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OpenOffice UI Design Proposals Published 252

An anonymous reader writes "Various members of the community have been submitting their first revisions of proposals to the Call for Design Proposals to redesign the user interface of Open Office. As part of Project Renaissance, attention is being drawn to the OpenOffice user interface, and it's 'user-friendliness.' Among the designs, is FLUX UI, which won an award at the Sun Microsystems Community Innovation Awards Program. Anyone can, and is encouraged, to check out the proposals (scroll to bottom of page) and leave your comments so that the designers can improve their designs for the final deadline for proposal submissions to the community."
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OpenOffice UI Design Proposals Published

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  • First, do away with the standard File menu bar. Put the most common actions (Create new file, Save file, Print file, etc) in a big button in the corner. Then create a tabbed menu "strip" separated logically by function. Have something like a Format strip and an Insert strip with all the actions you'd expect included there.

    As computers become more touch-panel oriented, bigger buttons will be mandatory. The old File Edit Options Help bar is going to be a millstone.

    • by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:13PM (#27909351)

      Hey, that's a great idea! But I think we should call the strips "ribbons"...sounds way more sophisticated that way.

    • Maybe, instead of a strip, it could be more like a "string" or a "thread"?

    • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:16PM (#27909391) Journal

      Don't forget to make sure it's difficult for the visually impaired to use, and impossible for those relying on screen readers to explore the interface as a sighted person could do! You're 99% of the way there already, I'm sure you can come up with the remaining 1%

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by neokushan ( 932374 )

        Difficult for the Visually impaired? How so?
        I actually have an eyesight problem myself, it's nothing MAJOR in the sense that I can't do everyday tasks (I can't, I just can't see clearly very far). I blow up the font a little bit and I'm all right and for me, personally, the ribbon interface that people seem to hate so much is a godsend. I can easily tell what every button does without squinting, but then again, I never feel the need to use an on-screen reader or whatever. However my first inclination is tha

        • (I can't, I just can't see clearly very far) should have been (I can, I just can't see clearly very far)

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Requiem18th ( 742389 )

            Yeah I guessed so, because, well, I assumed you couldn't proofread your comment very well.

            (ouch ouch! karma burns!)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You think that's bad? Try using MS Office 2007 on a eee. The bloody ribbon takes up a quarter of the freaking screen!
      • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:09PM (#27910267)

        Don't forget to make sure it's difficult for the visually impaired to use, and impossible for those relying on screen readers to explore the interface as a sighted person could do! You're 99% of the way there already, I'm sure you can come up with the remaining 1%

        Oh, theres a lot more than 1% of the way to go to make a totally useless GUI.

        How about using unintelligible icons? That way you can make it impossible to teach anyone how to use it verbally, makes it only possible to describe operations visually. "now right click on the second icon from the left that looks like a squashed centipede, obviously everyone who centers text thinks of squishing a centipede". Bonus points if the icon is could be interpreted obscenely in a Freudian manner or is a swear word in some obscure ideographic script. After all, all of your users are experts at learning ideographic scripts like Egyptian hieroglyphics, so instead of typing "load" or "open" on a command line, make them memorize that a clovis arrowhead means open in this program, but a little star trek shuttle means open in this program.

        Then too, make it graphically as utterly modal as possible. Pop up screens that come from pop up screens that come from menu bars on pop up screens. Make it as challenging as memorizing the knot and overlap structure of a bowl of spaghetti. Organize the pop ups and menus solely by programing team or by how the marketing gang declared how the tool would be used. Bonus points if its possible to open multiple different config windows simultanously, but only change things in one window at a time. And try to lock the screen so the user can't look at other windows (like a cheatsheet or notes or whatever) while a config window is open.

        Don't ever use threads and don't worry about responsiveness. If clicking on the "wrong" thing appears to lock the machine up for seconds, even minutes, with no way to quickly stop it or go back, thats OK. You know you've succeeded if the user forums describe the best roll back technique as "quit and reload" or "easiest just to reboot and try again". If they complain that is slow, tell them to get a faster PC.

