“Focusing again on applications this week, specifically I’ll look at two of the promising document viewers for KDE 4, Okular and Ligature. They are two of the rising stars of KDE 4, but they both have their roots as KDE 3 applications that have grown up.”
The Road to KDE 4: Okular, Ligature Document Viewers
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2007-02-15 12:15 amsmitty
Obviously Okular is still in the alpha stage, so it’s ridiculous to expect it to be more polished than released versions of Evince and Preview.app. Also, read this part of the article:
Pino has shown his willingness to work with the usability folks to help improve the ease of use of okular, and it is now part of the Season of Usability project. It will likely see a fairly-thorough overhaul of many interface elements before KDE 4.0 is released which can only make this application even better.
This stuff still has all the debug code turned on, so I would certainly expect something like the “Ghostscript messages” tab to be gone (at least by default) in the final version.
Edited 2007-02-15 00:17
2007-02-15 3:00 amaseigo
> The first screenshot of Okular I happen to click
> has this curiously named tab
this is typical for an alpha application. these things get turned off for releases.
> but it still looks an awful lot like KDE3 – far
> closer than the KDE4 marketspeak-style pages would
> lead me to believe.
ah yes, it’s all about how it -looks-, right? i mean, who cares about the functionality, let’s put the lipstick on first! that’s not how software development tends to work.
first off, that screenshot is apparently old. the “currently viewing” marker in the thumbnails looks rather nicer than that now (guess how i know? , but just as important:
– the toolbars and menus haven’t been reworked
– the oxygen icons aren’t used
– it isn’t using the oxygen widget style which is finally shaping up (it compiles and runs, but it’s still pre-alpha)
so yes, it doesn’t -look- much different in that screenshot, but it’s capabilities under the hood are dramatically different and the visuals are coming (daily commits to the oxygen directory are evidence of that =)
> Preview.app and Evince both seem more polished at
> the moment
well, i should hope so: they are both apps with official releases while okular is an alpha app. however, if you use okular you may find not exactly lacking. i find it already has an excellent mix of features (annotations, searching (even inverse search), …) and file format support.
2007-02-15 5:07 amMechR
> – it isn’t using the oxygen widget style which is finally shaping up (it compiles and runs, but it’s still pre-alpha)
*Perks ears up* Oxygen is updating the widgets, too? Interesting! For some reason, I’ve never been quite comfortable with KDE’s look. Maybe the blue tint gave it a cold feel. I look forward to seeing what changes in KDE4.
Also, thanks for taking the time to respond to comments
2007-02-15 8:26 amaseigo
> Oxygen is updating the widgets, too?
icons, widgets, window titlebars/frames, sounds, grahpics for apps (e.g. svg’s for games) … it’s a pretty ambitious project.
oxygen: a fresh atmosphere for your desktop
2007-02-15 3:12 ambutters
What smitty said, plus, these screenshots look nothing like KDE3. If anything, they look more like GNOME. Personally, I think this is a good thing. The big change is that icon button widgets in KDE4 present a text label underneath (like they do in GNOME). So no more unintuitive KDE buttons that you have to hover over in order to figure out what they do from the tooltip. I’m very pleased by this.
GNOME had a huge usability overhaul around the 2.6 release, and it has paid off big time in the long run (it was a little painful at the very beginning). KDE is finally going through the same process, actually writing a HIG and having a usability czar (Celeste Lyn Paul) that nags the developers to comply. I have no doubt that it will pay off big time for KDE as well, perhaps even more-so because Qt4 is so sweet.
I think that only one of these read-only file viewers will really make it into KDE4-based distributions. As the article notes, they have very similar UIs and identical backends, but the architecture in between is fundamentally different. Well, because of the similar UIs, users aren’t going to care which one they have. All they care is that their files render correctly and efficiently.
Since KDE has a great embedded application framework in KParts, it will really come down to which project can render the most file types the most effectively. The other will fizzle out. I don’t see the duplication of effort as a big problem, because it ensures that the superior architecture wins out, rather than the one with the most developers.
Lost in the middle of Jem’s recent SCALE piece was a tidbit that according to some KDE project representatives, KDE4 is targeted primarily at highly technical users who demand cutting edge features. What does this mean? That KDE3 will be developed in parallel for non-technical users, or that KDE is ceding the mainstream desktop market to GNOME? Does anyone close to the KDE project care to comment? (Hi, Aaron!)
