Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2010 13:05:38 -0500
Subject: [tdf-discuss] LibreOffice UI should be tweaked, not reinvented
The OOo team has been working two years on Project Renaissance. And there is
a long running thread here in the discuss archives of a UI prototype. While
that particular prototype looks clean/sharp, I think all this dicussion on
radically altering the UI is unnecessary.
One of the advantages of LibreOffice/OOo over MS Office is that the
interface is familiar and easy to grasp. And while the Ribbon interface has
improved from 2007 to 2010, it is still unpopular for a reason. The core
ideal of a dynamic interface that shows the most common features sounds good
on paper, but occassionally you need the lesser used features and you can't
find them. Menus still provide a familiar and easy to use method of
organizing a large number of features.
Given the large number of features and complexity of office suites, one
needs to consider both use cases. Most of the time we only need a small
number of features and we want these conveniently located. Thankfully Lo/OOo
handles this nicely today with keyboard shortcuts and toolbar icons. And the
laundry list of other features can be found in the drop-down menus.
Most radical refactorings I've seen try to "clean" up the interface, but
then hide most of the features. We're asking users to relearn a familiar
interface, but why?
The Office 2007/2010 interface looks nice largely due to nice use of color,
gradients, etc. The Lo/OOo interface looks antiquated largedly due to a flat
pallete. But the "ribbon" itself is an odd mish-mash of different sized
icons that look like they were assembled at random.
Honestly, if we kept the existing system of toolbars and drop-down menus,
wouldn't most of our users be happy? If they had to re-learn a new system,
might it just drive users to Microsoft's office suite (if you have to
re-learn, you might as well learn the system used by the masses)?
I truly believe the current approach works and should be maintained, but
improved. There might be some slight tweaks in how the menus are organized.
Toolbar defaults might be optimized. And the overall UI could be shined up
with some gloss, new icons, gradients, spot color, etc.
If anything, I think we should be going the opposite direction. Instead of
chasing the Ribbon of 2007/2010, I think we should embrace the abandoned
Office 2003 UI even more. Perhaps provide an option to all but completely
mimic it. People forget, but Microsoft used this tactic themselves, allowing
an option for Word users to use Wordperfect key-mappings, and provided
specific help for Wordperfect Users trying to migrate to Word. Since we know
most users coming to Lo/OOo are coming from Microsoft Office, shouldn't we
do our best to ease that transition?
It would also be considerably less work than completely redesigning the UI
from scratch. That is more time that could be dedicated to improving the
project in other ways.
-- T. J. Brumfield
"I'm questioning my education
Rewind and what does it show?
Could be, the truth it becomes you
I'm a seed, wondering why it grows"
-- Pearl Jam, Education
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