Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Linux Business

Linux's Difficulty with Names 946

JohnTyler writes "This article at XYZ Computing takes a look at Linux's strange naming practices. When compared to their Window's equivalents, the names of many Linux programs are difficult to recognize and even tougher to remember. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it is actually an important usability issue. Just think, if you had to do a bit of graphic design which would be easier to pick out of the menu, GIMP or Photoshop? Or if you wanted to play a song, Media Player or xine?" The article is a bit thin, but it raises an excellent point.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Linux's Difficulty with Names

Comments Filter:
  • by numLocked ( 801188 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:26PM (#14346159) Homepage Journal
    This is really more of a software designer's issue than a strictly Linux one. As we speak, I am looking for my copy of Daemon Tools on my computer, but I can't find it because it's named in the start menu by the software's manufacturer, not the name of the program. This is the case for many windows apps and I view it as a similar problem.
  • by JymBrittain ( 880082 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:27PM (#14346162)
    I suppose Outlook Express is the ideal name for an email is Outlook. Acrobat is the perfect .pdf viewer or creator. Excel instantly draws to mind spreadsheets [now, but 20 years ago?]. I could go on, but why bother. The article is just more crap slinging between two apes vying for dominance.
  • by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:28PM (#14346176) Homepage
    Most of the command-line stuff is just shortened abbreviations of things. You can also always just make a "shortcut" that's named whatever you want if you need arbitrary names for things. It doesn't really raise a good point at all, things have names made by the people who made them.

  • Linux Naming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codered82 ( 892990 ) <> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:29PM (#14346179) Homepage
    I realize there is tons of software out there for Windows, but *nix systems seem to have so much more that they have to resort to unique naming schemes to differentiate their products. You can only make so many iterations of the words "Media", "Writer", "Player", "Office", etc. Can it make things difficult for consumers? Sure, but I think it's a necessary evil.
  • What a moron. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:29PM (#14346184)
    "Photoshop" sounds like an application for buying photographs. The writer only knows it's a graphics editor because he has read or heard it somewhere. Contrary to a myth promoted by Microsoft and others, you simply can't use a computer without having to learn anything.

    Also, FWIW, and unlike any version of Windows I've ever seen, the GNOME "start" menu breaks things down by category, so you can look in the "Graphics" or "Sound and Video" submenus if you have a general idea about what you're looking for. The last Windows I sat down in front of offered me an almost flat menu of two complete columns on a high-resolution screen, and since I rarely use Windows I didn't know what more than a handful of the applications were.

    Worse, in those rare instances where things were put into sub-menus, you had to look under the vendor's name to find the product. So you not only had to know that "Photoshop" means "graphics editor", you also had to know that it's published by someone named "Adobe".

    Idiot-level apologetics.
  • GNU, not Linux! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:29PM (#14346185)
    These aren't Linux names, they're part of GNU. Linux is just the kernel.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:31PM (#14346204) Homepage
    There are two issues here: recognizing something known versus determining what something unkonwn is.

    To someone who knows nothing, PhtoShop sounds like a place to buy/print photos. And Windows Medial Player sounds like a game of newpaper/TV congomerates :)

    To the Unix cogniscenti, cp, du are nothing more than CoPy, Disk Usage, etc. It is a question of something learned.

  • On the other hand (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#14346223)
    If you wanted to play a video, would it be easier to pick out RealPlayer or the Videolan Client? If you wanted to browse your personal directory, would it be easier to pick out C:\Documents and settings\username or /home/username? If you wanted to send/receive some email - Outlook Express or KMail? Hell, if you wanted to shut down your computer - Start->Shutdown or /sbin/poweroff?

    See? It kinda swings both ways...
  • What problem? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rickbrodie ( 535715 ) <> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#14346225)
    I may be missing the "usability" point here, but just how is this a big deal? I don't think it really makes that mush difference what the name is, as people pay much more attention to the position a link is in the menu and the icon rather than its actual name. Not to mention that once someone uses it once or twice, they very quickly learn exactly what it is and what it does.

    Furthermore, I realise that this is aimed at people who have absolutely no experience in either computers in general and at least linux specifically, but a name like "xine" should not be an impediment to progress. For instance, any distro worth anything ought to be set up with some useful file associations. Most people play a movie or mp3 by clicking on /it/ rather than opening a player and then opening the file within it.

  • by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#14346227) Homepage

    Names don't matter, it is all about training and then familiarity.

    What's more intuitive, "Matt", or "Coffee Boy"?

    Oh, and what does Exel and Outlook do? Does Outlook Express do it any faster?

    As a technical discussion, names as handles to objects or ideas don't matter (excluding downright misleading names, like a boy named Sue): it gets down to user training. To write that "Whatever the reason, desktop Linux's usability is hindered by its naming practices" is just silly: in a work enviornment, users will use what they are trained on. At home, Grandma is going to use whatever will let her get her polaroids out of her new camera.

    And Windows isn't particularly easy to use; rather, everybody has had some exposure to it.

    As for your examples... once you know what they stand for ("list","remove","disk free", etc.), those commands are a hell of a lot quicker to type (and less prone to error) than spelling the words out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#14346231)
    You realize they had short names because every byte of storage was precious?
  • by fishybell ( 516991 ) <fishybell&hotmail,com> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:34PM (#14346233) Homepage Journal
    It's not so much that they have names that aren't self documenting, it's that they have easily remembered names. The list they have shows Nero and WinAmp as popular windows.

    I don't think the problem is with odd names (although sometimes they can be a bit obtuse), I think it's really just market share. If thunderbird was preinstalled on 100% of windows machines (like outlook express does), people would quickly learn to equate thunderbird to e-mail the same way they do with outlook. The same thing applies to gimp, xine, konquerer, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:34PM (#14346239)
    When introducing new users to the linux systems at work I always end up explaining that the programs are named by clueless geeks who *think* they are funny (gnu, less, etc.). Please just ignore the stupid names and enjoy the power of the tools.
  • by nicholasjay ( 921044 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:34PM (#14346244)
    This because the manufacturer wants it this way. It gives them more brand recognition, so the next time you see something by that manufacturer, it will force you to think of your program. Note that it is also listed this way in the explorer window view.
  • by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:35PM (#14346255) Homepage

    I don't know about that. I have been a touch-typist since I was 12 but I still alias the names of commonly used programs to a couple of letters. Even if you're a touch typist, it is faster to type two letters than more than two letters.

  • contrarian (Score:5, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:38PM (#14346280) Homepage
    Although it could be debated as to which platform has confusing names, i.e. what is Excel, what is Visio, what is Access, what is Outlook, ad nauseam, I actualy have a contrarian view for you.

