Home > X11 > Beryl Usability: Wheel Switcher, Wall Beryl Usability: Wheel Switcher, Wall Submitted by dumbkiwi 2007-02-19 X11 30 Comments Following on from three earlier articles, here are two more articles highlighting usability features of Beryl; the wheel window switcher and the ‘wall’ for managing virtual desktops. Videos included, so go on, indulge yourself, boys and girls. About The Author Thom Holwerda Follow me on Twitter @thomholwerda 30 Comments 2007-02-19 5:04 pm archiesteel While I prefer the desktop Cube myself, I can see why some will prefer the Desktop Wall, and I found it was actually quite well executed. As for the Wheel Switcher, it has officially replaced the usual Alt-Tab method for me (I’ve remapped it so it’s Alt-Tab instead of Super-Tab). It’s fast and visually pleasing, and reminds me of the original Tomb Raider inventory system. All it’s missing is some kind of discreet audio feedback…actually, that is a neat future feature for Beryl: the possibility of adding sound effects. Sure, they’d have to be off by default (as they would drive most users crazy), but for me using subtle SFX would add to the experience. 2007-02-19 8:52 pm el3ktro What I’m wondering though: In this video, when Super+Tab is used, ALL windows are faded away, and only the “ring switcher” is seen. On my machine with the latest Beryl I only have an option to hide all non-selected windows, while the window at the front of the ring is also shown on the desktop. How can I make it behave like in the video? And – more important – where is the wall plugin? I’ve installed ALL Beryl-related things from the Gentoo xeffects overlay, including “unsupported plugins”. 2007-02-19 8:58 pm archiesteel I’m at a Windows machine right now, so I can’t answer the first question. I’ll check when I get home later tonight. As for the second question, I believe the Wall Plugin is in the “Desktop” section of the Beryl Settings Manager, right above “Widget Layer”. You need to select it before you can activate it (either with Super+e or by assigning a screen corner to it in Shortcuts). Note that you can’t have both the Desktop Cube and the Wall Manager (selecting one will bring up a dialog box asking you if you want to disable the other). 2007-02-19 10:47 pm Kokopelli Good question on the window while using the ring switcher. I have the same problem and do not see an obvious answer to it either. As far as the wall plugin it is not in an official release yet, but is in head for svn. Depending on your distro there may be someone building packages based on the nightly builds but I would use that with caution. Note: I think, though I am not positive, that the Wall plugin is distinct from the plane plugin. The plane plugin was removed from core because it was rarely used if I recall correctly. The wall plugin uses the same plane concept but is distinct. http://blog.beryl-project.org/?p=25 notice that it is like the plane plugin but it is a totally new. 2007-02-20 1:11 am dumbkiwi Under the Appearance tab when in the “Application Window Switcher” page in the beryl-settings-manager, down the bottom there is an expandable set of options called “Rotating List”. Once expanded, check the box labelled “Fade windows out when using ring switcher”. 2007-02-20 2:50 am Kokopelli That fades out all windows but the one that currently has focus. What we are discussing is with that checked. (I also tried unchecking it.) EDIT: It is might be an unintended interaction with some other setting I have, but I do not know what. Edited 2007-02-20 02:51 2007-02-20 3:06 am archiesteel What I’m wondering though: In this video, when Super+Tab is used, ALL windows are faded away, and only the “ring switcher” is seen. On my machine with the latest Beryl I only have an option to hide all non-selected windows, while the window at the front of the ring is also shown on the desktop. How can I make it behave like in the video? I can’t find the option anywhere…that’s really strange. There are sometimes discrepancies between he SVN versions and the latest release candidates…I’m running SVN, what about you guys? 2007-02-19 5:25 pm Babi Asu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uvQTTPr9Rw About beryl, I think still need GUI expert touch. The transition is not smooth/abrupt, user may lost the focus. Edited 2007-02-19 17:32 2007-02-19 7:57 pm archiesteel About beryl, I think still need GUI expert touch. The transition is not smooth/abrupt, user may lost the focus. Could you elaborate on that? Are you saying that Beryl’s defaults are not appropriate? I’m sorry, I’m really trying hard to understand your point, but I can’t. 2007-02-20 1:02 am butters Are you saying that Beryl’s defaults are not appropriate? That would be pure blasphemy of the highest order. Nobody questions the appropriateness of Beryl’s defaults! The defaults are fine, it’s the user that has inappropriate expectations. On a more serious note, the GP is totally correct. Once Compiz fixes the right way what Beryl papers over with temporary hacks, some usability research must be done before any serious commercial distributor can ship a release with desktop effects enabled by default. 2007-02-20 2:16 am archiesteel That would be pure blasphemy of the highest order. Nobody questions the appropriateness of Beryl’s defaults! The defaults are fine, it’s the user that has inappropriate expectations. I think you misunderstood me. I honestly wondered if that is what he meant. I really can’t tell from his post. A bit feisty, aren’t we? 