Design Goings On

The GNOME 3.8 release kept me pretty busy. In the run up to UI freeze I was focusing on tracking bugs, providing guidance and testing. Then it was marketing time, and I was spending all my time writing the release notes as well as some of the website. (Kudos to the marketing team for a great 3.8 release, btw.)

With 3.8 behind me, I’ve been able to turn back to some good honest design work. I’ve been looking at quite a few aspects of GNOME 3, including Settings and GNOME Shell. However, in this post I am going to focus on some of the application design activities that I have been involved in recently. One of the nice things here is that I have found the opportunity to fill in some gaps and pay some attention to some of the long-lost applications that are in need of design love.


I haven’t blogged about Contacts for a while. 3.8 was a great release for the application though, mostly thanks to some fantastic work by Erick PĂ©rez Castellanos. We got a new editing UI and a new selection mode, as well as a new linked accounts dialog. Along the way many of the most prominent usability bugs were fixed. Thanks to Erick for making this happen.
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LGM 2013


I just got back from Madrid, where I attended this year’s Libre Graphics Meeting.

LGM is a great chance to meet with other designers working in the open, and this year’s event was no exception. There were lots of great talks, including some from really interesting speakers, and I really enjoyed and valued the diversity of the topics that were discussed, which mixed Free Software technology, artistic and design practice, as well as academic thinking. Highlights for me included Ben Martin and Dave Crossland’s “Fonts of Doom”, Chris Kelty’s “The Internet and its Parasites: Freedom and Participation” and our own Jakub Steiner’s “Localized Animation with Blender”.

This year’s LGM was a big success. The venue – Medialab Prado – was fantastic, and there was also a good level of participation; Madrid seems like a place where there is a lot of interest in libre graphics. If this year’s LGM is anything to go by, open graphics and design are in good shape. It was rewarding to participate in a general event around free graphics and design, something which I hope that the GNOME project can contribute towards.

Big thanks to the conference organisers, Medialab Prado for being such a great host, and to Red Hat for allowing me to attend.

[Credit: thanks to Jakub for the photo]

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3.8 is out!


It’s that time again: 3.8, the latest GNOME release, has just gone out of the door.

This is the strongest release of the 3.x series, in my opinion. We’ve not just got a lot of really nice features, like the new application view, the updated window selector and the new Clocks app. There’s also major technical accomplishments, like Owen’s frame sync work, Jasper’s pointer barriers and Web’s switch to WebKit2. Many of the existing applications have also received some very nice enhancements.

Go read the release notes, if you haven’t already: they’re pretty impressive.

As ever, this release is the result of the hard work and dedication of everyone who contributed, and I know that some people really pushed hard to make this release as good as it is. To all of you: thank you. I continue to be blown away by the dedication of the GNOME community.

Now, roll on GNOME 3.10!

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Taking GNOME 3 to the next level (again)

GNOME 3 is making major progress with each and every release. Six months ago, when 3.6 was close to release, I wrote about how excited I was about the improvements that were on their way. That release was a big step up from the previous version in terms of user experience. Now we’re on the cusp of GNOME 3.8, and I find myself in exactly the same position. Testing GNOME 3.8, it is a huge improvement on 3.6. It’s more effective, satisfying and polished. Basic operations like selecting a window or launching an application have seen major improvements and the overall experience feels like yet another upgrade.

The pace of change that we are managing to achieve within the 3.x series is impressive, and is a credit to the hard work and dedication of the GNOME community. In this post I’m going to describe some of the new GNOME 3.8 features that I’m particularly excited about, with a bias towards things that I’ve been involved in. I’ll also try to give a bit of background on the designs of each of these features. As always, you’ll have to wait for the release notes to find out everything that has been improved.

New applications view

Frequently Used Applications

This is one of the most noticeably changes included in GNOME 3.8. With previous versions, if you wanted to launch an application from the Activities Overview, you were confronted with a big grid containing all your application launchers. This could often be a bit overwhelming, and finding the application that you wanted was difficult.
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Posted in design, gnome, gnome-ux, gnome3 | 63 Comments

DX Hackfest: Developer Documentation

The GNOME Developer Experience hackfest wrapped up a couple of days ago. It was definitely one of the best GNOME hackfests that I have attended. There were lots of people there with diverse affiliations (Canonical, Suse, Lanedo, Collabora, Red Hat, the Linux Foundation…), who were all extremely focused and keen to work together.

