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.
The new network designs have been in progress for some time. They currently exist in a development branch, which will hopefully be merged in time for GNOME 3.8. The main aims here are refinement and expansion. We’re making the existing UI easier to interact with and better looking, and we’re replacing the old settings dialogs with new ones. We’re also adding new features, such as the ability to have multiple configurations for wired interfaces (not a common thing, but some people need to be able to manually switch between static IP and DHCP, for example).
Although this is a mockup and not a screenshot, the redesigned power panel has actually landed. It has a new layout using the new list widget, and looks much better. One goal behind the new design was to try and make the power settings useful, so we’re including controls which will allow you to control how much power you’re using.
Date & Time
I did this redesign a little while ago, and got plenty of contributions from others along the way. There’s not much in the way of new functionality here: it’s mostly about making the panel nicer. One thing that the new design does is make the relationship between the automatic and the manual modes much clearer. It also has a big dialog for selecting a time zone, which means that the world map is displayed at an effective size.
This design still needs implementing, if anyone fancies taking it on.
This is a new panel that was mainly designed by Jon. It is part of the effort to allow people to control how much information about them could be revealed, through things like location services, the lock screen, recent files, or even how your device is advertised over the network.
Privacy controls are especially important for GNOME nowadays, since recently used content is become a more prominent part of our applications, like Files. Privacy settings are also a good place to host options relating to the new lock screen that was introduced last cycle.
We now have settings for configuring how search works in the Activities Overview. These complement the new search results view which has also landed this cycle. The search settings give control over which applications are able to display results, as well as the order in which results are displayed. This is useful if there is an application you’re not interested in or, on the other hand, if you are mostly interested in the results from one or two applications.
This new settings panel controls which applications are able to display notifications and what kind of information is displayed in the notifications. Allowing people to hide private information is a key motivation behind this panel. It can sometimes be uncomfortable if you are at work or in public, and notifications are popping up on screen that contain personal information, for example. These settings will let users deal with these situations, by either letting them turn off certain types of notification, or by restricting the amount of information that they contain.
These mockups are still very new, and will probably go through a few more iterations before development work starts. The aim is to produce something more refined than the current panel, and that is more focused on the specific use cases in which multiple displays are used. We want to provide a nicer experience when doing presentations in particular.
This new panel (which is currently being implemented) is largely a house keeping exercise. We currently have a range of standalone sharing tools, including preference dialogs for Vino, Rygel and file sharing via bluetooth and samba. Integrating these dialogs into system settings will clean up the application launcher space and provide a single place where you can control the various sharing settings on your machine.
I ♥ settings
So there you have it: lots of settings work! I’m personally really happy to see the control centre becoming much more refined and, hopefully, more interesting to users. It’s a lot of work to get all of these different settings panels in good shape, but I’m sure that the result will be a better overall experience.