        Can't get here from there... Lets say there is 20 step procedure to get from here to there. Make sure that the rollback procedure is a totally and utterly different 40 step procedure. Whatever you do, don't make a global "undo" button that works, or at least works reliably (its OK if it only works on 75% of the operations, then no one will expect it to ever work and thus will never use it). Forward should never equal or be equivalent to backward.

        Everyone whom uses the program only wants to see your glorious program, right? Not their little data or whatever it is they are working on. So FLOOD the workspace with an infinite array of tool bars and buttons covering almost the entire workspace. After all, if they paid $500 for a bigger monitor, your program should get that screen area, not their data.

    • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:18PM (#27909437) Homepage

      Shouldn't these common actions (Save, Print, New) be presented in a standard way across all applications? I don't think it would help ease-of-use if OpenOffice implemented its own cutesy button bar that's different to all other apps. But if most programs on the system could change at the same time, it might be worth a try.

      • by Burkin ( 1534829 )
        Whoosh? The GP was making a joke in relation to the new ribbon UI in Office 2007. One would think it was pretty obvious...
  • by Tikkun ( 992269 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:14PM (#27909369) Homepage
    ... make everything available via hotkeys (emacs and vi mappings should be provided) and change the arrow keys to print the particular arrow typed. This would be a significant improvement over the current design and would encourage users to work instead of playing with their mice.

  • by Eddy Luten ( 1166889 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:18PM (#27909449)

    (Can't contact the database server: Unknown error (localhost))

    (Can't contact the database server: Too many connections (localhost))

    Isn't this kind of ironic, Oracle?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      (Can't contact the database server: Unknown error (localhost))

      (Can't contact the database server: Too many connections (localhost))

      Isn't this kind of ironic, Oracle?

      Where exactly is the irony?

    • by McNihil ( 612243 )

      That may be so or more likely, the setup is plain wrong and is not using named pipe and instead TCP over localhost.

      But sure maybe they jumped over to Oracle DB... that would indeed be a funny and ironic side effect.

    • by Burkin ( 1534829 )

      Isn't this kind of ironic, Oracle?

      Since Oracle doesn't host the site there is no "irony" in this situation.

  • FINALLY (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised far too often by great and useful features I didn't know OO.o had.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:28PM (#27909589) Homepage

    It has never been hard to learn and is pretty ubiquitous. I think it all works pretty well.

    While I am sure that all this additional exploration of new ideas and concepts is a good exercise in generating new ideas and all, I think gone are the days when "new" means "better."

    It turns out that "circle" is the best shape for most applications of the wheel. (Some exceptions exist, you don't need to point them out.) For 2D information formatting and arrangement, the menu bar and tool bars do a pretty good job of making it as easy as possible even though other paradigms exist and the menu/tool bar doesn't cut it well enough for other things.

    • by Burkin ( 1534829 )
      Actually yes there are problems with the OOo file menu. The menus are almost always over packed with options and many things are placed in non-intuitive places.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by belmolis ( 702863 )

        For me, the oddest placement is not on the File menu but on the Edit menu: why is Navigate there? I would think that it should go on the View menu like the various toolbars.

        • by Burkin ( 1534829 )
          By "file menu" i meant the entire menu toolbar not specifically only the file menu. My bad.
    • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:36PM (#27909729)

      The problem with the standard menu and toolbars is that they don't scale. As each new release of hte product adds new functions, you add more menus and more toolbars and pretty soon your screen is full of toolbars, and you can't find anything in your menus (the stupid auto-hiding menus of Office 2000 was an attempt to deal with this issue, and everyone hated it).

      Like it or not, those that give the Ribbon a real chance like it. They find it easier to use. New users find the Ribbon more intuitive.

      It's only the people who are set in their ways and those that have to be "trained" in everything they do that hve trouble with the transition.

      This is not to say that OOo should have a ribbon. Just that there are real reasons why MS moved to it, and OOo is starting to see some of the same problems. They have to do something.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hattig ( 47930 )

        The problem with the Ribbon is that each Ribbon (Ribbon-Tab?) is Function Oriented, rather than Task Oriented. Each Ribbon is effectively a fancy GUI version of a pull down menu for that function.

        The Flex example in the article appears to be Task Oriented, so even though it may seem to have some Ribbon-like features in it, it actually could turn out to be quite different. It will be interesting to see how it finally gets implemented, I suspect it will end up Function Oriented because it's easier to implemen

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        They have to do something.

        .. so they do the wrong thing. Bright future in politics there.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        But doesn't Microsoft hold a patent on that Ribbon UI?
        Right or not to add that to a FOSS project may just be a lawyers dream.

        • I don't know. But I didn't say OOo should use a Ribbon, just that the existing system doesn't scale and needs some kind of solution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rilister ( 316428 )

        I just choked on my sandwich. I can't let that go unchallenged:
        I have been suffering from Ribbons since they came out - I'm a reasonably heavy user of Office and came at this with a pretty open mind. I gave it a few months to 'settle in' and I pretty much expected to like it.

        IMO it is an abysmal interface.

        The most obvious failing (to me) is that you work in different applications in different ways. In Word, I do tend to type, then format, then print. Ribbons might work. In Powerpoint, I work in a totally di

    • The issue is, it could be more efficient. Why not pull out the most common functions and arrange them in such a way that it's right at the top? Actually, this could be a big opportunity for OO.o. They could make a "customizable ribbon". You make the tabs, and say what goes in each one. That way, you've actually GOT what you use most.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )

      I think it all works pretty well.

      I agree, but the main reason that we have a menu bar is to conserve screen space. As screens have gotten larger and larger, so have the numbers of toolbars and pallets and other GUI elements that make everything one-click away instead of two. So, in fact, the menubar paradigm HAS changed - just so slowly that you might not have noticed.

      Anyway, I'm all for reorganizing the interface, but there should be some way to hide all the ribbony stuff when you are on a machine with a small screen where menus still mak

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )

        Anyway, I'm all for reorganizing the interface, but there should be some way to hide all the ribbony stuff when you are on a machine with a small screen where menus still make the most sense. I've never tried to use Office 2007 on a netbook, but I'd wager it is a sick joke.

        1) The ribbon takes up fewer pixels than Office 2003's default toolbars, so it's definitely no worse than before, and
        2) it can be set to "minimize", which basically makes it the same height as a normal menu bar.

        In short, works fine on a n

      • Ever tried pressing F2 when using Office 2007? You might be surprised.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Holy crap you hit on it!!!!

      Replace the UI with a single Click wheel!

      You sir are a complete genius!

    • by Twillerror ( 536681 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:50PM (#27909961) Homepage Journal

      I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but when it starts to fill up it does get more cumbersome.

      I took a job not too long ago where I was in word 90% of the day. Writing business requirements and the lot.

      At the time I had a laptop with Office 2003 and a desktop with Office 2007. For the first little bit I wasn't all that impressed with ribbons, after a few months I dreaded having to use the laptop with Office 2003.

      Change is becoming a harder and harder sell. So many people are trained to one approach that any change whether it is actually better or not is going to come with some resistance. If it's not broke don't fix it mantra. It isn't broke, but that doesn't mean there isn't a better way.

      The round button is annoying and I'd rather they just left a stripped down version of the menu in there. The quick bar and subsequent short cut keys have come in handy and so now it isn't even that big of a deal to start it was definately confusing. As I'm sure getting rid of the "Start" button in Windows was as well.

      Same thing happened to my wife when I started using Ubuntu at home. Took her about a minute to find the top bar, but now it is just part of the deal. She hated Firefox at first, but now doesn't really mind it. At the end of the day things are very similiar.

