opinion on some new prefs

Brian J. Tarricone bjt23 at cornell.edu
Thu Apr 29 17:56:24 CEST 2004

On Thu, 29 Apr 2004 purslow at sympatico.ca wrote:

> 040428 Brian J. Tarricone wrote:
> > * configurable mouse buttons
> > a few people in #xfce wished they could map the window list
> > and/or the desktop menu to mouse buttons other than the default.
> </spectate>
> as a user, i'ld like very much to be able to map mouse buttons:
> left = desktop menu , middle = window list , right = XFCE settings manager.
> that seems natural to me, but others sb able to make their own choices.

i understand that - many people have something they are used to or 
seems to make sense for them.  but the question is this - is it really 
too much to ask to get used to something else?  is middle for windowlist 
and right for desktop menu _really_ unintuitive?

speaking of unintuitive, a right click on a window causing an app to 
launch is most definitely unintuitive.  the right-click context menu 
model, however, is quite prevalent.

> BTW people are very sensitive re how they use their mouse.
> i'm strongly left-handed in this respect (not in all ways),
> but i want to use what are called "right-handed" settings,
> which seem to me much more natural (VICE VERSA for right-handers).

that's interesting that you point that out.  there's a guy here where i 
work who is very much right-handed, yet he uses a left-handed mouse 
(i.e., it's on the left side of his keyboard and the buttons are 
'reversed').  he finds that easier because he's noticed that he can be 
rather efficient at times typing with his right hand only while 
simultaneously mousing with his left hand.

> there was a note in New Scientist recently pointing out
> that this reversed mouse-button setting is easier on the hand,
> again something which seems clear to me (others may disagree):
> your hand rests lightly with middle finger on the left (for me) button
> & thumb on the middle of the right (for me) side of the mouse.

this is interesting.  looking at my mouse...  it seems the most 
efficient position (assuming a 'normal' right-handed layout) is to have 
your index finger on the left button, middle finger on the middle 
button (scroll wheel, in my case), and ring finger on the right button.  
however, i doubt i could get used to this.  i usually end up moving my 
index finger off the left button to use on the middle button when 

at any rate, anecdotal evidence (ahhh, the best kind ^_~) seems to 
suggest that most people don't give a damn about their mouse usage.  or 
perhaps it's that they don't realise that you can switch hands, reverse 
the buttons, etc., and they're just resigned to the fact that the mouse 
will always be a slightly annoying tool to use.

> > if random guy A sits down at a workstation that has xfce4 on it
> > (assume he's familiar with xfce4),
> > he probably expects right-click to open the desktop menu
> > and middle click to open the window list menu.
> this is a very far-fetched case.  usually, people control their own boxes.

it's probable that the majority of people control their own boxes, but 
the reverse is most definitely not a far-fetched case.  there are plenty 
of public labs (think universities and libraries) where people sit down 
for 10 minutes to check their email, do some quick web browsing, etc.  
the last thing on their minds is customising the lab machine's desktop.

now, i'd bet the ratio of xfce running on public workstations vs. the 
number of single-user-ish box xfce installs is pretty low ^_~.

> > * disabling icons
> > currently, you can disable icons in the desktop menu
> > via an attribute in the menu.xml file.
> > i'm not really thrilled with that solution for a couple reasons.
> > if the user <include>s another menu file
> > and 'showicons' attribute contradicts the parent's 'showicons' attribute,
> this seems much more esoteric: why would anyone want to disable menu icons ?
> why include the option at all ?

mainly performance and memory footprint reasons.  xfce, above all, 
strives to be quick and lightweight.  icon searching and loading 
actually takes a good bit of time, and the pixmaps themselves consume a 
not-insignificant amount of memory.  basically i want it to be possible 
to make the menu look exactly as it does in 4.0.x if the user so 

> > * disabling the menu(s) entirely
> > some people, like moritz, don't want the desktop menu at all.
> > there's a configure-time option to disable compile of the menu module,
> > but if you're dealing with binary packages from your distro,
> > the only way to truly disable the menu is to go into $libdir/xfce4/modules
> > and remove the shared lib for the menu.
> again why?  what are Moritz' reasons?  no-one is forced to use it.

because he doesn't use it, and it's somewhat stupid to have something in 
memory that you aren't using.  plus the menu checks every 10 seconds to 
see if it needs to regenerate itself.  on a faster machine, it's 
probably unnoticeable, but on a low-end machine it may be.

> > yeah...  so sorry about my tendency to ramble on.
> > i guess i just think too much about this sort of stuff.
> don't overwork, we need you (grin)!

hehe...  all this thought actually raises another question, one that 
olivier is most qualified to answer.  where do we see xfce going from 
here?  is there a roadmap, or even a well-defined goal?  being "fast and 
lightweight" is a really nice goal, esp with all the bloated crap 
floating around these days, but you have to make a decision somewhere - 
"having feature X, which has a memory and performance impact, is 
important enough to sacrifice some speed."  or the reverse - perhaps 
some features that "everyone else has" aren't worth the footprint.

also, what about usability/simplicity concerns?  i know there are people 
that absolutely _hate_ gnome2 and still use gnome 1.4, because gnome2 
isn't as flexible (well, in many ways it still is, but the methods for 
achieving some hacks aren't nearly as obvious).  i consider xfce to be 
(among other things) a lightweight replacement for gnome2, and might be 
a nice compromise between gnome 1.4 and gnome 2.

do we want to go along with the trend of having a simpler, cleaner 
interface that relies heavliy on sane (and sometimes unchangeable) 
defaults?  most of the papers being written about UI design these days 
seems to focus on simplicity and defaults.

or do we want xfce to be more hacker- and geek-oriented?  this won't do 
much for increasing xfce's userbase beyond hacker-type people, but i 
wonder if there's anything wrong with that.  every 'product' has its 
target audience, and i fail to see why _every_ DE needs to target the 
average-joe user.  part of me thinks, "let gnome and kde dominate the 
mass-market linux desktop - we'll just continue to be what hackers and 
tweakers want."  sure, we may not have the level of integration that 
other DEs have, but i've never considered integration to be the #1 
criterion for a good desktop.  (as you can tell, i'm not an average-joe 

at the very least, i think the "fast and lightweight" mantra is always 
the root goal of xfce, and any feature that has any kind of perf/mem 
impact should be disableable (and modularised for total removal, if 

> > opinions and suggestions would be most welcome.
> > as long as you don't get pissed off at me if i don't agree with you ^_~.
> no, never ... <spectate>

unfortunately, some people do =(.

so should i just stop apologising for rambling on forever, and just 
assume everyone will get the idea that that's just what i do? ^_~


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