User friendly Free Software Desktops

Bernhard Reiter bernhard at
Wed Jul 18 13:14:38 UTC 2001

On Wed, Jul 18, 2001 at 12:13:27AM +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> If someone knows of a good general GNU GUI usability list or group,
> please let us know.  

Maybe we should start another one then.
I know that there were a couple of usability interest group
or activities around Linux. 
If someone evaluates them and we find no good place for 
discussion GUI related usability and free software the FSFE can
start a list.

MJ: Do you feel like starting the research 
and mail me a list of known initiative and their assessed state?
I will then start an FSFE list depending on the result.

On Wed, Jul 18, 2001 at 02:50:36AM +0100, Alistair Davidson wrote:
[as answer on other mails]

> > > > What we need to really start focusing on is coming up with new ideas for
> > > > improving user friendliness IMHO.
> > 
> > Ever checked out XFCE and Gnustep?
> > Gnustep aims to recreate the features of the most user- and
> > developer friendly system I have ever seen. 

> This is the thing. They're mostly copying Apple, not providing the sorts
> of major new innovations we need in order to outdo Microsoft, Apple, and
> BeOS in terms of useability. We do need to imitate the successful GUIs,
> but we also need to introduce brand new ideas of our own.

Gnustep oughtweights current MS and Linux desktop-projects by far.
We have to reach that state first before we need to integrate new ideas.
Generally I find that usability is hard on the details and the
research and testing on them not on the new ideas.

On Wed, Jul 18, 2001 at 08:03:33AM +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> and XFCE is/started as a CDE clone.

It simplistic approach _might_ make more sense then the approach of 
KDE or GNOME right now. I did not try it myself.

> I can't help but second the above.  *Most* of the things currently
> done in the X desktop environment space seem to be copies of other
> people's innovations.  

To take the right mixture of good ideas make a new innovation.
That is what KDE, GNOME and gnustep are trying. Gnustep is most
innovative in that regard, IMO.
Innovation in usability do not happen suddenly, it is more like science
where we need the shoulder of giants. :)

> Can either FSFE or freedesktop please sponsor a
> list to look into developing our own?

On Wed, Jul 18, 2001 at 12:14:52PM +0200, Josef Dalcolmo wrote:
> The discussion about GUIs may be important, however user friendliness is not 
> just a GUI issue. 

I agree.

> I am personally using Debian, and I am not a programmer. 
> I spend about 10 times as much time 
> on figuring out how to configure something in Debian than in Windows 

Personally I think it is the other way round. :)

> As a user, my main concern is also with the question: how do I do
> this or that on my nice new Linux system, and where do I find the
> info I need. 

The same problems do exist with Windows systems.
In general you learn better strategies with GNU/Linux systems,
because it is easy to share information.

> As a user I am also forced to use MS Word files, 
> because my colleagues use it. 

What about Abiword and several other applications?

The difficulties you describe are certainly there.
A part of them results from people having learned the MS way and some FUD.
This is a big burden for the Free Software usability designers
and has to be taken into account.

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