    Why give applications boring vanilla names like photoshop, media player, etc.?

    With the names that are given to many linux applications it could be argued that someone new to the platform would be lost, but I say they will be lost anyway and when they do learn about the applications that meet their needs the interesting names will leave an impression which will differentiate them from the applications on competing platforms that have common names.

    I would also argue that vanilla naming creates its own confusion. How many people think Internet Explorer IS the internet?

    I say we stick with the fun names.

  • by TheFlyingGoat ( 161967 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:39PM (#14346296) Homepage Journal
    The examples given are from different companies and design teams, so it's hard to generalize them. Overall, however, popular Windows software tends to be made by companies who put a lot of thought into the naming of their product, since it will help determine how popular that product is. Many linux programming teams either go too general or try getting clever with the name ("Which greek god relates to what this program is doing?").

    The problem with getting too clever is that without a strong advertising push or word-of-mouth push (Firefox), people really don't know what your program does. The problem with going too generic is that the program isn't memorable.

    There's a few programs that get it right by choosing a name that's both descriptive and clever (Photoshop, Winamp, OpenOffice, etc). Point is, either get a big ad budget or take some extra time choosing a name. Of course, if your target audience isn't the general public (read: ethereal), then it doesn't really matter since computer experts will recognize software based on how good it is.
  • Re:KIllustrator (Score:3, Insightful)

    by generic-man ( 33649 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:41PM (#14346309) Homepage Journal []

    The trademark for "OpenOffice" belongs to someone else. Therefore we must use "" when referring to this open source project and its software.

    It wasn't em-dollar-sign that forced the name change; it was "someone else." hope this helps.
  • by engineerErrant ( 759650 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:42PM (#14346316)
    You're right that many people will probably regard this as splitting hairs, and this in itself is a pretty big issue. Names (from "top-level" names like application titles down to the names of lowly index variables) are critically important in usability, as is documentation.

    Yet try as I might, with the notable exception of Python, I've never been able to pick up an open-source product of any complexity that I'm not familiar with, without buying an O'Reilly book or something of the like. Flame me if you will for "not trying hard enough," but it seems to me like having to try hard goes against the definition of usability in some ways. This makes for a pretty big hidden cost.

    Open-source projects are the products of engineers working on something they feel is personally important, and it's perhaps unsurprising that communication with the end user (at least on the level of completeness and polish that larger companies need to demonstrate) is not given much priority. But the end users are what will drive the victory or loss of Linux on the desktop, and I think they are already voting with their mice.

    And say what you want about Microsoft - but the level of effort they put into this front (from the easy-to-understand language in setup to the MSDN) is way ahead of what I've seen from the Linux world. I think they are the ones to be applauded in this case.
  • by Skiron ( 735617 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:43PM (#14346327) Homepage
    Now lets see all the Windows users look at processes running, and let them all go

    "Ah! alg.exe csrss.exe ctfmon.exe dllhost.exe explorer.exe internat.exe kernel32.dll lsass.exe mdm.exe msmsgs.exe mstask.exe regsvc.exe rundll32.exe services.exe smss.exe spoolsv.exe svchost.exe system winlogon.exe winmgmt.exe wisptis.exe wmiexe.exe wmiprvse.exe wscntfy.exe wuauclt.exe are running - I know EXACTLY what all that is doing."

    Linux processes/apps are named from convention and are all documented. The less said about the alternative (and comparing with) the better.
  • Say what!?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by N1ghtFalcon ( 884555 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:44PM (#14346336)
    What is this I see? Open-source community thinking about why they aren't taken more seriously? Me thinks that if tomorrow I should spot a post admitting that Linux developers also don't know a thing about designing a usable GUI, the end of the world is definitely near.

    I realize that this will likely be modded down to hell, but I could really care less if it makes even one developer stop and think. The real problem with the entire Linux movement is a total lack of even the basic understanding of human psychology. Just like they still think that a file is the solution to everything.

    We're not machines with RAM and hard drives. Our memory is highly associative, meaning that most of the things we remember are associated to other things. The only "hard-wired" things are those which are used on continuous basis, which I suppose explains why the developers don't notice these problems. For everything else, the less links there are, the harder it is to recall something, which is why naming software using names that say absolutely nothing about what the software is for creates such a mess.
  • Re:What a moron. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by emtilt ( 618098 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:44PM (#14346337)
    Not really. "Shop" is used in the sense of 'workshop.' The average person wouldn't be shopping for photos on their computer, so the first logical thing to assue would be that it is a program for working on or editing photos. I agree with the rest of you post though. Windows does suffer from this problem as much as Linux. All too often you have to know the manufacturer's name. It would benefit Windows greatly if it broke things into categories. I do this myself on my Windows machines, but the average user just lets programs go to wherever they default.
  • Re:What a moron. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trolling4Columbine ( 679367 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:46PM (#14346357)
    There's the small matter of Photoshop costing several hundred dollars. I can't imagine somebody would purchase any piece of software, let alone one as expensive as Photoshop, without knowing what it does.

    Your argument is more Devil's advocate than anything substance. You just can't bring yourself to admit that Linux isn't perfect.
  • Re:What a moron. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:47PM (#14346363)
    Well PhotoShop is a derivation (to prevent lawsuits) of PrintShop. A Print Shop is/was a place where people went to get profesional printing done. Photoshop/PrintShop Programs were made to replace much of the needs of going to the Print Shop. But even with a name like PhotoShop you have Photo in it knowing that it has something to do with photos, it may not be clear that you can do thinge beyond modifity photos but it is better then GIMP.

    Even with GNUs Catagories. You know it has to deal with Graphics. But on most distributions there are about 10 or so to choose from. Is it a graphic converter?, A PowerPoint like application?, A 3d Ray Tracing Program?, who knows. Most common people don't want or like trying different applications until they find the one that does the job.

    Stop defending these bad names for these application, Change is good deal with it.
  • by Benet ( 629880 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:47PM (#14346368) Homepage
    Plus, there are no marketing stooges around to force them to change the name to something an end luser could easily understand.
    That's a shame really. Because marketing stooges are the people who get what you call 'lusers' to buy the product. I think you probably want this to happen, and the 'marketing stooge' knows what the 'luser' would like. I'm a 'luser' and I want my programs to have descriptive names, please.
  • Re:contrarian (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:51PM (#14346406)
    Is it too much to ask that names have an OBVIOUS pronunciation, and frankly, don't look *weird*? I mean "Kopete", "Xine", "GkRellm"?
  • eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by labratuk ( 204918 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:53PM (#14346414)
    The article is a bit thin, but it raises an excellent point.

