Monday, March 02, 2009

Usability Lessons Linux DE's Can Learn from Windows

I use both Windows and Gnome and KDE on Linux. Here are three usability lessons Linux DE's can learn from Windows. All three lesson's have to do with animations/effects in GUIs.

1. Make the taskbar opaque with maximized windows: I love transparencies. I really do. When we were still playing around with XP, I installed WindowBlinds and got a transparent panel for myself. You can see the wallpaper behind the windows and also through the transparent panel and it highlights the illusion of the windows being 'above' the wallpaper. It looks nice.

However, when you maximize windows, the wallpaper disappears, except for the transparent bit behind the panel. The illusion is lost and the transparency just looks inconsistent. I think that's why Vista makes the title bar and panel opaque when one or more windows and maximized.

2. Show minimize animations behind the next focussed window: When you minimize windown kwin4 or compiz, the minimize animation is shown above the window that gains focus next. Now, the user has minimized a window most likely to gain access to another window. It is not a good idea to make the user wait for the minimize animation to play out before he gets to see the window behind it.

Vista does it in a clever way. It shows the minimize animation behind the window that gets focus next. It's clever and more usable.

3. Blur behind transparency: Transparency is good but makes identifiying the foreground object difficult. An easy way out of it is to blur the backgrounds. Most notably, it makes the text easier to read on the foreground. I know that compiz, kwin4 etc support blurring, but it's not turned on by default. It should be.

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