Linked by Allen Boyles on Mon 7th Nov 2011 09:46 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces In the commercial software world, user interfaces are generally designed by one group. Like Microsoft for Windows or Apple for Mac OS. Those desktop environments were designed by one company who did things like user testing and statistical analysis to try and make the desktop they thought would work best. Linux is different. Large groups definitely DO perform user testing and statistical analysis, but one group can also say "Here's what we want" and, if they have the ability to code it, their idea comes into being. It's pretty amazing, when you think about it. Linux lets people create what they want. If you don't like what's out there, fork it! Or start from scratch! You're in control!
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Options and abstractions
by ndrw on Mon 7th Nov 2011 17:17 UTC
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First of all, options are necessary, people saying otherwise are simply arrogant jerks who only care about themselves. Users are different, their purposes and scale of problems they are working on are also different - nothing a programmer or a UI designer can do about. Decisions whether to switch between applications or windows, remove empty workspaces or not, have a global menu or not, etc. belong to users. If the options are gone there is always a nuclear solution - switch the whole desktop environment.

OTOH, options are just what they are - options. KDE4 went wild with asking users to actually design the desktop from pieces. It's like building e.g. a table lamp from Lego. Yes, it can be done, it can be a lot of fun. But the final result is kind of clunky and most people don't really care - the just want the result.

Still the worst in the UI design are poor abstractions. The abstractions that are convoluted, difficult to use, or don't match the user intuition or expectations. That's the problem with Gnome Shell. Personally I think the worst decision was making its UI modal (like in Vi, except it is totally unnecessary, and it is animated to make the mode switching slower). No one ever has asked for it, it didn't solve any problems and only managed to alienate a large fraction of Gnome users. There is nothing wrong in having a special mode for complex mouse-oriented Expose-like effects or a dashboard but putting most of the basic desktop tools in it (taskbar, workspace switcher) is like forcing Vim users yet again to switch modes and use "hjkl" keys to move the cursor around. It looks like Mint guys understand the problem and have resources to change it so I'm looking forward to seeing their fork.

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