🙂 And, yeah, I do think that Beryl’s defaults need more work. The cool thing about this being an open-source project is that you can actually make recommendations… 2007-02-19 5:44 pm cornelius Wall works best with 2×2 and 3×3 setups (you can change it in beryl-settings-manager in General Options / Main / Horizontal & Vertical Virtual Size). I would update that video with such a setup instead of the default 4×1. 2007-02-19 6:05 pm Kroc The problem I’ve found with Beryl from these videos and from getting a chance to use it for a moment is that it’s clearly designed by 20 year olds, for 20 year olds. * too much wobble. *everything* wobbles. You open a combo box and you can’t focus on the list item you want until it’s stopped wobbling around like a jelly. This lowers usability massively, think how bad it would be for someone with reduced visibility or simply without the lightning quick reactions of a linux programmer. * The wall is too zoomed out. You and I may be able to see the spaces between pixels sometimes but other users cannot. The windows are too small to be able to determine which is which by an average user. The desktops should be stakced in a 2×2 arrangement and not 4 in a line. * The wheel switcher is too quick. No regular user could tell what was happening there. Beryl is nice, but anything but increased usability. Even the Zoom feature wobbles and shoots about too fast. They need to calm it down a bit! I understand it’s all customizable to the n’th – but if the defaults are like this then what’s the point. *edit: user above has pointed out that the wall can be done in 2×2, which is great, but hopefully the default Edited 2007-02-19 18:11 2007-02-19 6:42 pm Kokopelli You open a combo box and you can’t focus on the list item you want until it’s stopped wobbling around like a jelly. ?? That is absolutely not the default. Combo boxes, menus, and notification windows (among others) have never been wobbly by default. If by some case of temporary collective insanity wobbly windows did get set for comboboxes (or menus or…) turning it off is a checkbox away. You and I may be able to see the spaces between pixels sometimes but other users cannot. The windows are too small to be able to determine which is which by an average user. So we are better than the masses that use Linux? What masses? Any user who gets that far will be competent and it hardly takes a special skill to recognize windows. (Further I do not think the wall in that demo is at the default settings, but I am not sure.) The wheel switcher is too quick. No regular user could tell what was happening there. There we are with that regular user thing. do you think regular users are incompetent? Besides, the wheel switcher moves exactly as quick as you do alt tab or whatever you have it set to. If it goes by too fast…. guess what? Don’t hit the keys so fast. Beryl is nice, but anything but increased usability. Even the Zoom feature wobbles and shoots about too fast. They need to calm it down a bit! I understand it’s all customizable to the n’th – but if the defaults are like this then what’s the point. As I pointed out wobbly is not the default for combo boxes and is easy to completely disable. Wheel is human controlled, and at a guess you do not use Beryl or Compiz. Good day. P.S. A more sedate set of defaults (or a set of configs “conservative”. “some effects”, and “maxo zoom dweebie”) might not be a bad idea but the argument you are giving above is fallacious. 2007-02-19 6:48 pm Kroc “There we are with that regular user thing. do you think regular users are incompetent?” I work with regular users every single day. It’s the operating system designers that are incompetent. 2007-02-19 6:55 pm Kokopelli So you are saying that it is in the operating system designers hands to control the speed at which the user clicks alt tab? Further shape and color recognition (used to recognize windows with the wall plugin) is hardly an element reserved for the technical elite. You may disagree with their choices but to call the Beryl devs incompetent is a bit precocious. Inexperienced and perhaps overenthusiastic yes, but hardly incompetent. 2007-02-19 7:10 pm Kroc I’ve helped rocket scientists and airline pilots and people many hundreds of times smarter than me [and Beryl devs]. The fact that an intelligent person cannot use a system designed and built by software engineers is demonstration of how young software engineering is still. 2007-02-19 7:21 pm Kokopelli It honestly does not matter who you helped or how brilliant they are. 1) Out of your three bullets one was false another fallacious and the final one was an opinion that many users of beryl dispute. 2) Your opinion of Beryl and its settings is just that; your opinion. Based on the incorrect observations still not disputed I do not hold too much credence to that opinion. Many very smart people are not able to get around the paradigm of conventional computer use. Beryl and compiz go beyond the conventional use and learned behaviors. The fact that some can not understand or make use of the features does not invalidate that they are useful to some users. 2007-02-19 10:53 pm rajj I suggest that you put-up or shut-up. Unless you can provide a patch to fix what you perceive as wrong, you have no business calling anyone incompetent. 