Samstag, 9. Juni 2012

Comments Ruler Control

Long time no hear ... I'm really happy that I was able to dedicate some time for a topic that was one of the very first when joining the community.

Why? There has been some nice ruler rework recently, and so I got a
friendly ping about what had happened to the so called "Comments Ruler
Control" I've proposed years ago when working on the Writer notes (OOo Notes2).

Consequently, I've started the Design Whiteboard "Comments Ruler Control" that contains a rather complete specification for that feature. The basic idea is to provide a new user interface element (next to the ruler) that enables the user to toggle the visbility of the Writer comments. Here is an exemplarily mockup for the case "Ruler Control Expanded" ...

If you want to know more - have a look at the Whiteboard. And if any developer wants to jump in ... that would be really awesome!


Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

LibreOffice Conference 2011, Personal Summary

Well, seeing all the nice reports from the LibreOffice Conference, let's add another one ...


First and foremost, it has been great fun to see all the people (again) - I really missed to be with them. And, thanks a lot to the organizers and the presenters who made up our first conference that great! Finally, kudos to all people who drive LibreOffice and make it the best free (as in speech) office suite out there.

Visual Design

I really loved to see all the nice graphics that have been created by (or at least originated from) the Design Team. For example, I was really pleased to see that almost everyone used the official conference presentation template and it seemed (despite a few glitches) to work quite well.

And, Nik's Paris Conference logo could be seen everywhere at the venue. And, I think that the conference team turned that into the most stylish bags we've ever had ...

The LibreOffice Conference Bag

Moreover, you may have noticed the work on LibreOffice Online - a browser accessible version of LibreOffice. To support the initial announcement (being meant as some kind of surprise), I have been asked in advance to provide a preliminary logo for it. Of course, my proposals and the sources have been made available in the meantime.

User Experience and Usability

Before the conference I was a bit unsure how to address topics like usability when talking to developers. Now I know that there was no need to worry, because so many developers I've talked with seriously want to improve LibreOffice. Some examples:
  • In his presentation, Cédric mentioned the good feedback on the libreoffice-ux-advise list when he worked on the special indicators in Writer (header / footer indicators, page break indicators). Vice versa, Cédric, thanks for being so open to our proposals.
  • Markus from the Calc team offered to fix some UX issues within the next releases, if we provide some hints what really needs to be improved. Awesome!
  • Kendy did the talk "Polish LibreOffice Rough Edges" where he asked the auditorium for paper cuts (tiny issues). He'll turn them into Easy Hacks :-) (For the curious, I've proposed Navigator improvements related to issue 36309, correcting the Edit - Selection Mode menu, the Help - Credits, Zooming behavior.)
  • Thorsten asked for further LibreOffice usability issues and Lior was so kind to support to collect them ... at the conference, we already had a discussion where to find relevant user feedback. Furthermore, he joined the LibreOffice design team mailing lists to support us with regard to CTL questions. Thanks a lot!!!
  • After talking about the Design Team, Christophe Strobbe asked how accessibility is considered ... I proposed him to join the Design Team as well. In the past, I really appreciated a helping hand for accessibility when designing features.
  • Finally, some people at the conference talked about Usage Tracking and how it could be (re-)implemented. In the long run, we really need such usage data ... thus, I'm happy that other people care about that as well.
Design Team Stuff

There have been some nice presentations that directly relate to Design Team activities, so here is a brief overview:
  • Björn Balasz (Detecting signals in the feedback noise), talked e.g. about the needs of the development when it comes to UX issues. He talked about the importance of both quick and high quality feedback - which led to the question, whether parts of the UX work should be professionalized in the long run. To me, this also leads to the question how we can get more efficient / effective in the Design Team, to get more people involved ...
  • André Schnabel and myself (Developer tasks for non code hackers), covered the importance of non-code contributions ... and how to start. Have a look at the presentation (Direct Link PDF, and more info)!
  • Lionel Dricot (What is usability and what does it mean for us?) highlighted the importance of usability in general ... after the talk we've met and I gave some insights about the Design Team and our UX work in the former OOo days. Due to his experience, I really hope that his time permits supporting us ... would be cool! 
Björn Balasz

Lionel Dricot

LibreOffice - The Software

Talking about usability usually leads to the question: What is our overall goal for users? Thus, Björn Balasz, Lionel Dricot, David Rajchenbach-Teller (Mozilla), Andreas Mantke and myself sat together and tried to formulate a vision for LibreOffice.