    No it doesn't. Is it saying 'Linux' (?) should start giving things super-generic names? Well that's a great idea. Let's call things 'Media Player'. But who gets to decide which media player gets named the definitive 'Media Player'? And they may not realise that most obvious super generic names are already trademarked by someone.

    I don't see anything wrong with Gnu (General?) Image Manipulation Program. Rather effective description if you ask me.

    It's not like the windows world isn't full of stupid Win* names is it? Winamp? WTF? It's a pretty tenuous link that you're supposed to guess that 'Amp' means an MP3 player.
  • by daigu ( 111684 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:54PM (#14346421) Journal

    Outlook, Access, Excel...real intuitive names there. If you want to throw in third party vendors like the original did with Photoshop, you have a whole host of products that do different things with similar names - i.e., Quicken or Quick Time.

    Linux names are acronyms. Acronyms are easier to type and remember. Just as a wouldn't want Linux to be renamed Runs Computer, I do not want software to be renamed from a four letter command such as gimp to Image Manipulator because someone cannot be bothered to learn its name. If they cannot be bothered to learn the name, then they are welcome to go use the programs that are named something they can remember.

    The whole world does not revolve around the lowest common denominator. Let's stop pretending that it does, shall we?

  • Re:What a moron. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deft ( 253558 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:54PM (#14346427) Homepage
    Let me finish this sentence for you:
    "The writer only knows it's a graphics editor because he has read or heard it somewhere." - AND THEN EASILY ASSOCIATED IT WITH PHOTO EDITING because the name works.

    You comepletely fail to acknowledge that Photoshop is infinitely easier to brand as a PHOTO related product than GIMP, a funny and quirky, but horrible name to brand. I'd love to have to rebrand the leather midget image... ugh. Fun for a project working name, death for marketing.

    Now, you mentioned cool features for Gnome, but I think you failed to address that GNOME is a another branding problem. At least it isn't GIMP, so it has the potential to be branded easier, but it's not easy.

    Sure you can shoot yourself in the foot and take the uphill road for marketing, but it would be easier to not be quirky. You can be deft at not just programming, but distribution and brading as well.
  • Re:What a moron. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by abradsn ( 542213 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#14346434) Homepage
    You are the idiot. He is right. Gimp is an acronym that means nothing. Photo means something to do with pictures, and shop is a hold over phrase from when people editing their photographs in a more manual fashion. Are you representitive of a community of ignorant people, or are you just trying to make the community that you are representing look stupid.
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#14346435) Journal
    Killustrator? Is that the application that deletes your picture files?

    The KDE guys need to Kut the Krap with the names already.

  • by mindmaster064 ( 690036 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:01PM (#14346497) Homepage
    Call it flamebait if you will, but for the average user Linux doesn't even exist. It doesn't matter if it is called Linux "Alterna-OS" or some other crap, they know what shipped on the computer and don't have the time or inclination to learn anything else. Sure, the geeks love it, but why would the average person like it? Does it do more than already-installed (windows/media player/office/etc) or does it just do the same thing? See, if all it does is the same thing then Linux has NO VALUE preposition whatsover to the average joe they will only switch when alternative software has more usefulness and is not merely a clone.

    I ask you, why should you care about vi when you have notepad (which does the same job with less confusing commands)? Making Xine or Helix useable requires setup and configuration of codecs, whereas it just works under windows!

    For Linux to gain ground it needs to add utility without adding futility. No one is going to accept that it more trouble to get the thing to work the same way, and they would barely consider it if the improvements are only marginal. As far as features, Windows is better to average joe. It reasonably works out of the box, and there is nothing to screw up in the configuration. When Linux works like that then it will compete with Windows, but if the software included with Linux surpassed it that would be the end for Redmond. There is no way a "normal" user is going to put up with the bullshit involved with setting a Linux box up, so these Linux people should shut up about their desktop until it works or even happens and stay on the servers.

    All that being said, I love Linux as far as the performance... It turns "dated" machines into useable machines, and for those that are running on a budget it may still have a place. For servers, I don't think there is a better choice you can make. But again, the Linux people need to stop thinking they have a desktop offering -- they have a toolbox of many tools but they do not have a leatherman. Desktops need to be useable by the computer challenged to qualify as an offering, and anything too complex is just missing the mark. Do you think the normal person would know much about partitions, screen mode depth and resolution, or even the goofy device names for mice or screens? These things make the whole proposition unrealistic.

  • by pomo monster ( 873962 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:01PM (#14346499)
    C'mon, try exercising your right brain for a change. Say "Excel" out loud and you'll find it contains the word "cell," as in spreadsheet cell. "Outlook" helps you make plans and schedule things, besides giving you an overview of your little empire, and letting you look over your communications with the outside world. Can't explain Acrobat, but I'm gonna go ahead and guess you probably think "Safari" is a terrible name for a browser, because you don't make the connection with surfin' and exploring. Maybe this is why open-source programs appeal to the stereotypical geek, linguistically/artistically/critically challenged. Too left-brained.
  • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:03PM (#14346515)
    the time a fellow employee with root access decided to see if the 'del' command had any help.

    Well there's your problem, right there. Someone who tries to use DOS command syntax at a Unix prompt shouldn't have root access.

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:03PM (#14346523)
    But your attitude is EXACTLY what is holding Linux apps back from popular adoption.

    I suppose Outlook Express is the ideal name for an email is Outlook. Acrobat is the perfect .pdf viewer or creator. Excel instantly draws to mind spreadsheets [now, but 20 years ago?]. I could go on, but why bother.

    The name of an app is not meant to be Literal!! It's meant to make you want to own it! If you had a choice between two toilets, the Open GNUFeces gtkSepticPort, or a CrapThrasher 3000, is there any question which you would select? Calling a graphics program The GIMP (yeah, I know it's meant to be a snarky acronym; newsflash: after the age of 16, nobody cares.) is like naming your son Susan. In fact, I've introduced the GIMP to new users (all of whom look like they'd rather be anyplace in the world than in that room at the time) with a, "Hey, look, with a name like The GIMP, it's got to be good, right? Right??"

    For serious 'flagship' Linux applications, allowing the "coding community" to name them is right in line with allowing the "marketing community" to write them. It screams "Hobbyist," which is fine, if that's all you want it to be. In the early '90's, when nobody knew any better, it was not unusual for an organization's HTML jockey to also be responsible for creating the site's look and writing its content. Then, the medium matured, rapidly. When I see the names for a lot of these (very, very fine and well-coded) linux apps, I get the urge to crank Nine Inch Nails, order a double-mocha-latte, and re-read SnowCrash...

