Xfce design SIG

Charlie Kravetz cjk at teamcharliesangels.com
Sun Jun 19 20:21:13 CEST 2011

On Sun, 19 Jun 2011 20:29:50 +0300
Mișu Moldovan <dumol at xfce.org> wrote:

> On 29.05.2011 17:21, Simon Steinbeiß wrote:
> [snip]
> > Up to now there haven't been any bottom-up design initiatives in Xfce,
> > mainly users could file a bugreport/feature request, bug the developer
> > on irc or use the mailing-list. What I want to propose together with
> > Jannis Pohlmann is an Xfce design SIG (special interest group) that
> > doesn't consist of a fixed number or panel of members, but instead
> > features a very open approach: anyone can join the design SIG and
> > contribute to a task or propose a new task. Naturally this doesn't mean
> > that everything/anything the design SIG proposes will be picked up and
> > put into code by developers. The idea is that users and developers try
> > to get to a point where they say "This is what we think a good
> > $application (as in: image viewer, file-manager, etc.) should look
> > like."
> [snip]
> Hi,
> I'm an Xfce contributor mainly involved in localization, but with
> interests in usability and design (I use my own true dark GTK+ theme). I
> appreciate Xfce for its extraordinary flexibility which allows me to
> configure my desktop just the way I find it more productive.
> Lately I've been trying and using for some time the alternative GTK+
> desktops (LXDE, Unity, GNOME 3.0) and I've been chewing some ideas for
> improving Xfce that draw from the experience of using the alternatives.
> I have also followed the evolution of other desktops (KDE, OSX and
> Windows mainly, but also the likes of ROX, Haiku and Syllable).
> I've read the pages at https://wiki.xfce.org/design/start and I think
> you are doing a great job, but my ideas are much more radical in
> comparison (not necessarily better, mind you). If I'm allowed to, I
> would like to list them:
>   1) minimizing the waste of vertical space (so precious on a widescreen
> display). Currently a typical app like Midori in Xfce, in a maximized
> state, loses vertical space to: top panel, title bar, menu bar, toolbar,
> tabs, status bar and bottom panel. That's a bit too much. Some apps try
> to compensate for this by merging some of these elements (e.g. Chromium
> merges the title bar with the tabs and the menu bar with the toolbar).
> But the right approach seems to be to do it at the desktop level, like
> Unity, which merges the menu bar and the title bar in the top panel for
> maximized native apps.

I really prefer my menu in the actual application. Sometimes I open a
lot of apps on one workspace, and not having the menus visible as
quickly as I can change applications is painful.

> I wonder if Xfwm4 could integrate in the title bar the menu bar and/or
> the tab bar for native GTK+ apps? Maybe using a GTK module in the same
> league as gnome2-globalmenu (now rewritten in Vala)? This OPTIONAL (but
> default) enhancement, coupled with only one panel, would give users a
> lot more vertical space. And it would work for unmaximized windows too.
> I've also wondered for ages if it would be possible to implement tabs in
> the window manager for apps that do no support them (eg. Thunar). Maybe
> by grouping windows of the same app that have the same dimensions?
> As for the status bar, it seems destined to become an element that is
> only displayed when necessary, as seen in Chromium, Firefox 4 and GTK 3
> apps, so there is no need for an Xfce-specific solution. Can't wait to
> see this and other goodies in action when Xfce will use GTK 3.
>   2) diminishing the scrollbar (as seen in Ubuntu 11.04 and OSX Lion).
> Given the fact that scrollbars and their buttons are rarely clicked
> (because of scroll wheels and keyboard usage), they are generally a
> waste of pixels. They should be slimmer or invisible when static (as in
> mobile OSes) and showing buttons only when the mouse cursor crosses the
> scrollbar area. It seems GTK+ theming is not enough for this, Ubuntu
> 11.04 has bundled some specialized extra packages (*overlay-scrollbar)
> that implement a new GTK+ widget that enables this dynamic behavior.

I use a trackball, a very good, high quality trackball due to medical
reasons. Unfortunately, it does not have a scrollwheel. It is not old,
but the scrollwheel is not built into it. I very much depend on the
scrollbar being visible so I can use it. The keyboard is very hard to
use at times.

>   3) putting the Win key (aka Super) to good use: window manager
> keyboard shortcuts. I've been using such a setup for several years and
> after seeing that Unity is trying something similar in Ubuntu 11.04, I
> wonder maybe it's not such a bad idea to dedicate this key to the
> actions of the window manager. From a usability perspective, Win-Q seems
> a better fit for closing a window than Alt-F4. And it's easy to use it
> for everything: Win-F puts the app full screen, Win-1 gets me to the
> first workspace, Win-LeftArrow changes to the left workspace etc.

The implementation of the "super" key in Unity is questionable. It is
not possible to map to any other key at this time. If you try, you lose
all use of those shortcuts.

> I am aware this would be rather radical, but the shortcuts are
> configurable and to help a bit, Xfwm4 could display the associated
> shortcut in the tooltip that appears when the mouse hovers on the window
> buttons. There is also the benefit of using only one hand for any
> shortcut, as most keyboards have two Win keys.
> Other more general ideas related to Xfce are:
>   a) proxy settings should be centralized in the Xfce settings manager
> for all Xfce native apps. I wonder why this is not a general GTK+
> setting? I am aware of the environmental variables, but still...
>   b) there should be a downloadable live CD image and a virtual image of
> the stable Xfce release available prominently at xfce.org, so that
> interested users could rapidly test a default Xfce desktop. I've seen
> the list at http://xfce.org/download/distros, but there are too many
> choices there, some are outdated and none of then seem to showcase Xfce
> apps such as Midori. For the record, live images do boot in VirtualBox
> and the like, but a full-blown virtual machine would be a bit better.
> Well, besides getting you bored, I hope I haven't enraged you too much!
> I would love to debate this kind of issues and use my limited time and
> testing/design/development abilities to help implement the consensually
> agreed enhancements.
> If any... Because I think one of the best things in Xfce is the
> conservative spirit, the fact that only tried and true solutions get
> implemented. I hope Xfce will also adapt what the experiments of Chrome,
> Unity, OSX etc. turn as viable enhancements.
> Thank you for your time,

Hoping for much less radical change, myself.

Charlie Kravetz 
Linux Registered User Number 425914          [http://counter.li.org/]
Never let anyone steal your DREAM.           [http://keepingdreams.com]
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