Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 4th Apr 2009 16:16 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces This is the eleventh article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms. 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. After a rather long hiatus, this eleventh instalment will focus on bling, desktop effects, and compositing, and what they can contribute to the desktop experience.
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strange definition of "usability"
by MysterMask on Sat 4th Apr 2009 17:24 UTC
MysterMask
Member since:
2005-07-12

article in a series on common usability [..]


Linux/X provides its users with the most advanced compositor, simply because you can extend and tailor it to your own needs if you so desire [..]


still far too complicated to be used by non-geeks [..]


???

I thought this article is about usability. Instead you proclaim that openness makes a compositor more advance even if it's too complicated to be configured? And what has wobbly windows to do with usability?

You've got a really strange definition of "usability".

Believe it or not, most users (even advanced users and geeks) don't like to spend their time configuring or recompiling apps. Instead their glad when developers decided for sensible defaults so they don't have to fiddle with the apps. That's a main point of usability. It's not about - "configure / compile yourself - I was too stupid to think about users needs, so I simple opened up the code and added a complex configuration file so everybody can spend valuable time trying .."

And I don't see why "open" and "configurable" makes a software "more advanced".

Edited 2009-04-04 17:24 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

You didn't read very well, did you? I specifically explained why certain effects make a desktop more usable for some people.

I also specifically explained configurability is a good thing in this context, and that's why Compiz is the best option. However, configuring Compiz should be made easier still.

You need to go back, and read it again. Just copying a few select sentences and pull them out of context is no way to comment on an article.

Reply Score: 1

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

And what has wobbly windows to do with usability?

Thanks for reminding me of one of the funnier exchanges I have ever seen on OSNews:

http://www.osnews.com/thread?169922

:-)

Edited 2009-04-04 17:33 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

And what has wobbly windows to do with usability?


Wobbly windows are SO AWESOME you should never question them. Ever!

Reply Score: 8

n4cer Member since:
2005-07-06

And I don't see why "open" and "configurable" makes a software "more advanced".


++

"more openly extensible" would have been more accurate.

"more advanced", to me, would refer to the technical capability of the window manager.

Reply Score: 3

@KWin
by panzi on Sat 4th Apr 2009 17:38 UTC
panzi
Member since:
2006-01-22

KWin is very nice and can also function as a normal (non-composite) WM, in case there is no hardware support available. However, KWin 4 is still very young and crashes often on login or when changing configuration options. SO it still has quite a way to go, but it is very promising. I like the window/program specific settings etc. (that are actually supported since the KDE 3 times and have nothing to do with composite).

Reply Score: 1

RE: @KWin
by giddie on Mon 6th Apr 2009 10:38 UTC in reply to "@KWin"
giddie Member since:
2008-04-29

Wow, that shouldn't be happening. You're certainly in a minority of people experiencing such serious bugs with KWin. You might want to report that to KDE.

Reply Score: 1

..just wondering..
by mtzmtulivu on Sat 4th Apr 2009 17:42 UTC
mtzmtulivu
Member since:
2006-11-14

is there any code sharing btw kwin and compiz?

i am glad kwin uses its own composite effects.Compiz feels and behave like gnome app and it is annoying to use it with kde.

kwin(in kde k.2) has almost all compiz effect and it seems to be more efficient than compiz

anybody here who use kde 4.2 prefer compiz over kwin? why?

Reply Score: 1

RE: ..just wondering..
by Andrey C. on Sat 4th Apr 2009 18:38 UTC in reply to "..just wondering.."
Andrey C. Member since:
2008-04-04

There's no shared code between the two.

It's interesting to see how users who aren't into the scene as much still notice the difference between Compiz and a native WM like Kwin (and Gnome's own compositing WM once it's done). Compiz feels out of place with every DE because it runs on top and limits the underlying WM's features. Intercepting keyboard shortcuts for instance.

IMHO Compiz is an ugly hack and it won't be long until it's gone. It did bring bling to the linux desktop, so it deserves credit for that.

Edited 2009-04-04 18:39 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: ..just wondering..
by sbergman27 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 18:48 UTC in reply to "RE: ..just wondering.."
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

It's interesting to see how users who aren't into the scene as much still notice the difference between Compiz and a native WM like Kwin (and Gnome's own compositing WM once it's done). Compiz feels out of place with every DE because it runs on top and limits the underlying WM's features.

What are you talking about? Compiz *is* the native window manager when desktop effects are turned on. Metacity isn't even running. I'm not a big fan of compositing. But there is nothing "out of place" about compiz in Gnome.

Edited 2009-04-04 18:49 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: ..just wondering..
by sj87 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 19:26 UTC in reply to "..just wondering.."
sj87 Member since:
2007-12-16

anybody here who use kde 4.2 prefer compiz over kwin? why?

