[Usability]Simpler icon themes?
- From: Gregory Merchan <merchan phys lsu edu>
- To: usability gnome org
- Subject: [Usability]Simpler icon themes?
- Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 15:13:15 -0600
There is a caveat at the end of this. Do not ignore the caveat.
Right now it seems an icon theme to cover every imaginable type.
Incomplete coverage can result in an inconsistent interface.
I know there is work being done at freedesktop.org to have a common
icon theme specification between GNOME, KDE, and the other desktops.
They seem to be stymied at the moment.
There is no reliable way for a user to determine on sight which program
is the default handler for a kind of file. One has to either know or not
care. Perhaps the first item on the Open With menu is the default, but
that is not indicated and for at least folders is never correct.
There is at the OS level a division of file types into regular, directory,
character devices, block devices, FIFOs, symbolic links, and sockets.
Clearly this is not useful for most users.
The MIME RFCs describe a hierarchy with text, image, audio, video,
application, and experimental as basic types. This is a more useful than
the OS types, but I don't think it is a good parallel to a typical user's
I know of two UI's that emphasize the user's mental model in their icons.
There are surely others, I'm just not very familiar with them. The two
I know are MacOS (pre-X) and OS/2. (I've neither sufficiently read the
MacOS X HIG nor used the sytem.) The GUP has links to their style guides,
so I won't duplicate them here.
I'll try to sketch a composite, instead. Both of those systems have a
few basic types. I'll divide them into two categories.
Folders, documents, resources, and templates or stationery pads:
All of these have a basic icon which will have some emblem-like
modification. For example, a template or stationery pad (on OS/2 or
MacOS, respectivly) will look like a stack of sheets with a smaller
icon representing what sort of item may be "torn off".
Programs and hardware:
Icons for these will be as varied as are programs and hardware.
What I have in mind is to have icon themes which require only that the
basic types be covered. As appropriate, these will be composited with
appropriate images for the default handler of the type. For example,
if you have selected `gedit` as your plain text editor, then your
plain text files will have the basic document icon with a gedit logo.
If you have documents produced with Microsoft Word, then they will
sport the AbiWord logo or the OpenOffice.org Writer logo.
What I hope is that icon themes like this will make the system both easier
to configure and easier to use. Configurability will be made easier
by reducing the amount of work needed to make or change icon theme.
Use will be easier because you will be able to look at an icon and not
worry that the document might open in Nautilus text view.
I'm very likely looking at the wrong problem. While writing this, I
got the distinct impression that I'm proposing a kluge over a more
basic problem. I don't think I even have a clue to what might be, yet.
Hopefully somebody else can spot it.
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