Edited 2007-02-15 03:13
2007-02-15 3:27 amaseigo
> KDE4 is targeted primarily at highly technical
> users who demand cutting edge features. What does
> this mean?
it means we’ve researched who our current user base is, who our emerging user bases are and what the next groups of people most likely to adopt KDE are.
over the next 3-5 years we project that we’re moving from early adopter out to early majority. those market segments tend to have fairly predictable traits and we’re seeing that in our user base as it grows.
that said, “highly technical users” does not mean designing a “highly difficult to use” desktop. that’s kind of why we’re working on usability issues so much and introducing applications like dolphin =)
however, we want to attract those people who are technical and who like to be at the leading edge. they have certain characteristics (e.g. social leadership when it comes to technology; decision making power; ability to contribute to the project) that we like. it also tends to reflect accurately our base (“always remember where you came from”).
i expect kde4 to be more approachable for “joe and jane” type users than any previous kde, but we’re not going to go after that market at the expense of that rather valuable technical group. providing for “joe and jane” is pretty easy to do if you can manage the highly technical crowd. remember that today the highly technical crowd is looking for elegance as well as power (macOS and firefox are 2 good examples; i believe vista shows microsoft also realizes this)
> That KDE3 will be developed in parallel for
> non-technical users, or that KDE is ceding the
> mainstream desktop market to GNOME?
no and no. KDE3 is mostly in maintenance mode with some new features here and there, but KDE4 is the planned outright successor for it.
i think in the future you’ll see both KDE and GNOME software in the mainstream, just as we see them both represented in the current Linux user base. but KDE isn’t “ceding” anything to anyone: we’re here to make a desktop we’re proud to use and share.
p.s. feel free to join us in this rather grand adventure =)
2007-02-15 4:33 ambutters
I will be joining your community shortly. I’ve been a GNOME user for the last few years, but recent progress has changed my mind. I’m an IBMer, and the IBM Open Client is GNOME-based, so that’s what I’m running these days at work. At home I’m building a monster development / MythTV / pro-audio multi-track recording box, and this is where I will begin playing around with KDE. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over my advanced hatred of C++, but I love Python, so I may very well contribute some PyQt stuff. Maybe a port of Ardour (does KDE already have a pro-audio app)?
2007-02-15 5:06 amsmitty
Maybe a port of Ardour (does KDE already have a pro-audio app)?
There’s Rosegarden, which uses kde although I don’t think they’re affiliated in any way.
2007-02-15 6:03 ambutters
Yeah, I looked at that before, but it doesn’t support recording. It’s a MIDI composer/sequencer. It’s good for composing and getting a rough idea of how the arrangement will sound, but you need a Pro Tools replacement like Ardour to actually record stuff. Ardour is 98% GTK (current stable version is GTK1, betas are GTK2), but it relies on QJackCtl, which is Qt-based, for signal routing.
After recently recording a rather complex album (29 tracks for one of the songs) with Pro Tools on a Mac G4, it’s clear that we can do a better job with free software. There are limitations that don’t make sense from an architectural point of view, and the stability is not so great. Plus, it’s outrageously expensive. The Ardour codebase is really coming along great (Mackie control surfaces are now supported!), and with some UI polish, Linux can really go after the pro-audio market.
2007-02-15 12:06 pmnutshell42
Does it really make sense to have a Ardour competitor for KDE?
There are half a dozen DEs and myriads of WMs because there are enough developers and users for all of them but I don’t know how many professional audio apps are sustainable at the same time.
I’ve always used KDE and GTK apps together and the overhead isn’t that bad. KDE even has qt-gtk and kgtk to skin gtk apps and have them use KDE dialogs (is there anything similar for GNOME?) so there’s not even much of an aesthetic reason for using only Qt or only GTK apps (hell, you can even change the button order in KDE =).
The best solution would be if large applications like e.g. Ardour, Rosegarden or Office apps had a desktop agnostic backend. That’s perhaps not feasible for all of them, so Portland might be the next best thing.
I really think we should get away from this “either QT or GTK” mindset. Both Windows and OSX use half a dozen different toolkits and styles(*) but on Linux for some reason many people seem to run amok if even one of their apps is slightly different from the others.
(*)Point in case: I currently use Windows and the apps I have running are: Opera, Windows Explorer, XChat, WinAmp, ZoneAlarm, FDM, CrystalCPU, FreeAV. Every single one uses a different toolkit and style and while my desktop might not win a pageant I can’t say that it does bother me much.
