My Little Blog

July 24, 2010

Plasma – the GNOME way

Filed under: Uncategorized — kmi @ 15:56

I just stumbled over The Board via Planet GNOME.
Judging by the video it’s a bit of a mixture between Plasma Desktop (free placement of applets), Plasma Netbook (“pages”), and Apple’s Keynote presentation application (the theme and page flipping animation looks a lot like a presentation I did years ago with Keynote 1.0 or 2.0 when I was still a Mac user).

No idea whether The Board ever enters mainline GNOME 3.x, but it’s great to see that our concept (which is in itself also an evolution of Konfabulator etc.) gains followers from outside our immediate community. This gives us a fresh set of eyes with respect to usability decisions.

Hopefully in the future Plasmoids can be used within The Board and The Board applets in Plasma.

21 Comments

  1. Calling The Board Gnome’s “Plasma” seems under-selling the framework aspect of Plasma to me.

    From a casual look at it, The Board seems to be a fairly fixed-function application; you could whip up something like that in Qt in a weekend or so, too. Plasma on the other hand is a framework in which you can implement a variety of different UIs, not a set of very particular UI elements like The Board currently seems to provide. There are theming and animation systems, there is a frontend/backend split between data providers and visualizations for them, support for entire new widget technologies can be added via plugins, there are comprehensive scripting bindings and a ton of other stuff that make Plasma an incredibly flexible and extensible platform, not just an application that provides a specific UI.

    Note that I’m not saying The Board isn’t interesting; on purely an UI level, there are some similarities between it and some workspaces KDE has implemented within the Plasma framework, as you mentioned, and the two could probably exchange ideas on that level. But let’s not go as far as saying Gnome has replicated Plasma here.

    Comment by Eike Hein — July 24, 2010 @ 17:21

  2. I noticed same thing right away. It is not bad thing but there are few improvements what should be copied back to the Plasma.

    1. The easy way to add/remove and manage the widgets. No lock/unlock feature what riples the whole function. The Plasma is broken by the lock / unlock idea. We need to have possibility to add photos, links, icons, folder views to desktop. We need to have possibility to manage the widgets (rotate, move, resize) as well. Only thing what should need unlocking is the removing some widgets.

    2. The idea of the activities. That is something what is not yet finished and might not ever come. But Plasma Desktop and Plasma Netbook needs that every activity (and so on every virtual desktop) can have own independent set of the panels. We need to have possibility to have one activity where is one panel, other activity with three panels and third without any panels. (and we need to have possibility to have panels deattached from the side of the desktop, to have more like Mac OS X dock. But freely movable).

    3. The streamline function to add something. In the video, everything was simple because there was only few options (few backgrounds, few widgets) but we need to focus for easy widget management. Like you would place a post-it to screen size or to keyboard after writing something to it. Then later when not needed you just grab it and throw it to basket. That is the idea of the post-it notes, not that you have permamentaly such in the desktop what adds scrollbar or demands you to unlock/lock widgets just to move/add/resize/rotate such.

    Plasma is way ahead by it technology merits. But it is really lacking the usability to be very usable in daily use. Now if you want to use plasma, you need to keep it unlocked all the time. That adds ugly clutter to panel and to cashew. And it brings all the times the widget management control bar side of them when hovering them. Something is needed to do for the flawed unlock/lock function and how we can add important daily widgets (notes, photos, links by draggin from browser addressbar icon to desktop, shortcuts to files, folder views etc

    And especially we need much, much more simple widgets to have a great notebook or to-do list in our screen.

    My personal opinion is that the widget development has stalled too much. They should not be so hard to be developed, as Aaron has teached with javascript widget sessions. But something is wrong that we do not already have hundreds of different widgets!

    Comment by Fri13 — July 24, 2010 @ 18:05

    • I agree with you, creating plasmoids is a “dark area” too.

