ShiftPlusOne
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New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 6:48 am

Some ground rules and things to keep in mind:
  • *Be respectful.
    *Don't use loaded terms.
    - Nobody cares if you think something is crippled. What's more interesting is why you think so and how to solve it.
    *Don't point out problems without offering solutions.
    *Don't appeal to tradition (or novelty).
    *Keep in mind that change is always met with resistance.
    -Consider whether you're just reacting to change or actually have constructive criticism to offer.
    *Don't enforce your tastes onto others.
    - If you don't like the default font or the location of the panel, change it and move on.

    Development is driven by feedback. Keep it coming.
Known issues:
  • *Net mounts fail
    *Needs a way to edit the menu easily
So, here's the basic idea behind why things were moved around in the first place.
Let's say a non-technical person fires up the pi for the first time... what's the best experience we can create to keep them engaged?
Is this really what they need to see?
Image

Default menu is cluttered with things which don't even have a GUI and don't run when clicked. Some things are in categories that don't make sense and some have confusing names.
Things which should be trivial take an unnecessary amount of time and have no educational value (switching between audio devices, connecting to the network and so on).

The UI changes are a way to solve those problems and improve the user experience. It's not perfect and it will take time to get right. At this point I believe that despite drawbacks, it offers a better user experience and is worth including as default.

Do you have a better solution? What can be improved and how? What problems are you facing? Discuss...

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 6:56 am

What happened to the change over to Wayland / Weston which would of negated the 2 major updates to the look and feel of LXDE :?:

Personally I like the Lubuntu 14.04 LXDE implementation, but am willing to go with what RPF offer as I do not see the RPi as a Desktop Replacement but a learning tool, and learning can be frustrating ;)
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 7:03 am

fruitoftheloom wrote:Personally I like the Lubuntu 14.04 LXDE implementation, but am willing to go with what RPF offer as I do not see the RPi as a Desktop Replacement but a learning tool, and learning can be frustrating ;)
I agree. I think the RPF really needs to provide what they feel is the best overall experience (even first impression) which supports the education agenda and which is conducive to the same. And, with kids in mind too (especially) the experience needs to make sense, should be clean, and should be as 'noise' free as possible. I have no problem with a 'cleaned up' desktop experience because I don't see the RPi as a gnu/linux distro desktop competitor.

Keep up the good work.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 8:13 am

From a developers point of view: If you create a GUI application and follow the rules, you install desktop files (usually in /usr/share/applications, but there are other possibilities) and Debian menu files. It's the developers task to follow certain guide lines when creating the appropriate files and this includes selecting the right category (and perhaps sub-category) for his application. (http://standards.freedesktop.org/menu-spec/latest/)
Properly installed applications should appear in the LXDE program menu and the Debian menu respectively.

From a users point if view: If I install a GUI application (from a repository or a properly configured application using dpkg) it should appear in the proper category of the program menu. Everything else is not user friendly.

Some GUI programs are not properly categorized (mostly older ones). The usual workaround was to let them appear in the "other" category. At least a better solution than excluding them from the menu completely.

(I'm not aware, that my program menu was cluttered with things that are not GUI programs at all).

It's the developers task to give his software the right title to appear in the desktop menu. Where do we get, if designers start to rename things as they like? A recent example: Idle and Idle3 have been replaced with Python and Python3. Python(3) is not a GUI application at all, but the default Python editors Idle ad Idle3 are. These editors have the same name on all systems including Windows, MacOS and Linux. When it's good enough for millions of systems and referenced in thousands of documents by that name I cannot see a single reason for renaming them to something else. And if you want to do that, then call it something like "Idle (Python Editor)". But removing the program name from the entry is only misleading.

The latest UI-upgrade has removed lxappearance and obconf from the program menu. Instead of those a new, very simple desktop appearance tool has been added, which is not completely compatible with both.
Lxappearance is an integral part of the LXDE desktop system and it is needed when you want to have fine-grained control of your desktop in many ways. Yes, it's complex and has a lot of possibilities. But that's the price you have to pay for a highly configurable desktop. The same is true for obconf, the configuration utility of the OpenBox window manager.
They are still there, but you have to call them from the command line now, although they are regular GUI applications. This means, that most users will never find them and will never be able to control the desktop GUI in the way it is possible.

This is not restricted to the desktop appearance alone but also affects many GUI programs. All developers of GTK+ software that stick to the rules and let the user theme their applications (icon sets, icon sizes, fonts and font sizes etc) with the desktop tools are fooled. I have described it in my Minimal Kiosk Browser manual, how the user can theme the interface of kweb using these tools, that have now vanished for the normal user.