2007-02-15 6:22 pmsuperstoned
I SOO agree with you… I love KDE, prefer KDE apps, but if GTK apps would have some decent KDE integration (look & feel & icons is already done by gtk-qt, after all) I wouldn’t mind the overhead, if its only for specific apps. I prefer the basic apps to be KDE apps, as those generally have a more flexible interface (eg compare drag’n’drop of tabs etc in konqueror with other browsers, or see Konsole…).
2007-02-15 8:30 amaseigo
> I may very well contribute some PyQt stuff
the PyQt and PyKDE bindings are very nice =) a great place to start developing apps, as are the Ruby bindings.
> does KDE already have a pro-audio app
not for multi-track recording, at least not that i know of. i’ve recently seen a new non-linear video editor (pretty cool stuff =) but the pro-audio category is pretty open.
that said, there are a couple of open source projects in that space already. if you are hunting around for topics, it might do the free software world more benefit to start in on something unique rather than create another entry in a category with entries. it’s not like we’re lacking gaps =)
of course, it’s really up to what itches you have to scratch .. i look forward to seeing your stuff =)
2007-02-15 10:43 amkorpenkraxar
Does anyone know if there are any plans to make perl bindings for Qt? The ancient PerlQt is not maintained as far as I know.
2007-02-15 12:25 pmRichard Dale
Does anyone know if there are any plans to make perl bindings for Qt?
Yes, I believe Gary Greene is working on a Qt4 port of PerlQt.
2007-02-15 4:51 pmarchiesteel
i’ve recently seen a new non-linear video editor (pretty cool stuff =)
Interesting…what’s it called? I’m not completely satisfied with the state of Linux NLE, and I’d be curious to hear about what’s in store for the future…
2007-02-15 4:15 pmre_re
Audacity is not very advanced but it is solid, i have never had it crash on me and you can do a fair amount of editing with it but it’s not like nuendo or pro tools.
Edited 2007-02-15 16:21
2007-02-15 7:14 pmShawnX
You can find many of the KDE developers on Freenode in #kde4-devel.
2007-02-15 6:18 pmsuperstoned
About the technical users, who are those? The typical nerds/geeks, or more the people who use their computers every day? I’ve observed ppl get used to gnome faster, but if they use computers a lot, they prefer KDE for it’s many efficient features and integration. A little cleanup would be good for the first days, but how many buttons a UI has doesn’t really matter that much in the long run. Well, a little, but removing features or having a way less flexible base (which shows in the apps) is way worse, which is imho the reason many ‘heavy’ users prefer KDE…
2007-02-15 5:56 pmMightyPenguin
“Lost in the middle of Jem’s recent SCALE piece was a tidbit that according to some KDE project representatives, KDE4 is targeted primarily at highly technical users who demand cutting edge features. What does this mean? That KDE3 will be developed in parallel for non-technical users, or that KDE is ceding the mainstream desktop market to GNOME?”
I hope so, this way the retar^H^H^H^H^Haverage people can keep using gnome. Eventually the gnome interface will get to the place where there’s a single button on the screen that says “Click Here” and a telepathy receiver figures out what the user wants to do and just does it.
Although I guess mice are way to complicated to use for the average user, so they’ll eventually get rid of the button
In the mean time I might use gnome if it was set up with a camera and you could control it using ape or dog posture communication.
2007-02-15 6:13 pmthecwin
Eventually the gnome interface will get to the place where there’s a single button on the screen that says “Click Here” and a telepathy receiver figures out what the user wants to do and just does it.
Although I guess mice are way to complicated to use for the average user, so they’ll eventually get rid of the button
You make it sound like this is a bad thing
In my opinion, this would be the ultimate interface. Why tell your computer what to do when it can work it out and do it exactly correctly?
2007-02-15 6:35 pmsuperstoned
Indeed… But as I see it, gnome will always be harder to develop for, and KDE will keep it’s andvantage in the technical area – mostly due to Trolltech’s work on Qt and the focus of most (paid…) Gnome developers on end-user stuff.
And, as I wrote in this thread a little earlier, the fact it’s easier to start using Gnome (as that’s what it mostly is, adjusting to the GUI) won’t make much difference for all those people using computers every day at their work. They need a flexible, powerfull, efficient interface – like KDE. Today I had to use windows XP on my work, and man, I hate it. It’s so continuously in your way, it’s hard not to get nagged by it. Esp if you know better. I hate it if I open a word file, and all Word windows pop up to front. I hate it if I have two windows side by side, I have to click in them before I can use the scrollwheel. What is MS thinking? What is a scrollwheel supposed to do? If I keep it above a scrollbar, I expect it to scroll, but it won’t. And there are a million of these small annoyances, and they make you nuts. If you know better, that is, of course… Windows users complain it takes some time getting used to KDE. Well, don’t wine, going the other way is way worse…
No matter what happens in the future, I’m pretty sure even a one-button Gnome will be more usable compared to Windows – the free desktop is ahead, and going faster than the competition. And that’s what counts.
