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Please don't tell me the only intuitive interface is the nipple or anything similar. I understand the problems with the word "intuitive". (If I wanted to discuss the issue, I'd point out that my "intuition", like many others' intuitions, has been developed or refined under Windows (for better or worse).) My concern is that I have to stare at or experiment with some Linux dialogs for longer than I'd like before I figure out how to proceed.

The intent of this page is to begin to list some of those dialogs I have trouble with, then either provide the necessary hints to deal with them on this page, or point to a page with those hints.

I'll also admit that attributing these problems to Linux may be unfair, perhaps they would be more accurately Unix problems, or Motif / Lesstif problems, or problems only of specific applications that happen to run under Linux. Well, I needed a name for this page, and this is the one that seems most appropriate to me at the moment.




It's probably going to sound like I'm picking on nedit, or that maybe my complaint is more about nedit (or Motif / Lesstif (because of the nedit heritage)), but I do have similar problems with other Linux apps — it's just that I'm starting this list with nedit.

Font Selection Dialog

See Nedit Fonts: Partial Resolution.

Preference Settings

The arrangement of Preferences, with the current (this session only) settings on the first drop down menu, and the need to go to a second drop down menu (Preferences -> Default Settings) to make permanent changes (with the same (or similar) menu choices as the first menu is unusual in my experience. (Can I cite an example of a better approach? Maybe after some thought / investigation. Maybe very few programs give you both these options?? You change them permanently, and if you want them different in the current session you change them again?)

Further, the need to come back to that first menu and select Save Defaults to save the permanent changes is also unusual.

File -> Open

The File -> Open dialog is also unusual (IME).

The seven "widgets" on the dialog are:

  • a "Filter" text box (if that's the right name)
  • a "Directories" scroll box
  • a "Files" scroll box
  • four "command buttons" (MS terminology??)
    • OK
    • Filter
    • Cancel
    • Help

I don't know what is the most confusing, there are a number of things that hit you:

  • if you want to just type in a file name, where do you do that? (in the filter box, I believe)
  • quite often as I try to change directories I get all discombobulated (I should explain more, maybe some other time) — things just don't seem to work the way I would expect. Sometimes I can't even navigate to the file and directory I want, so I sometimes resort to calling up a previously opened file, in the same directory, and then attempting to navigate from there.

The "filter" term is present on other Linux applications' file open dialogs, and is one thing that contributes to my confusion in more than one Linux app.

Is it one of those things that once you get a good understanding, you never have a problem again? Probably, part of my problem is learning what I know by trial and error rather than reading that good explanation. (I may have figured out 50 to 99% about the mechanics of making it work, but may misunderstand the "theory" -- if I understood the theory, maybe 100% would be crystal clear. Where are those short, pithy, but complete explanations of things like that. How do they get put "in the face" of a Linux newbie?)


  • () RandyKramer - 19 May 2003
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Topic revision: r1 - 2003-05-19 - RandyKramer
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