      Most people who use Office use Office. They are not just typing up some simple little paper, but are in there doing crazy layouts where the new templates in 2007 come in handy. Features slashdot reader might not even know about are used everyday.

      I use OpenOffice 3 at home now and I do find it fairly clumsly to find the some of the more obsure stuff in the menus. It can still take a bit of time with the ribbons, but overall I find it to be more user friendly. Also, the button on the ribbon themselves have been enchanced since Office 2003. In Excel the new conditional formatting is much better. Word has previews all over the place where changing the font actually changes it on the screen before click you get an acutally preview quickly.

      The ribbons are a nice addon to Office 2007, but alos there is a lot of useful features. If your a student writing papers or just writing a note to the editor I think you could get by with pretty much anything.

      If you like vi then I'd have to ask for you to just sit quitely in the back. To each his own and this conversation is for the GUI lovers :)

    • My biggest problem with the rebellion against the File Menu is that every operating system except Vista and Windows 7 use it. So if you're developing a brand new Windows application, anticipating it will be running on something post-XP, then it makes sense to ditch the File Menu for something more ribbon-like.

      But please, don't get to clever. If you're running on Gnome or KDE or OSX, please just stick with the conventions of that OS. If you use alien UI conventions, even if they're theoretically better, it's just going to make your application look out of place, and you're likely to confuse and annoy people.

      If you're working on OpenOffice and you really really want to get clever with UI conventions, please join up with one of the DE developers or start your own DE, and come up with really clever and interesting conventions. Maybe you'll revolutionize modern computing, but leave the office suite UI alone until you do.

    • Would mod you up if I could. I get really sick of people thinking that change for change's sake is good. No, change requires me to relearn a bunch of crap, frustrates me to no end, and impairs me actually getting work done.

      Now, maybe at the end of the day, I've changed to a new and better way of working, but I doubt it. The menu bar has been around for decades, and I've yet to find anything I prefer more. It's nice to just have the conventional File - Edit - (...) - Help menus we're all used to at the t

  • by Morphine007 ( 207082 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:35PM (#27909709) Wiki has a problem Sorry! This site is experiencing technical difficulties. Try waiting a few minutes and reloading. (Can't contact the database server: Too many connections (localhost))

    It's sleek, informative and minimalist. 2-thumbs up, would buy again!

  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:36PM (#27909735) Homepage

    Please, please, please.

    You can have it both ways. Do your Flux/Ribbon thing, but leave a standard mapping shortcut for those of us who don't like to spend 10 seconds mousing around when we can perform the same command in three keystrokes. Allow us to turn off the ribbon doodads, show both at once, or just the legacy menu.

    You don't want to turn us into this [], now do you?

    • by makapuf ( 412290 ) * on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:39PM (#27909785)

      DOCUMENT keyboard shortcut prominently. I would use them, but I'm too lazy to look at the docs ...

      • I don't know about OO.o (don't use it very often) but I would assume that the keyboard shortcuts are listed next to their commands, the way most GUI menus are.

        What about on a Ribbon-style interface? Try hitting Alt sometime in Office 2007. A little label appears next to every icon and tab in the ribbon, showing the letter to press (either in sequence or chorded) to use that feature/display that tab. Where possible, the shortcuts are also the same as in previous versions of Office, and some effort went into

    • Okay, that link to a clip from the movie Idiocracy is apparently to a white power / neo nazi site. Don't go there.

      (Did I just goatse... myself?)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Did I just goatse... myself?

        No. In the event of an actual goatse, you would be quivering in the corner desperately searching for your innocence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Twillerror ( 536681 )

      Hit the alt key(in offcie 2007)...everything in the ribbon is availabe with a key combination. Maybe a different one then you are used too..but practically everything can be done with the keyboard.

