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Eazel Will Influence Re-vamped GNOME Interface Team

By Brian Proffitt,
Linux Today

Citing a need to focus not only on the functionality of GNOME
applications but the interface and flow as well, GNOME creator
Miguel de Icaza made a call for the reorganization of the GNOME
User Interface team. Some elements are already in place that will
give Eazel, the creators of the upcoming Nautilus file manager, a
significant say in the direction future GNOME interfaces will
take.

In de Icaza’s
message
to the Linux community Tuesday, he listed the four
major areas of the GNOME interface that need to be addressed by the
new team. These were: basic user interface elements, feedback
features, accessibility features, and internationalization
support.

The timing of the reorganization does not directly effect the
development of GNOME 1.4, according to de Icaza.

“User interface improvements are a continuous task for the GNOME
team,” de Icaza said in an online interview this week, “The idea is
to have a system in place for accepting innovations and new ideas,
and help developers with their user interfaces.”

GNOME 1.4’s look and feel already has some influence, too.

“The major change in GNOME 1.4 from the user perspective is the
incorporation of Eazel’s Nautilus file manager, which is a huge
step forward in human interfaces,” de Icaza explained. “Eazel has
hired a number of user interface experts for Nautilus… so expect
GNOME to keep moving in the direction of better usability.”

The reorganization of the UI team should not affect Eazel’s work
on Nautilus, de Icaza emphasized.

“Currently the team at Eazel is busy with the upcoming Nautilus
release, but the efforts should be fully blended. While Eazel is
currently focused on Nautilus, other people can look at other
applications in the whole GNOME desktop and contribute to each
application,” he said.

According to de Icaza, Eazel is working on a usability lab to
help the UI development as well.

Eazel’s Arlo Rose has been tapped to have a lead role on the new
UI team, de Icaza said. Rose already has a good head start in GNOME
interface work.

“I’ve been working with a small group of enthusiastic folks in
the pre-existing GNOME UI community to form a GNOME Human Interface
group that covers the same types of actions Miguel was calling for
in his latest announcement,” Rose said, “There are a lot of
promising people I’ve met, while arranging this group, and I’m
looking forward to working with them and sharing my experience of
what it takes to make applications usable by everyone.”

The interaction of a volunteer organization and a commercial
corporation who both have to drive the future interface of GNOME
does not faze Rose.

“The best thing to say is that it will be a balance,” Rose
explained. “The Human Interface Guidelines I’m writing for GNOME
will be borne from the fine tuning I’ll have to do in the final
stage of Nautilus development.

“It will be more of a general guideline set for all of GNOME
that I’ll be applying to Nautilus. This goes for all UI directions,
to be honest. There isn’t a Nautilus/GNOME divide of influence,
there’s a new direction, with higher standards whose first target
happens to be Nautilus,” Rose continued.

The general public will get a new look at Nautilus themselves
next week.

“We’re about to launch our second Preview Release, where we’ll
be showing off our services feature for the first time publicly,”
Rose revealed. This new Preview Release should be released on
October 30, according to Rose.

Rose is pretty excited about the direction GNOME is taking with
the help of Eazel’s Nautilus.

“The work we’re doing on Nautilus is really a first in the GNOME
community, because we’re putting the user first and foremost. It’s
amazing to see something we’ve all been so proud of inside Eazel,
fail completely when put in front of a novice user… but it’s
equally amazing to see that user have no problem a week later after
we’ve made the necessary fine tuning,” Rose said.

Rose is also looking forward to working in an open source
environment.

“I have to admit, this is all a very unique experience for me.
When I was working on the Mac OS 8 Human Interface Guidelines at
Apple, it was just me, a handful of internal people to review it,
and a technical writer to wordsmith it into something publishable,
he related.

“In this community, it will be completely open as it progresses,
and I’m sure it will be a unique experience… like trying to write
a book while it’s being projected over Times Square.”

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