2007-02-15 8:51 pmthecwin
Definitely. GNOME, I think, is going the long-term “perfect”/utopia solution, but it is a lot harder and may not even pan out.
Like you said, going from XP to KDE/GNOME (or OS X) is difficult. It took me a few days to adjust to each, but going back to XP now is like a day in hell because it’s like, to quote another article, an “overexcited boy scout”.
Plugging in a new USB pen drive is a fun one… “Found new hardware” “USB Device” “USB MICRO USB PEN” “USB Mass Storage Device” “Disk Drive” “Your device is now ready to use” (and occasionally a prompt to restart your computer if it’s the first time you’ve ever plugged one in). The process takes around 1 minute to complete on most workstations and is rather annoying. Everything else just works, the icon just appears and maybe a “what do you want to do?” dialog.
I prefer GNOME and OS X to KDE, because while I’m a programmer, I usually don’t need to perform over complicated GUI actions and having hundreds of buttons available doesn’t tend to help me that much. It may make some people more efficient. Just like some people who have mice with 20 buttons but I have a single buttoned mouse and work just as fast. Each to his own.
For me, visual clarity is far more beneficial. Vista is *awful* in this respect. The removal of icons and multiplication of the amount of text in each dialog really didn’t make the already horrible situation any better.
Hmm, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a robot in a basement somewhere that is coming up with single word KDE project names.
The robot then takes the project names, prefixes either The Road to KDE4: or Pillars of KDE4: and then generates an adjective rich story for OSNEWS or dot.kde
Thom, are you this robot? 😉
2007-02-15 2:50 amaseigo
hehe.. those “robots” are our developers (who come up with their names) and writers who use kde (who write those adjective rich stories). i think it’s a testament to their work that you would confuse their output with a tireless machine. =)
2007-02-15 6:37 pmsuperstoned
Well, and I don’t know about you, Aaron, but I love the names. Solid, Phonon, Decibel – it’s so much nicer compared to kwhatever!
The article wasn’t terribly clear about what the actual differences between Okular and Ligature are, other than that they evolved from different, similar programs, and that Ligature doesn’t really work at the moment.
Why did they spotlight two nearly identical-looking programs that will do the same thing?
2007-02-15 2:52 amaseigo
> Why did they spotlight two nearly identical-looking
> programs that will do the same thing?
because at this point in the KDE4 development cycle we haven’t decided exactly how these two apps will fit into the bigger picture.
so instead of blowing smoke the author did the honest thing: report of the current state. which happens to be that we have two applications that are remarkably similar though slightly different.
the reasons for this current state are completely historical (i’ll save boring you with the last 3-4 years of history of these two projects and it is something that has been identified as a release issue to look into when the time is right. much discussion has already been had with developers of both applications.
2007-02-15 2:56 amTheMonoTone
I’m a bit baffled by this as well. Also, if there are two document viewers… why? Are they both going to take up menu space just like the seemingly multitude of viewers do now?
I think most people just want a single viewer, simple and fast with common and popular features. Not to say that both developers should work together (as they say in the article that doesn’t necessarily help) but perhaps what KDE needs is some decision making here.
My only annoyance, and I really do say my only annoyance, with kde is the multitude of applications that seem to do the same exact thing in different ways. Pick one, stick with it, try to make people happy, but don’t shove 10 viewers doing essentially the same thing in to the menus like you did last time. However good kde might be, and it is quite good, it never seems hard decisions are made and instead everything gets a “yes” answer just so no one goes home crying.
2007-02-15 3:16 amaseigo
> with kde is the multitude of applications that seem
> to do the same exact thing in different ways. Pick
> one, stick with it, try to make people happy, but
> don’t shove 10 viewers doing essentially the same
> thing in to the menus like you did last time.
let me use the example of text editors, since that seems to be everyone’s favourite. we just moved kedit to extragear (so it isn’t part of the default set of apps anymore) because katepart now does BIDI. we had kept kedit all those years we care about our friends in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, etc..
as we are able to resolve these issues we address them.
the “10 $FOO apps” reputation is largely undeserved and the result of people who like to nitpick versus understand the real world needs of people who actually use the software. for better or worse, we have to pay attention to the latter more than the former.
btw, your OSV (operating system vendor) is primarily culpable for deciding your set of apps. e.g. they may not include noatun or juk but instead provide amarok (which is in extragear, not kdemultimedia).