  • * Remove save and open. They belong to the past. Manage memory-disk transfers as needed, not manually ! (as a first step auto save +save on close)

    * file menu and file dialog belong to the file manager. Just provide a shortcut to it if needed. (like open this document folder in explorer)

    * Get rid of "applications" and implement functionalities as file / folder views of the file manager (view as ..) use file metadata. (or make apps act like simple apps & use embedding of - any - apps) : integrate.

    * TABbed

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:46PM (#27909891)


    It needs is a significant amount of effort bringing the graphs in Calc up to a level that even approachs what was available way back in 1986 in Lotus 123.

    Calc's graphs are a MAJOR stumbling block to my being able to push OO to clients as an alternative to XL.

    Redesign graphs, enhance them, whatever you want to call it, fix them please....

  • by ActusReus ( 1162583 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:49PM (#27909945)

    I hated Office 2007's "ribbon" interface when I first saw it. However, after the first few days of using it, I found myself at least twice as productive when using it. Yeah, I know... it's a Microsoft idea, and therefore it's automatically bad. Except, it isn't. Everything I need is easier to get at with fewer clicks, and working properly with styles is finally a snap.

    It's hard for me to take seriously people's snobbery toward the latest Microsoft UI designs, when so much of the open-source world is simply a direct rip-off of OLD Microsoft UI designs. OpenOffice is largely an MS Office 2000 clone, KDE started out as a beefier Windows 95 clone, and the new desktop menu in Gnome is a bastard stepchild of Vista and OSX. Up until very recently, innovation in UI design hasn't been an open-source strong point... and it would be nice to see more innovation rather than derivative work in this area. I look forward to seeing what the OOo community(*) comes up with.

    (*) Just as I look forward to seeing what the "OOo community" IS under Oracle. Up until now, the community was basically "Sun".

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Until you use it on a netbook... Office '07 uses up about 1/4 to 1/3 of the vertical space on a eee pc.
    • The problem is that you can't convince people to use open source software that has a unique/different UI. The only way people seem to be able to "sell" open source apps like Open Office is by saying "Oh, it's just like Microsoft's--except free!"

      If that's the main selling point, you'll never see innovative UIs from the open source world.

      (Of course, that's not to say that there are no cool UIs in the open source world--there's probably a few out there. Well, one or two, anyways.)

    • by heffrey ( 229704 )

      I'm not sure it's innovation that's needed. I'd start with some decent derivative work as opposed to the low quality stuff that we have today!

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      And Windows copied Mac and Mac copied the Xerox Star.
      I don't think we will really see an innovative UI on a PC machine again. We will see evolutionary changes from now on.
      Multitouch is interesting but I am still not convinced that I want it on my notebook or desktop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pizzach ( 1011925 )

      Apple is the company that set themselves up so that if they don't do something new and original, they will be shot into the ground. This usually includes breaking backward compatibility randomly and making new custom interfaces. Microsoft is the company that set themselves up so that if they do something new and original, they will be shot into the ground. This usually includes not breaking backward compatibility at all costs and keeping things familiar.

      I think a lot of the jokes that appear on slashdot

    • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:15PM (#27911313)

      I hated Office 2007's "ribbon" interface when I first saw it. However, after the first few days of using it, I found myself at least twice as productive when using it. Yeah, I know... it's a Microsoft idea, and therefore it's automatically bad. Except, it isn't. Everything I need is easier to get at with fewer clicks, and working properly with styles is finally a snap.

      I hated the ribbon on sight and waited for it to grow on me. It still hasn't. I agree that the menus interface wasn't the greatest idea in the world but it's the best we've had so far. I'm sure there's better control interfaces than keyboard and mouse but we haven't discovered them yet. Keyboard and mouse works pretty good so far.

      I'm still banging my head against the wall with the changes in Excel. The ribbons are as counter-intuitive now as they were before. I keep having to google features I know are there but can't find in that fucking interface. They still strike me as not just an epic-fail but an epoch-fail.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The ribbons are as counter-intuitive now as they were before.

