Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Google hates widescreens (Score 1) 117

But I think these complex tools are an exception, and I would not provide tools like that to the vast majority of people who are better served by a simple editor like TextEdit (which is far simpler, but also far more powerful than Notepad).

That's fine, nobody is saying that everyone needs Maya. You were saying, however, that menus are a sign that a program is "too complicated", and to that I strongly disagree.

Menus are an important aspect of a program's accessibility, this is especially true on a Mac! Menus are fundamental to the architecture of the system, and programmers are encouraged to replicate all important functionality within them for this reason. They allow the handicapped access to functions that might be otherwise difficult or impossible to navigate to using stepwise controls, tongue sticks for the quadriplegics, voice commands, Braille systems, or VoiceOver. For beginners and intermediate users, they provide training wheels toward learning keyboard shortcuts and what the software is capable of. They make the Help menu more useful as you can search for features using common language. For power users they provide extensive automation hooks (especially where there is no AppleScript dictionary) and customisation since on a Mac, menus are fully keyboard customisable.

This stuff is useful, even essential, from Stickies on up. Just because you don't need it doesn't mean the software doesn't either, as a tool for many. You don't know how I use a computer, I don't know how you use yours. You can't make assumptions about design based on your usage patterns or preferences.

Oh come on, this is just brushing the problem under the rug. You're moving all of that complexity out of view, but you're not removing it.

You misunderstand me. Part of the problem with the UI you posted a link to is that because of the irrational fear of using menus, they have had to relocate bog standard application control functions as permanently visible buttons. By simply adding a File menu and a Help menu, you could remove 25% of the clutter in this screenshot. Next, some of these things are clearly configuration related, rather than something you need constant access to, such as proxies. They can be located in menus as toggles, or in a preference window.

The answer isn't to strip out all of the features, but to create a design that supports the features, and part of that is putting standard (such as File:Quit) or seldom-used stuff (like links to a web page) into menus.

The fact that it's a front-end to wget points to the fact that the UI of the underlying command prompt is the source of the design problem...

I don't really follow that argument. Modern CLI is as much for automation as it is for the user. Geeks use this stuff to build complex toolchains and to configure systems for unattended operation. Think of command-line flags as a sort of "API" and you're closer to the truth. Since commands are simple text strings, they can be constructed programmatically, parsed and dropped into anything that can store text.

How a user-land GUI approaches the underlying tool has nothing to do with the underlying tool's "API" save for its core feature breadth (though there is much you can do on top of an API of course). It's the responsibility of the programmer/designer to turn the raw functionality of the tool into a system that humans can interface with efficiently.

The whole example is kind of contrived, but the point is that engineers design poor UIs.

Indeed, to the point that it doesn't serve your argument well at all. A front-end to wget is hardly an example of something that needs to be made as simple as TextEdit. It's a power tool to start with, and the basic goal of it is in itself a complex task, so much so that you'd have to describe what it even does to the average person who doesn't conceptualise web sites in terms of server functional file storage. Scouring a site isn't straightforward. You need a lot of options because no two sites are the same internally.

Secondly, your statement shows needless prejudice. "Engineers design poor UIs" is false. Engineers may design poor UIs, they may design brilliant UIs as well. Professional UI designers may also design poor UIs. I couldn't say I've seen a higher ratio from either camp, to be perfectly honest. Designers are sometimes just as bad. It might look better, in the sense that an oil painting looks better than a palette---but one helps create the other, you see? "Trendy app" designers often spend too much time making the palette look good, until it's practically unusable as a professional tool.

Anyway, I wouldn't place too much stock in the blog this screenshot came from. This is one these "UX" people that believes no software should have a user manual. That is a ridiculous assertion. Something a lot of these "apps"-minded people neglect is that professional computer usage is in a different universe from Angry Birds on a telephone. At a professional level you should absolutely expect to have to learn how to use the tools of your trade. Listening to some of these people whine about complexity is as ludicrous as some laymen whining about how hard it is to learn to fly a jet. It should be as "intuitive" as driving a car! Nobody should ever have to read the user manual for a 737! Bad design!

Yeah. Not elitism, just simple facts of the universe. If you're going to be a specialist, expect to break your back learning the trade. Design curves in technical software (like wget) accommodate more than front-line entry "intuition", they must also accommodate high-level efficiency, and the two are often mutually exclusive. It doesn't mean striving toward simplicity is a bad thing, but rather that advocating throwing out the menu is not an argument for simplicity. It in fact can make things more complicated, more difficult to use and learn, and less efficient to use over the entire learning curve.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the world of software is a whole lot bigger and more diverse than what a series of cute sounding homilies can encompass. "It's too complicated if it has a manual", is about as deep and rigorous a statement as "Everyone needs ice cream once in a while". It's just a fluff statement that doesn't even mean what the words within it are literally parsed to.

