18 September, 2007

Good stuff going on on the 'other side'

Yeah, there is. A lot.

Some time ago, Gimmie came up. Check this and this. It's pretty cool, imho, and a relatively new approach on how config screens, app lauchers and search interfaces should look. And we need it.

Have you ever seen the compiz/beryl configuration modules? Here is a screenshot, and think for a moment how horrible it is. It doesn't SEEM complex, no, it looks good. No problem there (and I personally love that theme). But now, look for something. You have categories on the top. Then subcategories on the left. Then those are each divided in tabs. And those tabs contain a scrollable area with a huge bunch of options. It's not that unique, this is cool as well... And this is an older version of the beryl settings manager, as far as I can tell.

That's much. I mean, really much. I'm used to checking the settings of most apps I use, see if I like the defaults, if I want to change things. That's almost impossible with beryl/compiz... It's just too much. Now, they have a new version. And it's better. Much better.

Why? it DOES show more stuff in one window, right? Yes, it does. But still, it's less intimidating as all these sub-sub-sub divisions. It still seems less. Stuff is easier to find, with much less mouseclicks. And this is showing up in more spots: check the new gnome configuration tool. And be sure to take time to read the blog, it's interesting...

Maybe here's an idea for Rafael as well: see further down the page, how THEY handle selection of a category.

Of course, many of the great ideas in that new control center aren't so very new. Wow, a 'nifty filter' function ;-) But still, its a good design. Based on an evolutionary approach, at least since the gimmie stuff. But imho - a great result. I'd love to see KDE developers play with this, and probably adopt it (maybe with improvements).

Edit: Indeed, as I said, many of the ideas aren't that new. Actually, only the sidebar is new compared to what Kubuntu has made (Cyrille just mentioned it), and what will be the KDE 4 control center. And, afaik, it does one thing better than the Gnome Control center: It doesn't start each control module as a separate app/window, but embeds them. Yeah, KDE technology rocks ;-)
But the sidebar offered by Ubuntu might fit well in this scheme, imho. Might even eliminate the advanced tab. And the forward and back buttons could be in the sidebar (on top?) as well.


  1. The control center looks very similar to kubuntu's system settings (http://www.kubuntu.org/docs/kquickguide/C/ch03s07.html) which is supposed to replace kcontrol in KDE4, one way or an other.

    As for the application menu, I have tried the OpenSuSE kmenu replacement, it looked cool, there was an easy search engine, it was way more beautifull than the current kmenu. But I droped it, because it was very difficult to navigate with a keyboard. And while using a laptop (with no mouse), I tend to use a lot the keyboard. So that should not stop us to find innovation, but I fear that accessibility is often forgotten during an usuability survey. So lets innovate, but don't forget accessibility.

  2. aaah, spot on, Cyrille, I did remember something about that Kubuntu thing, but didn't know what exactly it was. I think this warrants a change in the post ;-)


  3. In my experience the tree view in the old KDE control center is far superior to all that: you can quickly change between categories, have a rough overview or see every subcategory, each as you please. I haven't seen anything superior yet. Navigating the Kubuntu Control Center is a horror. You go somewhere and it's the wrong place. So to go somewhere else you have to go back first. No way to directly jump to another category directly. And by the time I went back I sometimes forget where I went in the first place and make the same mistake all over again.

  4. I totally agree with "anonymous" here! Whats wrong with good old kcontrol? I love it and never get used to this kubuntu dialog. Don't like it at all.

  5. @ anonymous:
    Having the sidebar would probably help a little. In either case, a treeview needs much more precise navigation. having the click the tiny + signs isn't really very usable, and as soon as you open up several items, it becomes a mess.

    A sidebar with the categories would make stuff easier. I think this thing (kubuntu/ubuntu center) is the way to go. It needs improvements, sure, but that'll happen.

  6. And let me be honest, I also always start KControl. Old habits die hard. But that's most likely more about 'getting used to', not 'intrinsically better'. BTW - maybe the sidebar can be introduced, and have tabs (or options) to show a treeview for those who are too addicted to that to let it go...

  7. Hmm, I don't know if embedding the control center applets is such a good idea. Right now there are lots of problems with the window resizing. Also the change is so sudden that sometimes I don't realize what has happened (replacing the contents of a window with something completely different is very jarring).
    Replacing the menu with no way to go back is very Gnomeish though. Even Windows allows you to have a choice there (either expand the control panel or open it in a window, or both)

  8. It's taken people this long, Mandriva and PCLinuxOS have had control centers do this for how long. Get off the hype of Ubuntu and give credit where credit is due Mandrake Control Center,is the keystone to configurations and your talking Ubuntu hacks.

  9. @ Leo_s: imho starting all tools in a separate window is horrible and annoying. A webpage opens in the same page where you did click the link, right? I don't see why that would be a problem. Kubuntu solves it with a Back button, and I guess it's just technically very hard or impossible to do in Gnome, or else they would've followed.

    The idea of a control center isn't new at all, duh, but the way it works and looks on that blog is imho very good.


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