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From: Rob Brown-Bayliss <>
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Hi all.  (Sorry bout th length, a few beers seems to streatch most

I am curious as to the general feel of GNOME users on the ease of use

To state my position, I have been around computers since the days when
it was Vic20/C64 vs Apple II rather than windows vs (insert any OS here)
so nearly every thing is easier to use than it was ;o)

But I am now a GNOME user, have been for a little over a year, and
watching things move in a goodish way, but developing some questions. 
In th effort to attract users, and the almost slavish imitation of
amiga/mac/windows style GUI are we missing something?

To explain, my partner is the clasic newbie forever user.  She does not
want to know anything other than how to load a web browser, send email
and type "word" documents (thank god she has not heard of "xl's" yet, M$
marketing is pretty good huh?).  

So, the other week we were creating "word" documents in WordPerfect... 
and she keept forcetting to add the .doc to the file name so her
recipients can read them (being non geeks as well they cant use the
windows open with feature, mind you neither can M$, if you use the open
with on a misnamed word.doc file it open as plain text!  What crap is

I tried to show her how to use GMC to rename, and also copy files to the
floppy etc.  But, when talking her through it over the phone from work I
decided on the command line rather than try to interpret her screen

So I talked her through the mv command, mcopy etc...  And now she is
happily doing this herself.  When she could never quite remember how to
use the GUI she 'gets' the CLI to the point where it makles enough sense
to remeber it!

Now I have been watching the delvelopment of Evolution (so that she can
finaly ditch netscape and stop loseing mail) and it's so like outlook in
appearance that (see the contact manager - have we no imagination any
more?), and reading articles about UI's and finding out this and
that...  In particular the idea of a combined GUI and CLI as in EFM (for
enlightenment) and the emacs style of a GUI with a commandline buffer. 

So I am currious, is Windows (and it's clones - meaning us) too easy to
be used?  I admit that at work I am pineing for a decent term (one that
has tab completion and a history buffer) rather than the cut and paste,
drag n drop file management...  But then again M$ Access GUI is much
easier to use when setting up a DB than a comamnd line DBMS...  

So what doi you think?  Is it our job to make changes to culture?  Can
we take things to the next level?  are we doomed to wander in circles as
the MAC and Windows worlds have for the last 15+ years?  What is the
next level?

I think that if Leanne can get more use from a CLI than a GUI for basic
operations then (no disrespect to her, she is an inelligent woman with
two university degrees who simply thinks cars and computers belong in
the same box) maybe the GUI is not the be all and end all.  If that is
the case what can be gained from including some of the CLI into the
GUI?  Take Evolution as an example, what benefit can be imagined from a
commandline buffer if any?

Just curious, but very intertested in the replies...


  Rob Brown-Bayliss

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From: Karl Gutenberg <>
To: Rob Brown-Bayliss <>,
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Subject: Re: Ease of Use?
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 12:00:45 +0000
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i think i can dare make this a fundamental thing. 

IMO an ideal GUI imposes no need to be taught anything. A GUI gives you a 
framework to explore a given set of functionality step by step. You see 
elements on the screen and you know how to use them, or you can learn, with a 
rapidly increasing learning curve, if the program obeys the look-and-feel 
guide of a platform.

An ideal CL interface to a software allows you to access all of the software 
functionality in one step. This step can be simple as with "cd, mv, ls, mcopy"
and other programs and it can become really weird as to reading through many 
pages of a manual to find the correct set of options..... and making calls of 
many hundred chars in length. But it allows for total automation already 
which is why most people need or love it.

I personally do love Emacs for its combination. What does make this 
combination possible? Well, it's the scripting fascility for each and every 
aspect of the software. 

Would I care to hunt for a menu item, when i know the command's name, no. 
Would I normally know the command name? No....

So if you are talking of forever newbies who rightfully mean to minize the 
effort spent to using software (Emacs as editor is my main tool, so the 
effort pays back, otherwise I'd never have cared....) you are missing the 

I indeed believe that ideal apps should be scriptable. In an ideal world, 
everything a user does, invokes a scripting-engine with some command. As 
such, it would allow you to have a prompt that invokes commands, etc., 
ideally not bound to single language, but with bindings to all popular 
languages with a reasonable default.

You mentioned Evolution... and you critizied it being too close to Outlook in 
some design pure looks aspects. Well, you ought to realize that Evolution is 
not solely about GUI, it's a app architecture tailored to bring services to a 
desktop, like addressbook-server and friends, all indepent of the GUI!

Evolution will evolve in steps I bet. As usual. :-)

Reproducing aspects of well knows GUIs is not a bad idea. I found the Outlook 
GUI always compelling. I just hated where it limited me. Every GUI improses a 
limit..... But you seem to forget.... if people don't like the GUI of 
evolution, they can fire Glade off and make it something different, any day.

I am almost sure, you can find somewhere in the source the glade file and 
rearrange or change the GUI elements to your needs.

If one thing is desireable, it's that Evolution gets stable REAL SOON NOW. 
Email is still the most important internet app.

So if I was to make priorities, I would suggest to get Mozilla, Evolution, 
Gnome2 and StarOffice for Gnome stable as soon as possible. In my own 
opinion, Nautilus is overestimated, but it sure will add to the critical mass.


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I would like to add to this discussion.  I enjoy using GUIs because, as Karl
said, they provide a way to use a program without being taught anything.  Graphics
are also nice to look at and interactions between programs is sometimes easier
with a mouse.  On the other hand, I have learned to use the CL (namely bash) and
I have found it to be quick and powerful.  

A little background on my computer experience:  I first learned MS-DOS 3.3 on
an i286 in 7th grade.  While I was in 8th grade my dad upgraded to an i486 with
Windows 3.1.  In 1995, my dad purchased Windows 95.  I had not much education in
using the CL at that time, and I have since learned that MS-DOS is a weak and
crippled CL.  My freshman year in college I was introduced to Unix (Solaris
running on Sun Ultra 1's).  I have learned how to use a powerful CL and a stable OS
(;-)) and rather enjoyed it.  I installed Linux on my own PC and that's about
where I am now, in my 3rd year of college (I am studying Software Engineering, BTW).

I think that both GUI's and CLI's have their merits and that both should be
provided, as Karl suggested.  However, careful design of both is necessary.  The
Evolution GUI seems to me to be following the StarOffice philosophy: "Do
everything in one place."  That is why I hated the StarOffice UI so much.  It also goes
completely opposite the Unix philosophy of "Do one thing and do it well."  

As far as email clients go, I think Balsa has a rather nice and simple GUI. 
Sometimes, however, I don't have access to a graphical terminal (also with my
mailbox settings) so I use elm.  elm is nice because it can be used in a terminal
and has simple commands.

I think that Evolution should be broken apart into the different services it
provides (at least as far as the GUI is concerned).  The calendar and the e-mail
clients are 2 different applications and should be viewed as such.  Karl said
that Evolution was a "app architecture tailored to bring services to a desktop,
like addressbook-server and friends, all indepent of the GUI!"  How is the
architecture independent of the gui?  Could several different GUI's (frontends?) be made
to work with evolution?  If so, I think that is the way to go (with adding a
CLI of course).

On a more developer-oriented note, what is the best way to make an app with
both CLI, GUI, and scripting capabilities?  

I have heard of libguile, though I haven't used it or looked at the API, and I
think that it would be a good way to add scripting to GNOME apps.  Scheme is a
nice, clean language that is not really difficult to learn (much simpler than


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