I’m a fan of productivity. It is not a coincidence that I’m the maintainer of Calendar and To Do. And even though I’m not a power user, I’m a heavy user of productivity applications.
For some time now, I’m finding the overall experience of GNOME To Do clumsy and far from ideal. Recently, I received a thank you email from a fellow user, and I asked they what they think that could be improved.
It was not a surprise when they said To Do’s interface is clumsy too.
That motivated me to experiment and bother our designers about ways to improve GNOME To Do. With the great help of Tobias Bernard, a super awsome contributor, we could figure out a way to improve the current situation.
Opaque Task Rows
One of the problems of GNOME To Do was the translucent task rows. Priorities would be semi-transparent colors applied on top of transparent rows.
Of course this mess could lead to things like this:
After some investigation, a lot of experimentation and feedback from multiple design team members, we could come up with this:
I personally think this is a small, but huge improvement over the previous state. When you have to stare at tasklists for hours, the minor annoyances are what causes the biggest frustrations.
Another big aspect of To Do that was the task editor panel. This was initially made based on some old mockups, but this proved to not be the ideal experience.
The biggest problem was that there were no connection between the editor and the task. Of course there is an arrow pointing to the task row, but consider that:
The task title is edited in the task row
All other fields are edited in the side panel
The arrow might now be obvious to spot
The real representation of the task was the row, not the panel
So Tobias suggested me inline editing of tasks. I went ahead and implemented it, and the result looked actually very good!
The necessary width was reduced, and now the window can be shrinked to small sizes. And it works nicely on Dark Themes too:
This work already landed on master, and will be part of GNOME To Do 3.28. And, of course, our traditional sequence of images:
Any comments? Thoughts? Please let me know in the comments! And don’t ever forget, you can always get involved – you just need to get in touch, and join us at #gnome-todo at irc.gnome.org.
I am incredibly excited for GNOME 3.26, and it’s been hard to wait for it. I openly admit this fact. This release saw serious, important improvements all over the places, new features landed, some others didn’t, thousands of bugs were fixed all across the platform, and I’d like to share my personal highlights for this release.
As the result of a successfull Google Summer of Code project from Yash Singh, Calendar now supports events with recurrences. So far he did an outstanding job! There ain’t no secret in using it, and in fact it should be as simple as one could expect. Here’s a small video showcasing this new feature:
Another successful Summer of Code project from Rohit Kaushik introduced Todoist integration. This was made in cooperation with a GNOME Recipes intern, and many improvements to the entire stack landed.
What can we say about Christian Hergert’s work on GNOME Builder? It’s simple wonderful! This cycle, GNOME Builder received a redesign UI, code indexing, documentation cards, debugging capabilities and a great fullscreen mode. The code highlight is working like a charm too.
After using Builder for a couple of years now, I can finally say that, as a user of the application, it now covers all of my big needs. I am really happy to see how Builder is coming along, and how my development workflow was improved by this tool. Really, it allows me to code much faster now!
Thanks Christian, you deserve all the best!
Games is an app that I have a love and hate relationship. I love how simple and straightforward and powerful it is – specially because I love retro games – but I hate how it tempts me to spend my time playing instead of working.
I think Games is the GNOME app that makes the best usage of Tracker currently. It literally just works. I can plug my joystick, select a game and play it. And, because it uses libretro, I can play the games I love the most: Playstation games. Even the ones with multiple disks!
Thanks Adrien for creating this great app 🙂
I didn’t say this before, but nowadays I only use the unstable version of GNOME apps through Flatpak’s Nightly channel. Also, I run Steam and Spotify through Flathub.
It works like magic. Almost literally.
You should give it a try.
Stability. I love Stability.
When I wrote my impressions about the 3.24 release, I was really frustrated about the overall experience of 3.24. Having a session that crashes every 2 minutes when you already have your own tight deadlines didn’t help.
Things improved drastically during the cycle, of course – thanks to the tireless efforts of Philip Chimento. He was brave to make himself responsible for a very core component (GJS) and work on it. He fixed all the worst bugs already, and the JS platform is finally advancing again thanks to him. We should really get him a drink, don’t you agree? 🙂
And I now realize that I wrote about those issues in the worst possible way I could’ve. And, from the very bottom of my heart, I beg the pardon of the community about that.
This cycle, I did a few things that I’m happy. Specially because I myself will benefit from them as well! 🙂
You’re probably aware of it already, but GNOME Control Center’s UI was revamped and rebranded as “Settings”. I think that this rebrand, together with GNOME Tweak Tools becoming “Tweaks”, make it clearer and more obvious the different purposes of those apps.