2007-02-20 8:39 am msundman > Unless you can provide a patch to fix what you perceive as > wrong, you have no business calling anyone incompetent. That must be one of the most stupid things I’ve read this month. I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “have no business”, but obviously it’s almost always a lot easier to spot incompetence than to be competent. Also, people who are incompetent but don’t know it should be told the truth so that they know to strive for competence. Why do people think that it’s wrong to say that some aspect of something free (gratis) is bad? That the devs aren’t monetarily compensated doesn’t make the software better in itself, and it certainly doesn’t raise them above criticism. Many devs, especially among those working for free, don’t do many usability studies, so usability criticism is precisely what they need. 2007-02-20 8:58 am rajj You mean it’s a lot easier to be an armchair programmer postulating about usability while having no expertise in anything other than clicking a mouse button. 2007-02-20 12:16 pm msundman > You mean it’s a lot easier to be an armchair programmer > postulating about usability while having no expertise in > anything other than clicking a mouse button. No, I didn’t mean that, which is why I didn’t say that. Programming (armchair or otherwise) has nothing to do with usability. 2007-02-20 7:08 pm Kokopelli That must be one of the most stupid things I’ve read this month. I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “have no business”, but obviously it’s almost always a lot easier to spot incompetence than to be competent. Also, people who are incompetent but don’t know it should be told the truth so that they know to strive for competence. I do not disagree with your statement, however to call the Beryl Developers incompetent is what I have issues with. They may not be getting the results that some want, and there may be better ways to do it, but I do not feel they deserve to be labeled incompetent. Why do people think that it’s wrong to say that some aspect of something free (gratis) is bad? That the devs aren’t monetarily compensated doesn’t make the software better in itself, and it certainly doesn’t raise them above criticism. Many devs, especially among those working for free, don’t do many usability studies, so usability criticism is precisely what they need. There is a difference between criticism and accusations of incompetence. Further when criticizing it is more useful to suggest a way in which the application can be improved rather than just saying “this is awful.” And finally, when criticizing any app it might help to make sure the statements are accurate and pertinent to the current mainstream release. The default config for Beryl comes under much criticism. And I agree that for a conventional desktop the settings should be made more conventional. However for the purpose of presenting what can be done with the technology as well as trying ideas it is useful to actually activate the features. Let’s take as an example the much maligned wobbly windows. First off, it is by default only used for application windows, not drop downs or menus. Many do not like this feature, however it demonstrates visual feed back for moves. I am not particularly fond of wobbly windows but I keep it on (with reduced wobble) because it provides the illusion of smooth movement. When I turn off wobble I notice the hops in movement that are not present (or are obfuscated) in the wobbly window. Thus while not providing much in the realm of improved UI, it does make my user experience more pleasant. So whether to enable/disable this feature becomes a matter of personal choice. I have agreed and still agree that for a full time desktop, the configuration should be more conservative. This does not mean turning off all the features however, especially during development. I would argue that Beryl should keep their config exactly as it is, or even activate more things. Let Ubuntu, Fedora, and Suse come up with the set of configs they think will fit their target market. The core Beryl project is about showing what can be done in an effort to improve the user experience, not necessarily improve usability. In many cases they go hand in hand but not always. If a feature is not active it is far less likely that anyone will ever use it. If wobbly windows were not on by default most would never activate it. I for one initially disliked wobbly, and still have some problems with it, but have found over time that it makes my user experience better. NOTE: user experience, not usability. With a minimal wobble to application windows the experience is more pleasant without disrupting usability, 2007-02-20 10:35 pm msundman First of all, I didn’t comment on anything about anything else than what I replied to and quoted in that reply. It was just about the “you can’t criticise unless you can fix” line of thought (or lack thereof). > to call the Beryl Developers incompetent is what I have > issues with. They are probably good programmers, but I don’t know how competent they are in the field of UI design. Either way I can’t comment on that. > There is a difference between criticism and accusations > of incompetence. Actually you were the one who started talking about “incompetence”. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. (FWIW, in my personal experience both “normal” end users and OS designers are equally (namely highly) incompetent when it comes to UI design. I’m not very competent either, even though I’ve taken a few UI design courses, read a few books and done some UI research in a real UI lab (which, btw, wasn’t completely useless, even though its cameras and huge one-way mirror made it look more like an interrogation room, but I digress).) > I am not particularly fond of wobbly windows but I keep > it on (with reduced wobble) because it provides the illusion > of smooth movement. Yeah, devs really should try to understand the importance of motion blur. There isn’t really any substitute for motion blur when using discrete motion. Without it motion of crisp objects will look jerky. That is, unless you have extremely small pixels (relative to your eyesight and the distance to the display) and a very high frame rate (somewhat relative to the magnitude of the movement), which would make the motion truly continuous from your retina’s point of view. There is the same problem in some new, no-so-high-budget movies, such as the (imho) awful 28 Days Later, where the camera’s shutter speed has been set so high that there is no detectable motion blur, causing the weeny 24 fps of the big screen to look really jerky. Somehow some people don’t understand that if a discretely fast-moving object is crisp it doesn’t at all look like it’s moving very fast, but more like a bunch of similar objects popping in and out of existence one at a time. So, fellow developers, implement some decent motion blur to your menus, drop-down lists and whatnot, and you can animate them in less than 20 fps and it’ll still look very smooth. > Let Ubuntu, Fedora, and Suse come up with the set of configs > they think will fit their target market. I fully agree. 2007-02-19 8:06 pm archiesteel too much wobble. *everything* wobbles. You open a combo box and you can’t focus on the list item you want until it’s stopped wobbling around like a jelly. You obviously haven’t used Beryl in a while – or, in fact, at all. Wobbly secondary windows (such as Combo Boxes and Menus) were set as default in an early version of Compiz. As far as I know, that has never been the case with any version of Beryl (except maybe the very first ones, and even then I’m not sure). I think that the default for secondary windows is now to fade in/out. The wheel switcher is too quick. No regular user could tell what was happening there. I don’t think it’s too fast. In fact, I increased the speed from the default, because it seemed a bit sluggish for me. Remember, if all you’re doing is watching a video, it’s not the same as if you’re in control (just like watching someone else play a FPS game like Quake will make some people nauseous). Beryl is nice, but anything but increased usability. Even the Zoom feature wobbles and shoots about too fast. I disagree. I think it makes the desktop a lot more usable. As far as the zoom wobbling, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Are you talking about Maximizing Windows, or the actual “Zoom in on desktop” functionality? 2007-02-20 8:45 am butters but if the defaults are like this then what’s the point. I knew it was blasphemy to question the defaults. Just look what happens. A bunch of defensive Beryl fans come at you with a bunch of “how dare you call users incompetent” and “changing the defaults is easy” and “obviously you don’t use Beryl” and eventually “put up or shut up.” You just have to admit it. Beryl is great, and everybody should be using it. Great job team. Can I get a little wobble with those knee-jerk reactions? 2007-02-19 7:24 pm cmost Figuring things out has less to do with intelligence and more to do with the way people learn new things. Since the world is made up of people who fall roughly into one of three classes of learner: Visual learners, auditory learners, and tactile / kinesthetic learners, it would be highly unlikely that absolutely everyone would find a particular task equally “easy” to learn. In other words, the Beryl devs can please some of the people some of the time but they can’t please all of the people all of the time. Edited 2007-02-19 19:25 2007-02-19 11:31 pm PowerMacX The ‘wall’ should really come in a 2×2 configuration by default, not just as an option. I really don’t see the point of putting them on a line as shown in the Beryl video, wasting all that space and showing them so small. Here is the same effect on a 2×2 configuration (on OS X): http://www.apple.com/macosx/leopard/spaces.html As for the wheel window switcher, is that really a *good* example of usability? I find it about as useful (that is, not much) as Vista’s: some windows are partially covered by others. Basically, just like the wobbling FX used every time a window moves or opens (*), that particular video screams “look at what I can do” more than “Beryl Usability”, at least to me. (*) How is wobbling anything (windows, drop-down menus, even freakin’tooltips!) a good thing, from a usability point of view? 2007-02-20 12:07 am archiesteel Windows deformation when you drag them around gives an interesting visual feedback. It’s also a good visual representation for Maximize/Minimize. I personally don’t have it when a Window opens, though, and I believe that this is default (I don’t remember changing it). That said, if you don’t like it, just turn it off. It’s as simply as unchecking a single checkbox. As for the Window Switcher, Windows are only partially covered when you have *lots* of them open…however, you can change the shape of the ellipse in order to minimize this, if you want. I do agree with you for the default screen configuration…however, there are issues with the number of desktops with KDE, this might be why the default is the (safe) 1×4 configuration. 2007-02-20 2:24 am rockmen1 Well, I prefer the new swithcer style than the former one. The former one perform two animations at the same time, the center windows’ tab and the raising window, this disturbs me a lot.