I prefer KWin over Compiz because I use KDE. KWin's shadows are very slow and blur usually screws up everything, whilst Compiz is very fast and has a bunch of unique features I used on a daily basis back in my GNOME days.

I also noticed a couple of weeks ago how Compiz 0.8 series is very much faster than the previous 0.6/0.7 were.

But I am an idealist in the way I don't want to mix Qt and GTK apps, Firefox being the only exception in that matter.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by paws
by paws on Sat 4th Apr 2009 18:25 UTC
paws
Member since:
2007-05-28

Don't knock wobbly windows before you've tried wobbling windows while whacked on weed. All wight?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by paws
by sbergman27 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 18:36 UTC in reply to "Comment by paws"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Don't knock wobbly windows before you've tried wobbling windows while whacked on weed. All wight?

Especially when you get them up into a corner of the desktop and they get that "standing wave" thing going. It adds so much realism. Sheets of paper on my real desktop get up and start gyrating around all the time. Why not on my computer desktop?

Edited 2009-04-04 18:37 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by paws
by paws on Sat 4th Apr 2009 19:33 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by paws"
paws Member since:
2007-05-28

"Don't knock wobbly windows before you've tried wobbling windows while whacked on weed. All wight?

Especially when you get them up into a corner of the desktop and they get that "standing wave" thing going. It adds so much realism. Sheets of paper on my real desktop get up and start gyrating around all the time. Why not on my computer desktop?
"

No but it's fuuuuuuun..!

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Drumhellar
by Drumhellar on Sat 4th Apr 2009 19:14 UTC
Drumhellar
Member since:
2005-07-12

"Compiz' Cube effect is another good example of turning an inherently virtual and static concept into something more physical. I always hated virtual desktops, because the non-visible desktops simply didn't really exist anywhere."

The desktop pager on the taskbar/launchbar/whatver-you-call-it that any WM has shows where each is in relation to another. Generally speaking, '1' is in the top right, '2' is to left, etc etc, unless you like your layout different. The cube is really just bling.

"Wobbly windows is my all-time favourite Compiz plugin because it is The One plugin that turns windows from inanimate, virtual lumps of pixels into actual objects that have real-world properties: they bend and move as you drag them around, just like waving a piece of paper in front of you."

Wobbly windows are strictly eye candy. Many windows don't have a real-world counterpart. PDF files, sure, but not, say, 3D Studio MAX. Pieces of paper don't flutter on my desk, unless the window is open, but then they are fluttering down the hall. Besides, ever tried to read a piece of paper why it was fluttering? Not very easy.

You also left out the one feature of such window managers that is actually extremely useful: window previews. Hover over a taskbar entry in windows7 (and vista i think, too, though it's been a while), or in MacOS X on the dock, and you get a small, live preview of the window in question. Similarly, switching with alt-tab gives a quick preview, with win-tab a bigger one (though, that's mostly for eye candy, too).

Even that feature doesn't require a fully composited manager, though. The window preview during alt-tab was available in Windows XP via the task-switch powertoy.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by Drumhellar
by dragossh on Sat 4th Apr 2009 20:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by Drumhellar"
dragossh Member since:
2008-12-16

Even that feature doesn't require a fully composited manager, though. The window preview during alt-tab was available in Windows XP via the task-switch powertoy.

I think it does. XP/GNOME/KDE/whatever else, without compositing, gives you only the icon of the window.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Drumhellar
by Drumhellar on Sun 5th Apr 2009 08:38 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Drumhellar"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

The standard alt-tab in XP just gives the icon. One of the Microsoft PowerToys for XP has a thumbnail alt-tab that's fairly fast. It only gives a thumbnail of the currently selected window, and sometimes it's a tad bit slow, though.

EDIT: You can find it at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys....

Edited 2009-04-05 08:39 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Drumhellar
by righard on Sat 4th Apr 2009 21:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by Drumhellar"
righard Member since:
2007-12-26

[i]Pieces of paper don't flutter on my desk, unless the window is open, but then they are fluttering down the hall. Besides, ever tried to read a piece of paper why it was fluttering? Not very easy.


Maybe it's because I'm so tired but I can't stop laughing after I read that.

The fluttery window thingy though was the only thing that convinced my girlfriend to use Linux. Now she doing all "Wooble wooble wooble" instead of getting some real work done.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Drumhellar
by phoenix on Sun 5th Apr 2009 19:55 UTC in reply to "Comment by Drumhellar"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

"Compiz' Cube effect is another good example of turning an inherently virtual and static concept into something more physical. I always hated virtual desktops, because the non-visible desktops simply didn't really exist anywhere."

