by Guest Writer Michael Glasser
Saturday, March 30, 2013
3/30/2013 08:55:00 AM Desktop Linux, Firefox, GNOME, Guest Writer, KDE, Kubuntu, Linux, Michael Glasser, Open Source, Ubuntu 11 comments
by Guest Writer Michael Glasser
If you are reading this article from a Desktop Linux system take a minute and look at a few programs on your system: maybe your web browser, your primary word processor, your email program, and whatever else you use often. Look at the save and print dialogs, the term used to Quit (or Exit) a program, the terms used for Options or Settings and where such options are located and what hot keys are used. Chances are you will find much inconsistency in the programs you look at. Even within single programs there is often a great deal of inconsistency.
Is this a problem? Many users say it is not; they believe they “get used to” each program and speak of how it is not hard to figure out the multiple styles found on their systems. Even if they do not realize it, though, inconsistencies do lead to problems – they lead to reduced productivity and efficiency and increase in user errors. This is backed up by HCI/UI research, is accepted by pretty much every relevant expert, and such ideas have been expressed by the teams that produce KDE, Gnome, Ubuntu, FireFox, and many other open source projects. Having a distro that works as a unified system is important if you care about the work you do.
What I would like to see – what would benefit desktop Linux users – would be a way for distro developers and users to get more choice than they do now. Imagine if Ubuntu had minimalistic styles for their dialogs designed for great ease of use while PCLOS had more robust dialogs that allowed for renaming and deleting of files from the dialogs. Novice users would be able to trust that “settings” for their system were always in the same place and could look for the same term; more advanced users would know the hot key to get to the same feature. If the users did not like the choices made by the distro developers, they could swap these things out on their own, and their choices would affect their entire system because developers had accepted whatever standards KDE, Gnome, and others had agreed on.
More choice. Greater productivity. Improved efficiency. Reduced Errors. Nothing is lost.
I am not going to pretend this would be easy or perfect. Nor would I want this forced on distro managers or users or developers (and there are good reasons in each of those groups why they might sometimes wish to go outside of the standards). It should be a choice.
Having such choice is something I have been seeking and predicting for many years, and looking at Kubuntu or PCLOS (or many other distros) of even three or four years ago compared with what they offer today we see that they do act more and more like complete systems and not like a bunch of unrelated software jumbled together... what a customer of mine said felt like a system held together with duct tape that he was afraid would fall apart at any moment (even though he never had a system crash and had no more application crashes than on his old OS, maybe even fewer).
The open source community is getting better and better at allowing users to have distros act like unified systems. There is, however, much room for improvement. I am not a programmer. I would love to hear ideas on how to help move the open source ecosystem to better allow for this increase in choice.
-- Michael Glasser