[Usability] Printing dialog and GNOME


I am Till Kamppeter, project leader and maintainer of linuxprinting.org
and Foomatic. I am also developer for Printing and Digital Imaging at
Mandriva in Paris. But I do not only work on the site and on Mandriva
Linux, I am in general trying to make printing with free software better.

I am joining the GNOME usability list to discuss the printing dialog of

10 days ago I have been on the OSDL Desktop Architects Meeting in
http://www.linuxprinting.org/till/dam2005/photos/) and there I have also
talked about the printing problems. And we all were of the opinion that
the GNOME printing dialog (and also the printing dialogs of Firefox and
Thunderbird) needs improvement.

We considered especially as the problems of GNOME's printing dialog that
there is no access to the full feature set of the printer according to
the PPD file used for the CUPS queue. Also pre-processing (N-Up, ...)
and scheduling options (hold until 6pm, ...) of CUPS are not available
in the GNOME dialog but they are available in the KDE dialog.

Today I talked with Frederic Crozat, GNOME packager/maintainer and
desktop developer here at Mandriva, and David Barth, vice president for
engineering, about the development of the printing dialogs in GNOME,
Firefox, and Thunderbird.

Frederic told that the options from the PPD file are intentionally mot
listed in the printing dialog, the usability team of GNOME was against
listing these options. They clutter the dialog and can be more confusing
than useful to the user.

But on the other side the user wants to make use of the full
functionality of his printer. He has payed for it.

So I discussed with Frederic about possible solutions, especially about
how to present the options in a better way. Suggestions are

- Devide up the options in well-chosen groups

- Make sure option names are always the same for options which do the
  same on printers from different manufacturers

- Let option names and their I18N not come from the manufacturers but
  from a neutral usability team, so that they are optimized for
  usability and not for marketing

- Assign images to these common option names (and also the appropriate
  choices) to make clear what the options mean, a picture tells more
  than a thousand words.

- Set up a translation database which translates the manufacturer's
  option names to the common option names

- Set up a database of usability ratings of options. Which ones are the
  most useful? Which ones cannot be left out because otherwise the
  printer is rendered unusable (or cannot be used for the task for which
  it is made for)? Which ones do rather confuse than help the user?
  Which ones are completely irrelevant in a Linux/Unix printing
  environment? These ratings will help to place the options in the
  dialog: Essential, important options should be directly visible, less
  important perhaps only in a sub dialog, which is opened by clicking an
  "Advanced Settings" button, or by switching the dialog into an "Expert

So what do you think?

I will also organize a Printing Summit in 2006 (most probably March,
April or so) where desktop and usability will be one of the main
subjects. There everyone who works on the developemnt of printing should
meet. Not only driver and spooler developers should come, but also
people working on printing integration in desktop environments (KDE,
GNOME, ...) and document-producing applications (OOo, Scribus, KOffice,
Firefox, ...) should participate. So I want to invite also people from
the GNOME usability team and from GNOME printing to discuss the best way
with other printing people. Probably this will help us to get onto the
right way for an easy-to-use printing dialog also for feature-rich printers.


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