Using functional descriptions for default applications' menu entries

Peter Berry pwberry at
Sat Jun 6 12:41:43 UTC 2009

Bug 105685 (
was recently rejected again, on the grounds that "it's not a bug",
despite apparent consensus (from my and another's admittedly biased
perspective) that it is. See previous thread:

I have four media players installed: MPlayer, Xine, Totem and VLC. I
find all of them wanting from time to time and if one doesn't work,
it's useful to be able to try another. So on my system clearly "Movie
Player" is ambiguous and makes it more difficult to find Totem. (It's
also an Americanism and imprecise since it also plays pure audio - IMO
"video player" or "media player" would be better.) I also find it
galling that GNOME devs apparently think it is OK to say Movie Player
= Totem, as if nothing else in the world deserved the name.

The GNOME bug suggests that items such as "Web Browser" or "Movie
Player" omit the program name because they're the default apps for
that purpose. But this contradicts GNOME's own menu naming conventions
as described in the HIG
In a nutshell, they are:
1. Include a functional description.
2. Don't include redundant or confusing information, like "GNOME" or
(in most cases) "Client".
3. If the app's name is itself descriptive, just use that ("AppName"
and "Description" are the same). If there's no appropriate functional
description (e.g. most games), just use the name ("AppName").
Otherwise use the name followed by the description ("AppName

Some examples. Apps with descriptive names include GNOME Character
Map, GNOME Terminal, Remote Desktop Viewer, Dictionary, GNOME Sound
Recorder. There are some examples of almost-descriptive names that are
omitted in their menu items, as common sense would suggest: tsclient
"Terminal Server Client", gcalctool "Calculator", gedit "Text Editor".
Apps with non-descriptive names that have descriptions include Tomboy
"Tomboy Notes", Evince "Evince Document Viewer", gThumb "gThumb Image
Viewer", Evolution "Evolution Mail" / "Evolution Mail and Calendar"
(as appropriate for two different submenus). Two apps, Baobab "Disk
Usage Analyser" and Totem "Movie Player", do not include their proper
names, in spite of rule 3 (in the case of Baobab it seems "Disk Usage
Analyser" is actually another official name). I don't think any apps
bundled with GNOME violate rules 1 or 2 (even "Same GNOME", in which
"GNOME" is part of the name). Most of these are the "default" app,
though that concept is poorly defined in the majority of cases.

Under these guidelines there is no reason at all why Totem should have
a menu item saying anything other than "Totem Movie Player" (or my
preference, "Totem Media Player"). The fact that it's GNOME's default
media player doesn't enter the picture. If it did, a lot more apps
would have their names omitted - Firefox/Epiphany, Tomboy, gThumb,
Evolution, etc. That an app is the default is no excuse for hiding its
identity from the user.

Peter Berry <pwberry at>
Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.

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