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Author Topic: Windowmanagers.
dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 12:15      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by uilleann:
KDE had the same problem...

KDE started out emulating Windows, not Mac. [Razz]
(Only exception: The top menu of 1.x...which they turned off by default in 2+)

KDE is much more willing to go their own way... Gnome is obsessed with the question: What Would Apple Do?

I just can't stand the Gnome dev. mentality - KDE actually cares about their community, whereas Gnome doesn't care what people think, and their leads are full of it.

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 12:18      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Dman__________________OTOH, I just saw CDE on HP-UX today...that was *fugly.* f you think that CDE was *fugly.* you should have seen HP-UG back in V-9 and earlier that wasn't even clean and parts of it were comand line, such as UGii

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GameMaster
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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 16:03      Profile for GameMaster   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I can't wait untill OpenGL is supported on the desktop by either of them (I know there are non-offical versions of Gnome that does), but I don't think we'll see that untill we see more graphic card drivers that support 3d acceleration hardware (other then the closed NVIDIA drivers).

There is an experimental X86 window manager that is a 3d eniviroment (can't remember if it used real exceleration or not), and while I think the idea is cool, they don't really offer any advantages to the traditional "desktop"/"root window" analogies.

I am rather curious about what the next big innovation in UI design will be. Any guesses?

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uilleann
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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 17:15            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My take on it is that every desktop component should be an isolated package that you can swap out, and the widget theme and window adornment theme would be separate still. The window behavioral model would be separate also.

Those who remember Windows 3 will know that the launch manager, file manager and task manager were just ordinary programs. Change the shell and taskman.exe lines of system.ini and you've instantly and painlessly changed your desktop behaviour with no impact on the system. Mine used to read:

shell=C:\WINDOWS\WAYFARER\WAYFARER.EXE
taskman.exe=C:\WINDOWS\UTILS\SUPRSTUF\SUPERTM.EXE

for Wayfarer and Super Task Manager respectively.

KDE is all very well, but it's excessively integrated. What if I just want the KDE taskbar running inside of fvwm? Or to replace it with a dock? Or change the desktop implementation to something different (Acorn RISC OS for example had the Pinboard, a bit different I think).

I don't think of a desktop environment as a monolithic system, but a personally selected arrangement of components. I've replaced the Windows 2000 Task Manager with Process Explorer but that utterly prevents me from running the original one (which occasionally I want to) unless I go back in and switch that feature off. A bad hack. Mac OS X itself is the ultimate Nazi enforcement of desktop environment as you can't do a thing about Apple's decisions. Likewise I will never accept KDE or GNOME or any other monolith.

The whole GUI, to me, is subject to this concept. For example, what if I want to swap out the Open and Save dialogs system-wide with a different implementation, as those of Windows 3, Win32, GTK+, RISC OS, EPOC, System 7, Mac OS 8/9 and Mac OS X are all different, sometimes radically so (RISC OS's are dead weird, try it one day). Why can't I use the type I prefer?

But quantumfluff is right as regards normal folk. Pick something logical and settle on it. Then people have a common idea of the system as they change machine and if they ever need to ask a friend for help. You'd want to find what most people prefer using. Personally, I find Windows substantially easier to navigate than X so much that X is horribly painful, but maybe I'm fucked in the head. (Mac OS X never solved all the broken issues in Mac OS 9 and added extra layers of broken and inconsistent behaviour; Windows is far more pragmatic although it has its flaws, most notably isolated windows that lack taskbar buttons, windows you just can't bloody minimise (just! go! away! damnit!) and the tendency for the taskbar to overcrowd like breeding rabbits unless you run tabbed software).

I'm still thinking about ways to improve this but it's just not easy to rapidly navigate what would be 49 open windows if I was not using Firefox and gaim and hence tabs. (I wish I'd not lost my screenshot I took of Mac OS 9 when I had about 72 open Finder windows not counting those of about 20 other running programs, that was hilarious.) How anyone ever COPES with a single-row taskbar at 800 res with no tabbed software I have no idea. No idea at all.