> However good kde might be, and it is quite good, it
> never seems hard decisions are made and instead
> everything gets a “yes” answer just so no one goes
> home crying.
it may seem that way, but it’s not that way. many threads on the mailing lists attest to that.
the kedit example: we said a long while ago that when katepart gets BIDI support, kedit will go. when this happened there was outcry from a few people who didn’t want to see kedit axed. so we put out a call for maintainership and a new (to kde) developer stepped up. still, we moved the app to extragear. it was the Right Thing(tm) to do and reflected consensus, even though some would have liked to see kedit continue on where it was. so … we can make decisions =)
more important than exclusionary decisions, we also know how to work together: from kipi for image viewers (several apps let go of their “own” plugin format) to phonon for media apps (which are letting go of their own backend infrastructures) to akonadi to … etc, etc… kde people often figure out how to consolidate our efforts. many times people focus on the exclusionary decision making capabilities and pay little attention to the inclusionary type.
it is all a difficult ballancing act no matter how you slice it, though. it’s more than just saying “no” it’s also deciding on what pieces fit together how. i don’t think we did a great job of thinking on that level during the late kde2 and kde3 timeframes: we let things emerge a bit too organically at times.
this has led to a lot of focus on these issues in kde4, and you’ll continue to see the results of these purposeful high-level though processes throughout the 4.x releases (4.0 isn’t the end of line, it’s the starting station =).
and beyond “just” pleasing critics and users, we also have to think about our community. if the kde project goes around pissing off / disenfranchising large numbers of our developers, how long do you think we’d have a healthy community of contributors? (and kde doesn’t exist without contributors) free software developers are a rare enough breed as it is =)
i believe that kde’s accomodating nature is directly responsible for much of the success we have in building community. there are few other projects out there with such a large and truly involved group of contributors and users that identify themselves as part of that bigger thing (“The Project”).
2007-02-15 4:02 pmmolnarcs
i believe that kde’s accomodating nature is directly responsible for much of the success we have in building community.
I’m very glad to hear this. I think that “clutter” argument is blown way out of proportions. I have some non-standard items on my menubar (open terminal here for instance) and when someone asks me to let them check their mail or something, they don’t even notice that they are doing it in konqueror (although they are mostly used to IE).
People are “conditioned” to look for the same visual cues in any browser: back, forward, address bar, etc. If they can find them quickly, they don’t really care about that other button somewhere on the toolbar. I’ve seen people sit down and immediately be able to use KDE without much thinking. And these are the kind of people who think that Microsoft Office is an OS (seriously).
Now I don’t say that clutter is good, and some of the criticism is not valid. I’ve seen KDE improve from the early 3.0 days till its latest version, and the changes were always for the better – but I hate to see all the old arguments about clutter and too many applications rehashed each time KDE is mentioned. Yes, there are three text editors right now (probably 2 will do) – but people will just select the first one, and be done with it, and you won’t see many _real_ users bitching about the choices they have, as long as they can find what they want. And yes, they can find these applications – some of usability pundits who claim that this or that confuses the users hugely underestimate the intelligence of the average people. And we are talking about folks that don’t even have a concept of an operating system, not so called “advanced” users. In fact, most of the time the argument against “confusing” choices comes from advanced users, not those who are supposed to be confused.
I thought one of the goals of KDE4 was to make it more simplistic and user-centric. The first screenshot of Okular I happen to click has this curiously named tab prominent in the window: Ghostscript messages.
Before I tried to set up CUPS on a legacy network, I would probably have not known what ghostscript was, or why there was a tab devoted to it.
Now, I understand that these programs still have quite a while to go, but it still looks an awful lot like KDE3 – far closer than the KDE4 marketspeak-style pages would lead me to believe.
“Holy crap, okular is fast on OS X. No more Acrobat for me! “
Why would anyone use Acrobat when Okular provided all the features you needed? Preview.app is more than good enough in that case…
It’s great that KDE4 is making progress and I wish the best for the project and it’s maintainers, but at the moment, Okular is nothing to go boasting about. Preview.app and Evince both seem more polished at the moment.
If you don’t know what Preview.app and Evince are.. here are some screenies: