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KDE GUI Open Source Software

KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity 184

sfcrazy (1542989) writes "KDE Software is often criticized for being too complicated for an average user to use. Try setting up Kmail and you would know what I mean. The KDE developers are aware of it and now they are working on making KDE UI simpler. KDE usability team lead Thomas Pfeiffer Thomas prefers a layered feature exposure so that users can enjoy certain advanced features at a later stage after they get accustomed to the basic functionality of the application. He quotes the earlier (pre-Plasma era) vision of KDE 4 – "Anything that makes Linux interesting for technical users (shells, compilation, drivers, minute user settings) will be available; not as the default way of doing things, but at the user's discretion."
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KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

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  • Isn't this Gnome, but ten years ago?

    • Re:Repeat history (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Flammon ( 4726 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:32AM (#47953291) Homepage Journal
      Actually, Windows 9 is starting to look like GNOME a couple years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
      • as a long time Microsoft hater and detracter I have to admit that looks pretty good, they finally realized they need to refine the "fairly good" of Windows 7 instead of flying off on tangent

      • That actually looks like an improvement on Win7. Are these guys idiots? Why was this not Win8?

        • by Flammon ( 4726 )
          Big corp. Takes them a while to copy features from competitors. I haven't run Windows in years but after seeing this demo, the UI at least would work well with my workflow. I wouldn't consider switching yet because there's much more to an OS that the UI but it is a significant factor.
    • sort of but Gnome locked all the config away as they deemed users to stupid to confgure thjeir desktop, KDE are doing it differently by planning to keep it but simplify its presentation to the user
    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      More like 15 but yes. KDE aimed at being the first Linux GUI. Gnome is/was always more aggressive in being a GUI for end user rather than workstation computing.

      • Since when is a workstation user not an end user?

        • by jbolden ( 176878 )

          Since always. Workstation users have always had higher expectations of competence and motivation in their choice of computing tools. Which means their operating systems can assume more background knowledge and a greater willingness for the end user to compensate and learn how to do things they don't know how to do. That changes the tradeoffs in UI design tremendously.

          iPhoto and Photoshop aren't designed the same way.
          Quicktime edit and Final Cut Pro aren't designed the same way.
          A simple spreadsheet progr

    • Isn't this Gnome, but ten years ago?

      No! They are leaving the features, but focusing on making a sensible default, whereas the rest is easily discoverable!

      That is how he is describing it, and it is how an ideal UI should be. Gnome on the other hand wants to make anything hard impossible, not discoverable (where discoverable means the user can figure out how to do it).

    • Spot on. I liked the old divide between the two desktops, with Gnome as the "business desktop" and KDE as the "power user" desktop. Absolutely weird for people like me seeing new standard Gnome apps with LESS features. For most tasks, I like having a feature rich environment, even if it means that I have to dig a little; it's what I'm into, like a lot of Linux users. Thankfully apps like Digikam and Kate are sticking to the old KDE ethos.

  • Simplification, n. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @08:35AM (#47953105) Homepage Journal

    Simplification: the act of removing features that are deemed unnecessary, redundant, irrelevant.
    Simplification (UI design): the act of removing or transforming discoverable, one-step, procedures in opaque, 3-step-after-reconfiguration procedures. See Gnome, Windows, OSX. Hopefully not KDE.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:58AM (#47953393) Homepage

      While you do have a point, I'd counter that there's no way to do anything with a computer unless there's an interface for it. For example if you go to Burger King 90%+ order as-is from the menu. But there's all sorts of simple instructions like "no onions" you can tell a clerk that you can't tell a computer. If you go to Whopper Lab you can see all the options of buns, patties, dressings and toppings available in none, light, normal and extra quantities and so on that would totally overwhelm the average customer. If the interface didn't exist, the option wouldn't exist but any given option will be the default something like 99.9% of the time.

      I like being able to manage my computer, I don't like having to micromanage my computer unless there's a specific reason to. I consider having obvious buttons to find more advanced controls to be discoverable, not that you need to throw every option in my face to say hey, you could change this behavior if you wanted to. If it's possible to set a sensible default and I haven't seen a reason to go looking for it then I don't need to know. Non-discoverable features I consider things like touching corners that don't have any hint they have actions, buttons with no obvious function/that don't look like buttons, shortcuts you can't find except looking them up, type to search with no hints and so on.

      That said, I generally prefer an expanding/alternate dialog over a multi-step dialog. If I know I need to go into the advanced settings every time because I'm the 1% using that function I'd rather have the ability to pin it to expand/use the advanced dialog by default, meaning it should be a superset of the basic dialog not just the extras. Since we're already in an advanced dialog having a checkbox "Use advanced display by default" at a standard location wouldn't hurt. Go into the advanced dialog once, check that box and next time you go straight to where you want to be. It is usually far more user-dependent than situation-dependent, so I think that'd work well for most everybody.

      • Agreed. I sometimes get overwhelmed at subway with all the options I don't really care about - I'd much rather pick one thing I like from a list of ten than make ten binary decisions about ingredients.

        • I'd much rather pick one thing I like from a list of ten than make ten binary decisions about ingredients.

          However, the ten choices we get will never include the ten I want, or the ten you want - they will be what get offered by the Gnome dev team this release, and once we have got used to them, a completely different ten.

          Granted being able to choose (unlike in Unity) is good, and if the options exist, someone will want every possible combination. (2^10 is only 1024 combinations, and you gotta hope more

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday September 20, 2014 @10:15AM (#47953467) Homepage Journal

      They claim they're moving things, not removing them. If done well this will help KDE immensely because current prefs dialogs treat trivial and significant settings as equally important by barfing them all up together into a big dialog.

    • Simplification (UI design): the act of removing or transforming discoverable, one-step, procedures in opaque, 3-step-after-reconfiguration procedures. See Gnome, Windows, OSX.

      In other words, a tiny fraction shy of 100% of the desktop market.

      The only sensible conclusion to be drawn from this is that almost no one strays more that a half step away from the system defaults.

      • The only sensible conclusion to be drawn from this is that almost no one strays more that a half step away from the system defaults.

        By what magic did you reach that conclusion?

  • Some criticism (Score:5, Informative)

    by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @08:39AM (#47953119)
    This YouTube video [youtube.com] offers some pretty good KDE criticism as well. I personally am mostly frustrated with the clunky and cluttered notifications system.
    • This is the sort of criticism that software developers really need to get, and it seems good that maybe KDE is listening. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a lot of people respond to this by saying the criticisms are stupid, that "if you know what you're doing" then you'll understand what's really going on, etc.

      • Yep. Some other classic ones:

        - "Your distro is configured wrong for KDE."
        - "Everyone knows how broken KDE is. That's why I switched to Linux Mint and haven't looked back."
        - "I have never had that kind of problems and I have used Linux on desktop since 1997."
        - "How much does Microsoft pay you to write that?"

        • You can also add, "So you don't like it, go back to wherever you came from and live ours alone." This happens with almost anything Linux related.

          What an ignorant statement. I mean sure, I get it, no one likes to have to change. But for the greater good, we should make a few sacrifices. I guess they're scared of what would happen if everyone started to use Linux, the same issues would pop-up that do on Windows, like the dumbing down. Here is the thing, you can fork it on Linux, unlike Windows.

          Perhaps it is r

          • Perhaps it is rooted in system admin's job security fears?

            I see this kind of idea floated in various situations, and it always seems bizarre to me. As someone who has worked in quite a few IT roles in quite a few different companies, I don't think I've ever run into a sysadmin who was making things more difficult for the sake of job security.

            I've seen sysadmins do counter-productive things out of pride and stubbornness, unwilling to entertain a new way of doing things. I've seen them continue to use ineffective solutions out of fear, believing that the alternat

            • Perhaps it is rooted in system admin's job security fears?

              I see this kind of idea floated in various situations, and it always seems bizarre to me. As someone who has worked in quite a few IT roles in quite a few different companies, I don't think I've ever run into a sysadmin who was making things more difficult for the sake of job security.

              I knew one, he didn't have enough to do obviously. He preferred to be lazy and spend his resources coming up with excuses on why things couldn't be done, instead of learning something new. That is what he was best at, and why after I left he was finally replaced for his ineptness. As the sole IT person on site, he would often change things, only to change them back. But he was needed "a lot" by the "pretty ladies" when those changes were made. There was a lot of things wrong with him.

              I once tried to show hi

              • We have an it got like that as well. Always at the pretty ladies desk fixing stuff and refusing to show them how to fix it themselves so they need him.

              • Like I said, I'm speaking generally, and from my own anecdotal evidence. In my career, including consulting with a variety of companies with their own IT people, I've known maybe one or two that seem to be trying to hide things to create "job security". They were generally incompetent, and were fired before too long, in spite of their "job security". I'll note that I operate within a fairly competitive market.

                Least resistance to what? THAT is the question.

                That is a good question. The answer is basically "many things". My point is, they may be lazy

      • Re:Some criticism (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Aldenissin ( 976329 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @10:05AM (#47953431)

        Exactly, UI's should be as intuitive as possible. RTFM should be kept to rare occurrences, like those completely inexperienced to a computer, or those that need to work under the hood. But even then, it should be kept as intuitive as possible, that is the key to any good design.

        • The crux of the matter is that some people think clicking icons is "as simple as possible" while others think "picking from a hierarchical list structure" is. Only a complete ignoramous would suggest users do not need to be able to choose either of these according to their preferences.
          • Why not get real smart, and use both, when most appropriate? (Not sure exactly what you are referring to..) Icons can be great, if you have any idea what they represent. Hierarchies are great, if they are organized and labeled well.

            I remember the first time I checked out Compiz again. It didn't have too many effects the first time, so the menu wasn't that bad, but the second go round, man was there a lot of stuff to wade through. You had the basic top menu of icons, and then you clicked through and you had

        • by Kremmy ( 793693 )
          There's a problem with this idea of intuitive. "using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive."
          I'm curious about how a computer is supposed to be intuitive.
          Let's take a journey into the past for a moment and look at historical computing machines, what they were used for, why they were built. I'll take as an example the artillery computer on a warship from the great war that brought the technology upon us. Differential Analyzers [wikipedia.org] were mechanical devices which perf
      • by Coryoth ( 254751 )

        ... a lot of people respond to this by saying the criticisms are stupid, that "if you know what you're doing" then you'll understand what's really going on, etc.

        Yes; "if you're just willing to get your hands a little dirty and muck in and learn then you can bend the hugely complicated interface to your needs" they'll say; they'll complain that your just not willing to learn things, and thus it is your fault. Such people will inevitably state that they are "power users" who need ultimate configurability and are (unlike you) willing to learn what they need to to get that.

        They will inevitably deride GNOME3 for it's complete lack of configurability. Of course they'll

        • by joemck ( 809949 )

          Javascript modules are fine, and provide a nice way to do arbitrary customization (though I'm not sold on the choice of Javascript as the language for it). It's great if I want to implement something unusual. My problem with it is having to learn an API and write code to do something as simple as, say, change window border widths or set screensaver options. It's not that I can't do it, it's that I shouldn't have to put in the effort to do it when it's something that every other desktop environment for the p

      • This is the sort of criticism that software developers really need to get, and it seems good that maybe KDE is listening. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if a lot of people respond to this by saying the criticisms are stupid, that "if you know what you're doing" then you'll understand what's really going on, etc.