If Simon thinks, that he should add a simple application to change certain desktop settings, I don't mind, of course. But it should stay compatible with the regular tools and he should not hide those tools from the user.

From a more educational point of view: Configuring a computer (software) is a complex thing and will ever be. Removing that complexity from the user will not help him but cripple his possibilities. And it will give him the wrong impression that things are always simple and that he doesn't have to learn anything. The result is a large number of people using computers that are computer illiterates. I've done a lot of support in my life and know what I'm talking about. You won't believe how often I have been called with questions like: I know that I saved my document and cannot find it again. Where is it? And if I asked for the name of the file and the folder where they stored it I got answers like: what is a folder?
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 9:02 am

fruitoftheloom wrote:What happened to the change over to Wayland / Weston which would of negated the 2 major updates to the look and feel of LXDE :?:
Why would Wayland/Weston have negated changes to LXDE? Wayland/Weston is a compositor system, not a desktop. There was a prototype desktop running over Wayland demonstrated at the time, is that what you mean?

Note there is a version of LXDE running over QT, and the QT backend for Weston works OK on the Pi....I did try and get it working recently (which woudl give an accelerated LXDE desktop), but ran out of time figuring out dependency hell.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 9:17 am

I agree that legitimate menu items should not be removed and that "Idle (Python Editor)" is better and more accurate than just "Python" (or whatever it is now). Trying not to contradict existing documentation also seems fairly valuable.

On the other hand, I don't think always developers get it right or that nobody should touch their .desktop files when they don't.

There are problems with lxappearance which warranted the necessity of pipanel. I believe the main one is that it doesn't handle gtk3 themes correctly. Removing the broken tool seems like the safer choice. Even though I don't agree with the decision, I can understand that they didn't do it for fun.

As far as educational value of configuring a computer... I'm not sure that makes sense. Unless you go in there an manually edit gtkrc, rc.xml and various other .config files yourself, you're just using a tool (be it lxpanel or obconf) which twiddles those things for you. You may sometimes be required to know how gtk and qt are configured, but it's not interesting or useful information for your average programmer or a beginner. If you need to know, read the documentation... you're not going to learn anything from lxapperance.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 9:45 am

The thing to bear in mind here is that Pi has two main audiences - the education community and hobbyists. They have differing requirements in terms of software and usability.

The prime focus of Raspberry Pi was originally as an educational tool; that hasn't changed. It is great that the hobbyist / hacker community have got behind it in the incredibly enthusiastic way they have, and we wouldn't change that, believe me! But my intention in terms of UI development is primarily aimed at the educational side. We are trying to position Pi as a general purpose platform to be used as an introduction to computing that can be used at all stages of education, from primary through to undergraduate level, with the main intention being that it is used as a platform on which to learn how to program.

That is an important point - the main intention is to teach people how to program; not how to manipulate and configure Linux and X. Some people will investigate that - which is great - but the important thing is that Pi is usable in terms of getting someone able to launch Scratch, or Sonic Pi, or Python and get on with learning to code. To that aim, I am trying to make the experience of coming to a Pi as a novice, turning it on, setting it up and launching a relevant programming environment to be as simple and friendly as possible.

To a large extent, I am deliberately trying not to be bound by "how we do things in Linux / X" - I am approaching the system from a pure usability point of view, and trying to make the desktop the most usable environment it can be; to the extent that it just works and largely gets out of the way of using the Pi for other things. It isn't a useful learning experience for a school IT department to spend half an hour trying to connect their Pis to wi-fi by rummaging about in config files - that's just tedious extra work. Pi needs, first and foremost, to be easy to use and approachable for the education market, and I believe that all the changes I have made have made significant improvements from that point of view.

I should point out that I have not uninstalled a single piece of software from Pi; I have removed a few from the menu, but they are all still on there, they can all still be launched from the command-line, and there is going to be a menu editor included in the next release which will enable people to add them back to the menu if they want them. But on the specific point of lxappearance and obconf - they are a usability nightmare, as they split the look-and-feel of different aspects of a window into two separate control panels. Yes, there is a good technical reason for that in terms of the underlying aspects of how LXDE works, but there is no good reason to do it from a usability point of view. Furthermore, many of the things which can be modified with those two applications have no meaning to the average user; by cluttering the dialogs with multiple pages of configuration which are only of interest to a minority of tech-savvy users, they render themselves less intuitive to the average user who makes up the majority of the Pi's user base - hence a simpler dialog and an attempt to cut through the mess of configuration options. PiPanel and the PiX theme aren't perfect, but they are, to my mind, closer to what the majority of users might actually want to do than the previous system.