      I hope that plasmate will help in this regards

      Comment by Framp — July 24, 2010 @ 19:20

  3. Is it just me who really like the look of it?
    We have powerful technologies but we need a better way to create appealing themes, IMHO

    I’d be quite interested in a tool which let me load images and create a cool theme
    I know that the images used are svg (and have several advantages against normal png) but it’s a pity to have such powerful software and not having proper themes.

    just my 2 cents (I don’t want to start a flame)

    Comment by Framp — July 24, 2010 @ 19:19

  4. I very like that App. For me it look way more organic and natural than Plasma. Especially the Animation are more suptle and look like I would think they could behave.- They are more predictable. ALso i like their Interface for resize/remove/rotate more than the plasma one. It is also more suple and doesn’t get in your way. it is simple and looks elegant. I also like the simple activity management more than e.g. the ZUI in Plasma. Even the new solution in SC 4.5 does not look as smooth as this “board” because it basically uses a big panel and not a little switcher like in this one.

    And additionally everything is much more smoother and less choppy compared to my Plasma-desktop. Resizing plasmoids is often far from being smooth.

    The main reason for me to like “the board” is that it looks ways less technical. Plasmoids are often rectangular things in a unified theme with data displayed on it, with notable exception of the sticky notes, the picture frame and the analogue clock. I think the best achievable state for such a system is when you don’t realise you work on a computer. Like with MS Courier Tablet, with was basically a notebook concerning look&feel.

    Comment by Burke — July 25, 2010 @ 00:55

    • As for the technical reasons: Plasma (and everything based on QGraphicsView) still runs with an XRender based backend as default, so is pretty much limited by this framework.
      That said, big resources are being put into QGraphicsView to make it run smootly with the OpenGl graphics system, that will become the “primary” way to run Qt applications (while clutter uses already opengl, but can -only- use that, so no opengl no party)

      As for “the feeling”: an important choice had to be made: for some content is obvious how you represent it, and that is photos and notes. for sopme other is way less.
      you can represent microblogs just with a list of items (so you note immediately you need a scroll area).
      Becomes pretty soon obvious that the only sane way to represent this kind of content is to have a coherent and unified look. Themes are already incredibly complex, if every single widget had its own unique appearance, it would become almost impossible to have a complete theme for everything, and we for sure won’t have enough resources. Everything for having something that doesn’t look coherent at all (look at any mac dashboard screenshot: as soon as the widgets are different from the default ones it starts to look like a dumpster)
      Same discourse for all the duplicate bugs that would derive to not share enough about the implementations of almost identical things.

      Comment by Marco Martin — July 25, 2010 @ 09:06

      • I agree with Burke on this. If the users seem to prefer a “dumpster” like arrangement of stuff on their desktop, then it should be allowed. Also, and Burke must correct me here, what he meant by ‘smoother’ was not technology but the actual usage. Frankly, I am running KDE 4.4.92 right now but I don’t have a single plasmoid on my desktop! The reasons are well explained in some of the comments above. Plasma sure is an excellent engine. Sadly, the final car design is not pleasing enough for an ordinary citizen to drive.

        I have always been a KDE user (and probably will be for a long long time) but i am beginning to feel the chinks in my armour against GNOME. It appears to me that KDE and GNOME are becoming somewhat like (maybe wrong analogy) like Fedora and RHEL. KDE is a technology hot-bed full of ideas. But it takes GNOME to cherry pick these ideas and make them “usable” on the end-users’ desktops. Sure there are Fedora users out there (including me) but we all know RHEL is the real thing🙂

        KDE 4.x series has brought tons of technology to us … now it is time to actually learn from GNOME in getting these ideas in palatable form to the end-users — and I don’t mean developers or even computer experts by any yardstick. Trust me when I say, I still cannot fathom what Activities in KDE 4.x are — most examples show them useful to developers only who need separate use-cases, say, for casual browsing and for serious development work. The demographic of people using new devices is very un-computer-like (for want of a better word) and this is the audience KDE must (repeat must) target. Otherwise, it will be the best desktop technology and code quality wise but not reach the larger populace. This, in my opinion, will be the saddest outcome.

        Having said all that, I am still a staunch KDE supporter🙂

        Comment by KenP — July 25, 2010 @ 12:42

      • As long as the GNOME people think that with enabled image file previews the icons within one window should have different sizes and should be arranged seemingly random, GNOME can’t be usable (IMO).
        I’m also not overly fond of GNOME Shell. I find it clunky.
        Considering that The Board is just a side-project of a single GNOME developer and it’s not even clear an actual product ever emerges from it, let alone that it ever becomes part of GNOME itself.