  • by onemorechip ( 816444 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:04PM (#14346528)
    Somebody else pointed out that these short names arose from the use of teletypes, but did you also consider that when you type a command dozens, if not hundreds, of times in a session, "rm" is much easier than "remove" or "delete"?

    I, for one, appreciate the shorthand, and I do touch-type.

  • by pomo monster ( 873962 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:14PM (#14346607)
    I'd have to agree with the court on this one. Are you suggesting that geeks lack the imagination to think of any words other than "illustrator"? C'mon, there are plenty of words and ideas to associate with vector image editing. "Freehand," for starters.

    You have to get away from the idea that there's one "best" name for any concept. Even if they were, the featureset and audience of Adobe Illustrator (the product) isn't the same as those of Killustrator; thus, the concepts differ, and so should the name. Nuance is everything.
  • Re:What a moron. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:15PM (#14346615)
    "Photoshop" sounds like an application for buying photographs.

    Leaving aside the point that it's "shop" as in "workshop" that others have made, you seem to forget that "photoshopped" has entered the common vocabulary to mean "edited or touched up", as in "no way is that picture real, it must've been photoshopped".
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:20PM (#14346664)
    Names don't matter

    Names do matter when you insist on stuffing 14,000 poorly documented apps into your favorite Linux distro, half beginning with "G" and the other with "K."

  • by NidStyles ( 794619 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:21PM (#14346675)
    Linux naming conventions are the hardest thing for any new person to get used to, and it halters many from getting involved in the open source community because they don't understand the conventions. Personally I think it's one of the things holding back the linux OS from being widely recognized. Honestly Linux will never get past the small percentage until the developers start looking at how people remember names, and realize that it requires at least two sylables to do that. All of this goes into my argue why Open Source has thusl been a failure this far. Naming conventions are the biggest difficulty. Have no real standard is the second one. If the Linux community really wants to have any real significant part of the world of software, it needs to stop pandering to the geeks, because the geeks will use anything that is done properly, and done well. Linux already has that advantage over Windows, and thusly needs the rest of my argument to clear up before it's a viable alternative for everyone else. It's time Linux started growing up, and developed some standard developers. Who's going to be the one to start the process? Before anyone gets their panties in a bundle over my comments, I've used Slackware since 7.2, and now currently have Slackware in the form of Vector Linux. I'm and avid Mac user, and have also used FreeBSD. So I do know a little bit about this topic, as I had the same difficulties when I first started with stupid naming conventions, and non-sylable names.
  • by feijai ( 898706 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:21PM (#14346677)
    In Linux with a smart Distro, things get organized in the Menu in a logical fashion. Start>System>Archiving>CD Burning>K3B for example. You may not agree with the exact placement but it is logical and some one can sit down and find an appropriate program very easily.

    Huh. Because if I saw "System" when I pressed the Start button, I would have assumed it was, you know, system stuff. Like preferences or printer drivers. And I very rarely burn a CD for archival purposes -- usually to copy something to give to people, or for music. I would NOT have expected a CD burning utility to be in System/Archiving. And what the hell does "K3B" mean?

    This would have been one hard program to find.

  • I Keep Saying It! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bblazer ( 757395 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:23PM (#14346696) Homepage Journal
    I have been harping on this for years. For some reason software devs love to encode the names of their apps in some archaic symbology. I still do not understand this. While Excel and Premier do not give you an automatic clue as to what they are, at least they "sound" user friendly. I there is an honest interest into getting linux into more homes, this has got to stop. Same with the terrible documentation that surrounds many of these same packages. We have got to stop writing this stuff with the geek brain in mind, but others as well. Asking a non-tech user what libconf is, is just like asking them what a dll is. It just happens that Windows shields the user as much as possible from this. And before you all go flame me, remember that geeks like us buy much less of this compared to average Joe home user.
  • Re:Hehe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:33PM (#14346769) Homepage
    "even if you're the only one who uses the computer"

    Which ironically is the complete opposite of Windows where you don't have to login with a password and you ASSUME you are the only one using the computer when in reality there are probably several script kiddies who are also using the computer, with no password. :P

  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:33PM (#14346783)

    It has a lot to do with the fact that open source geeks can't afford trademark lawyers. A name like "gwksprt" may be horrible, but at least you're unlikely to be sued over it.

  • by nawcom ( 941663 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:35PM (#14346795) Homepage
    IMO I believe that your basic inexperienced user will focus more on how the menu is organized and icon placement rather than the name.

    GNOME organizes programs by subject, and can be customized to a more organized set. Windows simply lists the programs (sometimes in order of when it was installed, not by alphabet). At times you just can't find it because it's rarely used - you have to do a little more work to find it. Other than the increased memory usage and wasted "graphic effects" on the xp start menu I do have to applaud about the browser and mail location, along with the list of most commonly used programs.

    I'm not going to go into the names issue. If an computer illiterate user had a choice between "Outlook" and "Thunderbird" or "Excel" and "Calc" which would they choose? I'm sure it would be different for different people, but you get what i'm saying.

    (and wtf is with the name eXPerience? i'd find "Windows Excel" an OS that goes beyond bounaries - by definition - more appealing.)

    Since i've given enough examples - i shall shut up.
  • Geez... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thesnarky1 ( 846799 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:35PM (#14346801) Homepage

    This article is based (near as I can tell) on one person's comment about stupid names. Great, so there's one idiot in the world who doesn't realize that Firefox on Linux is the same as Firefox on Windows.

    Personally (yes, I am a geek) I've never had any problems with the names. apropos normally gets the job done nice and quick. Ok, that'll ellicit "But you're a geek, think of the normal people !!!1!!" Let me rephrase.

    Having sucessfully installed Linux on a few (non-geek's) systems, I can say they've never had any problems. They're not the stupidest, I'll give you that, teaching someone in college might be harder then teaching Grandma Jane, but they were just regular users of their Windows machine, not really utilizing them to their full potential. They took to it rather quick. Yes, these weren't full command line only machines (as I prefer), so the similarities between Windows and Gnome/KDE did all the work.

    No one uses any computer with non learning, much as Bill would like to have you think otherwise. So I showed them the basics. "Ok, you know the Start button? That's now here, the picture of the hat." Then I'd explain the most used programs (come on, who didn't have to say "Grandma, click here for the internet"?). "We use Firefox for the web, and thunderbird for email. Gaim is there for IM, and OpenOffice (click here) is just like Microsoft Office." Next came the Linux-specific crap. "To figure out a command, use 'man '. And to find what you're looking for, try apropos and grep."

