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GUIs Get a Makeover 540

jcatcw writes "From Xerox PARC to Apple to Microsoft, the GUI has been evolving over the years, and the increased complexity of current systems means it will continue to change. For example, Microsoft is switching from dropdown menus to contextual ribbons. Mobile computing creates new demands for efficient presentation while the desktop GUI doesn't scale to larger screens. Dual-mode user interfaces may show up first on PDA phones but then migrate to laptops and desktops. Which of today's innovations will become tomorrow's gaffs?"
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GUIs Get a Makeover

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  • by Modeski ( 1002388 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @07:47PM (#16193391) Homepage
    Print view is your friend.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @07:51PM (#16193435)
    While I understand that GNOME has its admirers, and it can't be classified as a failure, it sure hasn't lived up to the hype of the early days.

    GNOME was touted as being a real competitor to KDE, before the days of Qt being dually-licensed under the GPL. There was some initial progress, but since about 2000 it seems that KDE has been the leader. Ever since Miguel became more focused on Mono, the quality of GNOME really decreased.

    One notable incident was the terrible GNOME file chooser. You can see it here: oser.png []

    The many usability problems are well known, and were much discussed. One major flaw was the inability to enter in a pathname or filename manually. The lack of path separators made the top breadcrumb trail difficult to follow at times. The 'Places' pane wasted a lot of space when it listed few items. The file list didn't show enough detail about each file. It wasn't possible to view only certain file types.

    Frankly, it was a rather massive mistake to include that dialog. When compared to the dialogs of KDE, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows, it was the black sheep. What was worse, on some platforms non-GNOME applications like Mozilla Firefox made use of that dialog, in turn making their usability a nightmare. While things have gotten better, and the newer dialog is a slight improvement, the mistake was still very costly.

    I personally know about six people who used GNOME, and swore that they'd never touch it again after seeing that monstrosity. One went back to Windows, to the best of my knowledge. The rest switched to KDE, and have been quite pleased, as far as I know.

    I think that the GNOME file chooser disaster is one incident that all GUI developers should learn from. At least then it wasn't a total waste.

  • by jpardey ( 569633 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .yedrap_j.> on Monday September 25, 2006 @07:54PM (#16193463)
    According to the latest research by the Yankee Group, it is also cheaper than maintaining a Linux desktop. However, Microsoft Vista, with its productivity whatsits and glossyness will be cheaper, more productive, and more attractive.
  • There's nothing you can't do in a shell that a gui provides extra ability for, when you've been well trained or decided to -learn- how to use a text mode interface well.

    Moving multiple arbitrarily named and arbitrarily chosen files from one folder to the next (or other similar action).

    Altering the arrangement of a screen.

    Anything having to do with graphic design.

    Oh, and:

    For a simple example, look at a spreadsheet in its most basic form. Tab goes to the next column over, return goes to the next row down. Entire usage of the software can be made in a text screen, and FAR quicker than entering a number, moving to the mouse, moving the mouse to the next cell, clicking, then moving back to the keyboard, when instead you can enter a number, hit return, enter a number, hit return, etc.

    A mouse is not fundamental to a GUI, and a good GUI allows for the same keyboard-driven arrangement that your "text screen" spreadsheet does. In fact, using a GUI lets you do things that you can't easily do with a keyboard alone--such as pick a few arbitrary cells to perform a quick calculation on.
  • Re:Ribbons (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:07PM (#16193573)
    Have you actually used it? Maybe they can have some of the frequently used options ever present regardless of the ribbon chosen. This may already be somewhat true because certain functionality like Save etc. appear constantly present as small icons on the top left of the window. Quite frankly I have not used it either, but from the demo on the microsoft site it does seem much better and way faster than trying to find things/functionality in the old File/Edit/View way.

    Here's a link to the demo.. px?showIntro=n []

  • Xerox PARC? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:15PM (#16193641)
    Shouldn't that be from Stanford Research Institute to xerox to...

    SRI is where Engelbart and crew started (he later ended up at Xerox PARC). What the doremouse said [] has a good review of the beginings of the PC.
  • Re:GIMP (Score:2, Informative)

    by dbcad7 ( 771464 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:41PM (#16193871)
    No, I think he meant see Gimp, because editing pics and photos can't be done without having a gui. (at least not without going insane)

    I agree with you that Gimp is not user freindly. I have adapted, and can use it to do what I want to do.. but I did give up on it many previous times.. but I got further in it than Blender. All I can tell you, is if you don't like Gimp then submit your complaints to the Gimp developers, and if you get no satisfaction then get your money back.