The high attendance at the event meant that we were able to break into four groups, each of which focused on a different area of the developer experience: application definition, toolkit, documentation, and tools. A discussion at the beginning of the event and regular catch-up sessions ensured that we were all on the same page and working towards a common vision.

I spent most of my time as a part of the documentation group. Together we worked on a number of aspects of developer documentation.

Fred Peters, Aleksander Morgado and Thomas Bechtold hacked on DevHelp and made good progress modernising its user interface. The new version should be easier to use and should look much nicer.

Jasper St Pierre worked hard updating our automated documentation generation tools, and seemed to make some excellent progress towards extending their coverage for introspectable languages, especially JavaScript.

Me, Meg Ford, Federico Mena Quintero and Jakub Steiner looked at the GNOME developer website. We created an updated design and identified documentation that was missing or needed updating. Our decision to focus on JavaScript really helped with this and enabled us to effectively update the website design, as well as write new tutorials for first time GNOME application developers.

The new website design that we developed had a few goals:

  • Provide an effective interface for browsing and searching API documentation.
  • Include introductory guides that lay out the basic process involved in creating a GNOME application.
  • Include a space for the new version of the HIG (this is currently under development).
  • Be responsive, so that it can be viewed on tablets and phones.

Me and Meg created a couple of new tutorials that will go on the site, and Meg updated some of the tutorials for JavaScript. Federico started updating the existing platform overview. Jakub gave the site a new responsive layout and created some artwork for the homepage. Together, we started rearranging the content and the pages. There’s a couple of development branches on where this work will continue and we hope to relaunch in the not too distant future.

I will also be reaching out to existing documentation contributors to get their advice and to figure out what additional documentation we will need. It would be great if they want to help with this work too, of course.

In general, the hackfest felt like a significant event. If we can push forward with the agenda that we have set, then the future looks extremely bright. If anybody who wasn’t at the hackfest wants to get involved, there is no shortage of things to do, and I would encourage you to get in touch.

Big thanks to the GNOME Foundation for supporting the event and to BetaGroup Coworking for being such generous hosts.

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Those of us who work on GNOME design have been busy with all kinds of things recently. One major area of activity has been settings (aka System Settings, aka GNOME Control Center). In total, we have produced designs for four new panels (search, notifications, privacy, and sharing) and we have redesigned four of the existing panels (power, network, display, and date & time). Some of these have already been implemented, some are being developed on, and a few more are waiting for coders to get involved.

The new panels are things we’ve wanted to do for a while. They represent an effort to allow applications to integrate better with GNOME 3: hence panels for configuring search and notifications. The new panels also reflect a long held goal to give users control over privacy, whether that is through controls over how much personal information is displayed on screen, how your identity is exposed over the network, or what content you are sharing.

We’ve also been working to improve the overall experience provided by GNOME Settings. Some of our existing settings panels weren’t (and still aren’t) as good as they could be, and we want them all to be easy to use and to look great.

Since so much work has been done for these settings panels, I thought it would be useful to show some mockups and give bit of background on the design for each panel. One thing you might notice here is a new set of design patterns around settings in GNOME, which has been made possible by the new list widget developed by Alex Larsson.
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Give a detail this Christmas

When I last posted about Every Detail Matters, 27 detail bugs had been fixed by 9 contributors. About two and a half months later, 43 bugs have been fixed by a total of 12 contributors. We’ve made impressive progress, and the results are already making themselves felt. Testing the latest and greatest GNOME Shell, things definitely feel more polished and better executed.

This Christmas, Every Detail Matters brings you…

Crisp menu separators. The old ones were fuzzy; now you have a clear line.


Corner synergy. The rounded corners of popup bubbles and scrollbars have been aligned.


Login process indication. This has been the subject of a few different fixes. We now have proper insensitive states in the login screen, and a spinner is displayed if login is taking a while.


A “No messages” label when the tray is empty.


A hover effect for window thumbnails. A border is displayed around window thumbnails when you hover over them; it’s a small thing, but it’s really satisfying.


A transparent top bar in the lock screen. I featured this in my last Every Detail Matters blog post; it has now properly landed, and has had some nice polish work done on it.


An icon to remind you when you have headphones plugged in. This bug wasn’t actually part of Every Detail Matters, it goes to show that there is plenty more happening in GNOME to get the details right.


We hope you like what we’ve been working on. If you’re looking for a hacking project for the holiday, check out the Every Detail Matters wiki page. GNOME Shell is a lot of fun to work on, and we’ve got some nice bugs just waiting for someone to fix them.

Posted in design, every detail matters, gnome, gnome-ux, gnome3 | 15 Comments