Xfce Forum

Sub domains
 

You are not logged in.

#1 2018-05-03 10:56:30

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

No simplicity

Hi, you're gonna fry me for that.

I'm currently reviewing a couple of Linux desktop systems to be used by my parents (both in the late 60s).  While I do have serious Linux background (20+ years), they do not.  Not at all.  Currently they struggle with Windows 10, and up to now I've failed to find a convincing substitute.  What really bothers them is the complexity of all those bells and whistles, trying to capture attention, isolating the user from simple basic concepts, but not helping at all.

I'm honestly repelled by how the Linux desktop has become more and more complex in recent years, but not equally more useful.  The addition of more layers and concepts and services has led to an incomprehensible conglomarate of, excuse my french, pure shit.  If you disagree take paper and pencil, and without looking at your screen, name all running daemons, their purpose and interdependence.

I am a strong proponent of the KISS principle.  And while I'm aware of the existenct of inherent complexity in some subsystems (e.g., networking, user-mountable file systems, …), I believe that the way Linux Desktop (in general, i.e., not limited to XFCE) has developed is overkill, feature creep and a demonstration of UI/UX students gone wild.

However, compared to GNOME 3, the XFCE desktop looks pretty sane, and that's why I've started looking into it in the first place.  Also, because XFCE advertises itself as “lightweight” and “user friendly”, I'm hoping to find some open ears for my, admittedly, not very positive feedback.

In this thread I'm going to post some (IMNSHO) usability fuckups which I observe on the Linux desktop with XFCE.  I'm hoping other users would join in, in the long term maybe leading to a change in direction of XFCE developement.

Offline

#2 2018-05-03 10:59:12

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

Showing fake file names to users

How does it help a user (simplicity) to show them fake file names, as can be seen for “Geary” in this screenshot?

bc3632fd-8d1f-4b98-988c-53bfa7d4c8f9.png

Especially if one ends up with different files having the same name? Of course the real names shown in the terminal are not very explanatory, but that's reality.

While it seems en vogue to show users fake file names, it adds a layer of complexity, invisible to the novice.  Also it relies on all components of a system using the same “translation”, or otherwise lead to utter confusion.  In the example, the terminal and thunar do not agree on the translation.

Last edited by stefan (2018-05-04 18:24:29)

Offline

#3 2018-05-03 11:16:59

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

The Thunar Side Pane

What's the benefit of offering multiple different entry points to the FS hierarchy?  Is the root directory (“Wurzelordner d…”) really a device?  Why should the user be bothered with `/boot`, and why can't he remove it?

949958d0-2632-42bf-bb51-19030d117141.png

Last edited by stefan (2018-05-04 18:24:45)

Offline

#4 2018-05-03 11:33:17

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

The Thunar Side Pane — tree view

Not really a tree view, but rather a forest.  Now offering four entry points to “Desktop”.  Can you imagine a 70 year old guy getting confused by moving files between directories?

434cca64-693b-4b1f-a072-3bf2e76e2826.png

Last edited by stefan (2018-05-04 18:25:36)

Offline

#5 2018-05-03 12:37:26

ondondil
Member
Registered: 2018-03-27
Posts: 11

Re: No simplicity

stefan wrote:

What's the benefit of offering multiple different entry points to the FS hierarchy?  Is the root directory (“Wurzelordner d…”) really a device?  Why should the user be bothered with `/boot`, and why can't he remove it?

You can hide them if you want. Right click the empty space in Side Pane and uncheck the items you don't want to see. Personally, I like having quick access to my root directory.

Remove items from side pane

Offline

#6 2018-05-03 14:07:04

ToZ
Moderator
From: Canada
Registered: 2011-06-02
Posts: 4,660

Re: No simplicity

stefan wrote:

Showing fake file names to users

How does it help a user (simplicity) to show them fake file names, as can be seen for “Geary” in this screenshot?

https://screenshotscdn.firefoxuserconte … d4c8f9.png

Especially if one ends up with different files having the same name? Of course the real names shown in the terminal are not very explanatory, but that's reality.

While it seems en vogue to show users fake file names, it adds a layer of complexity, invisible to the novice.

 
A couple of comments:

1. If Geary is creating multiple menu items in /usr/share/applications that is confusing, then the issue is with Geary and not Xfce. The same problem would exist with other environments like Gnome (in fact, this is how the xdg standard works that many of the desktop environments follow).

