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The Ideal Puppy User Interface?
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Snail

Joined: 18 Oct 2009
Posts: 238

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 05:13    Post subject:  The Ideal Puppy User Interface?
Subject description: What should standard a puppy GUI aim for?
 

I would like to see a thread where users and developers could discuss the ideal Puppy user interface. I thought that perhaps these initial thoughts by a user may be of use in giving people something to gnaw on and stimulate discussion.

My own experience in programming user GUI applications is only barely above zero, so I have no idea about how hard these ideas would be to implement, I do know that they will be hard. However, I hope that at least some will be worth considering by our many "Gun" designers, or if not they may stimulate the generation of some that are.

One bias that I do have is that, as I am a slow learner, I would like to see entry into any new Puppy to be as straightforward as possible. I believe that this should not be any reason to discount these ideas, as they mean that my experience will act as a good proxy for that of many genuine newcomers. Puppy should be easy for newcomers and oldies as well as efficient for elite initiates.

1. Firstly, absolutely everything should be easily customisable, the desktop, the taskbar, the menu and even the systray. I am not just talking themes and colour schemes, which are mostly well catered for already. I mean adding, deleting, moving, hiding and unhiding. The lack of a noob friendly GUI to do many of these things is a weakness in Puppy. Also, it should be easy to reset things back to original, which is not only of use for fiddlers with regrets but also for making it easier to remaster to standard format. One other bit of customisation of appearance that is in dire need of improvement is Pcur. Why on earth should you have to download a huge 40MB theme library, or indeed any theme, via the PPM when all the average user wants is to be able to select between half a dozen tiny icon files? When it is a choice between giving the user an easy way to do 99% of everything he could likely want and a hard, messy way to do absolutely everything go the easy way.

2. Tooltip everything. Recent Puppies are getting a lot better in this regard. Great!

3. An additional thing which would be very nice would be if any such customisations were held in a single file that is standard between all puppy versions. It is impractical for it to be possible to upgrade complete savefiles or to convert them for different Puppies in many cases but this customisation file could be a way of allowing the user to easily carry his or her quirks across in many cases.

4. The following are my ideas for a standard getting-started interface for Puppy. Obviously it's up to developers what is done and others may disagree anyway. And it obviously won't happen instantly.. One of the reasons I loved puppy 4.2 when I left PCLinuxOS was that everything was so easy to find, partitions, files, utilities and apps. Most Puppies are still pretty good. I mention a lot of things below that are already in some, if not most, Puppies, simply so that people can think about them and realise that they should be preserved in subsequent developments. I find it difficult to understand the criticisms that Puppy looks like Win95. Win95 was a decent attempt at implementing the original human interface design research of Xerox. Changes made since to this paradigm are mostly superficial glitz or, when they are not, productivity-limiting disasters. Anyway, customisability means that this argument, is irrelevant. Once the user has found his way around a standard interface, he can make it look exactly the way he wants. I guess that a simple hide/unhide all desktop icons button on the standard taskbar and the ability to have the taskbar slide out of sight could be the easiest way to satisfy those that prefer a "clean" desktop. The most important objective in the following is that things, even rarely used and unfamiliar things must be as easy to find as possible and commonly used things should be rapidly accessible.

5. The most frequently used applications should be on the taskbar or systray, where they are always readily accessible. That as standard should include the file manager, browser, writer and calendar. The Barry standard of invoking Osmo as left click on the clock is a good, efficient use of space, as is having clockset on the right click. The network connection icon should also be there.

6. The partition icons were always a great thing about Puppy. Their current incarnation is about perfect.

7. The next most frequently used items should appear on the desktop, where they are next most easily seen and accessed.

8. The menu should contain absolutely everything in Puppy that makes any sense. That may even include some apps and utilities that require to be run in a terminal. This is a major criticism I have of some recent Puppies, many developers are fiddling around, reducing the number of menu items in a category and even trimming the number of categories. How is the newb to know something is there if it isn't in the menu? I know that clutter can also make it hard to find things but it is the lesser of two evils, compared to having a few things easier to find and others impossible.

9. It should be a one or two click process to copy apps out of the menu and into the taskbar or desktop. Once found, the user can make it trivial to find again.

