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THE GUI SHOULD BE BETTER

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Im_CIA said:

Where is the button for switching emacs distributions?

Very funny. Genera has only one text editor, called Zmacs. It can be accessed by pressed Select followed by E.

Edited by Duuqnd
specify "one text editor" instead of "text editor" (see edit history)

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3 minutes ago, Duuqnd said:

Very funny. Genera has only text editor, called Zmacs. It can be accessed by pressed Select followed by E.

I've always been a vanilla VI guy. I even use it for HTML/CSS.
Change scares me and I hate embracing new ideas. I would rather be stuck in my wrong old habits for all eternity... unless there is a new incentive at work that I can't shoot down in the conference room.

"You don't get to bring friends."

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Just now, Im_CIA said:

I've always been a vanilla VI guy. I even use it for HTML/CSS.
Change scares me and I hate embracing new ideas. I would rather be stuck in my wrong old habits for all eternity... unless there is a new incentive at work that I can't shoot down in the conference room.

I can respect that. I'm the same way except the new ideas are what I started out with, so it's what I'm comfortable with. I would recommend reading about Genera and the Lisp machines though, since they're a really interesting look at what computers could look like if everything was designed to work together.

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Posted (edited)

GUI/UX freak here. I basically jumped the ship to Linux and started using KDE basically because of themes and ability to customize shell so I might be biased but it looks like my case is very similar to yours. I can say that I use console rarely and mostly for stuff that just objectively faster or when I have no other choice.

 

To answer your GUI QUEST:

 

What is the perfect GUI looks like:

Perfect GUI doesn't necessary have shape or form, we just have to iterate or reuse existing concept and make them better. Although I might have some concrete answers for you. See the bottom of my post, but you might not like it.

 

What is the best GUI we have TODAY:

I'd say using KDE on Linux, learning how to tweak it and finding the best software would be your best bet. Like LiteStep, KDE is INSANELY customizable, but unlike LiteStep, it DOESN'T REQUIRE YOU TO EDIT TEXT FILES, 99.9999% OF THINGS ARE DONE IN GUI. Seriously, you can mimic NeXT step, MacOS, Windows or nearly anything with it, and 90% of features work out of the box. I wouldn't say it has the best defaults though but you can get really far with it and defaults could be changed much easier than changing the software itself.

 

What is the best theme/font/icons/etc:

Again, I really like KDE, I like Breeze theme which allows you to tweak color scheme without changing the looks of it, Breeze icons are really nice too but if you like more realistic-looking icons there's Oxygen. As for fonts I prefer Fira Sans.

 

And now, a little bit of a rant:

First of all I'd like to address the "GUIs needs to be easy to understand" and omission of it. This is a very complicated topic and sorta part of the "There are a lot of things that are ideal for the majority of users". Mostly because majority of users are just normal people who only ever use a computer because they have to or because it's currently the most convenient way. You, Ross, yourself, complained about "learning all the hotkeys", the very same principle applies to mouse gestures, learning how to use console et cetera. This is probably one of the reasons microsoft and other companies do things the way the do. Making things simpler to understand, and often it sacrifices efficiency or other qualities, best analogy would be that Automatic Transmission is much easier to understand - it's go forward, don't go or backwards, but automatic transmission isn't efficient at its job and you don't get fine control over gear ratio and most people don't even need it. Why do companies do that? Because simpler-to-understand GUIs mean more people can use it. Nobody wants to read a manual before using something, or take special courses. More people can use means more money, it's as simple as that. Things at best are made intuitive, not efficient.

 

But what does "intuitive" really means? It means that you can guess how things work based on your existing knowledge of other things - you pull on that metal thing on a wooden plank and plank rotates - it's called a "door"! So let's use a door handle picture to give user a hint something is openable! That is also part of the reason windows largely remains the same across years, and why most other GUIs just copy and sometimes iterate on that? Because users are already familiar with it, and people who are have familiarity can help people who are new to the subject. Windows 8 wasn't hated because it was slower or because it has tablet interface, biggest reason was because they drastically changed things there. Imagine you move out of your house into another, and find out that doors in there don't have a handle! Then you find out they actually do have a handle but it's at the bottom of the door and it opens up like shutters upwards! Somebody thought it was more efficient that door closes on its own with gravity like that, or it's cheaper, we may never know! In case of Windows 8 it was time when people thought tablets are going to replace PCs because touch is objectively* better* than mouse! So Microsoft decided they want single interface for all of their devices and that it's ok to have that on PC too. It did work better on phones until those lasted btw. So the point is, even if you know your GUI is bad, your users are probably already used to its quirks, so the change for better must be at least three times as good to justify existing users re-learning it and getting rid of their habits. I've heard stories about people using ATMs with broken screens successfully just because they memorized which buttons they need to press in what order. Man should shape the tool but tool also shapes the man either way.

