Desktop Defaults

For many years I have watched other people use computers. I have learned much about Linux related challenges and deficiencies. Certain desktop design choices affect all users.

Many people crane their necks toward the monitor and squint their eyes. Many people struggle with dexterity using a mouse. Traditional Linux defaults are a challenge to their ability to navigate the desktop.

The traditional Linux desktop defaults include scroll bars that are too narrow, small fonts, shadowed fonts, small desktop icons, transparency, and short/narrow panels. I see this across all traditional desktop environments.

Many users struggle with default mouse double-click times. The typical Linux default is almost faster than rabbits copulate. People with dexterity challenges need slower double-click times.

A tendency in Linux desktop design is to favor geeks and power users with window placement. The traditional Linux approach is to place windows in the upper left corner and then open subsequent windows to the right of that initial placement. While that placement might excite geeks, the majority of computer users are not multi-taskers or power users. A majority of users open one or two windows at a time. A centered placement is more natural for such users. I have seen debates about this topic, but the rebuttals are from geeks and power users rather than people from the street.

The traditional default of four workspaces is silly. Most users never use more than one workspace. Most do not understand the concept of multiple workspaces. A default of one or two is more sane.

While the opinions about such defaults vary, my observations are the traditional Linux defaults need attention. Linux desktops are designed with the flawed philosophy of maximizing screen real estate. That philosophy had merit in the days of 12 inch monitors and has merit in the world of tablets and smart phones, but is abused on the desktop. Additionally, many developers use computer display monitors as big as a TV. Their desktop design looks fine on these large screens but become challenging on more traditional desktop display monitors.

An argument can be made that certain features should be enabled in a default desktop to encourage discoverability. I have mixed thoughts about that but I lean toward defaults that cater to the non geek. Geeks will discover features but non geeks won’t and they don’t care.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

Next: Desktop Freezing

Previous: Xfce Terminal Cure