Properly identifying applications

Jordan Mantha laserjock at
Tue Jun 9 16:15:51 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 8:45 AM, Soren Hansen<soren at> wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 09, 2009 at 09:50:26AM -0500, Patrick Goetz wrote:
>> 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?

It is useful if you  know that that is the name of the app/package.
While I totally agree that for new users "Evince" gives no idea as to
the function of the app, it's pretty much equally difficult for people
who know the name but can't remember what the task name is. For
instance, with Gnome-do I have to know what the name of the app is as
it's written in the menu. I have to remember what the silly name for
evince is. I personally expect it to have PDF in the name and always
forget "Document" so I end up having to hunt in the menu to find what
the thing is called. Have you ever tried to open Seahorse via
Gnome-do? What I personally like to see is how F-spot and GIMP do it
where it's listed as <name> <task> like F-spot Photo Manager. It helps
"experienced" users like me find what I want, helps inexperienced
users know what apps do, and helps them if they need to know the name
in the future (say getting support or filing bugs).

>> 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.

I can see where you're coming from, but do you really think that it
doesn't matter to people if the default app for a task changes? I
mean, I guess in an ideal world one shouldn't have to worry about the
name of the app they are using but for right now it very much does. If
I call up my university help desk and say I need help with how my web
browser acts with their site the first thing they ask me is what
browser I'm using. If all I can say is "in Ubuntu it just says Web
Browser" I'm not going to get very far.

Additionally, people aren't stupid, it's possible for them to learn
app names and I don't know that we need to treat them as if the actual
name of the app their using is over their heads. The important point
is that they shouldn't be left with *just* an app name in a menu as it
lacks almost all context (I know this "Pidgin" thing has something to
do with the Internet but I have no idea what it does).


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