 

In the end you can't really rule out "simple to understand" completely, even if it's gone, its spirit still haunts the list of GUI truths, who are you gonna call, GUIbusters?

 

Most effecient ways? Best GUI?

However if we really focus on efficiency and forgo the "easy to understand" and other things, I'm afraid we'll have to also forget the mouse. Have you heard of Norton Commander? Or maybe FAR manager? Total Commander? DOS Navigator? Those are file managers built around having GUI in text and being manipulated with keyboard. Sometimes it's in text mode console, sometimes it's pretty GUI but you'll be using keyboard mostly. Sure these managers allow you to use mouse but interface is based around keyboard controls. Or some advanced text editors like emacs or spacemacs? I don't have to aim with mouse to click "save", i don't have to memorize that "Ctrl-S" is "save", i just hit (Space), a menu pops up, i see "f - file", i press "f", then i see "s - save" so i press "s", eventually it becomes a second nature to me - space - (f)iles - (s)ave.

 

A lot of software, especially in console are geared towards that and some people hate the mouse because it's, in your analogy is always an airplane, and prefer for keyboards because they're are already efficient at that. I'd say it depends on your background - if you used to such software it's easier to keep using that, if you prefer mouse - it's easier to keep using mouse as well. As you had the analogy between helicopter and plane - only ever using the keyboard would be similar to driving a manual car around town - it's probably more efficient and can't get you completely anywhere but if you have a license and know your way around town and comfortable with it - it's probably the best thing ever, as long as you don't have to travel from USA to Poland, that is. I guarantee that some StarCraft pros with 200 APM would say that mouse is the best thing ever and the keyboard isn't needed at all.

 

However in modern times we DO have VR and AR, and maybe it's going to change few things. I would take a look at XRDesktop, which allows you to use your VR headset to interact with your existing Linux desktop. It's a prototype and it uses existing interface, but it's interesting concept that needs to be evolved, after all, the very first cars were nothing more than horseless carriages (and they were sometimes called self-moving carriage).

 

Best styles? Best look?

I would say it's a matter of taste, really. However I would also say that interfaces that resemble real life objects are somewhat simpler to understand. While simplistic, flat interfaces are easier to develop. Also supporting customization always adds costs to development.

 

Hope you don't mind this massive wall of text I've written. I've been figuring out good GUI for several years now. I've also used windowblinds since Windows XP, rainmeter, aston (or whatever it was called) and other things trying to optimize my GUI while also trying to make it look the nices and the coolest. (Remember Windows Longhorn?)

 

P.S.

I've been trying to make the best interface possible on an open-source project for couple of years now. I'm trying to allow both simple usage while supporting insane amount of customization without having to read manuals. It's not quite there yet but we're getting there. The website of a project is https://pleroma.social/ and you can check out the interface here at my instance: https://shigusegubu.club/ You don't even need to sign up to try customization options.

 

P.P.S.

For resizing windows easier I suggest you trying AltDrag, it's a feature that's been default in linux for ages now.

Edited by hj (see edit history)

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So I've watched your hour long rant and I'd like to write an essay as a response. :P Ok, kidding about "essay" but it may be a little lengthy.

To start off with, I am basically the kind of guy who just accepts what is presented to them. My earliest GUI.... Was CLI. :D Yeah, when I was a kid the first computer my dad showed me was something like a terminal. A smooth grey box holding both the screen and keyboard and I'd type green text everywhere. The next computer was sort of also CLI, but it was a spectrum. Hit the shortcut keys of RUN or LOAD and play a game. Next was actually a more proper GUI, the Atari STe. Then the Atari Falcon. Then Windows 3.1, 95, 2000, Ubuntu, XP....

 

Ok, so when Microsoft introduced its Mouse & Windows, it was the thing that everyone wanted to copy like Steve Jobs and Digital Research. This was The Thing for a while, and because most people can't always handle changes like some autistic kid the GUI stayed that way. Well, sure, the GUI stayed, but over the years the designs changed (see evolution of word).

 

Now, like I said, I most of the time accept what I get. My dad gave me computers for a while, and the last desktop he gave was made for WinXP, but he had 2000 installed on it with Ubuntu somewhere in there (he wasn't a fan of windows). When I bought my own laptop it came with Vista and I practically broke it the moment I touched it. I felt it was too new for 2000 so I reluctantly installed WinXP, and changed the layout to classic. However, I started using Linux more and more. I have gone through Mint, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu and MX. Right now Ubuntu is my main platform (with a side order of Win10).