Please bear this in mind when considering UI changes - if you are a seasoned Linux expert, this UI isn't aimed at you. I'd be delighted if you find it useful and want to use it (as I believe it to be a decent piece of UI design in its own right), but I can quite understand if you don't - and if that is the case, you are likely to be the sort of person who is in the fortunate position of being able to create your own UI or to roll back to the default anyway.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 11:05 am

I love the new interface but agree with a lot of the criticism (Idle <=>Python and the current extreme sparseness especially).
I see the current effort as baby steps towards a GUI implementation that 'grows' with the user (and yes, the user here is the young, new computer user, not the 'dyed-in-the-wool' hobbyist.)
Clean is nice and people have a wide range of interests (even newbies) so a one-size fits all approach is not going to work.
The original post already mentions a need to add programs more easily. We can all install Synaptic and go wild, but that will not help the newbie.
What I would really like to see something along the lines of Rpmdrake which offered the option of installing 'families' of programs. So instead of installing a single particular program with Synaptic (or whatever tool Raspbian would use) it would offer your a category ('Music', 'Paint', 'Office', 'Math', 'Programming', 'Web', 'Games'...), each of which would install the most suited 3-5 programs for this category. Easier said than done of course as these things need to be maintained, upgraded etc....
My loudest grumble is that things seem to move so slowly on the SW front ( on the HW front things have been fantastic) As mentioned by others, Westland seems frozen in time and this GUI redesign is moving like a slug through treacle. (No offense to the dedicated guy doing the work!!)
So basically this post is a suggestion to create an install tool for families of software à la Rpmdrake.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 11:10 am

@spl23: Is that you, Simon? If so, I'm glad that you're joining the discussion here.

I'm not looking at this from a Linux experts point of view. I can easily fix the desktop in any way I like (and I prefer a simple Desktop using OpenBox, tint2 and kweb or sometimes Awesome).

If I look at it from a software developers point of view (who creates software especially for the Raspberry Pi), I need a system that "sticks to rules". I try to keep things simple, using system tools as much as possible. For example, in Minimal Kiosk Browser, I use only system Icons and if some are missing from a new icon set, the program will look strange. Then it's important that the user can select another symbol theme.

This is also relevant for the educational aspect. If kids start developing GUI programs and GTK+2/3 are among the most important GUI systems, they should learn to make use of the system resources and how to handle them.

It's certainly a good idea to look for ways to make things easier to use and as I already said, I don't mind if you add simpler configuration tools. But they should not conflict with the default tools. And I still think, that hiding the default tools is not a good idea. Some things cannot be resolved without them. I've often tried to help people here on the forum, who are visually impaired (like myself) and cannot live with the small default font sizes. You really need both tools (lxappearance and obconf) to fix that.

AFAIK, the problems with lxappearance and GTK+3 where introduced with the new, accelerated web browser (engine), when a lot of packages had to to be upgraded to much newer versions, including GTK+3, which are not really compatible with Debian Wheezy any more. Since then all GTK+(2 and 3) applications throw errors and warnings without end (just start them from a terminal). I hope that will be fixed with the migration to Jessie.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 11:19 am

I'm dashing out, so a fuller reply later, but yes, spl23 is Simon Long.

As to your point about needing obconf and lxappearance to set the system font, that is one of the main reasons for the new simplified dialog! If you set the system font in the new Appearance Settings dialog, it changes it everywhere in one step; you don't have to separately change it in lxappearance and obconf - which is one of the significant problems with them that I was trying to fix...

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 11:33 am

spl23 wrote:I'm dashing out, so a fuller reply later, but yes, spl23 is Simon Long.

As to your point about needing obconf and lxappearance to set the system font, that is one of the main reasons for the new simplified dialog! If you set the system font in the new Appearance Settings dialog, it changes it everywhere in one step; you don't have to separately change it in lxappearance and obconf - which is one of the significant problems with them that I was trying to fix...
Good to know for future advise to people. Perhaps you can also include setting the icon size in the future (that's simple and easy to understand).

And welcome to the forum, Simon.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 11:53 am

I have to admit that I don't quite follow the thrust of this thread/discussion.
It sounds like we are discussing a change that happened quite some time ago, as if it were a current (recent) change.

