Nine Improvements Needed in KDE: Page 3

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Improved interface word choices

While KDE has shown an increased interest in usability in design, that interest has yet to reach the text on the desktop. Some jargon might be understandable in the remote regions of the system settings on the grounds that only experts are likely to venture there, yet how many average users are likely to understand such choices as "subpixel rendering" or "Setup Samba relisa and the ioslaves," particularly without a serial comma.

Similarly, the new KDE insists on calling its new applets "widget" -- a term that will sound vague to lay users, and inaccurate to developers for whom a widget is part of a graphical interface.

The interface language is muddied even further by KDE's habit of referring to both an application and its function in the menu. Instead of just listing "File Manager" or "Page layout," it uses "Dolphin File Manager" and "Scribus page layout," which is simply too much information. In contrast, GNOME menus, although not entirely consistent, tend to refer only to the function, and are therefore clearer and quicker to read.

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Possibly, this use of language reflects that KDE is less Anglo-centric than GNOME. Yet finding an English-speaking usability expert should not be that difficult. As things are, the impression is of an unthinking geekiness that is at odds with the goals of user-friendliness.

Waiting for 4.1

Some of the problems mentioned here have already been alleviated since KDE 4's initial release a few months ago. Others are listed on KDE 4.1's feature plan as being scheduled to be added or improved.

All the same, mentioning what needs to be improved remains worthwhile. Improvements are more likely to be made if people are urging them, and, meanwhile, people may want to consider delaying a switch to KDE 4 until the features that they consider essential are added or improved.

When you look at all the bold, new approaches in KDE 4, the question should not be why it needs so many improvements so much as how developers managed to make so many changes all at once. Still, until KDE 4 settles down, potential users should be aware that it continues to be a work in progress, with a large share of unfinished features.

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Tags: widgets, desktop

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