The panels are now much more consistent, and the overall experience should be more streamlined now. It’s looking simple and intuitive, and yet we present the same ammount of features! I wrote about it in this blog post. Even though this work was huge, and I am feeling mentally tired after this battle, I’m also very happy we managed to get this done for 3.26.
Thanks for everyone involved!
Fullscreen Mode in Builder
This was one tiny contribution from my side, and Christian was the one that actually made it great. But it makes Builder much more usable on a standard 1366×768 screen, where I can’t half-tile it. This is how it used to look like:
Moar Music Performance
Another cycle, another round of performance improvements in GNOME Music. This time, an issue in the Album Art loading code was killed with fire. Check this out:
Quarter Tiling, where are you?
This is complicated. As you know, I’m not a window manager expert. And Mutter is huge, with dozens of edge cases that I didn’t know of. This led to me spending a stupidly long time testing a high number of different setups and configurations.
The good news: the patches are working.
The bad news: they couldn’t make it for 3.26.
Depending on the willingness of Florian, and the acceptance of the Release Team, I can try and request a feature freeze break for 3.26.1, but there of course is a chance that this is not going to be accepted. Which is totally reasonable, few people are willing to introduce potentially buggy new features in stable releases.
Even if it doesn’t make for 3.26, I’ll continue to work towards quarter tiling and we, at the very least, can expect it to be very well tested for 3.28.
I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. What are your impressions about this GNOME release? Drop a comment below!
Teremos uma pequena festa de lançamento do GNOME 3.26 + 20 anos do GNOME em São Paulo. É uma celebração da comunidade para a comunidade, organizada pela comunidade. Graças ao nosso querido colega Derek Stavis, temos um excelente local para realizar a celebração – marquem aí em suas agendas:
Data: 13 de setembro (quarta-feira)
Horário: 18h30 ~ 21h
Local: Stone Pagamentos, Rua Fidêncio Ramos, 308, Vila Olímpia
Todxs serão muito bem vindxs. Basta me mandar o nome completo, e o número de um documento de identidade (RG ou CPF).
Se puderem, levem salgados, sucos e/ou doces.
(English version below)
We’ll have a small 3.26 release + 20 years party in São Paulo. It’s a celebration of the community to the community by the community. Thanks to the almighty Derek Stavis, we’ve got an excellent venue – write it down on your calendars:
Date: September 13th (Wednesday)
Time: 6:30pm ~ 9pm
Venue: Stone Pagamentos, Rua Fidêncio Ramos, 308, Vila Olímpia
Everyone is more than welcomed. Make sure to send me your full name, and an identity number (RG or CPF).
if you’re following the GNOME development closely, you’re now more than aware of this movement of reworking GNOME Control Center. It was a remarkably colossal work, specially because we used a bottom-up approach: fix the panels, then switch to the new shell.
With the release of GNOME 3.25.91, I’m proud to say: the new Settings layout is the official one now.
When Jon McCann and Allan Day expressed their vision of how a Settings application should work in the form of mockups, I was particularly excited with them. Specially because, with these mockups, we could easily make Settings work on low resolution displays, which is a very important feature for Endless. Since I adapted GNOME Control Center downstream for them, and we all agree that upstream would be better, it made sense for them to support me working on the new Settings layout.
Chronologically speaking, this is how the work unrolled:
Overall, it took 18 months of work from 15 different people (some more involved than others) and more than 30.000 lines of code changed. This work was massive. Thanks to all the contributors who gave their time and energy for free in order to make it happen.
The new Network panel
You read that right. The last big panel that required an update was Networks. This because it used the old 2-column layout, as you can see here:
While this layout worked well enough with the previous Control Center layout, it would be inconsistent with the new Control Center layout, since both the panel and the shell would have a sidebar. Thus, we could not set the new Control Center shell until we fixed these panels with 2 columns.
But fortunately, using my remaining energy and abusing the super awsome Rui Tiago Matos’ review capabilities, we managed to review this old mammoth panel and the result is actually nice! This is how it looks now:
This panel, however, is not final; we’ll do another UI review for the next cycle, and split the cellphone Bluetooth connections into a new panel called Mobile Broadband. The advanced connection editor dialog also received a very needed UI review as well:
This, as you can imagine, is also not final. The idea for the next cycle is to continue improving this dialog so that we can present the same (or even more) ammount of options in a much saner and simpler way, avoiding confusion and misconfigurations.
