:42 UTC in reply to "unusability"
bm3719 Member since:
2006-05-30

Everything is a square, and with so many squares on the screen, you start to lose where things end.


You probably mean that everything is rectangular. If it was square, everything would have 4 equal sides.

In any case, I've always felt exactly the opposite about window borders, that is, that rounded corners are stupid. They would make more sense if your monitor was rounded on the edges, though, like earlier television screens. More importantly, they make the exact location of corner resizing control ambiguous.

I'm with the original author here. I use CDE almost every day even now, and while I prefer tiling WMs for maximum efficiency, CDE is still my favorite non-tiling one.

Reply Score: 1

Button State
by EricSchaefer on Mon 26th Nov 2007 10:08 UTC
EricSchaefer
Member since:
2007-11-26

In other words, the button does not only initiate/leave full-screen operation, it also indicates its state.


Well, buttons are supposed to trigger actions, not to show any state, besides being active or being inactive. The described behaviour is actually modal. To avoid modal buttons for maximizing and demaximizing would need two buttons. If the window is maximized, the maximize button would be deactivated. If the windows is not maximized, the unmaximize button would be deactivated. State should only be indicated by state labels, radio buttons and checkboxes, but never by pushbuttons.

Designers of everyday computer user interfaces could learn a lot from HMI designers (e.g. factory automation interfaces) and designers of non computer machine interfaces (old school HMI aka hardware pushbuttons).

Eric

Edited 2007-11-26 10:10

Reply Score: 1

I hated CDE
by jrlah on Mon 26th Nov 2007 11:21 UTC
jrlah
Member since:
2005-08-09

CDE was the default and only desktop environment on the workstation I worked on from 2000-2001 (Compaq Alpha running Tru64 UNIX). It was by far the ugliest and clunkiest desktop environment I have ever seen - even some 8-bit DEs looked more polished. It was a pain to configure properly - especially the color scheme for the desktop - and all offered preset combinations looked washed-out and repulsive. The fonts were absolutely horrible (and I am NOT talking about the lack of antialiasing, just plain letter shapes). GUI tools were slow and clunky. It was such a repulsive environment that I preferred to do most of my work on a cheapo laptop running RedHat 6.* and KDE. Towards the end of 2001 KDE2.0 binaries for Tru64 became available, and I immediately installed it on the workstation - a HUGE improvement in usability and aesthetics, although still uglier than the same version of KDE onn Linux.

In a nutshell, you will like CDE if and only if you have no aesthetic criteria at all & are colorblind. Otherwise, stay away.

Reply Score: 3

RE: I hated CDE
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 26th Nov 2007 12:03 UTC in reply to "I hated CDE"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

In a nutshell, you will like CDE if and only if you have no aesthetic criteria at all & are colorblind. Otherwise, stay away.


Like I clearly said in the article, if all you care about is looks, then CDE simply isn't for you.

I see CDE as the skeletal structure of what a desktop environment should be: they got the behaviour right, the consistency, the usability ideas. All it needs is a massive make-over - which ain't gonna happen as long as it remains proprietary.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: I hated CDE
by chemical_scum on Mon 26th Nov 2007 13:18 UTC in reply to "RE: I hated CDE"
chemical_scum Member since:
2005-11-02

I see CDE as the skeletal structure of what a desktop environment should be: they got the behaviour right, the consistency, the usability ideas. All it needs is a massive make-over - which ain't gonna happen as long as it remains proprietary.

A GTK2 fork of XFce 3 would go a long way.