10. The user should be able to hide categories and menu items as readily as possible. An unhide button on each category panel will restore them. The user should also be able to reorder the categories and items by drag and drop.

11. Standard Linux xdg categories should be used.

12. My own feeling about the menus is that the real reason that people are so concerned about clutter is that they make inefficient use of the screen. There is absolutely no reason to see the desktop when using the menus, so the main menu and every sub menu should use as much of it as necessary, even if this means overlaying the panel of the higher level menu. This would allow decent sized icons and text, including tooltip text. The menus can also use multiple columns, with decent separator lines. There also doesn't seem any good reason not to allow scrolling with really big sub-menus, such as the utilities one. A development along these lines would seem to me to preserve the best aspects of menus, together with the nicer aspects of a launcher such as the Linux Asus EEE had. A fancy enhancement would be to let the user alter the icon size displayed but that may be a bit heavy for Puppy.

13. If the menu has the capabilities I have outlined, we could do away with the need for such experiments as the control panel, extra docks and the like. These are attempts to side-step perceived problems with the menu and desktop but are not all that successful. They need far more clicks and also complicate matters for no great benefit. You could think of my menu suggestions as being a "super control panel" if you like, the point is that the user should only have to look in one place and use one method of navigation.

14. Can I make a plea to Barry to follow Playdayz's excellent example and make Rox-right clicks an integral part of Woof please? Don's work makes a huge improvement in usability of Rox, making Rox a real delight to use. The Open with/Send to approach is an apparent attempt to follow Windows but it seriously fails to achieve even the Windows level of functionality, whereas RightClicks easily surpasses Windows.
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disciple

Joined: 20 May 2006
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 07:15    Post subject: Re: The Ideal Puppy User Interface?
Subject description: What should standard a puppy GUI aim for?
 

Snail wrote:
3. An additional thing which would be very nice would be if any such customisations were held in a single file that is standard between all puppy versions.

How would it be the same between all versions?
Sounds like the Windows registry...
Quote:
It is impractical for it to be possible to upgrade complete savefiles

Really? Why?

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Last edited by disciple on Fri 16 Aug 2013, 21:11; edited 1 time in total
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koulaxizis


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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 07:18    Post subject:  

This was a huge but interesting post!!

I thing that you could also post it here, it's a recent discussion about the future of Puppy! Smile

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Snail

Joined: 18 Oct 2009
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 09:49    Post subject: Upgrading savefiles  

Hi disciple,

I hope that a minor point like this is not going to derail my main point, which is the wider interface problem, however....

If a careful developer like Playdayz warns about "upgrading" savefiles within such closely related puppies as different iterations of Lucid, I think I am safe in assuming that there may be problems with upgrading between Puppies with completely different sets of libraries and kernels.

Total savefile compatibility may be possible to achieve, but it hasn't been yet. The problem is that the savefile contains software, i.e. pets, that must have compatible support, which the developers of different versions are understandably most unlikely to want to be bound to support.

The file I was talking about refers only to the things that the user has done to the way that the desktop and menu etc presents itself to the user. It is therefore not concerned so much about software, menu items pointing to missing software will simply be flagged and software that is new in the new Puppy will be merged and initially highlighted. These would normal be a small proportion of all menu items. What is a requirement is that mainstream Puppies use a common human interface structure. As it would be fully customisable, both the developer and the user may tweak it as desired, there is hope that many developers will be prepared to commit to using such a common structure, which will help in preserving a Puppy look and feel.

However, I reiterate, these are minor issues and not the main thrust of my principal question, which is, how to upgrade Puppy's user interface, keeping what makes it so good, to me at least, and avoiding the sorts of trendy disasters that have afflicted Gnome and KDE. I think that Puppy as a community needs to give this some careful thought, what do you think?
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sunburnt


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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 16:24    Post subject:  

I don`t think Puppy is in danger of going off the deep end on anything.
Quite the contrary, it`s far more likely that it`s become stagnant.

Universal Save files... A Save dir. is a much better idea.