 

When it comes to customization of the GUI in Linux, it has felt as if the Ubuntu or Gnome branch has removed most of the customization. As of Ubuntu 16.04 the desktop has this Unity theme with all the icons folded neatly to the left of the screen. I just quickly installed a classic shell (so called flashback) to get back the menu system I was used to. It was starting to feel too much like some Windows App Tab. When I've wanted to do a little more customization, there was a Tweak tool, but it did not seem to explain much. It was basically like the regedit where one opens a branch and then click values to change. It did not feel much better than opening the config file in the terminal and editing these values by hand. The reason for doing this was to try and get back the scrollbars that had been hidden (or became very small slivers). With a lot of trial and error I think I got most of them back. Why am I still on Ubuntu if it sucks so? I fear the reinstalling and reconfiguring of all the programs I have.

 

Now, my father, he had done something to his laptop, and I can't remember which Linux it is, but he had barely any icons on any of his 6 desktops, and he had done pretty much what you had done: Launch menus by clicking the desktop. But also other menus depending on which button he clicked. Launch menu, Settings menu, Running Programs menu... Ok, the laptop had 2 buttons, but he'd use an external mouse most often. Heh, imagine using a 7-button-mouse and using various combinations to edit a video. ;)

 

As for that wheel idea, while someone has created such a thing and that the next level is so big is most probably customizable. Like a launch menu. Just organize your files in many, Many sub-circles. And maybe they don't need to be opened with a quick mouse-over. What if they were numbered? Blender has some of its menus as circle menus as of 2.7, and now 2.8 numbers each option, so if you have a favorite program you use many times you know by instinct that all you need to do is hit this key or mouse button and type 2, 4, 3 and there's your favorite program! :)

 

As for the ideal GUI... Well, I think the best would be a holodeck. :D Although not shouting at the computer for all the commands needed to make a video, but a little closer to Tony Stark's GUI. Step into the room, touch some icons on the wall, space out the various windows, and then with your own two hands grab and drop files between them all, karate-chop videos, and build a level like lego.

Or one could do away with most of the GUI and just jack your brain into the computer. Much Faster! ... if you can keep your concentration on the job and not wonder into porn... :oops:

 

Well, that has been my... 1, 2, 3... 7 cents.

/Edward

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I may not be the best person for giving advice on this subject, since my desktop looks like the attached image, however I am a competent X programmer, that is, the most common rendering system for Linux. I believe I could improve/create most of the concepts that Ross expressed as being unfinished/desirable. I'm biased in favor of keyboard shortcuts (each key-press is an inherently less effortful action than any mouse movement) but the idea of a mouse-driven selection environment isn't so bad. I may get started on it soon; if so, I'll attach the repo here.

 

 

 pic-full-200610-1424-07.thumb.png.dc1e3f9c173658bf30c4bc0593e84110.png

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You should check out https://www.reddit.com/r/unixporn/ for some interesting linux desktop ideas.

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2 minutes ago, sulupickles said:

I may not be the best person for giving advice on this subject, since my desktop looks like the attached image, however I am a competent X programmer, that is, the most common rendering system for Linux. I believe I could improve/create most of the concepts that Ross expressed as being unfinished/desirable. I'm biased in favor of keyboard shortcuts (each key-press is an inherently less effortful action than any mouse movement) but the idea of a mouse-driven selection environment isn't so bad. I may get started on it soon; if so, I'll attach the repo here.

 

 

 pic-full-200610-1424-07.thumb.png.dc1e3f9c173658bf30c4bc0593e84110.png

Dude, hide your power level.

"You don't get to bring friends."

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Heres my 2 cents... more like 2 dollars worth on this topic. 

I hadn't really given much thought into GUI's until your video, but there were a few things I had thought of before that I like how you kinda all tied together nicely. I have really liked the idea of being able to customize my computer's gui to look like something out of Deus Ex or Half Life, but its not exactly done out of a want to be more efficient, more out of it just looking cooler visually. I doubt I'll be the first or last to recommend the program "wallpaper engine," which allows easy downloading and creating of moving and even interactive wallpapers, and is done through steam. Of course, it doesn't do much of the efficiency-improvement things you want, but I do think it is a lighthouse of sorts, and likely means that, though difficult to code through microsoft's burying of GUI code and constant updates, it is likely not impossible. 

To expand into what I think the bigger picture is, I really liked how you included the footage of Tony Stark, as it would be my dream to be able to have that type of computer GUI tech. Augmented Reality may come in clutch for this. You mentioned in a video chat that you got a samsung odyssey windows mixed reality headset, which I have the exact same one. Windows Mixed reality headsets have a sortof virtual hub/desktop inside it, and you can even access every program on your computer, and it'll load up as a flat virtual screen floating infront of you. Now, this isn't something anyone would realistically use for work, but I think that it can sortof be the basis for how AR may look in the future, being able to open up windows infront of you virtually. Ipads and many apple devices already have some touch gestures, and expanded versions of that or the ones you showed in your video could be used in tandem with virtual windows or interfaces. You mentioned how "computers like their squares" in Deus Ex Invisible war, that may not even be a problem with virtual displays. I've heard both valve and apple are working on AR systems, so it may not be too long before we start seeing those.
 