Back about four years ago I had XFce 3 as my primary desktop I loved it. XFce 4 lost that CDE feel and behaved differently. So I went back to GNOME. Initially I kept using XFWM and the XFCE session manager together with the GNOME panel and Rox as my file manager and to manage the desktop. With a faster system I simply went back to a default GNOME.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: I hated CDE
by jrlah on Mon 26th Nov 2007 19:54 UTC in reply to "RE: I hated CDE"
jrlah Member since:
2005-08-09

Please, Thom. The looks are neither ALL nor the most important thing I care about. All I am saying that what you call "looks" in the case of CDE is a major obstacle in the way of usability - both ergonomics- and productivity-wise. I spent two years of my working life at that thing, for God's sake - how much have you spent? You obviously find it fun to philosophize about conceptual matters in usability, because it seems that you do not have to do much real work on a daily basis. Many common tasks that are easy in KDE or GNOME (and were already easy back then) are either a pain or downright impossible in CDE. Consistency? Hello? How many third party applications have you tried to run? (Yeah, sure , it is their fault.) So, yeah, go on and extol its conceptual correctness and purity. People with work to do, as I said, stay away.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: I hated CDE
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 26th Nov 2007 21:03 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: I hated CDE"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Please, Thom. The looks are neither ALL nor the most important thing I care about. All I am saying that what you call "looks" in the case of CDE is a major obstacle in the way of usability - both ergonomics- and productivity-wise.


Yeah... Which is why I said "all it needs is a massive make-over".

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: I hated CDE
by jrlah on Tue 27th Nov 2007 14:56 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: I hated CDE"
jrlah Member since:
2005-08-09

Right. You are effectively saying that it needs to change almost everything to be worth anything. With that I might actually agree. But, then, what's the point? It is so barren and primitive that it might be easier to create something new from scratch. With no proprietary issues.

Reply Score: 2

Open Sourcing Motif (and CDE).
by chicobaud on Mon 26th Nov 2007 11:41 UTC
chicobaud
Member since:
2005-08-14

I did not knew initiatives were being taken to open source both Motif and CDE.

I would love to use CDE in Linux and even better to see Motif (real stuff) available for GUI development in Linux (instead of Open Motif).

What do you say about creating another and bigger petition here in OSNEWS ? <<<

Well "You can't always get what you want".

Reply Score: 1

Open Look
by Treza on Mon 26th Nov 2007 12:02 UTC
Treza
Member since:
2006-01-11

I still have fond memories of Open Look on SparcStations.

It was visually quite original ( and well adapted to 1bit per pixel framebuffers ) and programming was easy, it was based on var-args C functions, widget paramaters were set as list of IDENT/VALUE pairs.
(but don't forget the NULL at the end...)

CDE's file manager was largely inspired by Open Look's

(Actually there is Open Look and Open Windows, one is the DE, the other is the toolkit )

Reply Score: 1

RE: Open Look
by zizban on Mon 26th Nov 2007 16:51 UTC in reply to "Open Look"
zizban Member since:
2005-07-06

You can still get OpenLook for linux, as well as the OLVWM. You can also get the entire OpenWindows desktop for Solaris here:

http://freshmeat.net/projects/owacomp/

Reply Score: 2

CDE on Linux
by frood on Mon 26th Nov 2007 15:08 UTC
frood
Member since:
2005-07-06

I seem to remember Xi Graphics - the guys who do those replacement X servers - sell CDE for Linux. No idea if they still do though.

Reply Score: 1

OpenWindows & CDE
by bnolsen on Mon 26th Nov 2007 16:18 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

I remember when solaris came out and CDE came with it. At that time I was very used to running OpenWindows with the olvwm (ahh virtual desktops!). The buttons were rounded, the bevelling was nice and light and the scrollbars IMHO were the best I've ever used, except the behavior went out to lunch when the scrollbar area compressed.

Pretty much all of us developers complained heavily with the new CDE/motif mandate. As mentioned in some posts above, the persistent "dock" was just space getting wasted as were the icons on the left. And everything looked boxy, plain and boring with "heavy" themes. I think the original CDE looked so heavy because of the very thick and blocky bevels with motif, not to mentioned all the dark background colors that went along with motif.

But CDE was customizable to the point that we could make it work enough like openwindows and the dock could be thrown onto the desktop as an icon.

Someone should do a usability study on the old OpenView stuff. Too bad the API was quite primitive.