Well, we tried for 1,5 hours, but it was (and is) really hard to identify a unique selling point that works for "normal users". Although, we do have an excellent free software productivity suite and we're supporting open standards ... Joe Average doesn't care about that.

Consequence: Open question, discussion to be held on our mailing lists :-)

LibreOffice - The Project

At the first day of the conference, there has been a SC meeting where we also discussed how teams currently collaborate. We noticed that there is some confusion what the teams to and how everything (should) work together ... so it was proposed to provide an overview that gives a rough overview over the community. Moreover, the teams (here: including the Design Team) are asked to provide some documentation (maybe on their wiki page) summarizing how they work and what they do. Any volunteers for that? :-)

The End

Well, thanks for reading this summary. I hope you found it insightful ...


Donnerstag, 15. September 2011

Personal Hackfest 2011 Summary

Almost two weeks ago, we had our LibreOffice Hackfest in Munich. It's time for a personal summary what happened there, because my involvement was rather providing functional design improvements than committing patches (besides the logo).

But before I start, I want to say thank you to all those who helped to make that a unique event (e.g. the organizers, the City of Munich, the Café Netzwerk people) ... to all the friends I haven't seen such a long time ... and to Italo who prepared excellent pasta.

Now some of the stuff we've worked on ...

Header / Footer Handling (Writer)

Some of you may have noticed the headers/footers handling work by Cédric. The original issues were:
  • Users often selected page background pictures (think watermark) instead of text. Usually, such background pictures are anchored in the header/footer of a page.
  • User sometimes change the header/footer content on one page without knowing that this will have impact on other pages.
There are more issues that got resolved, but you're prolly interested how the solution looks like at the moment. Here is a "brushed up" screenshot of what Cédric is working on:

I don't want to reveal more ... due to time constraints I was unable to add a Whiteboard for the discussions. So either test a daily build, wait for another blog post, or dive into the extensive discussion at libreoffice-ux-advise.

Page Range Improvements (Calc)

Calc already features advanced "named ranges" (or "named expressions", as the developers prefer to say) since LibreOffice 3.4. But, a reasonable user interface to manage these ranges is still missing.

Markus was so kind to spend quite some time to discuss this issue - and he is already working on bringing that into LibreOffice. Although we need to resolve some open (one even fundamental) question, you may get all the updates on the: Calc Range Names Whiteboard page.

A (still in work) teaser:

This proposal is currently in review by Kohei, Eike, Markus ... thanks to you guys!

Improving the Extension Installation Experience

One of the very first contributions within this community was to review a specification of the "Extension Manager" some years ago ... already from a User Experience perspective. The more I was happy that Christian, one of the developers, proposed to work on "proper error reporting for erroneous OXT/ extension folder (missing files, missing keys, more specific and understandable errors)".
In the very first step, he thought about providing detailed insights why installing an extension might fail - which helps developers to debug extensions. But then we've discussed some ideas how to make such error messages also more helpful for less experienced users. For example, having easy-to-understand texts, having clues who developed the extension, how to provide feedback if the installation went wrong, ...
I'm curious with what he will come up with ;-)

Reworking the Options

The initial question from Regina and Reinhard was "How can we improve the understandability between document only vs. LibO settings?" A tough question, because I once tried to answer that question in the activity Improved Options in OOo times.

After some further discussion (and more ideas what should be improved) we came to the conclusion that it is required to to collect the information of all the available options first - from technical details to number of use. Currently, we try to figure out how to do that ... I hope that Astron (who started a similar activity some weeks ago) and others will join.

And there was much more ... for example the "how to better interact with the developers". That's something for another post, so let's take some breath now.

A more complete list of achievements by all participants is available in the wiki.


Samstag, 13. August 2011

Sliced Visual Design Time

Hi everyone,

the first blog posting since weeks ... although I'm still fascinated to experience the first time with our child, I'm still (at least mentally) with LibreOffice. Some vacation from my day job helped me to spend a bit more "LibO time" (which is currently hard to predict). Since we travelled a lot, visual design stuff was something easy to work on "in slices".

New Banners for the Website 

Currently, our different websites (e.g. the conference website, the donation website) are only losely coupled. For a quick-fix, banners had to be added to the  LibreOffice front page ... unfortunately, nobody within the Design Team was able to spend some time on that. Instead, David was so kind to develop a first version.

These banners got replaced by new ones following more closely our branding language (and using Nik's and Paulo's artwork). Now, our website looks like that ...

If anybody wants to pick that up, for example to derive default web banners, or to translate the text - the source SVG file is here.

Conference Presentation Template

Some weeks ago, Charles asked for a presentation template for the upcoming LibreOffice conference in Paris (side note: don't forget to register...). Since I was always unhappy about the conference templates we had for the OOoCons, I decided to give it a try ...

The template proposal implements what I've usually missed, e.g.:
  • providing much space for the content (which is more important than any logo)
  • proper use of master pages incl. footer area definitions: first slide, default slide, section header slide, last slide
  • pre-defined shapes / graphic object styles / gradients for the presentation authors
  • correct language settings (spellchecking should work for English)
  • font fallback definitions if some are missing on the target system
  • small size for those who want to download the final presentations afterwards (having no broadband access)
  • taking care of our LibreOffice branding language
So, let's see what template proposal will be picked :-) If you want to have a closer look, here is the template proposal.

Stuff for the Hackfest in Munich 2011

Most of you have (should have) heard about the Hackfest in Munich, 2011. Florian asked for a logo ... so I initially drafted some fun motto:

Curious? Maybe this and that makes it more understandable...

However, others joined with proposals. After some mixing and matching, I came up with a combination of the conference logo text and our macro icon (LibO initial icon design). I hope the devs don't mind the gearwheel ...

Well, a logo doesn't help much. So I've added some information panels / sheets that can easily be printed (A4). There are versions without content (for on-site labeling), explanation text, different directions and the motto text. Here is an example:

Of course, source files are available - so feel free to use them for your meeting.

Final Words

Since I talked about "LibO time is less predictable", I owe Caolan, Cedric, Bjoern, Josh, Rainer, Nik, Drew, Andreas, Bjoern (another one) and many others a big thank your for their patience. Please, if something is urgent or I did miss to reply - then please feel free to send a reminder.

I really hope to continue with some user experience / usability related stuff ... some issues and other requests are still waiting.

Enjoy your day,

Freitag, 1. Juli 2011

Improved Download Page Proposal

Hi everyone,

the last time I blogged about the parental leave ... still enjoying that time. But, sometimes I'd like to continue supporting LibreOffice and among different stuff in the last weeks (e.g. in the issues, or the libreoffice-ux-advice mailing list), I had a look at the Download section of our main website.

The Issue
It has been reported several times that end-users are unaware concerning the release scheme of LibreOffice and may experience problems with X.X.0 releases. Converning the latter, this is also a problem of users who download the software on external pages unrelated to TDF - the corresponding warning/information might be missing.

Furthermore, there have been complaints that the TDF LibreOffice Download page is too complex for normal users. Consequently, the LibreOffice Download Experience has to be improved.

Here is the download page how it looks today:

Although everything works, it seems a bit crowded, very complex and sometimes even misleading (as reported by users).

The Proposed Solution
Since everybody likes pictures, here is are just two mockups.

First, a mockup that demonstrates how the initial website will look like for a Microsoft Windows user.

Second, a mockup that demonstrates the website for a user who decided to go for the "Latest Features" version using a Linux based operating system. Moreover, the user already expanded the Download Options area.

You know, mockups miss a lot of information ... so don't forget to read the Download Page Whiteboard page telling you all the details ... please read that page before raising any concern ;-)


A "thank you" to all who helped to shape these proposals ... the earlier discussions on different mailing lists helped a lot (especially Nik who provided great thoughts). Furthermore, I'd like to thank Christian who helped to collect some of the requirements for a revised page design.

Personally, I hope you like the propsal. I'll announce it at the website mailing list, so join the discussion - or much better: help with the implementation.


Donnerstag, 5. Mai 2011

Status of the Design Team Kick-Off, and a Personal Note

Status of the Design Team Kick-Off

You might remember our earlier blog postings concerning the Design Team Kick-Off, an effort to get to know each other and to build a sufficient structure that helps us to make LibreOffice a great software ...

So, we brainstormed a bit what we'll need ... not in terms of work items (improve this or that in the user interface, add missing icons etc.), but in terms of organizational stuff (how to make decisions, how to get data about our users etc.) Although it took a while (my fault due to parallel issues), we have now a comprehensive list of what's missing at the moment ... on the What We Need page.

We don't know each of the solutions yet, but sometimes it is more important to know what to work on, than to work on anything without knowing what for ... so I hope that the Design Team continues to work on that. Until know, it was great to see all the good brainstorming.

If your team has some ideas what might be needed to cooperate, then feel free to add it to the team sections on the same page. Björn and Thorsten have been so kind to look at it from a developers point-of-view: Thanks a lot guys!

Oh, and since I've noticed a few discussions in the last days concerning "user interface design", please have a look at my temporary working space in the wiki. I've listed some of the Interaction Guidelines for the platforms we support - of course, it is just about UI elements, but it should already help to keep the focus in discussions. If you like, please move the content to a page where it makes a bit more sense (e.g. Design/Guidelines). At the moment, I really miss the time ... but why?

Personal Note

As some of you already know, our son was born yesterday :-) And that's the explanation for having been less active (especially) during the last three weeks ... and the reason for being absent for some more. I'd like to enjoy this time without working on LibreOffice.

Why? The last years, I dedicated a lot of time to StarOffice / / LibreOffice ... user support, interaction design stuff, being the OOo User Experience Co-Lead, serving in the Community Council, and helping to shape the TDF (long before LibreOffice went public). I think its fair to - this time - spend a bit more time with the family.

I'll be back soon :-)


Freitag, 22. April 2011

LibreOffice gets a Motif

LibreOffice gets a Motif ... a what?

Okay, let's start from the beginning. Since quite some time we have been asked to provide graphic material that fits nicely together - you may remember our earlier effort concerning the LibreOffice Branding Guidelines.

Sure, the branding guidelines tell you in detail what to do (and to avoid) with regard to our logo, the fonts, ... but a recurring element was still missing. Until now, we used the "triangle pattern" you see in the LibreOffice splashscreen, for example.

Nik took the initiative and started the "LibreOffice Motif Design Task" ... so I'm mostly quoting or referring in this blog posting to other people's work. He explained what a motif generally means:

For our purposes (it has other industry-specific meanings) a motif is a Design element that is used to bring consistency to a range of Design artifacts and sets a "mood" or "atmosphere" visually without taking up too much attention. It is a support element and should compliment the contents of every Design. As such, it usually takes the form of a background-image/vector.

If it wants to set the "mood", it's not an easy task - because it has to fit to the community and the product. So we had exciting days (although things never go as quick as you like, of course) of creating proposals, discussing them, and rating them.

To make a long story short(er), we had:
  • 12 proposals by 5 people
  • 14 votes
  • And a clear winner: Scatter by Nik (10 votes)

Here is the basic design, which is based on the document symbol "triangle":

To prove that it'll be working, Nik provided the Scatter motif in context - although the green is a bit different, you'll get the idea:

To me, this design is a perfect example for our community. It reminds me of the diversity of the different people (different orientation, slightly different color of the triangles) while trying to archive something great together (group of triangles). By the way, Nik told me that he put a lot of effort into making something "organic".

Fine, and now? For example, Drew started to refine a postcard which had been made by Nik as an example. Here is the front:

Want to see more? Have a look at the Existing Designs Wiki Page and find out that even a professional publisher picked the motif (Thanks to them!).

Finally, thanks to all the guys who participated in creating and supporting such the fine motif design piece ... My deepest thanks go to Nik, who took care about documentation and guidance. If you want to see more, e.g. all the motif proposals, then go to the Design Motif Wiki Page.

I'm looking forward to see how our project will get "motifated". Website, LibreOffice product artwork, marketing material, ...