Another technology that I think goes hand in hand with computer GUI and AR tech is Smart Home tech. I've always been a sucker for it, even though it's probably being used to monitor and suck money out of me right now, but thats cuz I really want to live like I'm tony stark. Besides, half the fun of AR is being able to control real life systems. I have an Alexa, which works really good with the smart lights I have connected to it, but I really feel like it is nowhere near it's potential. Like, I wish it could do more stuff to interact with my computer, or my wallpaper engine, but it just isn't quite capable. For example, being a big Half Life/Portal fan, I wanted to be able to set my alexa wake-up alarm to the "Aperture Science Wakeup" sound from the very start of Portal 2. The problem is, Amazon doesn't let you import or use any custom sound files, or import any music at all into your Library, as they made it so you can ONLY listen to music you bought through Amazon. And moreover, you can only use other streaming/music services if you have bought their premium packages, like Spotify Premium of Apple Music. So they have put a wall up in the way of allowing me to do what I want. And that's characteristic of the whole Alexa, and I can only assume for google home as well, experience. Due to the fact that these are corporations who don't like modding outside of making special skills for their devices, which can't do that much, and who have interests in making money, they have put some arbitrary limits on what you can do with your smart home devices. I'm no programmer, but I know enough to consider myself an "advanced user," and trust me, if you're an advanced user of many mainstream tech these days, you find the walls of limitations fast. 

 

To get back to GUI's, heres what my dream would be; If I could get a super efficient and visually appealing GUI for my computer, that would be compatible with modern windows, that would be the perfect start. I'd want it to work across multiple displays, some of which perhaps being touch screen with IPad style gestures. Beyond that, have even more Virtual screens only visible in AR that I may even bring with me out of the house. My whole house would have a smart home system set up, but instead of the AI being done through the internet, and thus being house on Google or Amazon's servers, I'd instead have all of it within my own computer, and could therefore do anything I program it to do, and could use anything on my computer at it's disposal. 

so uhh... I think I kinda got off topic

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54 minutes ago, Duuqnd said:

For anyone interested in seeing what true (but impossible for current systems) GUI enlightenment looks like, read up on the Genera operating system for the Symbolics Lisp Machines. That whole OS was so perfectly integrated that no other system to date has beaten it, and it came out in the 80s!

And now you have emacs ;)

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Just now, naughtius.maximus said:

And now you have emacs ;)

It's not the same, Emacs is just an editor and only does a microscopic fraction of what Genera could do.

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Just now, Duuqnd said:

It's not the same, Emacs is just an editor and only does a microscopic fraction of what Genera could do.

To the contrary, Emacs is an excellent userland OS lacking only a decent editor (the opposite of plan9)

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Just now, sulupickles said:

To the contrary, Emacs is an excellent userland OS lacking only a decent editor (the opposite of plan9)

Very funny. Evil mode exists, enjoy. Emacs is actually not that great of an OS, as any Lisp programmer will tell you. Most lispers just see Emacs as a very nice editor for Lisp that can be customized in a slightly different Lisp. It's also (when combined with SLIME) the best Common Lisp IDE out there. I'm not saying it's all that good, because it's not, it's just the best for its particular use case.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, sulupickles said:

To the contrary, Emacs is an excellent userland OS lacking only a decent editor (the opposite of plan9)

I bet you could run Acme in a x86 emulator coded in emacs lisp

Just a small step to a perfect operating system :))

 

Edited by naughtius.maximus
Its Acme not ACME ( i dont want to get lynched) (see edit history)

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Just now, Duuqnd said:

Very funny. Evil mode exists, enjoy. Emacs is actually not that great of an OS, as any Lisp programmer will tell you. Most lispers just see Emacs as a very nice editor for Lisp that can be customized in a slightly different Lisp. It's also (when combined with SLIME) the best Common Lisp IDE out there. I'm not saying it's all that good, because it's not, it's just the best for its particular use case.

This I did find very peculiar; part of what delayed me learning Scheme was that everyone who proselytized LISP used Emacs as if it were necessary (it is not). But I know lots of FSF-alike people who don't know any LISP (sometimes who don't know any C, even) who like Emacs. Is evil mode Emacs' vim-editor?

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I call for anther VI-emacs holy war

"You don't get to bring friends."

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Just now, naughtius.maximus said:

I bet you could run ACME in a x86 emulator coded in emacs lisp

Just a small step to a perfect operating system :))

 

 

Sam was always intriguing to me, partially because I knew cat-v when he was still active, however I could never get over the mouse-necessity of plan9. I don't own a mouse as of now, it would be very obtrusive to have to use a three-button mouse. 

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