    Some of you may say "oh, they're a geek if they understood that", but I assure you, if you stay, and talk with them about the change they just made in their lifestyle, everyone can pick it up. Just sit, and answer any questions they have, its that simple. Oh, gee, exactly like what I do when I install Windows for someone for the first time. Hmm... perhaps because each are different operating systems, with their own learning curve and commands? Just... might... be...

    Now, to say that Linux commands/programs are confusing, where Windows commands/programs aren't... boggles me. Linux breaks things down into nice categories by default. So my friend wanted a cd player, went to sound and video, and found, miracle of miracles, a cd player. Didn't have to ask me. People new to Windows have to figure out to use Windows Media Player.

    Windows, assuming you didn't use it in the last ten programs, makes you search through a list of everything installed on the start menu. Which, since the programmer decides what to put it under (ok, no flaming, I know you can change it, but would a 80-year old woman who just clicks "next"?) it could be the name of the software suite, the company name, the program name, even the programmer's dog's name!

    Who's to say "Illustrator" and "Photoshop" are such good names? The former literally would be something to illustrate books, and the latter would be software to buy pictures. Hold on, notepad AND wordpad for text editing? I guess one must be for notes, and the other for individual words. AOL Instant Messanger... interesting, that won't work with my Yahoo account, how do I get that to work? WinAmp to play music (ok, some of my favorite windows software, granted) that should be an amplifier of the Win? No... software to amplify sounds for windows? Sorta... but no... Wait a SEC! Windows Media Player to rip CDs?! I thought it played music, not copied it. Roxio blah blah blah for CD burning. The odds of someone having that specific program on their computer depend on who they bought the computer from. I have problems saying that's something on a typical installation. Nero, that program should squander my money in lavish parties, have sex with young boys and ruin the empire, erm, my system.

    Hey, the guy turns around on page two (if you got that far) to say that "Linux names may seem confusing but actually are not." Good he points out what GIMP stands for. Not a program to beat up handicapped children by Rockstar, but a sensibly named image editing program. Ho

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:37PM (#14346816) Journal
    And while we're at it can we get Windows to stop referring to drives as C:, D:, etc.? Oh wait, that might bust a few legacy apps. Now imagine applying this principle to the doubtless billions of lines of shell script out there. Imagine the nightmare of having to replace all those mneumonic-style commands with "sensible" ones. For better or worse, some aspects of technologies are retained even if they don't make immediate sense to the initiate.
  • by JahToasted ( 517101 ) <(toastafari) (at) (> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:44PM (#14346879) Homepage
    This is exactly the problem with open source software: No one is able to take constructive criticism. Someone mentions a problem immediately 20 people jump on him pointing to how things are really so much worse somewhere else. I guess screwing up is ok as long as Microsoft screws up in the same way, right?

    Forget Microsoft for a second. Application names of most Open Source software sucks. Yeah that recursive acronym may be very clever, but its useless to anyone who's just searching for the app they want. Wanna know why people call it Linux and not GNU/Linux? Guh-Noo-Linux is hard to say for the 99.9% of the world that doesn't speak Klingon.

    Yeah Outlook Express isn't a great name for an email client. Acrobat doesn't tell you its a PDF reader. But you know what? Microsoft and Adobe have this thing called a marketing department. Spend enough on marketing (and having a monopoly doesn't hurt) people will associate Outlook with email, and Acrobat with PDFs. In fact most people don't know what a PDF is but they know what Acrobat is.

    So to recap: Microsoft: 1) get a monopoly and 2) spend a lot on marketing 3) name your products whatever the hell you want. Open Source: 1) name your product something stupid and 2) sit around complaining about how stupid people are for not using your superior product.

    And even if you have a monopoly and the world best marketing department, some names are just never going to sell. ie. GIMP: At best the name is confusing, at worst its offensive. GNU: hard to pronounce and even if you know what the letters stand for its confusing on multiple levels.

    On the other hand, Firefox: Has nothing to do with web browsing but they have put some effort into marketing it so they should be able to make it work.

    The name of your product is a big part of marketing your product. start out with a stupid name, you're going to be fighting an uphill battle in promoting your product. Of course, promoting the GIMP is like climbing Everest with no equipment. I've seen people who were literally afraid to click on an icon labelled "GIMP". Have you ever seen Microsoft come up with a application name that got that reaction?

  • by blazerw11 ( 68928 ) <[blazerw] [at] []> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @03:49PM (#14346927) Homepage
    Let's do the comparison one more time using the names in my Ubuntu Breezy menus vs. the EXE names on Windows. Fair is fair, right?

    Web Browser
    Windows: iexpore, Opera, Mozilla, Firefox
    Linux: Opera Web Browser, Mozilla Web Browser, Firefox Web Browser

    Graphics Editing
    Windows: photoshop (a place to buy photos?), illustrator
    Linux: GIMP Image Editor

    Movie Playback
    Windows: wmp
    Linux: Totem Movie Player, MPlayer, Xine, VLC Media Player

    DVD Playback:
    Windows: WinDVD (what titles can I win?), wmp
    Linux: Totem Movie Player, Xine, VLC Media Player

    Simple Text Editing
    Windows: Notepad, Wordpad, TextPad
    Linux: Text Editor

    Instant Messaging
    Windows: AIM
    Linux: Gaim Internet Messenger

    Music Playback:
    Windows: wmp, Itunes (you tunes we all tunes to Itunes), WinAmp (I don't want Windows louder)
    Linux: Beep Media Player, Rhythmbox Music Player

    CD Ripping:
    Windows: Itunes, wmp
    Linux: Sound Juicer CD Ripper

    CD Burning
    Windows: Roxio, Nero
    Linux: Gnome Toaster, Serpentine Audio CD Creator, Nero

    It's pretty clear that Windows needs some consistency work before it will reach the level of polish and ease of use found in today's modern Linux distros. Anybody can write a story that manipulates the details in their favor.

  • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:00PM (#14347036) Homepage Journal
    How is it a fair comparison to take the windows binaries out of the context of their menus but leave the Ubuntu apps in the context of theirs?
  • Re:Names vs. GUIs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by scgops ( 598104 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:01PM (#14347040)
    Regarding the thought that "Names arent important," I suggest everyone try to think about this from the point of view of a mere mortal, a.k.a. an end user. Most of the people I know who aren't geeks don't think of themselves as using Internet Explorer. They open the Internet. In that past, that tended to refer to AOL. These days, it's generally IE, but with customizations from Earthlink, SBC, or whoever else their ISP may be. They also don't use Outlook or Outlook Express. They just read their email. For a lot of people, that's done using a web browser and Yahoo or Gmail. In any case, it doesn't matter much, as long as people understand how to compose, read, and reply. The name of the application is irrelevant. From their point of view, most people I know don't even use Word and Excel. Instead, they write letters and create spreadsheets. Pretty much the only application I hear friends and relatives referring to by name is iTunes. But, let's face it, none of us are likely to be manually launching iexplore.exe, winword.exe, or ./firefox. Even geeks typically use a GUI for launching applications. And the nature of a GUI is that people get used to the icon they click or the steps they take, not the labels on things. In a GUI-based paradigm, names really aren't important. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet." -- Shakespear
  • by Bobby Orr ( 161598 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:02PM (#14347047)
    I disagree.