  • back to DOS word? (Score:2, Informative)

    by wardk ( 3037 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:52PM (#16193965) Journal
    ribbon menu sounds like Word 1.0 on DOS' menu

    hopefully file saves can go back to this intuitive nirvana...

    Transfer -> Disk

  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) * on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:05PM (#16194077) Homepage Journal

    Of course I'm familiar with Maya's marking menus and Gordon Kurtenbach's work [], which are based on the ideas from (and refer to) the paper, "An Empirical Comparison of Pie vs. Linear Menus []", that we (Jack Callahan, Don Hopkins, Ben Shneiderman, Mark Weiser) published in 1988.

    The first publication that described the basic idea of pie menus was "PIXIE: A New Approach to Graphical Man-Machine Communications"; by Wiseman, N. E., Lemke, H. U., and Hiles, J. O.; Proceedings of 1969 CAD Conference Southhampton, IEEE Conference Publication 51, p. 463. The basic idea was also described in "Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics, 2nd. edition"; by Newman, W. M. and Sproull, R. F.; McGraw-Hill, 1979, 1973. Both of those came out a long time before Maya/Alias/PowerAnimator.

    In the mean time, I've developed pie menus for many different platforms, including X10 (uwm+forth), X11 (piewm, TCL/Tk), NeWS 1.0, 1.1 (Lite Toolkit), OpenWindows (TNT/Open Look), Multi Player SimCity (X11/TCL/Tk), The Sims (C++/DirectX), ActiveX/OLE (C++), Internet Explorer DHTML Behaviors (JavaScript/XML), Palm (C++/XML), Pocket PC (C++/Lua), SVG (JavaScript), and OpenLaszlo (JavaScript/XML). In my copious spare time I'm also working on developing pie menus for World of Warcraft (Lua/XML)!


  • New file chooser (Score:4, Informative)

    by massysett ( 910130 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:22PM (#16194177) Homepage
    Agreed, the old GTK file chooser is an absolute monstrosity. Looks like relief is finally on the way with the new GNOME 2.16 html []
  • Re:I dont agree (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rediscover ( 42324 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @10:42PM (#16194703) Homepage
    Try []
    emacs keybindings+emacs buffers for firefox.
  • Err... GIMPShop? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:26PM (#16195017) Homepage
    GIMP has a pretty good separation between the interface and the backing engine. Because of this, you can get something like GIMPShop [], which is a Photoshop-style interface atop GIMP's engine. So if you really hate the GIMP's interface, don't use it. Sheesh.

    Also, when you say that Photoshop has scripting, do you mean that you can use a full-featured scripting language like Perl to execute Photoshop commands, possibly without even opening the GUI? Or is it an attempt to make a scripting language without requiring the user to type, by recording actions and making the user drag them around? I only saw it once, but it looked like the latter. I could, of course, be wrong.

    I still wish GIMP had the "Cutout" plugin that Photoshop has had for years and years. I loved that thing, and "Posterize" just looks like junk in comparison.
  • by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@gmai l . c om> on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:35PM (#16195081) Homepage Journal
    You linked to an older version of the file dialogue. There are really only 2 major problems with the gnome file menu 1) It's dog slow when you type paths. Not just slow but Shocking Slow. Absolutely Astounding Slow. 2) There is no way to view hidden menus. There should be a "Show Hidden Files" button. It should be a button not a pull down or anything else.

    There are sometimes when the file dialogue really pisses me off. I hate that little one that firefox and btdownload use. They always point to the wrong directory... I also hate it the ones that only show certain types of files. Every time I see it, I'm like who deleted all my files???

    KDE and Windows file dialogues are worse because they use a horizontal scroll bar. It just like websites that have a side to side scroll bar are worse then website that have an up and down scroll bar.

    Windows is really bad because it doesn't show the complete path name so I constantly lose my files.

  • Re:GUI? Bah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chops ( 168851 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:53PM (#16195201)
    Pretty much any modern LCD can be turned vertically. On mine it's just a few screws in the back to reorient it.
  • by Penguin Programmer ( 241752 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @12:33AM (#16195415) Homepage
    One major flaw was the inability to enter in a pathname or filename manually.

    If you just start typing, it accepts a path. At least on my machine (I tested it before posting this).

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