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RE: [Bug-gnubg] Good beta release! (Suggestions)

From: Richard Anderson
Subject: RE: [Bug-gnubg] Good beta release! (Suggestions)
Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 17:27:43 -0700

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jim Segrave [mailto:address@hidden 
> Sent: Monday, May 17, 2004 4:36 PM
> To: Richard Anderson
> Cc: 'Joern Thyssen'; 'GNU Backgammon Bugs'
> Subject: Re: [Bug-gnubg] Good beta release! (Suggestions)
> On Mon 17 May 2004 (14:23 -0700), Richard Anderson wrote:
> >   I notice that there has been a
> > > commendable
> > > > effort in gbg to conform to some Windows UI standards; I'd
> > > like to see
> > > > this taken further.  I realize that some of the Windows UI
> > > standards
> > > > may not be ideal, but when third party apps follow the existing 
> > > > standard it flattens the user's learning curve enormously.
> > > 
> > > The primary target of GNU Backgammon is GNU/Hurd or 
> GNU/Linux, so in 
> > > general we should not try to conform to MS Windows UI standards 
> > > unless they happen to coincide with their open source equivalent.
> > > 
> > > J?rn
> > >
> > 
> > I would hope that the primary target of GNU Backgammon is 
> human beings 
> > and that political considerations would be secondary.  Good 
> developers 
> > write good code, regardless of what organization they are 
> associated with.
> But some developers - me, for one - hardly ever use Windows 
> and when I do, I find it to be counter-intuitive and 
> sufficiently annoying that I'd be unlikely to ever use it as 
> a reference. This isn't a political issue, per se - I don't 
> use Windows as it's unsuited for the work I do. I do find 
> navigation in the file chooser to be slow, cumbersome and 
> generally awful, I find the treatment of the Enter key as 
> marking a whole form as completed instead of an entry on a 
> form, the use of tab to skip between fields instead of as a 
> whitespace generator (although I think IBM did this on 
> 2780/3780 terminals), the list goes on and on. I usually end 
> up cursing loudly whenever I am forced to spend more than a 
> couple of minutes on a Windows box. I didpute that the 
> interface is intuitive, it is ubiquitous and people accept 
> its idiosyncratic behaviour simply because they've not seen 
> others and they expect computers to do weird things by their 
> very nature.
> -- 
> Jim Segrave           address@hidden
Well, I should have known better than to get into a political discussion.  I
acknowledge that Linux/Unix and Mac users will find the Windows environment
difficult when they first log on, but of course the reverse is true also.
The bottom line is that GNU Backgammon for Windows is a Windows app and
Windows users have an easier time using Windows apps that conform to Windows

"Weird" and "intuitive" are subjective terms.  Microsoft has spent a lot of
money and time (over a decade) to make Windows more user-friendly; the
current UI is at least an order of magnitude more usable than Windows 3.1.
If a Windows app fails to follow Windows standards it is likely that the
user community will have a hard time using it. 

Of course, within the context of the GNU Backgammon project, you have to
balance this against limited programming resources and the need to support
multiple platforms.  I think Oystein's suggestion of adopting the Gnome
standards makes a lot of sense. The Gnome standard, like Windows, is based
on the Xerox Parc standards and would be fairly easy for Windows users to
adapt to.

Regardless of the standards issue, the current UI looks like it has become a
victim of featuritis and is overwhelming to casual Windows users.  Note the
need for detailed on-line tutorials like Albert Silver's:
http://www.bkgm.com/gnu/AllAboutGNU.html  Of course, complex, full-featured
apps tend to have complex interfaces, but I think I could list dozens of
features the current UI exposes that less than 0.1% of the users will ever
want.  Many of the features are completely mysterious to me.  A review of
the UI might be useful at this point. It would be nice if the UI became
simpler as the project evolves, or a Lite version was released for people
who just want to play backgammon and do rollouts.

What about giving some Windows users who have never used gbg a list of tasks
to perform with the app and getting their feedback?  This is a classic UI
engineering method and usually results in some interesting surprises.

O.K., I hope I haven't permanently alienated you guys with my biased
opinions.  GNU Backgammon for Windows is by far the best backgammon app for

Richard Anderson

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