Introducing Settings, the new Control Center
Settings is the rebranded name of Control Center. I won’t be mouthful here when I can show you that, right? There you go:
Thanks to Jakub Steiner, the Details and Devices rows have dedicated icons that looks super great! Check this out:
Allan, Rui and I spent the past couple of weeks fine tuning tons of minor details and the overall behavior of the new Settings layout. More than 40 minor improvements landed in the mean time, and we can expect even more during the next week.
Improve the Sound panel, do another UI iteration over the Network and Wi-Fi panel, introduce the Mobile Broadband panel and fix all the countless bugs that appeared because of this work.
All in all, I’m personally loving how this work went; how many contributors appeared and gave their personal touch to this work; and also, how supportive and positive the community reception was.
(Pshh, only between us; the GNOME community – both users and contributors – is just awsome!)
Of course, as one can imagine, this work was not without flaws. Lots of them were caught early in the cycle, but some issues will only be found by users testing this new work. So, if you’re not sure about how to start contributing, let me reassure that testing the new Settings and filing bugs would be a tremendous contribution. Bonus points if you provide a patch fixing that issue!
Many contributors were involved in this colossal work, but I’d like to personally thank Felipe Borges, Bastien Nocera, Allan Day, Mohammed Sadiq and Rui Tiago (in no particular order) for their role on this work, ranging from UI review, panel porting and code review.
I’d also like to thank my employer, Endless, to support me work on this since the very beggining. While this was not my main focus of work, without the support, it wouldn’t be possible at all.
This year’s GUADEC was amazing. I’m really happy I could attent it this year (even though my tasks are accumulating and I’m really afraid to look at my emails again…). I’m still in Manchester so, if anyone wants to meet me and buy me a tea, do get in touch!
There were quite a few talks that I enjoyed. I can’t really name one that I liked the most, but on the top of my list are:
I had a special interest in Richard’s talk. He raised many relevant questions and exposed how complicated it can potentially be the problem of donations and payments. More about that in the future.
Calendar & To Do
I had the chance to sit down and see a power user interacting with GNOME Calendar. It was an unique and enlightening experience. I was able to see a few areas where Calendar can do better in terms of UI/UX.
Unfortunately, GNOME To Do didn’t have the same luck. I’m still somewhat unhappy with the current UI of To Do, but I’m running out of ideas on how to improve it without a complete rewrite (which I simply don’t have time to do now). If you’re a GNOME user with any kind of background on design, ~please~ get in touch: I’d love to gather some feedback on To Do!
I had the chance (and honor) to be present at the discussions for GTK4. In these discussions, we did a big list of topics and discussed each one of them in details.
I admit that, during these discussions, I felt like a kid at times – the GTK hackers are incredibly smart and skilled people. The other side of the coin is that, while I was feeling like lagging behind them, I also felt honored and happy to be surrounded by such amazing people.
The biggest problem to solve now is the accessibility stack. After digging into the topic and clarifying how it works, we concluded that this topic was too big and complex for that moment, and deserved a hackfest of its own. We’ll organize one during the next months.
Wrapping up, I can’t state how productive these discussions were. Thanks to Matthias Clasen, Benjamin Otte, Christian Hergert, Cosimo Cecchi and everyone else that drove the discussions. We now have a solid GTK4 roadmap that I’ll move to the GNOME Wiki in no time.
An unexpected thing happen during the Unconference days. When talking to my good friend Mario we asked ourselves: how can we improve our own Endless tasks by upstreaming our features?
Endless OS shell has many features that GNOME Shell doesn’t, and maintaining downstream patches is expensive and simply not cool. One of these features was specially important, as it is difficult to maintain and lots of GNOME users frequently ask for.
This specific feature was considered in the past, but had many design constraints and we end up never solving it design-wise, nor implementing it.
This is about to change.
After a rather spontaneous group discussion, we found solid solutions for all the relevant edge cases of this feature 🙂 I’m sure Mario will write about it in the future, and probably will implement it as well, so stay tuned!
Because, in case you forgot:
(And yes, I purposely didn’t say which feature I’m talking about – but I’m sure many of you can guess that :P)
After a long explanation and discussion with Florian Müllner (and of course, getting him a well deserved beer for being the GNOME Shell and Mutter maintainer!) the path for quarter-tiling is much clearer now.
The original idea is to implement tiling support using constrained edges, rather than tiling states. But this is hard, and now I believe it’s effectively impossible to do that.
Olivier Fourdan tried to propose a Wayland protocol for that, but discussion ended up freezing and no progress was made for a long time. I admit I’m kinda scared to try to send these changes upstream… see the bug’s feedback (sometimes I forget that the GNOME community is much more welcoming than many other FOSS communities).
I now have a real problem to solve, and the time is not enough. Perhaps it’s time to declare bankruptcy?