        You know what I find interesting? Every single real human being that I've talked to has hated the ribbons. This includes people who are barely computer literate and hard-core linux users who write code for a living. Yet, on slashdot, I consistently see comments like the grand-parent modded up, e.g. some story about how after a while of using the ribbons they get used to it and have at least "twice the productivity" (whatever that means). Ei

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:01PM (#27910151)

    The latest version of OpenOffice is the first one on OS X where the spell checker actually uses the default, built in spell checker on OS X which is used by all the other programs and already programmed with all the preferences and words from my other work. I applaud the addition of this functionality.

    Sadly, the UI by which it is accessed is clunky and nonstandard. In every other program, highlighting a word and right clicking on it brings up the context menu that lets me directly select the corrected version of the word. In OpenOffice I have to run the spellchecker which opens a separate window to provide suggestions which I then have to close once I'm done and go back to working. The only usable way to do spellchecking becomes to ignore all spelling errors until I'm done then go through and correct spelling mistakes at the end, a slow and tedious workflow.

    Further, In every other program, the context menu that comes up when right clicking on a word allows me to use the dictionary/thesaurus service and to correct grammar mistakes using the universal grammar checker. OpenOffice still ignores the standard APIs and thus still does not have these freebie functions even basic text editors on OS X have. When I have to copy and paste my text out of my full fledged word processor and into a basic text editor in order to check grammar or apply any other text services, well something is wrong. Some of the features OpenOffice does present in their context menus are useful, but really I want to select the correct spelling for a word flagged as misspelled a lot more often than I want to change the font size of a word. The options presented to not reflect my needs and I doubt they reflect the needs of the average user.

    So basically my complaint with OpenOffice's user interface is that it does not conform to the standards of the OS on which it is running and instead dumbs down functionality to the level of the lowest common denominator OS.

    • "In OpenOffice I have to run the spellchecker which opens a separate window to provide suggestions which I then have to close once I'm done and go back to working."

      Just checked that out, since I have a story open at the moment. The incorrect word is highlighted with a jagged red line underneath and you right click over the word for a list of suggestions and accesses to dictionaries and such. I use 2.4. You mean they turned that off?
    • This isn't just a problem on OSX. It drives me INSANE on Linux. I came from using Office and even this extremely basic right-click-to-spellcheck functionality that even FIREFOX has does not exist in OpenOffice.

      Come on now. If they could do this, I might actually be able to use OpenOffice. This speaks loudly for what the rest of the program is like. Join the rest of us in the 21st century, please. I'd like a post 1990 interface and features. Yeah, I can't do it any better myself, but so many other p
  • C_Kode: Computer, close file.
    Computer: File closed.

    If it works for Captain Kirk and Captain Picard, it should work for Captain C_Kode too.

    • by wbren ( 682133 )

      Oh sure, it worked perfectly for Picard and crew... Except for the time [] Geordi misspoke a single word and allowed Professor Moriarty to take control of the ship. That episode is an example of bad UI design. I don't want Daniel Davis in control of my star ship.

      Now, imagine if OpenOffice had that type of voice interface. Saying one wrong word could allow something equally ridiculous to happen, such as Oracle buying the company behind OpenOffice. Oh wait...

  • by xiox ( 66483 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:11PM (#27910295) Homepage

    Modal dialog boxes interrupt workflow. We need to make most dialog boxes modeless and dockable.

  • I suggested something similar on ubuntuforums a couple of years back and got shot down instantly. But the idea behind flux/ribbon is actually really good. Hide buttons that you arn't using at the moment and give the document more space.

    Menubar:Replace the main menubar with a menubutton [], use this to show all menu bar buttons that aren't shown by menu buttons that are spread out at the appropriate ends of the main toolbar (help)

    Buttons: you are likely only interacting with one thing at a time, if define usage

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.