        Ifr they were listening they would fix this crap. The problem though is that the stuff he points out all seems like the sort of horrible boring drivel that most devs hate fixing. they want to work on new features that are fun to implement, not digging through tons of other peoples code and all you see at the end is a few dialog boxes not being displayed when they don't make sense to.

        This is one of the reasons why commercial software generally does this sort of thing much better, because you can assign this

    • Ouch! Those kind of errors aren't simply superficial, they're indicative of jacked-up plumbing. It's like sewage going into the freshwater pipes at several points. Poor KDE users. :(
    • I learnt very quickly to disable or ignore the task bar update notification thingo, that's for sure.

  • Thomas Pfeiffer Thomas prefers a layered feature exposure so that users can enjoy certain advanced features at a later stage after they get accustomed to the basic functionality of the application.

    Either I misunderstand, or power users will have to wait to be able to access advanced features.

    Why not go with the usual basic settings, with a button/tab to access advanced settings? Is that too complex for end-users?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ArcadeMan, if you are even really a man (do you even have a beard?), you have immediately jumped to the most negative conclusion. Many, perhaps lesser, men would have interpreted that as the advanced features are available to the unfamiliar user immediately, behind such an advanced settings button, but that those features are not thrown in their simple faces like a bucket of acid, scarring them.

      Would you like an octopus?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So far that's been KDE - - since Gnome, Unity, Android, IOS, Windows, and others have all charged off the "dumb it down for the LCD!" cliff.

    KDE had been marvelously resistant to that, and directly exposes a whole host of poweruser settings and configuration options, even settable on a per-app basis if you want, all through the GUI. If it's going to head off the cliff... what's left? Nothing. There are your ultralight envs like LXDE and XFCE but they don't compare to a full featured desktop like KDE.

    Let'

    • XFCE hasn't been ultralight in a few years now. It is no longer recommended for netbooks and other underpowered systems. I think it might be a decent replacement for GNOME for many disgruntled users.

      Personally, I'd recommend at least considering replacing most of your Linux desktop needs with Emacs and the command line. As the years have gone by, I've done less and less of my work outside of Emacs, a terminal and a browser. Even supposedly UI-heavy things like simple image manipulation are done faster from

      • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:16AM (#47953229)

        XFCE hasn't been ultralight in a few years now. It is no longer recommended for netbooks and other underpowered systems.

        Meanwhile, full Windows 7 and 8 runs smoothly on those same underpowered systems with all animations and compositing enabled, all the way down to Atom N270 systems.

        Everyone can try this themselves if they do not believe it.

        • The Borg assimilates and adapts to it's enemies ways, to beat the Borg, we must go where it can not survive. We must fight like it does, we will be invisible and camouflaged to it.

          But, the Borg has dominance. You can gain the attention of a bull and provoke him into charging you, then step aside at the last second and let the bull "have his prize", going forward, into the wall he did not see.

        • XFCE hasn't been ultralight in a few years now. It is no longer recommended for netbooks and other underpowered systems.

          Meanwhile, full Windows 7 and 8 runs smoothly on those same underpowered systems with all animations and compositing enabled, all the way down to Atom N270 systems.

          Everyone can try this themselves if they do not believe it.

          Well, Microsoft did give us such wonders as Clippy and Bob almost 20 years ago. All else aside, we really should expect them to have animation down pat.

          I mean c'mon, I get motion sickness and vertigo when I use the new UI. That takes mad skillz, man./p

        • A little offtopic, but since you bring it up: All hate aside, I've come around to think that the Windows 8 GUI, ignoring the Metro/Modern stuff) is very nice. It succeeds in hiding a lot of the complexity and nonsense while still allowing power users to be efficient. It's very clean, and makes good use of the interface conventions that everyone has gotten accustomed to over the past few decades. If they'd kept the start menu and ditched all the Metro stuff, I think Windows 8 would have been a big hit.

