Exploring Desktop Environments — 5

There is a pecking order, or perhaps mild madness, with migrating to a new desktop environment (DE).

First in the list is the desktop itself. The personal project of breaking away from GTK required considerable time learning about some different DEs and configuring features to taste. Little by little each desktop was transformed into an environment that is not in the user’s way or disruptive.

Next in that list are text editors and terminal windows. In the house network these software tools are used daily and used often.

One of the challenges with configuring and customizing is terminology. Documentation helps, but often finding information requires surfing the web. Often users know what they want but finding the exact configuration option depends on what the developers named a feature. If there is a difference in terminology then searching the web for help becomes challenging.

Even when terminology is correct there is the challenge with complex software to know where to find configuration options. Linux DEs have been evolving and changing for a couple of decades and some software is deeply complex.

Consider the Kate and KWrite text editors. Both are decent editing tools with differences.

Kate is designed for developers and KWrite is an above average text editor targeting general users. Kate has a multi-document interface (MDI) with support for tabs. Originally KWrite had a single document interface (SDI) with no support for tabs.

SDI is convenient for fast one-off editing. Often MDI with tabs is helpful when concurrently editing multiple files.

KWrite probably would satisfy many people with an MDI rather than SDI and ignoring much of the developer overhead of Kate.

The default Kate design targets developers. To a non developer there is much noise with respect to somebody who wants an advanced text editor without a boat load of developer tools and extensions. Reducing that noise is not always intuitive.

As a development environment Kate supports many features absent from KWrite. Kate comes with several plugins enabled. The unwanted plugins can be disabled in Settings-->Configure Kate-->Plugins.

On the right side of the editors is something called a “mini map.” This can be disabled in Appearance-->Borders.

Both editors seem to lack an obvious way to jump to a specific line. At the bottom of the editor window in the status bar is a text indicator showing the cursor line number and column position. Clicking in that widget will open a text box to jump to a line number. The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+G. The widget can be configured to always display the line count and word count. These two options also can be configured in Appearance-->General-->Counts.

By default Kate tabs fill the entire width of the editor screen. Who knows why — a tab should look like a tab. This can be changed to “real” tabs in Behavior-->Expand tabs.

Everybody has different eyesight and different color preferences. One trick in the house network used for many years is the background in text editors when used as root is pink (#FDD9E6). This helps remember that the editing is in a root session.

Such tweaking takes time. There are no shortcuts with configuring a desktop.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

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