    1) Many scholars in linguistics feel that naming something is asserting power over it. That may be extreme. But think about the importance of names, such as pejorative titles like the N-word that are no longer considered appropriate.

    2) RMS also disagrees. It's why he makes such a big deal out of GNU/Linux. Why can't people just call it Linux, as long as we properly train them? I disagree with RMS's insistence. I merely point it out to use RMS as an example of someone who does care about names.

    3) Think about advertising. Consumer products such as foods are named by easy to pronounce and remember monikers. A cheesy snack called MCSAF (my cheesy snacks aren't freetos) or some such unpronounceable name will fail to sell every single time. Every single time. Like it or not, an easy to remember and pronounce title such as Outlook or Excel or Paintshop is going to be better received by consumers than esoteric titles like GNUxxx.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sl3xd ( 111641 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:05PM (#14347074) Journal
    Actually, there was also sibling post complaining about kde using 'k' to prefix everything; yours was the more reasonably worded comment, so I replied to it.

    I'm not really a fanboy of GNOME or KDE; I use both interchangably (and I like the occasional change of pace). I find it interesting how... rabid each side's fanboys can be towards the other.

    It's interesting how often GNOME fanboys complain about the 'k' prefix for KDE programs, yet seem entirely oblivious to the fact that GNOME does the same thing. The famous telescope effect -- the other guys problems seem much larger than your own.

    KDE users complain about similar nonsense about GNOME, all the while blissfully ignorant that KDE usually does the same things.

    All in all, it's remarkable how similar the two environments are, and how many good ideas are passed between each other. (As well as how many bad ideas get dropped because the other project did the same thing in a better way).

    To be honest, I don't see using the 'k' or 'g' as a prefix much different from Apple's use of 'i' (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, ...)

    It's interesting how the article also selects Linux programs that don't have a descriptive name, yet completely ignores unhelpful Windwos names.

    Cases in point:
    Simple Text Editing
      Windows: NotePad, WordPad, TextPad
      Linux: gedit, kate
      Linux: kwrite, kedit (only listed because they're quite obvious)

    On the Windows side, how about:
    PowerPoint: (a powerful pointer? a SUPER laser pointer? WTF!?!)
    Excel: (Excel... excel at what?)
    Nero: (what is a dead Roman emperor doing on my hard disk?)
    WinAMP: (Apparently this amplifies windows; so it must make it better or more powerful somehow)
    PhotoShop: (Must be a photo printing service...)

    Basically, the article takes what brand recognition Windows has for granted, while completely discounting the same effect for Linux. More astounding, is when you have a brand that exists on both platforms (GIMP, FireFox, Opera).

    You see the same problem for people who move between a Mac and a Windows box; Mac users have such obscure program names as QuickTime, Pages, Keynote, Preview, Safari, BBEdit, Text Wrangler. iMovie... does this mean it plays or makes movies?

    Basically, he's complaining because different platforms have their tools named differently. It happens everywhere; if I walk into a bar and ask for a screwdriver, I'm going to get something entirely different than I would if I were to ask for a screwdriver at the hardware store. Differences in the dialects of English spoken in Australia, the US, and England are good examples. The bottom line is you have to take the time to use the proper dialect, at leeast some of your meaning will get lost in translation.
  • Re:Hehe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zangief ( 461457 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:13PM (#14347129) Homepage Journal
    I lost all respect for Mac usability, when I tried to eject a disc on Mac OS 9.

    I spent like 10 minutes looking for a menu. In the end, I discovered that you have to drag the disc to the trash. I guess it is intuitive (as it ocurred to me, eventually), but it is just an idiotic way of doing things.

    What was so bad about a menu, or option on the disc icon?

    Also, Quicktime for Windows doesn't make a good case for the usability expertise of the Apple developers.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:21PM (#14347193) Journal
    Names do matter when you insist on stuffing 14,000 poorly documented apps into your favorite Linux distro, half beginning with "G" and the other with "K."

    I know you meant that number facetiously, but a quick search of my main XP box at work shows 1472 ".exe" files and another roughly 2000 somewhat-executable files (assorted scripts, dlls, and other extensions generally considered unsafe to allow your email program to open). Of those, oddly enough, over half begin with "w" or "m"

    Now, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to the actual files on a Windows system, but I could only tell you what perhaps a tenth of those do (without some research, of course). And even looking them up online, past experience doing exactly that has shown that for probably a third of those, no one outside Microsoft has the faintest idea what they do or how to use them.

    Like it or not, computers take a bit of education to use. A good GUI can make that far, far easier (and a bad GUI can make it considerably harder), but at some point, you need to accept that users just need to "suck it up" and crack a book (or load a webpage).
  • by Gryle ( 933382 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:23PM (#14347212)
    This is Slashdot. Since when has balance been the issue here?
  • by superchkn ( 632774 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:34PM (#14347323)
    Uh, because that's basically what the article was doing, comparing Windows menu entries to aan opensource application's executable.

    Looking through my menus in Gentoo, it is fairly clear what the program does either by the name, or icon. There are some exceptions, like GIMP is just called "The GIMP", but at least it is under the Graphics menu group so I've a pretty good idea what its function is even without recognizing the application. That actually applies to most applications under my Gnome desktop actually. Everything is grouped by it's function, unlike Windows where typically applications are grouped by manufacturer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @04:38PM (#14347365)
    Putting the windows apps in the context of their menus makes them more confusing, not less confusing. For example, where is my DVD burning software? It could be in the 'Ahead' folder, or the 'Firaxis' folder. Well, I'm trying to 'burn' a DVD, and DVDs spin, so it must be 'Firaxis', right?
  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @05:37PM (#14347776)
    You would pick the one named Excel in a list, as opposed to "GNUmeric."

    Please. At least Gnumeric gives you a hint that it involves NUMBERS somehow (as does "Lotus 1-2-3"). "Excel" sounds like it should be a flashcard trainer for standardized tests.