          A

          • Yes, polish your UI and fix those long standing bugs.
            Why does the tray area clobbers when I add something to it, why does session restoration
            doesn't work properly (different window geometries, applications on different virtual desktops), etc ...
          • nonsense, those microsoft developers still haven't made possible basic functionality anyone with half a brain would realize, such as ability to copy and paste error messages and URL off of popup alerts. Not polished at all.

          • . It succeeds in hiding a lot of the complexity and nonsense while still allowing power users to be efficient.

            Maybe, but it's a complete fail on discoverability.

        • by Nimey ( 114278 )

          FSVO "smoothly". I question whether you've ever run full-fat Windows 7 on an Atom, especially in situations where antivirus is mandatory.

          • FSVO "smoothly". I question whether you've ever run full-fat Windows 7 on an Atom, especially in situations where antivirus is mandatory.

            I've been running "full-fat" Windows 7 on an Atom D510 in my Shuttle XS35GT media center PC for more than 3 years. Still runs fine, with MSE AV always on. Only thing it struggles with is some of the more demanding 1080P video files, 720P is always fine (but this is likely more due to graphic chip than processor).

      • When I recently did a Mint XFCE install, I was actually surprised by how much the current look mirrors KDE. It is less resource intensive, but not by much... perhaps 20% less RAM usage.

        LXDE is the clear go-to for minimal requirements, too bad Mint doesn't have an offering with it as the default.

    • There are your ultralight envs...

      That's right. We'll always have Window Maker.

  • Simplicity itself (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:08AM (#47953211) Homepage

    KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

    "Bend toward simplicity"? Couldn't you have just said "to be simplified"? That seems... simpler.

    • KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

      "Bend toward simplicity"? Couldn't you have just said "to be simplified"? That seems... simpler.

      I believe the submitter was either consciously or unconsciously thinking of this quote by MLK: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

      The grandiosity of conflating a hobbyist OS with one of the great struggles for social justice in the past two centuries is par for the course.

    • It implies the designers had previously refused to bend, stubbornly adhering to a more complex UI.

  • by Njovich ( 553857 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:38AM (#47953321)

    Do you really have to rip all of the features out of KMail for this?

    How about you make your own mail client, hell, even use the KMail source. Then you will see how much the KDE userbase will love your 'retarded-people-interface' that is only an improvement for people who don't need advanced features like deleting an email. I'm not kidding, look at the mockup in the article.

    I really don't get how you can see Metro and Gnome fail completely trying to force a more 'simple' user interface on people, and then want to make the same mistake.

    • Re:This again? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @09:51AM (#47953367)

      The article precisely says this:

      UPDATE: As I’ve seen in some discussions of my post on the Internet (not the comments here) that people apparently thought the screenshot represented the next KMail desktop UI, I’ve updated the screenshot and the caption to make clear what it is.

    • Conceptually, an email client is simple affair but the KMail devs have managed to take this seemingly straight-forward task and create a huge pile of shit. I switched to Thunderbird after the fourth time I had to manually recover my emails after a KMail crash or "upgrade" and from what I gather I'm not alone in abandoning that time wasting, file corrupting POS.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    II always recommend KDE to new users, but it needs be simplified (Baloo/Nepomuk off, Akonadi off, Kwallet off, Activities off) and its ME who has to do it, because I know how to do it, and they don't. See where the problem is?

    If you, KDE UI designers, can make it as simple as possible for the novice users, I will be very pleased that it is *me*, not them, who has to spend some time to fit the environment to his taste (as long as you don't touch *my* KDE!).

    The problem is that in order to show off a new fancy

  • by Chryana ( 708485 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @10:15AM (#47953473)

    Disclaimer: I haven't used KMail for years, yet I use Thunderbird and Firefox every day. I just want to point out a few things that the KDE team has gotten right, as opposed to the Mozilla team.