I’d like to thank the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me. I sincerely hope that my engagement and contributions pay off this investment!
I also thank my employer Endless to let me join. The upstream contributions we’re doing are valuable for the community, and in turn it helps us lowering the number of downstream changes to maintain.
Y’all know that we’re taking big steps to move Settings (a.k.a Control Center) to a brand-new, super shiny layout. As a courtesy of our beloved designer, Allan Day, we have mockups of a new Settings layout that is both modern and preserves (most of) the functionality we already have. He blogged about it in the past.
I found those mockups quite nice, so I decided to work on them!
As YouTube people say nowadays: I’m a simple man. I see a good mockup, I implement it.
Before switching to the new layout, though, we needed to get rid of the panels with a sidebar. Namely: Online Accounts, Keyboard, Network, Printers and User Accounts. Thanks to Felipe Borges, who reimplemented a few panels himself, we were able to progress faster than expected!
This time, I added the new Wi-Fi panel. Check this out:
Compare this with the current Network panel, which still has a sidebar:
With the new Wi-Fi panel, we’re close to making the new Settings shell the default one; the biggest blocker now is the Network panel, which I’m already working on. And finally, after more than a year working on the new Settings layout – and with the help of many super awsome contributors! – we’re almost there 🙂
And our traditional sequence of pictures:
Oh, and did you notice? The connection editor dialog was also redesigned! It’s much simpler and saner now, do try it out and let me know what you think.
The new Wi-Fi panel has a few advantages:
It’s beautiful 🙂
It handles multiple Wi-Fi adapters slightly better
It’s just easier to use
(Future) When the host doesn’t have a Wi-Fi adapter, the panel won’t be visible
I’d like to say a big and warm thank you to all contributors that made this possible, and specially to Bastien Nocera and Rui Matos for reviewing all this work and many other patches.
There’s still quite a lot of work to do, and it won’t be easy, but we’ll eventually make it 🙂
as you can guess, I’m a heavy user of GNOME Builder. I use it every day to build various things, most of which you guys know of already 🙂
Because I spend so much time on it, it is essential that Builder simply Just Works ®, and perfectly. Builder sometimes shows a rough edge here and there, but all in all, it’s a masterpiece. It’s awsome in many aspects! Christian Hergert really deserves our respect (and, why not?, many free beers too!)
However, it wasn’t enough.
I like to focus on my tasks, and I usually do it by making the window fullscreen. Even if Builder is already great, it doesn’t support fullscreen.
So that’s what I did.
Let the work speak for itself:
Thanks to Christian’s quick fingers, it is already in master. From now on, this will only get better.
This afternoon, I felt an urge to hear some classical music. Perhaps because I’m overworking a lot these days, I wanted to grab a good hot tea, and listen to relaxing music, and rest for a few minutes.
It was taking 15~20 seconds just to show the albums. That’s unacceptable!
Thanks to Christian Hergert we have a beautiful and super useful Sysprof app! After running Music under Sysprof, I got this:
Clearly, there’s an area where Music hits the CPU (the area that is selected in the picture above). And, check it out, in this area, the biggest offenders were libjpeg, libpixman and libavcodec. After digging the code, there it was.
The performance issue was caused by the Album Art loading code.
Looking at the code, I made a simple experiement: tried to see how many parallel lookups (i.e. asynchronous calls) Music was performing.
The number is shocking: Music was running almost 1200 asynchronous operations in parallel.
These operations would be fired almost at the same time, would load Zeus knows how many album covers, and return almost at the same time. Precisely when these lookups finished, Music had that performance hit.
The solution, however, was quite simple: limit the number of active lookups, and queue them if needed. But, limit to what? 64 parallel lookups? Or perhaps 32?
I needed data.
DISCLAIMER: I know very well that the information below is not scientific data, nor a robust benchmark. It’s just a simple comparison.
I decided to try out a few lookup limits, and see what works best. I have a huge collection, big enough to squeeze Music. I’m on an i7 with 8GB of RAM, 7200RPM spinning hard drive.
It was measured (i) the time it took for the album list to show, (ii) the time for all album covers to be loaded, and (iii) a quick score I made up on the fly. All of them are of the type lower is better. I ran each limit 10 times, and used the average of the results.
The “No Limits” columns represent what Music does now. It takes a long time to show up, but the album covers are visible almost immediately after.
First conclusion: limiting the number of lookups always performs better than not. That said, the problem was just a matter of finding the optimal value.
After some trial and error, I found that 24 is an excellent limit.
In general, the initial loading of albums with the performance improvement is around 73% faster than without it. That’s quite a gain!
But words cannot express the satisfaction of seeing this: