KDE's Risky Gamble on New Interface: Page 2

Will KDE's new interface defaults escape the problems of its other redesigns?
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Somewhat disappointingly, however, the lists are not on a spinner rack, the way that the one for activities is on the Plasma Active interface for tablets. These spinners remain by far the most space-conserving yet accessible way to present activities that KDE has tried so far, and why they are not used across the whole of KDE remains a mystery. However, at least the lists in the beta scroll vertically instead of horizontally, making them less awkward.

However, the most noticeable change is in the default menu. The current Kickstarter menu has been replaced by a much simpler interface that no longer duplicates the logging out options in the toolkit, and that no longer shows Favorites, Recently Used, or other views as options across the bottom.

In fact, the menu no longer even has a visible search field. Instead, if you want to search, you simply start typing. The result is a cleaner interface, but one I suspect may puzzle new users. Just as importantly the arrangement assumes that you already know what you are looking for, and gives you less chance to explore. Many users might well prefer the option of switching to a traditional cascading menu than deal with such a vagary.

Waiting for uncertainty

Any alarm over the next version of Plasma would be premature. Presumably, much can happen between the first beta and the release candidate.

Moreover, the beta shows several healthy directions, especially the introduction of Oxygen as the default typeface. Compared to GNOME or Unity, KDE has traditionally paid little attention to interface design, sometimes leaving a dialogue window looking like a junk drawer for several releases before improving it.

Yet both GNOME and Unity have proved that too much attention to design can cause developers to pay less attention to users than to an abstraction of design, and to assume that they know better than users what they need. The arbitrariness of one or two choices currently in the Plasma beta raises the possibility that KDE might fall into the same traps.

Still, KDE is showing signs of caution, so it might manage its re-design better than its rivals did. So long as it retains other options -- which so far it is doing --perhaps less than perfect defaults will be unimportant.

Yet, unless KDE developers are careful, the general release of the new Plasma could as much reason for disappointment as excitement. We'll have to wait to see how the die comes to fall.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Tags: open source, Linux desktop, KDE, interface redesign


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