2. Most users won't go to that location and won't experience the potential confusion. Users tend to access these items through menuing systems like WhiskerMenu, which clears up some of the confusion.

Also it relies on all components of a system using the same “translation”, or otherwise lead to utter confusion.  In the example, the terminal and thunar do not agree on the translation.

It's not clear to me where the translation issue is. Can you point it out? Each of the desktop items (as per the xdg spec linked above) allow for the inclusion of translatable strings and if they don't exist, then again it's an issue with the package. If it's an Xfce component that is not translating properly, then a bug report should be created for that component.

Offline

#7 2018-05-03 16:57:36

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

Thank you for joining the discussion.

ondondil wrote:

You can hide them if you want.

I cannot remove Desktop and home directory.  Maybe I want to.  Maybe that's a stupid wish.  But considering the tree view I would not find it utterly wrong to want to remove everything except the entry for the root directory.

If it was just a collection of bookmarks, they should be called bookmarks, and the user should be free to edit them.

ondondil wrote:

Personally, I like having quick access to my root directory.

And there's nothing wrong with your choice.  I'm not saying there should be no shortcuts.  But I'm saying the way it is presented is misleading, starting with the categories “devices” and “places”, the latter not including the network (it's not a place?), but rather being a substitute for “folder”, which was a substitute for “directory”.  But also considereing the limited possibilities for editing.

---

ToZ wrote:

1. If Geary is creating multiple menu items in /usr/share/applications that is confusing, then the issue is with Geary and not Xfce. The same problem would exist with other environments like Gnome (in fact, this is how the xdg standard works that many of the desktop environments follow).

I might be picking on Linux Desktop in general, rather than XFCE, except for maybe the fact that following a stupid standard is no excuse.  Thunar pretty much gives the impression of being a file manager, but suddenly, transparently, with no indication, does not show files, but interprets their contents.  As a developer, imagine the shell command `ls` would sometimes, transparently, show something else than the filename, instead of the filename.  Wouldn't that be seriously wrong?


ToZ wrote:

2. Most users won't go to that location and won't experience the potential confusion.

So the ability to show something else than the file's name was built into thunar because/although it won't be seen by normal users?  And what benefit does it have for “pro”-users wo would not die of shock when seeing the real file name?

Also, simple users don't go there is no excuse, because in the end someone will, especially that directory is not too far off to imagine some poor soul might be led there.

And the deeper problem is that thunar has the ability to lie about file names.

ToZ wrote:

Also it relies on all components of a system using the same “translation”

It's not clear to me where the translation issue is. Can you point it out?

Yeah, that was an unfortunate formulation on my side, sorry.  With “translation” I meant the way how thunar extracts the name to display for a file.  While `ls` uses the file's name, thunar may choos the name field in the file, another one may use the generic name field, another one may decide on something else.  This just opens pandoras box.  Sorry: open*ed*.

Offline

#8 2018-05-03 21:16:56

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

Naming programs what they are not

Mail Reader, rly?  “Hey son, how do I attach a file to an email?” — “What mail program are you using?” — “Mail Reader!”.

If someone asks the user what he uses to surf the web, what should he say?  Web browser?  He would not know any better.

b2e5ae5b-6eca-4539-a37c-48d6c12b0cc8.png

Giving programs “generic names” is a bad idea: It stops the user from learning what software they are using.  Imagine everyone would say “Desktop” instead of “XFCE” or “KDE”.  Or confusing Windows with Linux.  While the intention may be good, it stops users from learning.  Assuming so much lack of knowledge on the user's side is a self-fulfilling prophecy, which has brought us the current state of Desktop environments, and this statement spans even operating systems.

And no, I don't give a flying toss whether that's in the Linux Desktop standard.  How can XFCE be the better desktop if it just follows stupid decisions made by others?

Offline

#9 2018-05-04 00:17:14

Jerry3904
Member
Registered: 2013-11-09
Posts: 633

Re: No simplicity

What you see depends on the distro, right? We have no such thing...


MX-17 (based on Debian Stable) with Xfce 4.12.
Little collection of Xfce Tidbits

Offline

#10 2018-05-04 00:45:44

ToZ
Moderator
From: Canada
Registered: 2011-06-02
Posts: 4,660

Re: No simplicity

As Jerry says, alot of what you see is dependent on the distro. And Xfce is very configurable.

stefan wrote:

Mail Reader, rly?  “Hey son, how do I attach a file to an email?” — “What mail program are you using?” — “Mail Reader!”.