        Comment by Markus — July 25, 2010 @ 13:00

      • “GNOME people think that with enabled image file previews the icons within one window should have different sizes and should be arranged seemingly random”

        How come you think so?

        Comment by cg — July 25, 2010 @ 13:54

      • “How come you think so?”

        I think so, because I actually know GNOME and not only look at screenshots. Look at this one I just made from Nautilus:
        http://bayimg.com/naNBgAAco

        Image icons are way bigger than the normal icons. Additionally the images cause a big gap between line 2 and 3.
        I can’t stand that abomination of so-called GNOME “usability”.

        Compare Nautilus with Dolphin: http://bayimg.com/NanBLaaco
        Ahhh… the beauty of evenly aligned and scaled icons.

        Comment by Markus — July 25, 2010 @ 14:40

      • Dear Markus, that’s configurable and by default icons are the same size and aligthned, stop trolling, k thx by.

        Comment by Peter — July 25, 2010 @ 14:54

      • Stop accusing me of trolling, liar.
        I deleted my existing Nautilus config before taking the screenshot. What you see on the screenshot is default Nautilus 2.30.1 (except the QtCurve theme, but it does not affect how Nautilus sorts icons).
        And now piss off my blog.

        Comment by Markus — July 25, 2010 @ 15:27

  5. I think that The board is plasma done right.

    Comment by Peter — July 25, 2010 @ 14:51

  6. The video was all very pretty until the Gnome file selector appeared, and then there was just a huge clash between that great clutter animation and smoothness, and then suddenly this ghastly thing straight out of Windows 95. KDE has the same problem and how to migrate to something better than those Windows 95 bits mixed with Plasma/QGrapicsView slickness – it is a really hard problem, but we seem to be tackling it and in my opinion are likely to get there faster than Gnome. I liked the controls that surrounded the widgets – the first version of Plasma looked like that, and maybe it is better than the current ‘toolbar like’ controls arrangement at the right hand side of a Plasma widget. The Squeak Morphic UI also has the controls in a circle round its equivalent of a widget. Overall, I can’t see anything in the Board UI that Plasma couldn’t be tweaked to handle.

    Comment by Richard Dale — July 25, 2010 @ 20:10

  7. “The video was all very pretty until the Gnome file selector appeared, and then there was just a huge clash between that great clutter animation and smoothness, and then suddenly this ghastly thing straight out of Windows 95.”

    He just did not have any theme loaded. It usually does not look that ugly.

    Comment by cg — July 25, 2010 @ 22:52

  8. The board’s main focus is quite different from plasma:
    “space for quickly placing daily records: photos, video, audio, text, and more”

    It’s more like your personal journal, making a “page” for each day, than a desktop.

    Comment by extropy — July 26, 2010 @ 08:00

    • Extropy: See plasma-netbook then, which introduced the page as desktop activity metaphor last year in KDE 4.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIys5hO6cYk

      In that video Marco is demoing it with info widgets, but there is no reason why you should not use it as a daily scrapbook for stickies, photos, structured notes or audio clips.

      Comment by Will Stephenson — July 26, 2010 @ 14:35

  9. locking in plasma: necessary for large installations (companies, schools, governments, etc.)

    simpler add applets / activity switcher: the one in “The Board” won’t scale beyond a handful of items. Plasma has to deal with scale. yes, it’s easy to create something simpler when you say “you have 4 items. go!”

    “why aren’t there 100s of widgets”? go to kde-look.org. there are a LOT there and growing in number all the time.

    Comment by Aaron Seigo — July 26, 2010 @ 23:19

  10. and yes, i agree with Lucas Rocha that The Board and Plasma are not the same at all aside from superficial looks. see Eike Hein’s comment above for why.🙂

    Comment by Aaron Seigo — July 26, 2010 @ 23:20

  11. Good article.

    Comment by DonySoft — July 31, 2010 @ 12:33

  12. The board is plasma right.

    Comment by plasma — August 21, 2010 @ 07:46


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