Terminals for Geeks

I notice a trend of late. Default terminal configurations have the menu bar disabled and use transparency.

Sure, transparency comes with a cool factor and is utter geekness. Transparency is freaky to non technical users. Without compositing most programs do not offer transparency. Defaulting to transparency in the terminal confuses non technical users.

Transparency is not something that kills usability, but the lack of a menu bar does. Restoring the menu bar is not easily discoverable. Terminals are designed with the expectation of using the keyboard and not the mouse. Yet the trick is to use the mouse and “right-click” on the terminal to open a context menu, which then provides an option to show the menu bar. Non technical users are unlikely to discover this remedy.

Some terminals support a keyboard shortcut to toggle the menu bar, but that too is not discoverable when the menu bar is invisible.

That is not the end of the tale. The next time the user opens the terminal, the menu bar is once again gone. Rinse, repeat.

Someone once wrote that repeating the same act and expecting different results is a sign of insanity. Little wonder non technical users develop phobias with computers.

Users need to open the terminal preferences and configure the terminal to always show the menu bar.

Granted, non technical users are unlikely to use a terminal. Yet if they do then these “cool” geek defaults will confuse such users. Experienced users can enable transparency and disable the menu bar in less than 10 seconds. Non technical users are left being stumped and frustrated. These default trends demonstrate that Linux desktops are designed by geeks to parade to other geeks, non technical users be damned.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Terminal

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