    Nobody would think Excel is a spreadsheet if they hadn't been taught it.
  • by rearden ( 304396 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @05:46PM (#14347858) Homepage
    I think that something that this article seriously misses is that FOSS groups usually do not have the money/ resources to check for existing name trademarks (especially in multiple countries) and they also lack the money/ resources to purchase used names. There are plenty of marketing/ product companies that hold on to names until a buyer comes along. Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, etc have the people and resources to check for existing trademarks, copyrights, etc or buy exixting ones off of other companies. Just look at the troubles FireFox had and that was with the backing of a major FOSS player like Mozilla. Add on top of that the cost of purchasing the domain name for a popular/ more intuitive product name and it becomes obvious why so many FOSS groups choose unusual names. These people are programmers and technophiles, not lawyers and marketroids and most projects have no budget at all.

  • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @05:53PM (#14347935) Journal
    another interesting thing is that while the link to windows media player have just that text on it, the name of the exe itself is wmplayer.exe.

    you could maybe guess that its windows media player, or you could just be scratching your head. about the only informative word is player. ok, so it plays something, but what? music, video, games?

    and the names may not be informative pr see under linux, but often the menus are often sorted. so if you want to play a video, look under multimedia->video and try one of the programs listed there. want to write a letter, take a look under office->wordprosessor or something similar.

    and most often people want to use openoffice, and the 2.x version have names like writer, calc, impress and draw. try to guess what they do :P (only problem is that they allso have something called math, its a tool for writing mathematical formulas. i have a bad habbit of confusing it with calc, the spreadsheet).
  • by blazerw11 ( 68928 ) <[blazerw] [at] []> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @07:03PM (#14348448) Homepage
    But that's part of the problem. "Most" computer makers customize Windows with add-ons, 3rd party media players, but that makes it impossible for the neophyte to discuss software with anybody else. Say there's a feature in Musicmatch Multimedia Jukebox for which your buddy was pining, so you tell him how to run it:

    Go to the menu...

    What menu?

    The Start Menu


    Now, click Multimedia.

    I don't have Multimedia.

    What do you have?

    I have, My Documents, Settings, Windows Update, New Document, Programs...

    Oh yeah, sorry, click Programs, then Multimedia.

    Ok, I clicked Programs ... ooh, there's a lot here ... What am I looking for?


    (long pause) There's like 100 things, they're not in any order I can discern and they go off the screen (another long pause) no, there's no Multimedia.

    (much dialog occurs before our players find "Dell's Musicmatch Jukebox" in Programs -> Dell -> Dell Toys. Then, it turns out, its and old version of MMJB that doesn't have the cool feature. Oh well, it was fun, good times.)

    Again, we can all make up stories using "facts" to present what we want. For instance, you conveniently dropped "VLC" from your menu entry. So, instead of the menu entry being "VLC Movie Player" which would have messed up your example, you just put "Movie Player". Don't worry, I did the same. My menu entry says "VLC Media Player" and I made up the location of the Dell branded Musicmatch Jukebox because I couldn't find it.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @07:29PM (#14348576) Homepage Journal

    Maybe there should be some kind of catalog of linux applications, broken down into catagories that explains what they do, how they differ and a link to install/launch them.

    You mean like the categories in the KDE and GNOME menus? You mentioned xmms, kopete and GIMP. Let's see where they're found on my Debian KDE system:

    • xmms: Under the "Multimedia" menu is the entry "Multimedia Player (XMMS)"
    • kopete: Under the "Internet" menu is the entry "Instant Messenger (kopete)"
    • GIMP: Under the "Graphics" menu is the entry "Image Editor (GIMP Image Editor)".

    Pretty easy.

    For a GNOME system, I have a Red Hat Enterprise 4 VM here...

    • xmms: Not installed by default, but if you look under "Sound & Music" you'll find "Music Player", which gets you Rhythmbox, a nice music player.
    • kopete: That's under "Internet" with the name "Kopete". Not a very informative name, but if you hover your mouse over it a tooltip pops up saying "Intant Messenger". In practice, you'll probably reach first for the "IM" entry, which gets you GAIM; in my experience a better IM client than Kopete anyway.
    • GIMP: Under "Graphics" you'll find "GIMP Image Editor".

    Also very easy, even if you don't have any idea what the names of the Linux apps are. Just look in the funtion-structured menus and find something that does what you want to do.

    Applications are the reason I've not switched to linux. I'm used to the windows ones I have, finding linux applications that do what I want takes time, and with names like xmms and kopete and gimp its not easy to find them.

    If you install a reasonably full-featured distribution, all of the common tools will be pre-installed and be nicely categorized and named by function.

    Notice how much easier this is than the corresponding situation on Windows. After you've installed Windows you have, what? Windows Media Player will cover XMMS, but what about Kopete or the GIMP? Is MSN messenger pre-installed? Even if it is, what if you have friends who use AIM, Jabber, Yahoo, ICQ, etc.? Gotta find and install something. For GIMP, I guess you've got Paint. Other than that, you have to go find something.

    On Linux, even if you what you want isn't already installed, most distros make it trivial to find and install whatever you need. On Debian, for example, just start Synaptic (which is nicely categorized on the menus), click "Search", type "edit image" and you get a list of a number of packages that do the job. Click on any one of them and you get a description of the package. Click the checkbox next to all of those that sound interesting, click "Apply" and wait a couple of minutes, then try them all out and decide which you like (they'll all be in the appropriate spots in the menus).

    Sorry, but I think Linux destroys Windows in this department. It doesn't matter what the apps are named, good packaging and nice menus make the names irrelevant. It's worth pointing out that Linux beats Mac OS X in this regard as well. Not only does OS X not have as much stuff pre-installed, it doesn't provide a nice way to find applications. You have to go to the Applications folder and then try to figure out what everything in there does.

    In your case, you already went through the pain of figuring out what Windows apps you like, so switching to Linux is painful. But that's not because of Linux, it's because you're moving from something you know to something you don't. Even if the "something you don't" is actually easier, the change requires effort.

  • by mumblestheclown ( 569987 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @08:38PM (#14348991)
    SHAME SHAME and TRIPLE SHAME to whoever modded this ABSOLUTE NONSENSE as "Insightful".

    Statements such as these:

    Names don't matter, it is all about training and then familiarity

    it gets down to user training

    are not just "not insightful", they are so 180 degrees, 100% wrong the fact that they would even be modded as anything close to "insightful" brings more disrepute than usual to slashdot.

    Ok, now that I've raised the alarm, let me justify it.

    First of all, USABILITY MATTERS. This is no longer 1986, or 1994 for that matter. We know now that the usability of a system is a key to its successful deployment.