Comment Re:I won't notice (Score 1) 332

As to the quality, I've never noticed it being significantly worse than Apple's DVD player, the main difference being interlacing, you have to remember to turn deinterlacing on if you leave it off for other things--and yes, without proper deinterlacing it can look pretty awful.

But then, I don't watch films on a home theatre rig or anything fancy. Perhaps I am a bit of a troglodyte in that regard. My computer monitor and headphones is sufficient for me to enjoy the experience, so maybe I'm not seeing what would otherwise be obvious if I tried to use VLC on a large television screen or projector.

Comment Re: I won't notice (Score 1) 332

Because downloading is kind of lame & takes hours if you have normal Internet access speeds. I prefer to rent DVDs because the quality is significantly superior and I like the commentary and behind the scenes stuff. Just rip the DVD and return it, it is fun to browse at the rental place if it is a good one. Lots of esoteric old titles nobody bothers to seed.

Comment Re:I won't notice (Score 5, Informative) 332

Try VLC. It is the only thing I will use to watch DVDs these days. For one thing you can start playing the film immediately for most discs, just stick it in and load with menus skipped. For those discs that put other crap in the 1-1 position, loading to the menu means just that. No preview bullshit, no restricted navigation, no tedious animated menu effects, just straight to the navigation point, click play and the film starts without every other authoritative government's angry and unskippable piracy warnings.

Comment Re:Google hates widescreens (Score 1) 117

I'd much prefer many small programs that do very few things, very easily and very well; versus large programs that try to be everything to everyone. Incidentally, that is also the unix philosophy.

Yes, but as you know, that philosophy of a thing doing one thing well, is a statement on the scope of any particular piece of software, not its depth or capabilities. A program can, and likely should, go to whatever depth is necessary within its scope. If I want to do some serious text editing, I want a deep text editor like Sublime or gVim, not something like TextEdit or Notepad.exe. Some people can get by with those all right, and indeed I use simple programs like that if all I need is to quickly change a typo in a .txt file--but often I need more. All of these examples are text editors, they have a similar narrow scope, their "thing", they stick with what they should be doing and nothing more--however there is a huge difference between Notepad.exe and gVim when it comes to depth within that scope.

I don't get your screenshot though, how is this supporting your case? That seems, actually, to be a prime example of a utility that would really benefit from a few menus! I mean, this is exactly why menus are a good thing. Look, they even waste space with buttons for "Exit", "Save" and Load! What a waste of space and mental serenity. Bad as that is though, I don't see anything here that would classify as being out of scope, or example of software that is trying to do too many things. All of these are integral to the function of page scouring--one thing--and thus good example of a narrow scope with depth (as would be wget, the underlying engine behind this particular front-end).

I shudder to think what is behind that "Pro Mode" though. Ha.

Comment Re:Google hates widescreens (Score 1) 117

Oh please. Unless you want a world full of foolish "apps" instead of honest to goodness software that can actually do more than three things, getting rid of menus is woefully stupid. It's not "hiding" commands to put things in menus. The menu system is an extremely efficient triggering and referencing system, as efficient to use with a mouse as a keyboard. It makes everything easy to find, not hard.

That is not to say that every program needs a menu, but they are the exceptions. Serious software with anaemic menus is not even worth the download bandwidth and are deleted from my computer promptly. That includes crappy consumer oriented browsers like Chrome.

Comment Re:Ads (Score 2) 319

Bullshit. The World Wide Web ran just fine for over a decade without excruciating ads everywhere. And yes, if you were to ask me which version of the Web I would take, the free but relatively low-key, or the highly commodified wasteland of Capitalism run amok, then of course I would take the old WWW back. I would gladly see this whole JavaScript, Flash riddled shallow 'social' monster that it has become, vanish without a trace.

If running with AdBlock contributes in some small way to the decline of the materialistic money grubbing component of the Web that I despise, well that is all the more reason to run it. And Gladly.

Comment Re:and speed was never the point of dropbox (Score 1) 124

You should be relying upon bandwidth throttling features to do that for you, not the inefficiency of your tech. Speed is vital in this market because speed reduces the chances of causing data conflicts. Slow and steady background uploads increase risk of conflicts as the average user doesn't pay attention to upload/download status before shutting down a machine or resuming work. Faster transfer reduce problematic "lazy" sync usage at a statistical scale.

Slashdot Top Deals

Too much of everything is just enough. -- Bob Wier