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Installer UI advices

From: Frederico Muñoz
Subject: Installer UI advices
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 13:56:23 +0100

Hello all,

I'm posting this to -discuss, but if someone things that it would gain
from being in -ui don't hesitate to add a Cc. Since most -ui users are
also in -discuss this shouldn't be a problem though.

As some of you know I'm developing an installer application, with the
original name of Installer.app. As I said previously this is for me
the first stab at a "real" application using GNUstep, so the code
itself is not at all pretty. This is not why I am writing this mail
though, since this will sort itself out the more I learn.

Since Adrian Robert contact me in the hope he could make a GNUstep
package I have been speeding up development (having people wanting to
use the app is an incentive to progress). In recent days I have
changed a number of things, and this is were it stands, and do note
that most, if not all, of this decisions are more or less already

o I changed the main development from the .deb bundle to the .pkg
o I adopted the Apple format for the .pkg bundle (and not the NeXT
o I just finalized the code that actually installs things, so, even
without some things like post/pre scripts, volume checking, etc, the
code I have here takes a .pkg, presents the info, and installs it.

Comments on everything are appreciated, but I have good reasons to
follow Apple's format. The fact that OSX packages can easily be
converted is a side-effect, the fact is that the new OSX format is much
more "stepish" than the older one, since the plistsare in serialized format
and the layout structure lends itself to very simple handling with the
NSBundle methods for getting resources.

This mail is to ask advise on the UI design and even the UI
structure. So, although I welcome any feedback, this is really what I
need feedback right now. General questions on why we need package
management, if it would be better to simply use rpm/deb, etc, are of
course debatable, but I would really like to put those on hold for a

Sorry for the long preamble, here is the "meat":

Currently I use the NeXT Installer.app UI structure more or
less. Instead of a pop-up button (see
http://www.linuks.mine.nu/openstep/installer.png and related) I use
tabs (see http://home.gna.org/installerapp/images/installer_full.jpg
for an old screenshot). This structure allows the user to view in the
same window all the information related to the package without having
to navigate. However they are somethings that can't be put there and
others were a NSPanel must be used (more below). OSX's Installer is
more wizard like. It goes trought several steps (Welcome, Readme,
License, Options, Install, Congrats, or something like that). This
makes the user navigate trough several logical steps in order to
install the package, while having the option to view some specific
info not presented (OSX users help me here, are the files contained in
the package in one of the steps or is there some menu action to
display them?). This are two totally different structures, and I must
decide for one of them. From the opinions I have gathered, and as
predicted, NeXT users or users that like a closer emulation with NeXT
tools prefer my current approach ("makes it easy to see all the info
without having to navigate" seems to be one of the pratical
reasons). Users that use OSX or never used NeXTStep prefer the
"wizard" mode ("it's more logical and easier for users to select
options" is the main reason given).

So, please share your opinion on this point.

Another difficulty I am having with the current format is the way I
will implement stuff like setting the install options (Location if
relocatable, etc) and the install progress. I'm terrible at UI design
(at it shows), so I have them in two panels that pop up when the user
selects Install, one after the other. This is not very good. Using the
tabs to display this stuff (like the NeXT one did with the views)
seems not very logical to me.

This is it. I want the feedback of interest parties on what general
structure to follow, and also some advices on how to actually display
stuff in them.

BTW, the code in CVS is *not* updated, I will correct that as soon as
I remove some harcoded stuff I have in the new .pkg format handling.

Best Regards,


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