Having a common Save file ( or dir. ) is nearly impossible with apps. in it.
I`ve campaigned to dump PET packages, so then a much smaller Save.
Use no-install SFS and RoxApp type packages, easy to add and delete.

Common Save storage for Ubuntu and Slack probably never will be possible.
.
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Snail

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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 22:15    Post subject: Stagnant, Puppy?
Subject description: Well, what are we going to do about it.
 

Sunburnt, isn't what I am trying to do on this thread trying to address a small part of that possible stagnation? If all I can get in response is discussion about savefiles, which was just an aside to my main thesis, there isn't a lot of hope. I see that we do agree on savefile compatibility but that's really not what's important on this topic.

There has been some really good work done already that seems to be building some of the infrastructure necessary for my ideas to be practical. However, apart from some initial interest from 01micko this work seems to have shriveled through lack of interest, if the age of the last reply on the topic is any indication. Hope that's not the case or we really may be looking at stagnation, as far as the UI is concerned that is.

http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=85422

It seems a pity that the user interface work by Don570 and Playdayz never made it into Woof. Precise is not nearly as nice to use as 528. LupifySlacko was an indication that they hadn't made it into Slacko either, which was a clear regression.
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sunburnt


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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 23:01    Post subject:  

Sorry to focus on a singular point Snail, there`s sooo many things needing improvement.
We all talk about the items that come to mind, mine is the underlying structure of the O.S.

As far as the desktop stuff, best to just go fully freedesktop.org compliant for everything.

But I don`t like file lists in general, they have their ups and downs, but there`s better ways.

Also having GtkDialog as the GUI maker limits Puppy`s compatibility with other distros.
Most will probably say that this isn`t important, me I don`t like being limited by the O.S.

And then there`s the Puppy Pet packages that take up massive space in the Save file.


I`m not privy to what Don570 and Playdayz have done, or many others that contribute.
But I`ve seen a lot of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It`s easy to see results.
.
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musher0


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PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug 2013, 23:11    Post subject: Re: Stagnant, Puppy?
Subject description: Well, what are we going to do about it.
 

Snail wrote:
Sunburnt, isn't what I am trying to do on this thread trying to address a small part of that possible stagnation? If all I can get in response is discussion about savefiles, which was just an aside to my main thesis, there isn't a lot of hope. I see that we do agree on savefile compatibility but that's really not what's important on this topic.

There has been some really good work done already that seems to be building some of the infrastructure necessary for my ideas to be practical. However, apart from some initial interest from 01micko this work seems to have shriveled through lack of interest, if the age of the last reply on the topic is any indication. Hope that's not the case or we really may be looking at stagnation, as far as the UI is concerned that is.

http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=85422

It seems a pity that the user interface work by Don570 and Playdayz never made it into Woof. Precise is not nearly as nice to use as 528. LupifySlacko was an indication that they hadn't made it into Slacko either, which was a clear regression.


Good evening, Snail.

Thanks for putting your exprience and wishes into what I woud call "a concept template" for future Puppy interfaces. I've perused it, but I want to "meditate" some more on each point.

For now, I can say that I agree with some of your observations. However, the xdg-menu model implementations that we find here and there are still lacking in user logic and precision, IMO. I've been an active "student" and "configurator" of Puppies since 2009, and even in my more accepting days, I continue to find anything resembling the jwm menu structure appalling.

I think it has to do with a) bad interpretation of the menu standards, and b) a lot of programmers don't go to the trouble of creating decent *.desktop files for their apps. The result is that menus are difficult to navigate.

technosaurus, aragon and a happy few saw the light, but it never caugth on. I get the feeling that some programmers are stuck in a "sub-cultural" rut, with community taboos and such, -- or maybe it's just plain laziness to step out of their comfort zone for a bit -- because it is not for lack of available tools, tools to do most of what you suggest do exist.

In short, xdg-menus should be able to provide as much detail as this (see attached) and still allow the user to adapt or edit the resulting menus to their needs. In this respect, here is a user-friendliness list of wm menus, from difficult to easy:
    jwm (most difficult)
    wmx
    pekwm
    icewm
    aemenu (a separate utility from the aewm wm; easiest to edit)

The above list is of course very incomplete, there are so many wm's. But "it's food for thought".

