FC3 Usability Problems

Les Mikesell les at futuresource.com
Sun Jan 9 17:40:01 UTC 2005

On Sun, 2005-01-09 at 01:19, Matthew Miller wrote:
> On Sun, Jan 09, 2005 at 12:56:25AM -0600, Les Mikesell wrote:
> > My menu items have nothing to do with windows - they start
> > programs that live in filesystem folders.  I see no reason
> > why that should be hidden from you. Or why starting the
> > same program should be different depending on which
> > window manager you are running today.
> Why should I have to worry about which folder a program I want to run is
> stored in? All I want to do is start the program -- I don't care about its
> on-disk layout.

What do you do when you have just installed or downloaded a new
program that your menu doesn't include? Window managers that launch
programs from the filesystem normally recognize a launcher file
that specifies an icon, the location of the program to start and
a few other options so you manipulate these and/or symlinks in
the filesystem for the layout you want to see instead of traversing
to the real program location (which in fact might be an ssh
command to start the program on a different machine...). 
You can, for example, drag items off the gnome menu and drop them
in the filesystem, creating whatever layout you want.  Then you
can run KDE or icewm (and probably others) and be able traverse
the same layout, launching the same programs in the same way.
I'd guess that window managers that don't have a built-in view
of the desktop could run a file manager that understands the launchers
which might be even more sensible in a purist sense. If a bunch of
people need access to the same set of programs you can make a
folder of launchers somewhere and drop symlinks to it on the desktop
of those who need it.  I don't understand window managers very well
so maybe I've just missed it, but I haven't found any other reasonable
mechanism to give different groups of people access to different
sets of programs, especially if they don't all use the same WM. I'm
not sure there is a decent way even if they do.

>  When I start a program, (generally) a window pops up. So
> starting a program _does_ have something logical to do with windows.

Yes, but the menu only relates to starting the program.  You could
have started it from the command line or any other way and it would
still open the window.

> But the more important point in response to your earlier post is: there's
> nothing particularly universal about your suggested paradigm. Not all
> windowing environments (I assume we're not really talking strictly about
> "window managers") normally have the concept of "icons on the desktop or in
> folders". Some very nice ones, in fact, don't do that. Sure, you can run a
> file manager/browser app that may have that feature -- just like you could
> run a menu/launger panel.

No argument on that point.  If developers would get together and use
one set of shared libraries instead of locking each other out with
anti-competitive licenses it would make sense for the WM to always
include those operations.  Until then (likely forever...) it makes
sense to have a choice of several bloated but handy WM/desktop
environments and lean/fast WM-only options.  The latter would let
the filemanager do all the launching instead of duplicating the code.
So, that leaves the problem: how do you install a new program and make
it visible to some arbitrary set of users?  Or what I'd consider a more
typical case: how do you make a few dozen different arrangements visible
to the appropriate members of a few hundred users, some of whom should
see combinations or all of the individual subsets.

  Les Mikesell
    les at futuresource.com

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