That's because people can run a multitude of email programs and the simpler method is to just "start my email program". The actual program that is being run is configured via the Perferred Applications manager (in Settings Manager). But, according to the standard, you can very easily remove this entry by adding:

NoDisplay=True

...to the /usr/share/applications/exo-mail.desktop file. The actual email programs will be listed in the "Internet" folder.

.

If someone asks the user what he uses to surf the web, what should he say?  Web browser?  He would not know any better.

Add:

NoDisplay=True

...to the /usr/share/applications/exo-web-browser.desktop file.

You can also use a graphical menu editor to make those changes if thats your thing.

.

Giving programs “generic names” is a bad idea: It stops the user from learning what software they are using.

Or, it makes it simpler for those who don't care what the program is as long as they can access their email. How many people know or care what the difference is getween geary, evolution, thunderbird, etc, as long as they can get to their email.

***But all of this is configurable. Don't like the menu? Change it. Re-create it to your liking. Or use other menus like the Whisker Menu or the Application Finder.

And no, I don't give a flying toss whether that's in the Linux Desktop standard.  How can XFCE be the better desktop if it just follows stupid decisions made by others?

Xfce is a standards-based desktop environment. From the Xfce entry on wikipedia:

Another priority of Xfce is adherence to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org.[4]

Offline

#11 2018-05-04 15:31:13

sixsixfive
Member
From: behind you
Registered: 2012-04-08
Posts: 578
Website

Re: No simplicity

stefan wrote:

I am a strong proponent of the KISS principle..

KISS basically means that a feature is missing it not meant to be simplier.

Eg: Suse with yast or debian with debconf are simple Linux distributions, however they are not KISS. On KISS based distros like Slackware or Gentoo you have todo everything by yourself. And this is a shitload of work. Sure, it might bring your some very very little advantages at certain areas, but for your daily desktop PC its very very unuseful.

Also, I personally dont consider Xfce a complete desktop environment because compared to MATE, KDE or GNOME it misses some very common parts as a desktop environment that even exist for window managers like enlightenment eg. there is still no polkit-client and without thunar isnt even able to do basic stuff like mounting hard disks, there is also no frontend for managing your network connection so you basically can not connect to a wi-fi with an xfce desktop, same goes for bluetooth, audio and many many more stuff...

Last edited by sixsixfive (2018-05-04 15:32:56)

Offline

#12 2018-05-04 18:02:09

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

What's in the Desktop

Is it a good idea to have icons on the desktop which do not appear in the Desktop folder?  Then why is there a Desktop folder if it cannot represent the desktop in the first place?  Why is it called Desktop and not “Files to show on the desktop as well”?  How would a naive user, the primary addressee of a desktop environment, tell where the other icons come from?  How can I create/delete them?  How can I tell the two kinds of icons apart by just looking at them on the desktop?

7b9de77c-14e0-479a-8e2a-05108e76d4fc.png

Offline

#13 2018-05-04 18:13:39

stefan
Member
Registered: 2018-05-03
Posts: 8

Re: No simplicity

Jerry3904 wrote:

What you see depends on the distro

That thunar shows faked filenames?  That I cannot freely edit it's side pane?  That programs are hidden behind generic terms?  I guess none of them depends on distro.

---

ToZ wrote:

And Xfce is very configurable.

Okay, please show me how to set it up so that the side pane shows only one tree, namely the root of the file system.  And please explain this in words a simple user would understand.


ToZ wrote:

The actual program that is being run is configured via the Perferred Applications manager (in Settings Manager).

And writing this you actually believe that makes anything simpler?

ToZ wrote:

But, according to the standard, you can very easily remove this entry by adding:

NoDisplay=True

...to the /usr/share/applications/exo-mail.desktop file.

While that would be a systemwide change, a user could not do that without root permissions.  Also, using a text editor as root to add some magic to a file which I cannot even see properly in the file manager (discussed above), in order to remove an item from the menu... this is so laughably grotesque, I can't believe anyone considers this a sane idea.

ToZ wrote:

You can also use a graphical menu editor to make those changes if thats your thing.

My dad didn't find one (me neither).



ToZ wrote:

Giving programs “generic names” is a bad idea: It stops the user from learning what software they are using.

Or, it makes it simpler for those who don't care what the program is as long as they can access their email. How many people know or care what the difference is getween geary, evolution, thunderbird, etc, as long as they can get to their email.

