[Desktop_architects] Printing dialog and GNOME

Linus Torvalds torvalds at osdl.org
Tue Dec 13 10:10:36 PST 2005

On Tue, 13 Dec 2005, Havoc Pennington wrote:
> Just to be pedantic for the record, when someone bothered to get the
> real facts the feature in question was not shot down in the name of
> usability.
> Neither was the WM feature you brought up (and I can attest to that
> one with 100% certainty since I would have done any shooting down that
> did or did not happen)

Does it matter _why_ gnome is inflexible? Not really. The "real reason" 
seems to depend on who you talk to, but that doesn't change the underlying 

And the fact is, everybody uniformly seems to agree that gnome isn't 
customizable. Whether the reason is "usability", "avoiding clutter", "I 
couldn't get it to work" or anything else. Even you seem to agree, you 
just don't agree that it's needed.

And quite frankly, regardless of whether you agree or not, the 
overwhelming evidence is that gnome eschews user configuration. A number 
of things aren't configurable at all, and others are (I'm told) 
configurable by editing some regedit like magic file that even gnome users 
are afraid of.

> Is your proposed guideline here that if any alternative OS/WM has a
> feature, GNOME has to have it? If not, which "flexibilities" do you
> consider important? How do you decide? That's the guideline I'm asking
> you to think about and suggest here.

The very fact that you even _ask_ is telling.

The fact is, developers don't know what their users are going to need. 
That's a very fundamental issue in any software engineering. The other, 
almost as fundamental issue, is that asking users is usually not very 
productive either, because (a) different users will give you different 
answers and (b) users often don't even know.

So when you ask "which flexibilities do you consider important", you're 
pretty much BY DEFINITION asking for something senseless. It's akin to 
asking how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

But the fact that users and developers don't know does NOT mean that 
customization is bad. Quite the reverse. It means that defaults make 
sense, but since you don't know what they'll be doing, you should always 
strive to have ways to let _them_ make the choice when they have some 
reason the default doesn't agree with them.

Those users may not know before-hand (which is why asking them is 
pointless), but people actually _like_ twiddling around, changing fonts 
and personalizing their machine. It may not be "productive", but it sure 
as hell is user-friendly.

> You're bringing in the mysterious "they" again. If there are specific
> people saying specific things, then point out who and what. So far
> every specific example we've chased down (file selector location
> entry, print dialog PPD, configurable WM buttons) has had a different
> backstory than this stuff about "usability"/"confusing to idiots" you
> mention.

Is it so hard for you to just accept the fact that gnome tends to be less 
configurable than its counterparts? And you can protest as much as you 
want, but that "usability" and "avoiding clutter" thing is brought up as 
the reason, over and over again. It was brought up as the issue in this 

If you are serious about it NOT being the reason gnome is so limited, then 
why don't you tell other gnome people to just SHUT UP with that excuse 
already, then?

Do you seriously dispute that in almost all areas, Gnome tends to be less 
configurable than the competition.

Anyway, if you want the _one_ thing that drives me crazy, here's mine:

 - I want to push the front window to the background. I work with lots of 
   big windows, and clicking on the window bar to bring it to the front is
   fundamentally not possible when it's under another window.

   I don't want to use a magic keysequence to walk through all my windows. 
   I want to use a mouse button. And I know gnome can do it, because when 
   I use the middle mouse button, it actually works. But guess what? I 
   want it on the right button. I've got several reasons for that, ranging 
   from my laptop not _having_ a middle button, to just plain being used 
   to it. The reasons don't matter. Everybody else makes it configurable, 
   not because I want my behaviour, but because those developers have 
   realized that different people have different preferences.

   And every single other WM I know of has no problem assigning the 
   different actions to different buttons. Some WM's let you program these 
   things almost totally freely (fvwm), others have a small fixed set of 
   actions that they allow you to bind to the window behaviour - but they 
   allow you to bind to the mouse button YOU want. Gnome? Nada. I'm 
   surprised it even allows "focus-follows-mouse" behaviour (which as 
   everybody knows is the only correct behaviour, and only God knows why 
   both KDE and gnome default to that horrid click-to-focus, but notice 
   how I'm not complaining about _that_ BECAUSE I CAN FIX IT!)

That's _my_ one thing. I bet almost everyone will have a quirk like mine. 
My quirk may be stupid and simple, but it's important to _me_. And it's 
entirely possible that metacity already can do this. I'd not be surprised 
at all if the functionality were to be there, but allowing it to be 
configurable would be "clutter".

Or maybe the functionality just _isn't_ there, and metacity just doesn't 
do it. I know you've had people complain about mouse button configuration 
(because you told me that the only people who _do_ complain are UNIX 
people), so there must be some reason why you ignore user requests.

It can't be technically hard (you already have the functionality, you just 
don't have a way to select which button to use). And as mentioned, it 
can't be because people haven't complained. And you claim it's not about 
"confusing the user". So what _is_ the reason then? Considering that EVERY 
OHER WM does it (yeah, yeah, I suspect that you could find some really 
stupid and old one that doesn't, but you know what I mean).

And realize that this isn't about _my_ quirk. This is a bigger issue. 
Listen to some of the people who have piped up. Read slashdot (yeah, I 
didn't realize that this was a public mailing list or I might have been 
more polite. Or maybe I wouldn't have. Screw slashdot).

IOW, I'm not the only one who complains about lack of configurability, and 
I'm pretty sure that my "right mouse clock needs to push things back" 
thing is not what everybody else is asking for ;)


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