    Second, the opposite of usability is "that which needs training or re-learning when it shouldn't."

    A pilot needs training to fly a 747. However, Boeing works damned hard and invests millions of dollars to make the systems as intuitive and usable as possible nevertheless, as this will lead to:

    • fewer accidents
    • fewer training and re-training costs for the airlines, their customers
    • better day to day operation
    Nobody at boeing says "the pilots are professionals. let's name the #3 engine Hi pressure bleed air valve malfunction switch "Xooomer". for that matter, let's give their FMS a CLI, since a well trained pilot can be faster with this than with a modal, menu-based FMS."

    These basic, BASIC principles of design are well known in virtually all fields of engineering. And, I (following in the footsteps of tongue-in-cheek works like the unix haters handbook) have been banging this drum in the linux world since at least 1995. And yet, just as it seems that a little light is shining through, in the form of a slashdot headline that actually says (gasp) intelligent things about usability, we open up the comments to find the same old nonsense from users that "it's not a usability problem, it's a training issue" being modded +5 insightful, which basically tells me that a lot of people still aren't getting it.


    Mark parent down. Severely down. Please.

  • First of all, USABILITY MATTERS. This is no longer 1986, or 1994 for that matter. We know now that the usability of a system is a key to its successful deployment.

    AMEN. I would go a step further and say that most technological revolutions are effectuated more so by usability breakthroughs than pure technology. The rise of the Internet was precipitated by the web browser. The widespread availibility of a graphical interface drove the adoption of personal computers. MP3's weren't even on the RIAA's radar before Napster made finding and downloading them easy.

    Usability and accessibility are FAR more important that most geeks realize, probably because most of them want to use their knowledge of technology as a social lever, rather than as a boon to others.
  • by arodland ( 127775 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @10:26PM (#14349521)
    1) Windows and Mac apps don't really have that much more descriptive names on the average. There's plenty of things with nonintuitive names. It's just that those unintuitive names are familiar to more people so nobody makes noise.

    2) Ruby simple? What are you smoking? Ruby is as complicated and as much a mishmash of paradigms as anything.
  • by NotBorg ( 829820 ) * on Tuesday December 27, 2005 @11:03PM (#14349681)
    I've used the Microsoft side most of my life. Linux is a very recent thing for me. I chose Mandriva 2006. If the applications were not sorted by category in the kmenu (ie it was just a flat list) I would not know what does what. The names in Linux are obscure and icons aren't necessarily full of clues as to what the application does. It's annoying to see K this and G that, or X this. The K and G do not add anything to the usefulness of the menu. They detract from it.

    It would be nice to see K, G, and X go away. And things like "Kaffeine" read more like "Kaffeine Media Player." If I'm looking for a basic calculator I should find it under Calculator or Calc. KCalc is hard to find because I'm looking for a word that starts with C. I really don't care who made it or for what desktop it's for as long as I can find it and use it effectively and quickly.

    Now when I use my windows box I don't find MCalc, MSolitare, MPBrush, MIE, MControlPannel, or MNotepad. Apparently it isn't a system limitation to start with K, G, or X and contain no spaces.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2005 @02:02AM (#14350308)
    You know, none of this naming nonsense has to matter to end users. In Sun's JDS3 (GNOME on Solaris 10), GIMP is called "Image Editor", Eye of Gnome is "Image Viewer", Netscape is "Web Browser", Nautilus is "Email and Calendar", etc.

    All possible political correctness is averted!
  • by gnuorder ( 757415 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2005 @02:14AM (#14350344)
    A better comparison is how to get through the menu to the app.

    Windows: Start/programs/Adobe/Acrobat? nope, not there.
    Start/programs/Adobe inc/Pagemaker? nope
    Start/Programs/Adobe co/Illustrator? nope
    Start/Programs/Adobe Systems/GoLive? nope, where is it?
    Start/Programs/Adobe Solutions/photoshop There it is.

    And we know who Adobe is. It's worse when you have a hundred apps from companies you never heard of before.

    Linux: K(or foot, etc)/apps/graphics/GIMP What could be more simple?
  • by themonkman ( 877464 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2005 @05:57AM (#14350871)
    The mere fact that you have to have "tool tips" to even figure out what the programs do in the first point for your most commonly used apps is pretty silly, if you ask me. For most all of my apps in KDE, it says right before the programs name what it does, such as "CD/DVD Burning (K3b)". I didn't have to hover over it to jog my memory as to what it was. Also, my "Start" menu doesn't organize my programs in the most impossible to find ways like Windows does (by company name), it organizes them by what they do in the first place, so I can spend less time searching through crap and more time getting done what I want to do. I get all of that simplicity, AND I don't have to clean buttloads of spyware and viruses off my system like most of you Windoze users do. Oh, yeah...thats 2 more programs that I don't have to remember the names or functions to. See how easy it is :) PS: My girlfriend recently install SuSE 10 Linux on her laptop without any help, and she's the most computer illiterate person I know.
  • by noamsml ( 868075 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (lmsmaon)> on Thursday December 29, 2005 @03:50AM (#14356931) Homepage
    That's a completely unfair comparison, since you are comparing binary names on one OS to menu entries on the other. A better comparison is start menu entries vs. GNOME menu entries:

    Web Browser
    Windows: Web (on XP-like menus), Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox (Classical menus)
    Linux: Opera Web Browser, Mozilla Web Browser, Firefox Web Browser

    Graphics Editing
    Windows: Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, Paint (just joking! don't kill me!)
    Linux: GIMP Image Editor

    Movie Playback
    Windows: Windows Media Player, QuickTime
    Linux: Totem Movie Player, MPlayer, Xine, VLC Media Player

    DVD Playback:
    Windows: WinDVD, Windows Media Player
    Linux: Totem Movie Player, Xine, VLC Media Player

    Simple Text Editing
    Windows: Notepad, Wordpad, TextPad
    Linux: Text Editor

    Instant Messaging
    Windows: MSN Messenger, Google Talk
    Linux: Gaim Internet Messenger

    Music Playback:
    Windows: Windows Media Player, iTunes
    Linux: Beep Media Player, Rhythmbox Music Player

    CD Ripping:
    Windows: iTunes, Windows Media Player
    Linux: Sound Juicer CD Ripper

    CD Burning
    Windows: CDBurnerXP Pro 3 (That's a real name!), Nero Burning Rom
    Linux: Gnome Toaster, Serpentine Audio CD Creator, Nero

    I still like GNOME naming conventions better, but I think that usually the names of most actual Microsoft apps are pretty clear (though a tad too generic). What I really dislike, though, is the menu structure.

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs