Alo Sarv
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Developer's Diary

Friday, March 31, 2006

More GUI design and updates

The lack of posts during past few days is rather an indication of me being too pre-occupied with other things rather than lack of development. In fact, we did a three-night extreme programming session with our designer, with him on Photoshop, me in code and discussions around gui design. A lot of things got cleared up, reviewed and lot of progress made in many areas; some of which I can show now, some of which has to wait a few more days before it can be displayed publically. The GUI codebase is nearing 5000 lines of code already (+1000 lines with three nights).

So here's a screenshot of the current version; explanations / discussion follows.

One of the main things that got changed was the dropping of tabs from all pages of the interface. The tabs were actually an implementation artifact, and never existed in any of our sketches. The functionality that they were intended to represent - filtering / categories / in-page navigation - will be implemented differently or dropped completely, where applicaple.

For example, the concept of 'categories' in transfer / library will be implemented in a tree-like way, pretty much how currently torrents work in the interface - you click on the + sign in front of the name, and the list of files in the torrent opens up, allowing you to manipulate each file of the torrent separately, as you'd do with any other download. Torrent is technically a category of downloads. Same applies to emulecollection (currently not supported by core). User-defined categories will behave the same way - the 'category' object in the list merely becomes a 'virtual download', just like a 'torrent' is a virtual download, composed of multiple 'actual' downloads. You'll be able to drag & drop files into categories. Whether or not you'll be able to drop any kind of files into torrents (or other core-created categories) is being discussed, but from technical point of view, there's no reason why you shouldn't. You start downloading a movie torrent of two files, and then find subtitles (from some other network) for it - logically, you could drop the subtitle downloads into the torrent category, so that they'd be moved to the same destination dir once downloaded, as the movie itself.

Another thing that was added was the details box to the bottom of the window, which will display extended information as well as provide access to some additional data - such as known file names, comments and so on. The details-box can be hidden to free up more space in the interface. It will be available on all pages, displaying relevant content about the page items.

To the right side of the window, we'v planned a help bar, which is 'hide/show' as well (from the ? button at top-right). We have some ideas on what the help should contain, but the actual content is still rather open, since other things have higher priority currently. It's not expected to have the help functionality operational by 0.3 Beta1 (expected to be available next week).


The screenshot looks very nice, but there's still no detail information on download progress (like Completed column in old GUI).
One question:

If we show the percentage of the progress, why would one want to have such a heavy-to-the-eye progress bar sitting in the back of it not giving any new informatio.

I would recommend to drop it from this screen and convey real information regarding the file status in the detailed status page.

Tha will result in a lot cleaner look, and will give the UI a straight impression and transport the idea of only giving the user information.

As we all now, if the user already knows a fact (i.e. progress precentage) then presenting this to him again is will not be considered as information any more - but as "cluttering".
I suggest to add a tab with a "terminal" in whihch a suer could use commands as in telent interface (and see the command's output
I think the column headers should have the same alignment as the content of the columns. So that when the eye follows the column content upwards, it will strike the column header, avoiding the need to scan around, in various directions, looking for the header. At the very least, the header of the name column ('File Name' that is) should be aligned to the left.

Personally I think I would prefer left-aligning all headers. This would also be okay for non-left-aligned columns, since they are relatively narrow.

In general I think you should avoid centering things - including the toolbar. It's just not natural.

Well, at least that's my point of view. BTW the detail box at the bottom is very smart. I like it a lot. :) It also good to see that you dropped the background theme.
Anonymous say..why would one want to have a .. progress bar..

Well i like to have a idea of my download in the blink of an eye without check all the numbers.
I consider this a not optional thing.

I like the GUI as it's coming. :)

As usual good work Madcat!
I agree that there should be no centreing in the GUI for things such as column headers and the GUI. Sure it gives the GUI a nice unique design but it is different from almost every other standard, well designed GUI out there. Open firefox, microsoft word, anything and you will find the toolbars left aligned.
I know the details box isn't finished yet, but how come the buttons (at least I think they are buttons) have no border? These aren't the standard windows common controls. It would make a lot of sense to stick to the look, feel and theme of the rest of the OS, this way the user will feel a lot more at home.

Other than that, I must say I like it a lot. Usually I wouldn't complain at all, but the GUI is the first impression most users get, and if it feels foreign to them, they are much more likely to uninstall it right away and never try it again.
"I agree that there should be no centreing in the GUI for things such as column headers and the GUI."
Typo: sorry, the second 'GUI' was supposed to be toolbar.
I like it! Although I don't think we need to know the download percentage to two decimal place, whole percentage is fine.
The only thing I would change is the two decimal places, as noted in the previeus message.

I'm really amazed with the GUI. Impressive!

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