BFN.
musher0
To_Snail.jpg
 Description   A logical and sufficiently detailed menu created with aragon's Simple Puppy Menu (aka aemenu), based on previous work by technosaurus et al.
 Filesize   55.28 KB
 Viewed   873 Time(s)

To_Snail.jpg


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Snail

Joined: 18 Oct 2009
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug 2013, 05:24    Post subject: XDG and aemenu  

Sunburnt, I am afraid that the underlying structure of the OS is way beyond me. Although I do agree with you that bulking up the savefile with pets that maybe needed only rarely does seem wasteful. I guess that you could elect to save the pet outside the savefile and install it only when you need to but it isn't intuitive or particularly safe. As I understand it Puppy is xdg compliant and quite a lot of work was done by Rarsa to make it possible for it to work with lightweight windows managers? However is mush0 points out, if the .desktop files are not set up correctly, being xdg compliant will still result in a mess.

Musher0, That screen shot looks good. Being greedy, I still think that the sub-menu in focus needs to be still more aggressive and take more screen. Your screenshot shows no icons, is that a limitation of aemenu? How resource-hungry is aemenu?

Do you see any problems with xdg or Puppies implementation of it, or is the problem mainly bad .desktop files?

I have been trying to PM Mobeus to see if he is still interested but the PM system seems to be badly broken at present.
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disciple

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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep 2013, 06:51    Post subject:  

Snail wrote:
Hi disciple,

I hope that a minor point like this is not going to derail my main point, which is the wider interface problem, however....

I might have responded to the main point if I could have figured out what it was actually supposed to be Wink
Quote:
However, I reiterate, these are minor issues and not the main thrust of my principal question, which is, how to upgrade Puppy's user interface, keeping what makes it so good, to me at least, and avoiding the sorts of trendy disasters that have afflicted Gnome and KDE. I think that Puppy as a community needs to give this some careful thought, what do you think?

I struggle to see a need for much "upgrading", but I do have two thoughts:
1. it is not good to rely on desktop icons for anything, because they are usually covered up by windows. Instead of relying on desktop icons for things like access to removable drives, these features should be accessible from tray icons or the menu.
2. The cascading main menu is pretty pointless on any decent sized screen. I think instead of it we should have a full screen window which shows all of the menu categories at once. Attached is a mockup. I have an awful lot of stuff installed, so in my case it needs to be scrollable, but I think in most cases everything could fit on the screen at the same time. This menu could be further enhanced by allowing you to launch a program without closing the menu afterwards, e.g. by middle-clicking or control-clicking or something, to enable you to launch a whole lot of applications without opening the menu repeatedly. This could be configurable. I believe this type of menu could be implemented with relatively minor changes to e.g. lxlauncher (N.B. lxlauncher desperately needs documentation though - I couldn't figure out how to configure it when I tried it Sad )
menu_replacement.png
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sunburnt


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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep 2013, 13:40    Post subject:  

disciple; I like this idea, same thought I`ve had.

On a tab panel to divide it into major categories would organize it a bit more.
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Flash
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Sep 2013, 22:56    Post subject:  

I'm not really the guy to ask about this, but I do like to shoot off my mouth. Laughing
First, I like the idea of putting everything on the desktop at once. Maybe it would look something like Gdmap, maybe not, but anything is better than a hierarchical menu (or whatever the right term is.)
Second, whatever else you decide, please make the text black and the background white, or at least a light color. Black letters on a white background has been proven to be the most legible way to go. I can't even read blue or red characters on a black background, which color combinations I've actually seen on a few web pages. I can't help wondering how many people ever revisit a web page with those colors.
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Snail

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PostPosted: Tue 10 Sep 2013, 01:10    Post subject: Disciple's example  

Hi Disciple,

Quote:
I struggle to see a need for much "upgrading", but I do have two thoughts:

What you have just posted looks like an "upgrade" to me Smile.

Quote:
. it is not good to rely on desktop icons for anything, because they are usually covered up by windows. Instead of relying on desktop icons for things like access to removable drives, these features should be accessible from tray icons or the menu.


I don't have that problem, I simply click on an empty desktop.

