Re: The relationship between Desktop and Panel

Dan Kaminsky wrote:
> > However, we can reduce the likelyhood of
> >the user's desktop becoming a huge graveyard of icons by giving them a
> >more elegant and efficient means of accessing their favorite/most used
> >items. Ever see a typical Win95 user's desktop? They have the tendency of
> >amassing dozens of icons on the desktop, all shortcuts, because they
> >neither want to bother with digging them out of folders, or accessing
> >them via some clumsy-ass hack like the "Start" button.
> "Clumsy-ass hack".  Are you sure you aren't attacking a structure because of
> who makes it and not what it is?  

Isn't that a little presumptuous, that every rip on Microsoft's
software is in reality a shallow attack on the company's
character?  Microsoft has _earned_ its reputations.  Persistently
and continuously.  Your accusation contains a logical fallacy. 
Just because lots of people bash MS at a personal level, doesn't
mean that everyone does, nor that we should tiptoe around
examining and illuminating the flaws and good ideas in their
software, just to avoid besmirching the reputation of Microsoft's
software.  If every critique here is attacked on a personal
level, we'll get nowhere.

> The start menu is *made* bad because of
> what goes in it--sorts by company names instead of app title or
> category(thank marketing), the existance of the Programs menu, and--this is
> the key--an unnecessarily obtuse method of fixing the contents.
> What's interesting about all the above is that they refer to filler bugs,
> not concept bugs.  The GNOME interface can be made absolutely awful in much
> the same way that the Start menu can; it's just that it won't screw up like
> that by default.
> Yes, I'm going to keep on repeating why the Start menu isn't crap until
> somebody replies or people stop inaccurately bashing Microsoft.

I think that's already happened.  I've heard many high-quality
comments on the limitations of the Microsoft Start Menu.  I'm not
sure which inaccuracies you're talking about.

To add to the fray:

The Start Menu is bogged down by legacy backwards compatibility
(which usually involves a clumsy-ass hack of some sort (c: ). 
Windows install programs have to be able to transparently add
their applications to both the Win95 Start Menu, and the NT 3.51
Win3.1-style Program Manager.  The older Program Manager is
NON-hierarchial, so this limits the installer to putting icons in
a single folder.  Using the standard install programs (notably
InstallShield), you can set up a slightly more hierarchial
structure for the Start Menu, but only with great time & effort
(and thus expense).  The tools that exist to do this are very
poor.  I ended up writing the install code myself to do this for
our software.  There were other reasons for this (i.e. heavy
customization, network install, etc), but the differences between
the Start Menu & Program Manager figured prominently in our

This backward compatibility, as much as anything, leads to
everything ending up in the Programs submenu.  You can change
that, as a user, after the fact, but it's a lot of work.  You can
add your own custom menus above the Programs menu, but few
install programs give you that option up front.

Another point.  Typically, each application (MS included) will
add 3-8 related icons to the folder, including FAQ's, help files,
uninstall icons, web links, etc.  This pretty much prohibits the
use of a decent categorization system.  You _don't_ want to put
your common apps in the same submenu, because you'll end up with
5x as many icons as you have applications.  Talk about hunt &
peck clutter!  This is the standard Microsoft way, circa Win3.1. 
They did not clean this up in Win95, nor Win98, nor does it look
like they will.  They set the standard, and the other vendors
_followed_ their example.

> This isn't a bug of the start menu.  It's a bug with the default
> implementation.  There's a big difference.

Okay, how about this?  The bottom seven menu entry points in the
Start Menu (i.e. Shut Down, Run, Help, Find, Settings, Documents,
Programs) are _not_ configurable.  If you want the Programs menu
to come up as the bottom-most item (right next to the Start
button), you can't move it.  Too bad.  It's stuck at the top of
the start menu, as far from the Start button as it could be.  Why
is this?  Part of Microsoft's misunderstood good intentions? 
Doubt it.  And if you don't like their order, what can you do? 
Write a letter to Microsoft.

You also can't change the names of those static menus.  I believe
you can change the icons (with 3rd party software, or by
hand-editing the registry, shudder), but not with any ease.  You
can also add items to some of these seven static menus (e.g.
Find), but only by writing (complex) custom code or running 3rd
party apps.  It's not in the Windows interface to do this.

Not only is the Start Menu poorly organized, it's also very hard
to change, aside from the Programs submenu.  This goes much
deeper than the default implementation.  

George, I can't recall off the top of my head (my GNOME is at
home )c: ), but is it possible to change the position of any
menu, even the System menu?  What are the boundaries of menu
configuration in the panel?  Obviously, to avoid total chaos, we
need guidelines.  I'm just wondering where the mortar is that
holds the bricks together.  (c:

> [Example of how putting checkboxes everywhere ends up OK for new users but
> is just ugly and distracting all around]
> What about giving the selected gnomeprint menu item an "enpanel/depanel"
> button, or a checkmark, and then italicizing/underlining any entry that's
> existing on the panel?  Would that self-document sufficiently while
> preventing the admittedly high level of repetitive ugliness you refer to?

I think you're trying too hard.  The foot menu should be as clean
and straightforward as we can make it.  I agree that the
checkboxes or text formatting, or whatever, would be helpful (if
done tastefully), but not in the lime light.  The users shouldn't
have to fish through it every time they open up an application. 
I like the idea of putting it in the menu editor, out of the way.


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