I’ve started to notice a trend in desktop-oriented software for the Linux platform. As some programs grow in features, the options to remove those features in a preferences panel are not keeping up. The idea behind that worries me, because that’s exactly how most software on Windows is — not giving you the option to customize the application’s experience.
All I’m asking for is this — if you are going to add a new feature to your program that changes the way things are displayed or presented and if the new feature is non-essential, please add an option to turn off that display in the preferences. That’s all I want. I think once you settle on a core design and display for a program, and that display is consistent, once you start adding on to that, you need to have an option to revert it back to the original design that you’ve been styling with for a while.
There are some easy examples I could point out that do this, GNOME of course being the worst of the lot, but I won’t go off on their horrid UI design decisions in the first place, where their goal of simplification is that the entire desktop should be one button and you can’t even push it.
For some reason though, their philosophy of “less is more” has somehow trickled down to most applications using the GTK framework, it seems. The example I actually have in mind is a popular application that I’ve been using for a long time, and I’m not going to mention them, since I don’t want to rail on them. In fact, I’m going to do my best to hack the code and at least turn it off on my box, then figure out a way to set it as a preference and submit it upstream.
If you’re going to add something new, for the love of whatever, please throw in a boolean with a checkbox somewhere and say “Do you want this turned off?” There are some features like that I’d seriously pay money for (and maybe I should). I figure it can’t be that hard adding a few more lines of code just to add in a preference.
Desktop applications on Linux with a myriad of preferences has always been one of the major pulling points for me, and one that really helped it easier for me to switch from Windows.Â I would really hate to see that custom go away for whatever reason.Â I think software is much better off giving users the options to do exactly what they want.Â That’s just one of the many things that makes open source software so great to start with.