To clarify, I can think of 3 basic "UI looks" that the Rpi has had:
  1. The one depicted in the picture in the OP of this thread. Blue background, prominent "LXDE" logo visible, lots of small nondescript icons on the left. I remember seeing this UI when I was running the Pi under Windows via QEMU (I.e., before the Pi became generally available to ordinary citizens). I don't know if I've ever actually seen it running on an actual Pi.
  2. The one with a pinkish background and lots of large, showy icons on the left. I still have this running on my B+.
  3. The current one, with a grey background and almost no icons. Just a "menu bar" at the top left, from which you can select just 5 things (web browser, file manager, terminal, something that looks like a red sun, and something that looks like a dog in a circle). I've never used either of the later 2, so I don't know what they do.
And an update: the last one listed above has now been updated by the 5/5 updates, which adds a couple of menu items over on the top right hand side.

I'm assuming from the thread title that we are discussing this latest change (which, as far as I can tell, is a pretty minimal change - in terms of "UI look"; it seems to be a more significant change "underneath" - i.e., in terms of the programs implementing the basic networking functionality).

But if that is the case, then why did we start this thread out with a picture of the old (blue, LXDE logo) UI ?
And some folks need to stop being fanboys and see the forest behind the trees.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 12:12 pm

Joe Schmoe wrote:I have to admit that I don't quite follow the thrust of this thread/discussion.
A place to vent in a civil and constructive manner. Also to collate issues which need to be addressed, find out what works well and what doesn't.
Joe Schmoe wrote:It sounds like we are discussing a change that happened quite some time ago, as if it were a current (recent) change.
The idea was to discuss the UI changes overall. The date is in the title is for context. If people find this thread in the future, hopefully they don't bump it with something irrelevant to the context of this thread. With the next round of changes, if people want to complain, we can limit the complaining to those changes and say that the previous changes have already been discussed.
Joe Schmoe wrote:But if that is the case, then why did we start this thread out with a picture of the old (blue, LXDE logo) UI ?
I've put the image there to remind people what unadulterated LXDE looks like. It's taken from the screenshots section of the LXDE website. The point I was trying to make is that you don't want to greet people with anything that looks like that.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 12:18 pm

spl23 wrote:I'm dashing out, so a fuller reply later, but yes, spl23 is Simon Long.

As to your point about needing obconf and lxappearance to set the system font, that is one of the main reasons for the new simplified dialog! If you set the system font in the new Appearance Settings dialog, it changes it everywhere in one step; you don't have to separately change it in lxappearance and obconf - which is one of the significant problems with them that I was trying to fix...
I still need lxappearance to set hinting level for fonts and obconf for windows theme.
Last edited by troombatzia on Wed May 13, 2015 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 12:21 pm

OK - point taken.

(My questions are answered...)
And some folks need to stop being fanboys and see the forest behind the trees.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 12:29 pm

jamesh wrote:
fruitoftheloom wrote:What happened to the change over to Wayland / Weston which would of negated the 2 major updates to the look and feel of LXDE :?:
Why would Wayland/Weston have negated changes to LXDE? Wayland/Weston is a compositor system, not a desktop. There was a prototype desktop running over Wayland demonstrated at the time, is that what you mean?

Note there is a version of LXDE running over QT, and the QT backend for Weston works OK on the Pi....I did try and get it working recently (which woudl give an accelerated LXDE desktop), but ran out of time figuring out dependency hell.
I was under the impression that LXDE was going to be replaced by a Weston / Wayland based DE originally, maybe I had the wrong reading glasses on that day ;)
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:01 pm

troombatzia wrote:I still need lxappearance to set hinting level for fonts and obconf for windows theme.
I'd argue that very few people would set hinting for fonts - it's pretty specialised. Given that MacOS (with Steve Jobs' famous obsession over typography) doesn't allow users to set hinting, I think it comes under the category of "expert users only".

As for setting the window theme, the new PiX theme includes theming for both Openbox and GTK+. While I understand that some people may indeed want to set the appearance via a theme, it's a level of abstraction away from what most non-tech-savvy users would want to do, i.e. set the colour of the UI elements. This is why PiX is designed to be modified by PiPanel to allow a user to change the title bar of a window to whatever colour they want, rather than constraining them to setting it to one of the few colours which are available as a result of the installed themes, and which may also change the appearance of other aspects of a window which they aren't even aware that they were changing in the process.