The "problem" with the menu, it seems to me, is that it is complex and difficult to navigate around parts that you have not yet become familiar with. Several developers seem to think that is a problem too, leading to failed experiments like the Control Panel, which requires multiple clicks and in any case doesn't really help much to improve the organization problem, or far worse, pruning items from the menu to simplify it. Part of the organizational problem is that some applications have a poor choice of categories and/or icons in their .desktop files, or even no .desktop files at all. However, the main problem is that, in standard Barry puppies, there are a vast lot of items in the menus. I think that this is a virtue not a vice and some difficulty in navigation is infinitely preferable to the idea that the menu should be pruned for simplicity. I think that the menu first and foremost needs to be thought of as a sort of "package manager" for the "repository" of all applications currently installed. If something is omitted from the menu, the only way to find it is to pfind it, or go to some systems directory which is definitely not noob friendly, especially if you have no idea whether there is an application to do what you want, and if there is, what it is called. Great though the Puppy forums are, I think that there is way too much reliance on them by developers.

I am trying to find a way that Puppy can be even better and easier to use for both real noobs, semi permanent noobs such as Nooby and myself, who are willing to make an effort but have difficulty in recalling what worked 12 months ago, and the more expert. The trouble with Puppy and I believe all complex software, is that to actually change things you have to be very familiar with the innards of the system. It is hard for experts with that familiarity to put themselves into the situation of those in the other categories. Some experts are pretty good at it, others don't see it as a priority, or if they do they don't get it altogether right. Of course, there is no such thing as right for everyone so what we want is an interface that is easy to customize, coupled with a bog-simple and standardized first reboot setup that will be easy to get going from.

I like your example, it looks very slick. I see that you do agree with me that the menu should be allowed to take over the whole screen if required. My whole point I guess is that even for you, an expert in comparison with any noob, it hasn't been possible to customise your Puppy as you would like. On the other hand, if puppy was like your example as standard, both Sunburnt and I would immediately want to tweak it, just a little bit perhaps. Compared to you, I'd guess that I have smaller screens, poorer eyesight, less familiarity with the menu and poorer powers of concentration when browsing long lists, so it's not a case of you being wrong, just that we are all different.

I would say that individual developer's dissatisfaction with different aspects of the standard puppy GUI goes at least partly to explain why there are so many Puplets out there. I believe that having so many versions of Puppy is a symptom of a problem, not a virtue. Firstly, because it dilutes the efforts of all the talent this community has and ensures that enhancements do not always get back into the main tree as they should. Secondly, there are far more users than developers, so if Puppy was truly easy to customize, there would in effect be far more virtual-Puppies - one per user?? - but fewer real ones to actually require expert maintenance on.

As a starting suggestion, how about this: The default Puppy should look pretty much like a standard Barry puppy does now, as it is pretty easy, if not very quick, to find everything you might need. However, it should be as easy as possible, preferably just drag and drop but a few clicks would be OK, to "promote" any menu item to somewhere much easier to access. In my personal case, either the desktop or the launch-bar would do, provided that it is dead easy to swap between these. Some, like you, might wish for a customized menu instead, or as well. In your case it looks like you would be happy with a better, for you, presentation of the standard menu. Others hate the organization of that menu and would like to customize further. If this is possible, it would be nice if there could be an easy way to switch the menu that pops up from the menu button or desktop right-click between the standard menu and one or more custom ones. It would be nice to be able to access any menu from any other as well. (However, this would all be no good unless the custom menus were as easy to use as the standard one. The Control Panel, for instance fails IMHO, because it is not as natural as a menu to use, it has a different look and feel and, in Fatdog at least, requires the revolting Windows triple-click to run anything.)

A utility which I think would be great would be an AppFinder. It would be able to search either the standard menu, or possibly all .desktop files in the system directories. It could work on three levels, search by name, including wild cards, search the categories in the .desktop files (dropdown list of XDG approved categories?), or free word search through both categories and tooltip text. It would return a picklist of app names, with icons and tooltip text displayed. Left-clicking on an item in the picklist would run it, right-click would allow the user to place a shortcut on the desktop, or possibly into a custom menu. Probably easier to implement and simpler conceptually if the desktop was the usual initial destination for any "promoted" item and there was an easy way to move/copy from the desktop to a custom menus or the launchbar as desired. Such an AppFinder would surely vastly reduce the current dissatisfaction with the standard menu.

