Re: [wmii] Dockapp problem

From: Denis Grelich <>
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006 19:19:33 +0200

On Sun, 21 May 2006 18:05:56 +0200
"Anselm R. Garbe" <> wrote:

> I doubt the usefulness of those tiny tray icons in KDE.
> They are hard to click, because they are too small. They don't
> tell me much, because an icon has different meanings in
> different cultures, and to render them, KDE has several 100kSLOC
> dependencies. Even assumed one would only support xpm's, they
> don't add much benefit.

I don't want to protect tray icons in KDE, because about every little piece of code claims the need for a tray icon ;)
But it is not true that icons can't tell you much. I only had a basic course of biology in school, but about everyone who is interested in that area will tell you, that icons, symbols and images are something that the human brain is great in working with. About every language I suppose has the saying »Ein Bild sagt mehr, als tausend Worte.«, an image tells more that one thousand words.
Yes, one can abuse images, to create bon-bon-coloured LSD worlds on your desktop, but used with thought they can provide a great means of displaying various information very quickly. That there are culturally different meanings for symbols is true. Though there are notions that every human brain shares, everyone using wmii or at least a computer would understand a well designed symbol ;) (even easier than the English language I want to claim.)

Nonetheless, to design good symbols is no trivial work. If you don't do it well, you really end up in KDE or Windows XP. Finding a good middle-way is, as always, trump.

> In contrast to this, text tells you exactly what a label is
> about and the label-based colorization allow you to
> differentiate warnings, from informational purposes - if you're
> going to monitor several stuff.

Text may be exact, but there are more often situations where you don't want to care about details, and as I already stated, an image can have more meaning than a whole sentence. Given that screen real estate is scarce and expensive (there were discussions about cycling bar labels! WTF oO), this turns out to be quite a big benefit. Also, it can give you needed information much more quickly than any text ever can. Two simple examples that directly come to my mind for when images excel text:
See your inbox. You pretty much don't care if there are 10 mails in your inbox, or just one. If there is at all, you are going to read it no matter how much they are, don't you ;) So, displaying a small »letter« symbol in the bar draws your attention quicker to itself than »You got mail«, »inbox: xx« or whatever, which also disturbs your worklflow more! (of course, if there is /always/ a letter icon in your bar that gets lit or altered, the effect is smaller, but this would be not very thought-out to do something like that!)
Or, see a traffic graph. You can display the current network load as a absolute number. Or you could display a small graph. A graph is much easier on brain cycles! In addition, it displays the network load's course. You /immediately/ see if there's a peak, a change, or a DDOS/Windows box connected to the LAN ;) Of course you can have several cycling labels or some other ugly insanity. But I don't have to explain how that would be.

So, there is room for images in a usable window manager. Not in a minimalistic, but in a usable. And wmii surely concentrates on usability (which most of the time /is/ minimalism, but not here!), at least so I hope.


Received on Sun May 21 2006 - 19:19:53 UTC

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