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Re: Installer UI advices

From: Jesse Ross
Subject: Re: Installer UI advices
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 21:49:28 -0600

Am I right in thinking that your primary objection to an installer application is user feedback and ability to organise files?

If that's so then I think you're looking in the wrong place for a solution.


Flexibility in organising where your applications go is limited by the OS. Additionally, it's actually nice for anyone who needs to work with many different machines if they can find their way around easily. Standardised places help this a lot. It also helps less sophisticated users by helping them with the decision. Users can be free to install the actual app anywhere they want if they tell the installer where to put it.

If you want immediate feedback on where the application has gone I'd have thought the right thing to do is provide that feedback. The desktop/workspace should do something appropriate.

For example; at the end of installation, the icon of the installed application quickly moves from the installer window to a place on the dock.

I'm going to blame all of this on how I was raised. :)


I know that this list has it's share of Mac users, but I don't know how many of them were Mac users before OS X. If there are any, maybe they can tell me if my memory is bad. I grew up on Macintosh. My first computer was an Apple Centris 650 and I've used "classic" Macintosh OSs (7,8,9) more years than I've used OS X. In that system, there was a System folder, which you only touched when you needed to modify the system. Everything else was up for grabs. You could organize it however you saw fit. Of course it was a bitch for standardization, but it was more about freedom of organizing _your_ space, _your_ computer. Once I started using OS X and Linux, I was abhorred by all these folders that meant nothing to me, and were taking up _my_ mindshare and field of vision when I went looking for my files. Why should I have to see any of this crap? Does it have any bearing on just getting my work done? Why can't I throw them away? Why, when I try to put things in them, does it tell me I'm not authorized? It's _my_ computer... shouldn't I be able to put things where I want and move what I want where I want?

This is mindset of the typical user. Put the power in their hands to do what they want with their computer, and don't make the computer invade into their lives and space.

This invasion of the computer's world into the user's world is not exclusive to *nix. Windows is the same way, so countless people get used to having to see their workspace littered with things they shouldn't have to deal with. I don't think that's right. They should be able to manage their computer as they see fit, not how the computer sees fit. The computer should be invisible.

This is my biggest qualm with package managers and installers and software you have to use first to get the software you really want (Frederico, I'm not trying to down your work -- you're doing a good job and don't stop because I get into a rant about usability and user-empowerment). I don't know how many times I've done apt-get install somesoftware, and then I can't figure out where my software went to. Maybe it's in /usr/bin, maybe it's in my home folder, maybe it's in the start menu. I have no idea, it doesn't make sense to me. Maybe that's because I grew up on a Mac, and so I see where it was at its best (drag and drop and done) and want to use that everywhere. It's ridiculous how much _work_ I have to do just to set up a Linux machine, and how much hunting around the system I have to do. I've learned a lot about how it all works, but the point is, I shouldn't have had to, and your average, web-surfing end user isn't interested enough and won't take the time to. They will say "this is too hard" and give up.

There are ways to make this stuff easier on the end user. It can be done. If it means more programming, or more effort up front for the developers, but it means an easier life for end users, then it's worth it. We tend to do this for ourselves, but if we want to make something that changes how everyday people work and communicate and live and interact, then we need to think of them.

No, better than that. We need to think _like_ them.

They HATE computers. They just want to get some work done. They don't want to think "I'm using a computer" -- they want to think about the paper they're writing, or the photos they're organizing, or the web site they're looking at. They don't want to think about compiling software so that it works for their machine, or hunting down dependencies, or adding repositories to a sources list, or finding out where that installer put their app. They want to be able to download an app, drop it on their machine, and use it and have it work.

These are big problems to try and solve. I'm not saying I have all or any of the answers. I just think that there is a way to make all of this easier, more invisible. Wouldn't making an open source system that is easier to use than a Mac be an amazing and worthy feat? I want to make something I could give my mom, and have her understand. She's frightened of computers, and I want to make something she can manage and not be afraid of. If I didn't think GNUstep was a great base for that "something", I wouldn't be here.



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