[Edit: GUIdebook Gallery is a really excellent source of information on the various GUIs around to date, really worth a look, both the popular and the relatively obscure.]

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fs

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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 21:03      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by uilleann:
Personally, I find Windows substantially easier to navigate than X so much that X is horribly painful, but maybe I'm fucked in the head.
.
.
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[Edit: GUIdebook Gallery is a really excellent source of information on the various GUIs around to date, really worth a look, both the popular and the relatively obscure.]

No, I'm completely with you on the Windows/OSX thing. Admittedly, I've spent more time in Windows than on a Mac, but I find it quite frustrating and counter-intuitive. (To me, YMMV.)

Thanks for the link. Definitely worth perusing.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 07, 2006 21:31      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I did some quick Googling, and I think this more or less sums up the situation:
http://lists.apple.com/archives/x11-users/2005/Mar/msg00062.html

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Posts: 9345 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
uilleann
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2006 04:42            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
dragonman97: Conceptually yes, but according to Mac-Arena it's already done in Tiger. That e-mail is over a year old. If he's right, it's a nice milestone for Apple in that, assuming you can tolerate the Dock, X11 will be that big step more usable at long last.

FireSnake: Partially it's the windowing model. Mac OS lt X required you first select an application to be frontmost before being able to select its window from the Window menu (if the window was already visible, clicking it would bring the application frontmost first, with its existing frontmost window (so the application would clear any flags for that window such as new message notification) and finally activate the one you clicked!)

This would mean that it was impossible natively to provide per-window notification, such as when a given IM conversation had new messages. Without any tabbed programs I'd wind up ignoring people for hours as I'd not notice that more than one window had a new message in it! When I talk to Mac OS X zealots they all seem to refuse to acknowledge that this is ever a valid problem, which is depressing. Clueless fanbase, no hope of progress. The Windows taskbar allows to see and jump to windows individually which is faster and clearer, and for per-window notification, which is substantially more reliable. But then you run out of space. I used to have the taskbar three rows (!) high on a 1024 res screen and still have all the buttons too small to see the captions.

It seems that tabbed interfaces (such as Adium, gaim, Firefox et al) are the only way we're ever going to do this. They're hard to get used to -- if I want to say something to Steve_Wir, I won't go for the taskbar button that says "dragonman97" on it, because .... that isn't Steve's! (Likewise, when Steve sends a message, the taskbar button that flashes reads "dragonman97" so I may forget that Steve could have sent a message. It takes time to get the hang of it, but it makes your taskbar clearer!

The other thing about Aqua is the very well known deficiency that minimised windows are absent from Exposé, as are hidden programs. You can't hide individual windows that get in the way, and Exposé is close to non-deterministic at positioning windows when you hit F9 -- the same window won't often appear in the same place that it did last time if you've opened or closed a different window in the mean time (and sometimes it reshuffles them for fun anyway). The taskbar buttons are rock solid, they don't move unpredictably.

The feeling that I get is that Mac OS X didn't actually address the deficiencies of Mac OS 9 (and there are many) -- it made the problem worse by adding extra inconsistencies. Nothing we have so far is perfect, as we're setting ourselves a nigh impossible goal, but it's always nice to be consistent in that design. Icons and buttons that stay where you left them... A classic nightware as some will recall was old Netscape, which moved the active window to the top of the Window menu. Nothing in that freaking menu was ever where you last saw it! Gotta love it.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2006 07:48      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Unless Apple has a card up its sleeve (which it often does), I doubt they're doing any work on X11 - it's more of a buzzword for them than anything. "We support X11" can be put on their website and Tiger boxes. It can be very useful for *nix types, and for many scientific applications, AFAIK, but as far as Apple is concerned, X11 is not that interesting to their core market -- people who want a smooth, well integrated system that doesn't require them to think. X11 is 'too hard,' unless you know what you're doing - so I bet they're not willing to spend the developer hours on refining it.