Now I totally don't buy this argument.  You could equally say they should not care about whether they use Windows or Linux, or go by bike or by foot.  And if they don't, they should: When they seek help, they need to know what they are asking about anyways.  Following your argument just breeds stupidity, as I've said above.  I do agree that it should be clear what a program does (names like “thunderbird” or “thunar” don't help here).  But the user should always be confronted with the name of the tool being used.


ToZ wrote:

Xfce is a standards-based desktop environment.

I've been looking at the concoction (aka. standard), but I did not find the information that a file manager has to show the `Name` field taken from inside a `.desktop` file instead of that file's name.  edit: I do understand, and agree, that the name is shown in menus.

---

sixsixfive wrote:

KISS basically means that a feature is missing it not meant to be simplier.

Nope.  Well, OK, according to Wikipedia there are many interpretations of that term, but I was referring to the KISS principle, and I should have probably said Unix philosophy.

In this context, for me, KISS means:

Trust the user to be able to understand: One simple file system tree. There are executable files, and non-executable files.  How to find them, and how to apply them onto each other.

Do not concoct a system of daemons, and conflicting different views on the same directory, and useless abstractions from program names, and managers of managers of configuration to handle them.

Last edited by stefan (2018-05-04 18:19:05)

Offline

#14 2018-05-04 23:23:20

ToZ
Moderator
From: Canada
Registered: 2011-06-02
Posts: 4,660

Re: No simplicity

Please be respectful towards those who are posting here.

stefan wrote:

Okay, please show me how to set it up so that the side pane shows only one tree, namely the root of the file system.  And please explain this in words a simple user would understand.

What distro are you using?

It looks like you have more than one drive on your system and multiple partitions. To remove the second drive (the one that does not have the root file system on it),:
1. Set Thunar side pane to Shortcut view
2. Right-click Devices and unselect the second drive from the Devices submenu.

To hide the boot partition, it would depend on your distro. Here are the instructions for Arch linux but it would probably apply to most distros.


ToZ wrote:

The actual program that is being run is configured via the Perferred Applications manager (in Settings Manager).

And writing this you actually believe that makes anything simpler?

In some cases, yes. It is the default in Xfce. However, if you don't like it, you can change it.

ToZ wrote:

But, according to the standard, you can very easily remove this entry by adding:

NoDisplay=True

...to the /usr/share/applications/exo-mail.desktop file.

While that would be a systemwide change, a user could not do that without root permissions.  Also, using a text editor as root to add some magic to a file which I cannot even see properly in the file manager (discussed above), in order to remove an item from the menu... this is so laughably grotesque, I can't believe anyone considers this a sane idea.

According to the standard, user-based changes would be made in ~/.local/share/applications as the desktop files in there take precedence. The menu editors do this.

ToZ wrote:

You can also use a graphical menu editor to make those changes if thats your thing.

My dad didn't find one (me neither).

Depends on your distro. Search the repositories for alacarte, menulibre, or xame. Note: these are 3rd party applications that attempt to fill the role of a menu editor. Xfce's official method is manual.


ToZ wrote:

Giving programs “generic names” is a bad idea: It stops the user from learning what software they are using.

Or, it makes it simpler for those who don't care what the program is as long as they can access their email. How many people know or care what the difference is getween geary, evolution, thunderbird, etc, as long as they can get to their email.

Now I totally don't buy this argument.  You could equally say they should not care about whether they use Windows or Linux, or go by bike or by foot.  And if they don't, they should: When they seek help, they need to know what they are asking about anyways.  Following your argument just breeds stupidity, as I've said above.  I do agree that it should be clear what a program does (names like “thunderbird” or “thunar” don't help here).  But the user should always be confronted with the name of the tool being used.

Again, a difference in opinion. Want to know what application you are using? Help>About. Want to the menu to display application names? Change it.

In this context, for me, KISS means:

Trust the user to be able to understand: One simple file system tree. There are executable files, and non-executable files.  How to find them, and how to apply them onto each other.

Do not concoct a system of daemons, and conflicting different views on the same directory, and useless abstractions from program names, and managers of managers of configuration to handle them.

Perhaps Xfce is not the environment you are looking for. Have a look at Budgie (Solus) or elementaryOS. Those may be more to your liking.

Last edited by ToZ (2018-05-04 23:30:30)

Offline

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB