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Re: [tdf-discuss] LibreOffice UI should be tweaked, not reinvented


 I think all this dicussion on
radically altering the UI is unnecessary.
Well I think it is okay to have such discussions. You can say that you
like the current UI as it is, but this doesn't make new ideas
superfluous.

One of the advantages of LibreOffice/OOo over MS Office is that the
interface is familiar and easy to grasp.
I don't get that. It's familiar because its similar to MS Office? But
why is the easiness an advantage over MS Office if it is similar? Then
MS Office is easy, too. But the question is: Is the quite similar, but
not too similar interface of OO BETTER than MS Office? I don't think
so.

Menus still provide a familiar and easy to use method of
organizing a large number of features.
+1, I don't like ribbon interfaces neither, because you don't see your
tools vanish. Greying out things is the better option, as long as they
don't take up much space on screen.

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.
Nobody I know knows any shortcuts besides ctrl+c, ctrl+v. Toolbar
icons are misleading, over the half of which are permanently visible I
couldn't even tell you that I have used them before. Only the tool-tip
provides you with the necessary information.

And the
laundry list of other features can be found in the drop-down menus.
Which, again, are not very "present" to the user.

Most radical refactorings I've seen try to "clean" up the interface, but
then hide most of the features.
Not hide. The point is that today we HAVE more screen space, but at
the same time (new) icons are of little or no help to a user (as I
already said). They're hard to grasp. The essential point is that we
want to reduce the click count to a specific feature by not only
placing icons into toolbars but other things, too, such as a colour
selector, options, checkboxes, you name it.

We're asking users to relearn a familiar
interface, but why?
Because the current one has lots of space for improvement. Honestly.
The office suites have looked the same now for over ten years. We're
practically standing still. You cannot tell me that you're completely
satisfied with how it looks at the moment. Very simple tasks get
tedious, because nobody uses things like styles. How often do you sit
before a document and have to select text, change one attribute,
select another paragraph, change the same attribute, ...
Office suites are cluttered with an enormous amount of features. Do
you know Origin? OO begins to look like it. And while other companies
(yeah, Microsoft) at least try to bring improvements and while other
technologies such as HTML and CSS are evolving rapidly we do...
nothing.
Seriously, our current office suite looks like assembler in the age of python.

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.
No. It's so not about gradients and colours. True, they are not
perfect, but who cares about that? The problem is that nobody really
groups features: this one belongs to text attributes, here is the
place I look if I want to embed a picture, here (and only here) are
things concerning tables. We absolutely HAVE to make the user use the
stylesheet stuff, and it must be so easy that they start to use it on
one-paged documents.

Honestly, if we kept the existing system of toolbars and drop-down menus,
wouldn't most of our users be happy?
No, because soon they'll die out because no new users will switch to
OO. That sounds drastic, but imagine the following: at the moment the
office suites are (mostly) compatible and comparable in both usage and
interface. They will be very different five years from now, if OO does
nothing about it. Either we attract more users because we have the
SIMPLER interface or we adapt to the one MS is offering. The third
option is keeping an outdated (but working) interface which satisfies
its current users.

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)?
Not if there's nothing to learn. Modern software should be easy to
grasp, at least the simple features.

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.
Again, no, it's not about colour, icons or whatever. That's eyecandy.

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.
Microsoft will adhere to its ribbon interface, so in my opinion
mimicing another old system is no good idea.

Since we know
most users coming to Lo/OOo are coming from Microsoft Office, shouldn't we
do our best to ease that transition?
+1, but here you say exactly what I mean: people won't migrate because
for them, no ribbon will be harder than ribbon.

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.
The most essential part at the moment is the interface. Are there any
features missing which should be implemented? I don't know one. At any
time when someone asks me how to do some specific task in OO I tell
them that it's possible. And since Writer is the figurehead of the
complete office suite, I think we should start here. I haven't looked
into the source code (yet) but the UI should be a separate part,
right? So we're not talking about rewriting OO from scratch.

I don't want to criticise you too much and I appreciate it when you
say what you think, so don't take it personally. I just wanted to
clarify some points and (hopefully) convince you - at least in parts -
or others, that OO is by no means good as it is. Indeed, especially
the interface is something which needs work, and in my opinion we
should take the chance and do something special about it. Look at
Firefox: they saw that MS did it the wrong way and decided to do
something different. That's the power of open source: we cannot be
hurt by failure.

Joey

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