Edited 2007-11-26 16:19 UTC

Reply Score: 1

I totally disagree with the author on CDE
by gustl on Mon 26th Nov 2007 16:31 UTC
gustl
Member since:
2006-01-19

I have been a user of Windows 3.1, Windows95/98/ME, FVWM95, KDE1/2/3, CDE, GNOME1.6 and Windows XP (in that order, partially parallel at home and at work).

The worst interface was Windows 3.1, closely followed by CDE and the other Windowses.

What Windows lacks is sanity.

What CDE lacks on something less than a 30" monitor is sane real estate management.

The dock is 3 times higher than my taskbar on KDE at home, and it does not take up the whole width or height of the screen. The remaining space beside the dock was always unused, so lost real estate.
Iconification onto the desktop is also not really usable. To switch applications one had to iconify the current app, then open the wanted app. Quite some work, compared to the single click on the taskbar in KDE or GNOME.

But the most annoying thing was the maximize button: It would maximize the window to the WHOLE screen! Of course the maximized app got in the way of the dock, or the other way around. Auto-hiding the dock was annoying too, because missing a button on the lower border of an application most of the time meant the dock appearing to disturb my workflow.

And the WORST thing: This stupid behavior could not be configured away.

That is mostly why I prefer KDE to GNOME, although for me GNOME is the second best desktop I know. KDE lets me easily configure it's behavior so that it meets MY brain structure, and it lets me do this without searching which values to change for which keywords on the internet (like GNOME).

There is a reason why XFCE is now quite different from CDE - too few people have a brain structure which can effectively use CDE.

Reply Score: 2

Common Usability Term?
by NeilO on Mon 26th Nov 2007 19:33 UTC
NeilO
Member since:
2007-11-26

I use Windows XP and its underlying usability (windowing, icons, start menu, task bar) doesn't much factor into my complaints ... but this is neither here nor there; I was expecting these articles to continue the theme of "Common Usability Terms" as opposed to "Windowing Systems of Preference". ;)

Reply Score: 1

Meh...
by madcrow on Tue 27th Nov 2007 01:36 UTC
madcrow
Member since:
2006-03-13

Motif is a lousy toolkit, CDE had lots of poor design aspects (in addition to making even Windows 3.1 look pretty) The dock was a good idea in its time, but the execution was flawed and much better dock-like interface elements have long been available (heck, NeXT had a much better dock in the '80s already) The CDE file manager was quite nice, but then again it was a direct port from Sun's excellent OpenLook (a vastly superior UI, both aestheticly ad functionally IMHO)

Reply Score: 1

CDE on Linux
by Mikaku on Tue 27th Nov 2007 07:12 UTC
Mikaku
Member since:
2007-05-03

Ports to Linux are hard to find (I believe Red Hat 6.x had CDE somewhere)


The RedHat 4.2 version was shipped (optionally) with the CDE of TriTeal Corp.

I'm unable to use it on modern Linux versions due to its very ancient library dependency.

Now Open Group and with all the http://www.marutan.net/cde/ requesters we have an oportunity to enjoy with it on newer Linux versions.

Reply Score: 1

cde
by Replaced on Tue 27th Nov 2007 16:08 UTC
Replaced
Member since:
2007-05-06

>Usability
>CDE

does not compute


but really guys, sco's planner was much better

Reply Score: 1

CDE for Linux
by kjn9 on Wed 28th Nov 2007 13:53 UTC
kjn9
Member since:
2006-01-17

I would die for a modern, up-to-date edition of CDE, available on Linux

Why not fork an old version of XFCE?

Reply Score: 1

iconify
by Nutela on Wed 28th Nov 2007 16:32 UTC
Nutela
Member since:
2006-02-09

The first window manager I used on Linux was fwm2 on Suse linux 5.2 I liked it but I could never find the use of iconifying the windows, how can you find those icons if they are under your other windows? What use is it then?

BeOS lists file contents when you right click on the desktop or any folder and the fact that it's tabs give more oportunity for a part of the desktop to be visible this iconify-ing makes a lot more sense or?