The desktop pager on the taskbar/launchbar/whatver-you-call-it that any WM has shows where each is in relation to another. Generally speaking, '1' is in the top right, '2' is to left, etc etc, unless you like your layout different. The cube is really just bling.


"1" is top-left, "2" is top-right, "3" is bottom-left, and "4" is bottom-right. Like so:

1 2
3 4

Reply Score: 2

Comment by sbergman27
by sbergman27 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 19:23 UTC
sbergman27
Member since:
2005-07-24

Compiz' Cube effect is another good example of turning an inherently virtual and static concept into something more physical. I always hated virtual desktops, because the non-visible desktops simply didn't really exist anywhere.

While others of us progressed beyond the sensorimotor stage at about 2 years of age, are capable of at least basic abstract thinking, recognize that objects can continue to exist even when we can't see them, and consider the cube to be a bit childish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget#The_stages_of_cognitive_de...

Edited 2009-04-04 19:28 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE: Comment by sbergman27
by sbergman27 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 20:02 UTC in reply to "Comment by sbergman27"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

The window for editing has expired. But I think that my post might have been a bit over the top. I'm not a huge fan of the cube, understand. But please don't read too much into my Piaget post.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by sbergman27
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 4th Apr 2009 20:21 UTC in reply to "Comment by sbergman27"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

While others of us progressed beyond the sensorimotor stage at about 2 years of age, are capable of at least basic abstract thinking, recognize that objects can continue to exist even when we can't see them, and consider the cube to be a bit childish.


Quoting Piaget... Interesting, studied that stuff in quite some detail back when I was studying Psychology at the VU University.

You are making a fatal flaw by assuming that there is a similarity between virtual objects and real objects. Let me explain why there is a difference between virtual desktops and, say, a ball underneath a cup.

When you hide a ball underneath the cup, I can see exactly what is happening, and why the ball is now not visible anymore. I saw the cup cover the ball, and as such, I can deduce that the ball has not disappeared, but is still in the exact same place - just with a cup over it.

The virtual desktops example is much, much different. Say I have four desktops, and I'm currently on desktop 1. When I click to move to desktop 2, it just switches. No animation, no movement to indicate where everything is going. It just vanishes instantly, and the other desktop appears instantly. There is no indication of where things are going, or where they are coming from. As such, your comparison is rather void.

I can assure you that virtual desktops are an inherently troublesome concept for many people -

Crap, and there Steve goes, undermining his own post ;) . I'll continue anyway.

- because there are things happening on the screen that they can't see. Making it all more physical, as well as making it visible where things are going, and where they are coming from, gives them a few latches to hold on to when it comes to virtual desktops.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by sbergman27
by sbergman27 on Sat 4th Apr 2009 20:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by sbergman27"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Thom,

After the window for editing had expired, I had second thoughts regarding tone. And consequently added an addendum as a response to my original one.

Edited 2009-04-04 20:30 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Rotating cube
by 3rdalbum on Sun 5th Apr 2009 03:22 UTC
3rdalbum
Member since:
2008-05-26

For power users who know about virtual desktops, the cube animation is not really necessary.

For a newbie, a computer-almost-illiterate person, if they accidentally click on one of the virtual desktops on the bottom-right corner of the screen, they might not realise what has happened.

On Metacity, it looks like all the user's programs have crashed and that they have lost all their work. To their mind, whatever they clicked on caused everything to crash. Result: User shuts down the computer in frustration and really does lose all their work.

On Compiz, the user sees that their programs have simply moved to a different place (or that their view has changed). The user realises that the desktop switcher is not destructive. Result: The user experiments more with the desktop switcher, clicks the first box and the cube rotates to reveal their open programs again.

For this reason, the cube is excellent visual feedback.

To the above poster: I built my friend a computer running Ubuntu and Vista. He uses Ubuntu almost exclusively... but most of his computing time is spent wobbling the windows, turning the windows into paper aeroplanes, and writing fire onto the screen. So, I sympathise with you, but at least he's enjoying his computer experience.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Rotating cube
by sbergman27 on Sun 5th Apr 2009 03:39 UTC in reply to "Rotating cube"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

For power users who know about virtual desktops, the cube animation is not really necessary.

For a newbie, a computer-almost-illiterate person, if they accidentally click on one of the virtual desktops on the bottom-right corner of the screen, they might not realise what has happened.

But they would easily understand a face of a cube detaching from the front of their screen and rotating?

OK. Maybe after a few tries they might figure it out. But what's wrong with the default "Slide In" animation that Compiz provides? The cube is stupid and not even a reasonable metaphor. What happens if you have more than four desktops? Six, you say? But a cube's sides have equal dimensions. The "cube" is not even a cube. It is a rectangular prism. Turn its top or bottom faces toward you, and I don't think you will end up with what you want.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Rotating cube
by setec_astronomy on Sun 5th Apr 2009 09:25 UTC in reply to "RE: Rotating cube"
setec_astronomy Member since:
2007-11-17

What happens if you have more than four desktops? Six, you say? But a cube's sides have equal dimensions. The "cube" is not even a cube. It is a rectangular prism. Turn its top or bottom faces toward you, and I don't think you will end up with what you want.


I don't know about compiz, but kwin has started to address these issues :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg0ma-qKHrM

http://blog.martin-graesslin.com/blog/?p=217

I don't know if that makes the cube effect more usefull for those who don't use it (including me) but it is not as these are difficulties which are inherently impossible to overcome.

EDIT: What I mean with the last sentence warrants a little clarification, me thinks:

There are obviously problems in this domain, that are inherently impossible to overcome. For example, I can have all kind of weird pager layouts with a multitude of virtual desktops, yet mapping it onto platonic bodies or prismas is not always possible in a way to keep the neighborhood conditions of the grid layout alive.

The approach of kwin seems to be a sensible middle ground, e.g. distinguishing between the cube as a method to iterate over random virtual desktops or as a method to animate the switch between two distinct virtual desktops.

The latter is easier to keep consistent with the "spatial" layout of virtual desktops

regards

Edited 2009-04-05 09:33 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Rotating cube
by Thom_Holwerda on Sun 5th Apr 2009 09:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Rotating cube"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Sliding is another good method. I just took the Cube as an example because it is such a trademark Compiz effect. These days, I don't use the Cube all that much anymore, and I instead prefer the desktop wall.

The point is not to prove the superiority of the Cube; the point is to make clear that compositing technology can make existing concepts more tangible and easier to use.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Rotating cube
by sbergman27 on Sun 5th Apr 2009 13:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Rotating cube"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Sliding is another good method. I just took the Cube as an example because it is such a trademark Compiz effect.

One of my gripes with desktop effects is that they take the immense power of the 3d section of the video card, and use it to... make things take longer. And where there might be some training benefits to some of it... once the user understands what is happening (he switched desktops) the effect has served its purpose and becomes a useless time waster.

At least the "slide in" effect is fast and light weight.

Personally, I'd prefer just the speed increases of compositing without most of the effects. Snappy, snappy, snappy is where it's at.

Edited 2009-04-05 13:52 UTC

Reply Score: 2

DWM
by bibe on Sun 5th Apr 2009 12:16 UTC
bibe
Member since:
2005-07-09

Dwm was a big disappointment for me, after all these years the one small detail that annoys me the most is the occasional Windows┬« Desktop Icon Redraw┬ę. I really expected the buffered 3d accelerated desktop would change that.

Reply Score: 1

Wobbly windows
by Tobblo on Sun 5th Apr 2009 13:15 UTC
Tobblo
Member since:
2008-07-10

I think wobbly windows eases my interaction with the desktop by making the windows more alive. I more or less hate desktops without it nowadays.

Reply Score: 1

Desktop effects and productivity
by Starderup on Sun 5th Apr 2009 14:21 UTC
Starderup
Member since:
2009-04-05

The wobbly windows and maximise/minimise effects aren't just for show. They provide visual feedback on your actions. The coolness factor is definitely there, however.

For a good explanation, see this page. It is dated, but outlines many of the benefits of the effects:
http://www.beryl-project.org/features.php


I found my first compositing software by searching for 3D Flip. So, I owe it to Vista.
Immediately upon getting home, downloaded and installed Ubuntu 6.10 with Beryl, and have never gone back to static windows. My work computer is so lame by comparison.

Reply Score: 1

Metacity
by spiderman on Sun 5th Apr 2009 16:03 UTC
spiderman
Member since:
2008-10-23

gconftool-2 -s '/apps/metacity/general/compositing_manager' --type bool true

Reply Score: 2

Request: PDF version?
by Darkelve on Mon 6th Apr 2009 08:10 UTC
Darkelve
Member since:
2006-02-06

Is it possible to offer a PDF file with all of the articles in it? Would be nice for reference, study, reading on the train, things like that.

Thanks for listening.

Reply Score: 2

realtime desktop zoom
by werterr on Mon 6th Apr 2009 09:11 UTC
werterr
Member since:
2006-10-03

The one most important thing I really love about compiz is the real-time desktop zoom.

It might not be the most difficult feature, the most fancy and it might even be possible without a full compositing desktop, but I feel it's one of the most useful.

It's useful for disabilities and it's useful because it places the zoom function on the level it should. If you want to view a flash video up close (if it doesn't have a full-screen toggle) you can, if you wan to zoom in on a graphic you can.

Or just to highlighting some parts of your colleague work/desktop without cluttering it without stuff.

This all without zooming in onto a static screenshot.

Reply Score: 1