Regarding tabbed IM - Adium is a little better in your example... the Dock icon bounces, and it is unknown who it bounces for. [Razz] However, the contact list (i.e. Buddy List) shows a picture of a conversation besides the person for whom their is an unread message. I always keep my contact list on the screen at all times, on the right... so it's usually pretty easy. On Gaim for Windows, I usually pay more attention to the icon in the tray - I think I have it set to do something... and I have no issues with the idea of the message being from someone other than the taskbar icon's name.

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Posts: 9345 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
uilleann
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Icon 1 posted May 08, 2006 09:18            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ah, but I'm of the evil Maximised clan, I run all windows full-screen! (Another luxury of Windows ;) gaim does let you dock the buddy list but the implementation is naive; the Show Desktop command in Windows minimises the "docked" buddy list, triggering its screen region to close and the desktop (and other windows, when you restore them) to snap back to the left screen edge; bring back the buddy list and all your windows shunt back over again! (Heck, Show Desktop minimises the taskbar every now and then too, which is annoying.)

I am less bothered about what features a window manager has, as long as they're self-consistent and reliable. That's what makes the bigger difference. Mac OS 9 for example is very basic but very self-consistent so you're never in any doubt as to what it's doing and what will happen. It's easier to live with simple consistency than advanced but hard to predict behaviour. For example, dialog boxes are not acceptable windows for Exposé, so press F9 and programs whose only open window is a dialog, temporarily vanish. What's the sense of that exactly? Mac OS X requires extra concentration to remember the fickle rules by which it plays and it's easier to use it as if it were 9, when it was 100% predictable.

(Another moronic idea in X is that programs can spawn a dialog that doesn't belong to them, such as Connect to Server. Switch back to that window group and the dialog won't be there, because it never belonged to that program in the first place! It's Apple's way to get around system modal dialogs like 9 had, I presume, but I'd rather have system modal than unpredictability.)

But what would be a real nuisance would be perpetually dragging windows off the top of the Adium contact list. Mac OS only permits resize from the bottom-right corner so I can't simply resize a window out of the way, such as if it's too big to slide over. It's cases like these when you need a bit of actual management in the window manager. Anyone who's used Photoshop on the Mac will know of its ability to keep document windows within the space delimited by palette windows, so imagine if you could have that option for global windows like a contact list (I've never used Windowmaker but I'd imagine Windowmaker does the same thing with all those floating squares else you'd go nuts very quickly!) Implement this partitioning algorithm and support for a global menu bar or a taskbar is a convenient side effect.

I think most people consider designing a window manager to be easier than it really is, and any that try to be too clever usually fail somewhere. Getting it right means analysing the very core concepts on which the system is based. Windows, for example: open a dialog box and you no longer have access to the minimise button of the parent window -- the window is locked out. So you can't get the program out the way for a second. Mac OS X does get this right: it uses sheets which leave the title bar of the parent window active, permitting the window to be minimised or moved. But then, everyone believes that sheets can't spawn sheets (they can, look at ircle), so sheets spawn regular dialogs, defeating the whole concept. Then again, some people believe that sheets invalidly obscure the window content below, which is partly the entire point of movable modal dialogs in the first place! Tearing off the sheet would then have curious repercussions for managing the parent window, though!

Someone here said that a good window manager is such that you don't even notice it, and I believe that's true. If you have to keep swapping them out, something just isn't natural enough. With all the GUIs I've used so far (and it's a lot), there are always thorny holes in the design that you can never put your finger on how to solve. If someone finally does make one that gets everything right, then I imagine we'll all be a lot happier using graphical interfaces :)

Then again, there's no accounting for personal preference. Enough people love X that I have to wonder sometimes. Besides, only fs agrees with me and I already know she's at least as screwed in the head as I am. But it's always more fun that way.

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The Mu
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Icon 1 posted May 24, 2006 12:13      Profile for The Mu   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I like KDE and twm myself. Although most of these I haven't even heard of.
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