[Usability] Re: [Desktop_architects] Printing dialog and GNOME

Havoc Pennington wrote:
> I'm just suggesting that if you wanted to talk to people about this
> it'd be good to cook up some details. What kinds of things can
> printers do? What kinds of users use those things or buy those
> printers? How do those things fit in to the person's work or fun?
> Designers aren't going to want to talk about the idea of "stuff in the
> PPD file," they're going to want to talk about "stuff people want to
> do."

In general, there are printers for well different tasks (like the cars
you mentioned), so the set of available options can never be completely
hardcoded into a dialog. Photo inkjets have options for borderless,
color adjustment, special paper, ... office lasers offer choice of input
and output trays, double-sided, stapling, ... To get special features of
printers accessible in printing dialogs Adobe has defined the
platform-independent PPD format to describe the capabilities of printers
using their platform-independent PostScript language. On Unix/Linux
platforms applications produced PostScript for printing and
non-PostScript printers get host-based PostScript printers with the help
of GhostScript. And in this situation one can make PPDs for every
printer and CUPS has gone this way. Even Mac OS X (which uses CUPS)
makes use of PPDs in its printing dialog and makes every option available.

The way how KDE, XPP, and Apple do is putting the most important and
common options like paper size, quality, trays, ... onto the first, most
visible tabs of the dialog. All options which are not explicitly known
to the dialog or simply less important go onto an extra tab, visibly
divided up into the option groups defined in the PPD file. In
printerdrake I do a simple (not printer-model-dependent but global)
rating of option importance into the classes "show always" and "show
only with 'Advanced' button clicked". It simply bases on a list of
option names for options to be classified "show always".

> I think most designers would be primarily worried that something
> important in the PPD stuff is only exposed as autogenerated cruft UI
> on the advanced tab. i.e. they'd want to be sure anything important
> had a good, visible UI somewhere (in the dialog or somewhere better).
> Once a designer understood the set of important things, I bet they'd
> be fairly indifferent about dumping all the rest that a couple people
> somewhere possibly care about on an Advanced tab.

Importance of options should be taken care of in interface design,
current interfaces already put things like paper size, quality, trays,
... to the front, with widgets especially designed for these options.
This is some kind of global, model-independnet classification. The only
model-specific classification are the option groups. They do not
directly say what is important and what not, but they help to order the
options for easily finding them and which options not to show
("Installable options" group --> only for admin) or to shore more
prominently (Most important options are usually in the "General" group).
 Respecting thes groups one can already get together a nice dialog, But
printer manufacturers are also encouraged to make use of option groups
in their PPDs.

I also think we should for now quickly get some simple solution (for
example adding a tab for the PPD options) and then on the long run
improve the dialog for better usability (add more GUI hints and
importance rating to PPDs, option icons/pictures, common option names,
...). This way people get more quickly something working and we have
time to do something better.


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