I am aware that some of this app accessibility "promotion" is potentially already available, e.g. from LXPanel, but it fails because of incompatibility with Rox. This really cries out to be addressed but it must be made more difficult if every version of puppy uses a different combination of window manager, desktop, menu and panel. Or maybe not, perhaps it is more of a matter of making sure that any such tool used is truly XDG compatible. Apparently Rox for one is not quite. As the Shogun of a top 10 distro in Distrowatch, Barry obviously has a lot of "pull" with the upstream developers of lightweight Linux infrastructure, perhaps he could consider using it to help remove this type of blockage?


Quote:
(N.B. lxlauncher desperately needs documentation though - I couldn't figure out how to configure it when I tried it Sad )

And of course that's another problem, with all these different versions of the Puppy Gui, documentation of any version is inhibited, because the would-be documentation writer has no certainty that his efforts will be adequately tested nor that it will even be useful in the next iteration of Puppy.
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disciple

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PostPosted: Tue 10 Sep 2013, 02:41    Post subject:  

sunburnt wrote:
disciple; I like this idea, same thought I`ve had.

On a tab panel to divide it into major categories would organize it a bit more.

It could be configurable. I don't like tabs myself because I have a nice big screen and I want to see everything at once (otherwise I would be happy with the traditional menu).
Unless I was hallucinating Smile I've seen screenshots of lxlauncher configured either way, it just needs documentation.
Flash wrote:
I'm not really the guy to ask about this, but I do like to shoot off my mouth. Laughing
First, I like the idea of putting everything on the desktop at once. Maybe it would look something like Gdmap, maybe not, but anything is better than a hierarchical menu (or whatever the right term is.)

Just to be clear, I am not talking about using this for the desktop, which is underneath all your windows. I am talking about a replacement for the traditional start menu, which is above all your windows.
If you want it on your desktop there are a large number of programs which can already do that - each of the old lightweight PDA oriented environments like matchbox had one, and then there are newer ones produced in the "netbook" era, like lxlauncher. But I think lxlaucher is the only one I've seen which can automatically use the freedesktop categories that we use to build the menu in modern window managers/panels.
Quote:
Second, whatever else you decide, please make the text black and the background white, or at least a light color.

This should definitely be configurable and/or follow GTK theme.
Snail wrote:
I don't have that problem, I simply click on an empty desktop.

I don't have an empty desktop - I find it most efficient to have only two desktops, and to have windows on both of them. If I was to keep an empty desktop just for clicking on desktop icons it might as well just be a start menu or whatever it is I'm proposing instead... except when I go there and click on something it will open there and the desktop will no longer be empty!
Quote:
A utility which I think would be great would be an AppFinder. It would be able to search either the standard menu, or possibly all .desktop files in the system directories. It could work on three levels, search by name, including wild cards, search the categories in the .desktop files (dropdown list of XDG approved categories?), or free word search through both categories and tooltip text. It would return a picklist of app names, with icons and tooltip text displayed. Left-clicking on an item in the picklist would run it, right-click would allow the user to place a shortcut on the desktop, or possibly into a custom menu.

This is very popular for start menus these days, so you just need to figure out what a good lightweight one is, and install it. The problem with it of course is that you need to know that something exists in order to search for it. So you need a traditional menu or some sort of substitute like I'm proposing so that people can browse and see what is available.
Quote:
perhaps it is more of a matter of making sure that any such tool used is truly XDG compatible. Apparently Rox for one is not quite.

Yes, someone would be doing the world a great deal of good if they ported Rox to use the file association mechanism from libfm. And the other major improvement would be if Rox could use the standard GTK bookmarks rather than its own system.

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disciple

Joined: 20 May 2006
Posts: 6426
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue 10 Sep 2013, 07:47    Post subject:  

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I've seen screenshots of lxlauncher configured either way

Actually, the one without tabs wasn't quite liked proposal - I think its categories went across rather than down a column.

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