Properly identifying applications

Soren Hansen soren at
Tue Jun 9 15:45:56 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jun 09, 2009 at 09:50:26AM -0500, Patrick Goetz wrote:
> It makes sense to me that all applications should be identified by
> their name as well as their function in gnome GUI menus.

I disagree. I /love/ the fact that our menu's aren't full of meaningless
names of applications. In fact, Gimp's and f-spot's menu entries annoy
me *a lot*.

> Furthermore, not doing so frequently increases confusion for naive
> users.

You think "Evince" is more helpful than "Document Viewer"? How so?

> For example, due to ongoing bugs with the linux acrobat reader
> postscript rendering engine, users frequently come to our office
> because they couldn't print a pdf file.  We tell them to use evince
> instead of acrobat reader.  They look for a program called evince in
> the menus, and can't find anything. 

Couldn't this be easily resolved by you telling them to use "Document
Viewer" rather than telling them to use "Evince"?

> No one knows to look for "Document Viewer" 

If you put yourself in the place of someone who is not used to Linux:
You have a document you want to open (and for some reason you don't just
click on it in Nautilus, but let's ignore that for a little bit).  How
are you supposed to know to look for something called "Evince"? How is
having that name in the menu going to be helpful?

> Of course the complication in the linux world is the plethora of
> choices which exist for each application type, especially on larger
> networks like ours where users are strongly opinionated about which
> {editor, compiler, pdf viewer, image viewer, browser, etc.} is the
> best one and must be installed.  How to create a manageable user
> experience for the less knowledgeable user in the presence of dozens
> of choices for each task?  I'm not sure what the answer is at the
> moment, but a no-brainer choice is to clearly identify WHAT
> application is being invoked from the menu.

I couldn't disagree more. The no-brainer choice it exactly to NOT show
which application is being invoked. What's important is the task it
performs, not what it's called. If the user needs to know the name of
the application he's using to do something, we're doing something wrong.
To view documents, you use a document viewer. If we change the default
document viewer at some point, the user's experience shouldn't change.
They shouldn't have to know that we've replaced Evince with
FooPDFViewer. They should just keep using "Document Viewer" and have the
best possible experience.

Soren Hansen                 | 
Lead Virtualisation Engineer | Ubuntu Server Team
Canonical Ltd.               |
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