Xfce pre4.8 test and usability report

timystery at arcor.de timystery at arcor.de
Sun Dec 12 21:25:10 CET 2010

Dear all,

following is a personal test report on the current pre-release.

2010-12-11 21:25 -- 2010-12-12 13:02
Xfce pre4.8 usability test report

- cannot launch custom command directly

- I like the handles at the bar's side. However, it may be a little bit unclear that they vanish when pressing the "lock bar" checkbox in the panel settings. It might be a good idea to offer "Lock" in the panel's context menu.
- I like the refurbished spacer element with its many appearance possibilities.
- I like the objects order tab in the settings dialog. Though, it might be a nice idea to be able to drag and drop items within that list. Furthermore, double-clicking on the panel elements should popup the settings dialog in my opinion.
- I like that many panels can be administered easily by adding/removing in one common panel settings dialog. Also, it removed the necessity to visually indicate where the bar is placed
- I like that the taskbar can also be used as iconbox. However, an option "show icons in large only" might be more helpful than "show text labels".
- It seems much effort has been undertaken towards always offering the possibility to grab non-visible panel items or the panels themselves, this seems pretty good.
- Unfortunately, I cannot move panel objects when in "add new elements" mode as was possible with 4.6  and found to be very nice by lots of reviewers [1] at that time. Also, it decreases the amount of time I have to spend at configuring the panel. I don't see a reason why a good feature has been removed. Please add this feature again.
- I cannot delete panel objects when in "add new elements" mode as was possible with 4.6 and found to be very nice by lots of reviewers at that time. Also, it decreases the amount of time I have to spend at configuring the panel. I don't see a reason why a good feature has been removed. Please add this feature again.
- It is not possible to write custom icon names in object config. Compare previously sent patch [1] from my site [2] to also have custom icon names instead of having to choose for minutes from dialogs.
- I cannot use a correct sort/display order in starter items with menus.  Compare previously sent patch [1] from my site [2] to allow choosing the wrong sort order but having the correct one per default -- from up towards down, this is not middle-east but LC_ALL=C per default.
- No indicator in the starter items configuration dialog about that the top-most item is the one to be displayed. Compare my proposal [2], or have a separate entry for that purpose.
- No separator items in the starter list. They are however necessary when there is content to be grouped, like viewers and editors in the graphics menu; or audio, video, and creation in the multimedia starter menu. Compare my proposal again [2].
- Menus cannot be taken away from starters unlike the 4.2 panel. this feature was very convenient when several programs of the menu had to be used in within the next minutes. [4]
- Astonishingly, I had investigated in the previously mentioned four items and someone posted my investigations, Nick got upset [3] about other people's development, but now nothing of all the proposals has been inserted and features have been removed. I can't see any clear benefit of the 4.8 panel in contrast to the old 4.6 panel (or even 4.4). It rather seems that it has bee rewritten for the sake of rewriting software and that the existing features have been ignored par excellence (i.e. ignoring the previously existing code base almost completely -- drag'n'drop would have been found there for the panel item configuration dialog, for example). Also did I miss the discussions on the mailing list during development of the most important Xfce component that distinguishes it from the other big environments.
- I don't know whether people need the two-line feature enabled via the separator plugin. Looks like a windows user's request and seems to be due to the bad default setups of previous configurations. The 4.4 and older style with an app panel at the bottom and the taskbar at the top did not require multi-row panels. So perhaps the good old 4.0/4.2 default setup [4] might be a good idea. It would also help Xfce distinguish from the standard Gnome setup. And most importantly, package maintainers might change it, but they might keep good, distinguishing proposals.

Xrandr seems to have been implemented now in the display dialog, this is good. Will have to try out on my desktop where I can rotate the TFT to A4 portrait format.

Thunar allows to setup the datum format, this is good. However, it would be nice to be able to use strftime-compliant formats on one's own or at least to offer some more common format strings, such as for "German 31.12.2010 13:59 Uhr" and lengthy month names and less lengthy clock format, i.e. without seconds.

The mixer panel plugin draws a notification, that's quite handy :)

In the xfce4-session-logout dialog, the key accelerators from 4.6 have been removed. This is bad as users have to mouse-click now or rely on the ability of the GTK theme to highlight the currently selected item when navigating with keys. Anywy, pressing Alt+character is way faster than the mouse or pressing several cursor keys and Return.

The volume dameon has no translations enabled. However, as the daemon may appear in the session settings, having a translated description available might be very fine.

In the mouse settings dialog, my old suggestions to introduce a vpane to be able to adjust the size of the cusor theme field has not been incorporated. Neither is the theme name repeated on the right-hand side of the configuration dialog. Having names longer than 20 characters renders this dialog ugly. Example theme name is "Crystal White Non-An..."

To all the remaining components, I could not find much difference except that on the desktop the desktop entries don't show the icons anymore, perhaps they had been set as single names, e.g. "firefox" and had been found in the previous installations. This might be related to that unsound attitude to only nerve users with icon chooser dialogs instead of giving them the possibility to ave the icon set choose the proper icon.
Not finding too much difference also backups itself by the relatively minor amount of work for the translators.

When wanting to login to the newly built pre4.8 after having removed all the Debian Xfce packages, there was no session desktop file on my system. I searched via find for it in my build folders but couldn't find it. I strongly suggest creating one, and after installing to also ask whether a symlink to /usr/share/xsessions should be placed because for example GDM fails to search in other directories.

Going Enlightenment [5] now,


PS: This is a personal opinion here, not meant as base for discussion about this e-mail, but rather as hints that should be followed for a prosper future of Xfce and may be discussed separately in a constructive way.

[1] Someone sending my site/patch: http://foo-projects.org/pipermail/xfce/2010-March/026883.html,  http://foo-projects.org/pipermail/xfce/2010-March/026900.html
[2] My Site: http://xfce.fabiannowak.de/
[3] http://foo-projects.org/pipermail/xfce4-dev/2010-March/028049.html
[4] 4.0/4.2 default setup: http://www.xfce.org/images/about/screenshots/4.0-1.png
[5] Enlightenment: http://www.enlightenment.org/

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