    Things that I like about KMail and its settings:
    - The UI doesn't change every 6 months in an attempt to ape their closest competitor.
    - If a settings can be configured, there's a button for it in the settings. I don't have to download a plugin that might get updated at any moment with spyware, or to muck about in the configuration editor. Do you remember that, in order to show http in URLs, you have to change the setting browser.urlbar.trimURLs in about:config? For some reason, I have to look it up in Google every single time I set up a Firefox. If there was a button for it, I would probably remember where it is.
    - They are not so utterly reliant on ad money that they set the default tracking setting to "Do not tell sites about my tracking preferences", which is a lame cop-out. Maybe they could cut some of the compensations they are giving to their executives instead.

    With all that said, it is true that the settings in KDE and KMail in particular can be confusing to new users. Maybe they could have a "show settings: simple/all" radio button in the corner of their preferences windows, like VLC?

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @11:00AM (#47953697) Homepage Journal

    Simplifying does NOT mean "show what I think are the 4 most important controls and hide the other 47 behind a menu icon."

  • I think "simplifying" would only cause lots of pain.

    KDE is already pretty well structured. What they need to do is to simply develop a new "front-end" for all the back-end goodies.

    And why stop there - make a framework so that almost anybody can easily experiment with front-end development.

    That would be, IMO, the most KDE-ish way to do it. Everything else would lead to the debacle like the KDE3 vs. KDE4 was.

  • by Kremmy ( 793693 ) on Saturday September 20, 2014 @01:30PM (#47954473)
    On every platform, this idea has led to horrible design decisions. We have things like Metro and Unity which have decided that a never-ending list of every installed application is better for a new user - when it outright requires that user to know what they're doing to get any work done. We have this issue where people are so afraid of complexity that we're oversimplifying things to the point of breaking them.
    But the inescapable truth is that we live in a complex world, and do complex actions. Many of those actions cannot be simplified to the degree that "end user" is going to be able to effectively do them, because the entire idea that "end user without a working knowledge" should be able to do complex tasks is pure fallacy.
    Computers aren't getting simpler because we're streamlining the user interfaces, the tasks users must accomplish aren't getting simpler because we're streamlining the user interfaces. We're screwing everyone by trying to simplify a complex world beyond reason.
    As it stands, KDE might be the gold standard of desktop environments, and I feel that's because they haven't been afraid of the inherent complexity involved in the system. If they manage to appropriately refactor the user experience while not crippling the environment, they might be on to something.
    Chances are, we're about to lose the value of KDE, much like we lost the value of so many other projects over the years.
    • Chances are, we're about to lose the value of KDE, much like we lost the value of so many other projects over the years.

      I truly hope that KDE isn't falling victim to the, "We're successful, so let's abandon everything that got us here!" syndrome that infects so many formerly-usable systems.

  • I am dismayed to hear about this. If people want a dumbed down UI, don't they already have gnome? When you try to dumb things down to appeal to the lowest common denominator, you end up with software that only an idiot can use and that is useless for anyone that wants to accomplish real work. KDE has been one of the few UIs recently that has been useable and where you could find what you need because it actually has a good basket of features exposed through the UI. What makes software useable IS the featur

  • Remember when KDE4 was released?

    The developers opened it up to any and all suggestions and because of the power and rapid ease of development using the Qt API they went through a whole series of experiments interfaces and appliations. One volunteer, who was in grad school at the time, offered a web page to explain the new apps and features. He was crucified by those who abhorred change. Their attacks got personal. Some of the attacks were drive-by shootings by people masquerading as KDE users. He quit

  • This worries me. The "usability" folks are at the plate again, wanting to "simplify" things.

    Just so you know, I regularly and routinely use advanced features in KDE. I have at least a dozen applications with very specifically configured window positions and decoration settings. The panel is carefully configured to behave how I need it; grouping control and changing the order of applications manually is absolutely essential. I routinely change pager options to suit my current needs at any moment. I have

"The urge to destroy is also a creative urge." -- Bakunin [ed. note - I would say: The urge to destroy may sometimes be a creative urge.]

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