Reply Score: 1

Somehow...
by Alleister on Wed 28th Nov 2007 19:02 UTC
Alleister
Member since:
2006-05-29

Somehow i really like the CDE look. Might just be some nostalgic Amiga chord that is struck in my by it though. I did even prefer the CDE Solaris machines at my university over our much prettier (and *muuuch* faster) Linux desktops.

Reply Score: 2

Looks
by Glynser on Thu 29th Nov 2007 08:20 UTC
Glynser
Member since:
2007-11-29

I personally like the CDE looks. Okay, I don't like the menu's looks and the mouse cursor that turns around, but I like the window borders and the looks of the dock.

Also, I prefer fonts that are not anti-aliased. I prefer windows and buttons that have REAL edges. I hate round edges, I hate anti-aliasing, I hate wobbly wobbly effects, I hate menus and windows that fade in, I hate maximize and minimize animations, I hate color gradients, I hate shiny glassy glossy effects, I hate icons that seem to use the whole 24 bit color space. And I just can't understand why everyone is so eager about them.

THOSE things are the things that are ugly, in my opinion. Anti-aliasing on tiny fonts looks shitty. Round "edges" waste space. Maximize, minimize and fade animations waste time. Shiny glassy effects are everywhere, even on Vista's solitaire cards, it bores me to death and even annoys me. Icons with tons of colors and anti-aliasing are often hard to tell what they should be.

CDE may have its weaknesses, but I can't complain about the overall looks. I wish there were more desktop styles that provide absolute clearness and sharp lines.

One good example of plain shitty looks:
- http://www.guidebookgallery.org/icons/components
Just compare the "keyboard" icons of the former Windows versions with the ugly XP version. Is THAT a keyboard?! Of course you can recognize it, if you try, but the truth is that all the older icons are absolutely clear and put the word "KEYBOARD" directly into your head. The new XP thing is just a blurry excuse. Or just compare the "My Computer" icons. Clear looks in the past. Blurry mayhem in the present. Maybe glassy glossy shiny stuff in the future. Blargh.

Reply Score: 1

Looks 2
by Glynser on Thu 29th Nov 2007 08:21 UTC
Glynser
Member since:
2007-11-29

By the way, I also like the looks of OSNews.com! Clear and plain, not glossy and rounded and ugly. And the colors are even a bit CDE-ish. I really hope it won't change into the "we see it everywhere"-style of many other pages...

Reply Score: 1

Ultra 5, 10
by lc99 on Thu 29th Nov 2007 16:55 UTC
lc99
Member since:
2007-11-29

Hi Thom, I used those Ultra workstations (1, 2, 10) for several years (at work), and one of the great features (at least on the Ultra_10) was that when you had the FFB2 (the UPA Graphics board) installed, then there are two framebuffers in the same box (the motherboard comes with the m64 onboard video).
Connect two displays, side by side.
Then, you add the +Xinerama Xsun server option, when CDE/XWindows starts, and voila, server runs across both displays (spanned). That was my favorite thing to do with the Sun desktop setup.
Also, the Ultra_10's came in higher speeds too, I recall after the 270MHz systems, having the 300MHz, then we got the 440MHz systems. Those were really great.
I believe that the 270MHz systems were the ones where the hme0 (onboard 100Mbps network interface) was prone to getting stuck, due to the simba bridge balancing ... there was a limit that could be modified via OBP env variable, to avoid that problem. Higher revs/speeds of the motherboard fixed that.
Thanks for reminding me how good we had it, under CDE. It is a great standard. Larry

Reply Score: 1

address bar
by MamiyaOtaru on Fri 30th Nov 2007 00:53 UTC
MamiyaOtaru
Member since:
2005-11-11

The file manager also does some nice tricks. First off, it has a breadcrumb bar, something modern graphical user interfaces only recently got the hang of.

judging by the screenshot, it also has an address input field, which modern file managers are deciding is unnecessary or only to be used after jumping through some hoop ;)

Typing in a directory path, especially with tab completion can be so much faster sometimes than click fests. As great as the breadcrumb bar might be, I resent it for replacing (by default anyway) the address input field. I'd be cool with both, ala CDE.

Reply Score: 2