I'd suggest that theming is more appropriate for people who understand what a theme file is, know where to find new ones, how to install them, etc - it's a level of customisation higher than many users will want or need. But as before, if you do want to do that, just run obconf from the terminal and ditch PiX - there's nothing to prevent you from so doing.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:05 pm

gkreidl wrote:Good to know for future advise to people. Perhaps you can also include setting the icon size in the future (that's simple and easy to understand).
You already can; icons change to either small, medium or large depending on the size setting for the menu bar. (As icons only appear in the context of the menu bar, I chose to label the setting as the size of the menu bar rather than the icons, as both resize at the same time.)

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:39 pm

spl23 wrote:
gkreidl wrote:Good to know for future advise to people. Perhaps you can also include setting the icon size in the future (that's simple and easy to understand).
You already can; icons change to either small, medium or large depending on the size setting for the menu bar. (As icons only appear in the context of the menu bar, I chose to label the setting as the size of the menu bar rather than the icons, as both resize at the same time.)
Setting the icon size in lxappearance also sets the icon size in tool bars (GTK+2, there's a bug in GTK+3); your menu bar setting has not the same effect.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:42 pm

Diverging away from accepted/expected behaviour is a really bad idea. You will end up frustrating people who expect things to just work like they do on every other inux platform they have used.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:52 pm

PeterO wrote:Diverging away from accepted/expected behaviour is a really bad idea. You will end up frustrating people who expect things to just work like they do on every other inux platform they have used.

PeterO
+1

I was a bit concerned that the changes shift the burden from the beginner who would've had to spend time configuring things to the competent user who now has to spend time undoing things. I'm okay with that but that means the raspbian image is no longer suitable for me. Luckily, we'll be providing an image that's identical, but does not have any of the X stuff installed. Then we're free to install a DE suitable for us rather than something put together by a Mac user with wacky ideas about the correct placement of the panel :shock: (sorry, Simon :lol:)

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 1:59 pm

PeterO wrote:Diverging away from accepted/expected behaviour is a really bad idea. You will end up frustrating people who expect things to just work like they do on every other inux platform they have used.
That depends on whether the majority of your audience are people with experience of Linux, or people with no experience of Linux but possibly experience of other platforms that behave differently anyway. As above, our key focus is education, and education (in the UK at least) very rarely uses Linux - Windows has the vast majority of the education market, with Apple taking the majority of the rest. Linux is barely used at all in UK education. (And where it is, it's generally on Pi...)

I don't see a good reason for sticking with poor UI design for the sole reason that it's what people are used to. Microsoft and Apple products all have UIs which evolve over time to address design issues, with the intention of making life better for the user - I intend to do the same. Sticking with something that is sub-optimal because "that's the way we've always done it" is an obstacle to actually making things better.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 2:12 pm

spl23 wrote: I don't see a good reason for sticking with poor UI design for the sole reason that it's what people are used to. Microsoft and Apple products all have UIs which evolve over time to address design issues, with the intention of making life better for the user - I intend to do the same. Sticking with something that is sub-optimal because "that's the way we've always done it" is an obstacle to actually making things better.
MS is a very bad example. Things that have been simple to find in the past have become more and more hidden. That's exactly the kind of UI philosophy that I'm criticizing: "Keep it hidden from the normal user, he's too stupid anyway." As a result, the users are getting more stupid all the time.

Using computers is not as simple as people are made to believe. We need kids with computer knowhow (a wonderful English term!), not stupid clickers and wipers.
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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 2:17 pm

For me, the concern isn't so much about the UI itself, but the implementation (to be fair, I might be responsible for that). For example, sticking to the accepted ways of doing things would've avoided the xfce4-mixer and network trouble. I'm worried about future raspberrypi-ui-mods which may have minor changes to config files. You'd end up copying ALL the files to the backup directory, again losing all the changes people may have made. I'm sure we'll come up with a solution before that happens, but it's... one of those thing.

As for what's used in schools.. okay it might be Mac OS and Windows, but that's part of the problem I thought we were trying to solve. By the time you get to uni, you're mostly working with linux. At the very least, you're expected to be fairly comfortable with it. That's not really a problem, since it's still linux under the hood and sooner or later you'll have to learn how to use it, no matter what you do with the ui, but using MS and Apple as an example of the right way to do things.... err... I don't know.

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Re: New UI (2015-05-05) discussion thread

Wed May 13, 2015 2:20 pm

I like to see more use of the MS style Ribbon interface. I find that so easy to find things and use that my life has improved immeasurable since MS introduced it.

Oh, hold on, I think I may have got that the wrong way round.

BTW, spl23, 23 is NOT his age. I hope.
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