Rethinking Impress

Lately I have been interacting with the UX community at OpenOffice.org with a great exchange of ideas and with the hole way OOo new interface should be approached. First was the push to a slimer toolbar, then the problem that some of the impress UX choices on the prototype were very lowly represented.

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KOffice UI about text documents and spreadsheets
The discussion went into talking about the KOffice UI which also had a lot of chatting since there was the issue with different ways of looking how the open office suites are moving into a more vertical box bar, usually called dockers. However some messages kept the rest of the group download and use it. Then again there is a great study case to take into account.Today however I got back into slidecast to look at the most successful presentations and how horrible is both powerpoint and impress to generate these kind of presentations. Basically most of the presentations are very image oriented, they rely on 80% images to deliver a message but in these lines we provide very little tools. So maybe our developers need to have a read at one of the modern presentations books like slide:ology and Presentation Zen.Even with the recently updated image editor section within OOo we only have a relative archaic Gallery panel and also no way to easily import content from the web or cammeras or others.An insert images button is also relatively hidden from the general UI and users that want to insert images from the web fight through a very nagging process to put the images. So I hope that we can get the messages about the current state of presentations and how can we make easier for users to be guided on creating the best presentation they need by having access to the cotnent they want.

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Prototype Impress showned
These can be done through extensions…. that is correct but as user experience we can’t rely on them to solve all our problems. And many people think that extensions are much greater than what they are technically are. The latest message came as please make the UI an extension. These of course is just not possible to refactor the toolkit just by adding more code on top.I think that the goal from Renaissance is a bit hollow since their wishes are not compliant with their resources. But even if I am wrong and there are a lot of developers behind at the same time other group is pushing for performance and so on, user experience will face the question about if their expertise is the one required to say what the user feels when they use the interface. Can they really do the best they expect on the very first minute that they use.I am still hesitant about these prototypes because I love innovation and change and even if many people are conservative and fighting back there still a lot of stuff we need to oversee to make this tool more efficient. Please let me know about your thoughts and contribute to the conversation about UX at their mailing list.

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3 thoughts on “Rethinking Impress

  1. Hi Alexandro,I’m on the UI discussion list, but for some reason, my posts do not reach the rest of the group. I have been keeping track of the discussion though.I’ve seen the prototype and whilst my initial response was directed towards its appearance (very attractive), in retrospect, I question its functionality. There are large distances to travel when creating slides, particularly on the bigger screens we have nowadays, and a great deal of the workspace is given to the UI, which I feel is inappropriate. It seems as if the UI has been given a new set of clothes and a tidy-up, rather than breaking new ground. I do allow though, that the familiarity of it will allow users (particularly new users) to quickly start producing. One thing I did like on the prototype was the inclusion of tools on the slides, which were very useful.I feel the list ought to have set some principles or criteria the new UI should meet, like placing maximum power at a user’s cursor position or insertion point, minimizing eye movement and cursor movement, and be proposing novel ways to meet these criteria, but it seems as if there are random thoughts being put forward, like the tabbed menus in BlueFish. The tools/tabs at the bottom of the screen require the users to move their eyes around, causing tiredness and taking time. Perhaps these criteria were covered earlier-on and I’ve missed them. Question: what are the 5 (or 4, or 6, or other number) most important aspects of a UI that make it a productive environment to work. Another question: what are the five greatest productivity shortcomings of the current UI, and how can they be eliminated or minimized?Over the past few weeks, I have given my approach (minimalist UI, with right-click menus maximized, perhaps with floating palettes) a lot of critical thought and cannot find a serious flaw, other than a new user might find the UI a little baffling – much like new users to WordPerfect, back in the days of DOS, although its popularity with typists was mainly due to its clean-sheet UI, allowing them to get on with their task of typing – but I don’t see this as being a severe shortcoming.I’ll happily keep up discussions with you whilst trying to fix the discussion group problem and if you wish, just drop me a line.Regarding the Presentation Zen link, I took a look and was impressed with the thought that went into the message and would love to see a scrolling text box in Impress, but this to me is a feature of the application, and not a part of the UI.I hope to hear from you, but if not, I wish the UI project every success, and am exceedingly grateful for your efforts and those of your colleagues in leading this project.Regards,Michael Pless

  2. Hi Michael thanks for your valuable feedback, it took me a couple of days to read it. But I agree that we need to start identifying key goals within the UI older decisions and flaws and the new ones.The older one was:* Cluttered* Wasted real state* Floating toolbarsNew one seems to also waste real state somewhat, not by making the space efficient but by arbitrary enlarging the size of the options.

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