One of the goals we set in the development phase of the 2.0 version of gvSIG was to improve usability. This is a field in which there is always room for improvement and that involves making changes on many fronts. One of those fronts are the issues regarding menus and icons where two objectives were set: to relocate the menu entries and icons, and provide to gvSIG the ability to exchange its set of icons. Currently we have achieved the first of these goals and we are very close to getting the second one.
We started with this post, a series dedicated to describe the work done in this field.
The key to exchange sets of icons is the standardizing of their names. While there are some naming rules for generic application icons, we found no specific for GIS icons. In this situation we decided to do the following:
- Choose a standard naming rule.
- Define names for the needed GIS icons based on the criteria used in the chosen standard.
- Attempt to register new names in the standard.
After analyzing several alternatives we decided to start working with freedesktop.org as a reference, as it is a standard used among other free software projects, by KDE and GNOME.
Since we had to rename all the icons of gvSIG, one of the first tasks to be done was to identify all the icons used by the application at that time. With the help of Mario Fèvre (TReCC), active project partner and member of the working group of usability, we did an initial list of icons, distinguishing those belonging to the toolbar (which were, in fact, our goal) from other icons. After detecting that this list had some icons that were not actually used (from older versions) it was decided that the final list was necessary made by a gvSIG developer.
Once a reliable list of the icons used in gvSIG 2.0 got ready, the next step was to establish a criteria for naming them. At this point we realized that before standardize the names of the icons we had to standardize the names of the actions to which they refer. In most cases the name of the icon and the action are the same, but in some other cases the same icon can be associated to different actions (for example, the “copy” icon does not the same if we are in a gvSIG view that if we are on a map, the actions are different but the icon is the same).
On the other hand, based on recommendations from freedesktop.org, we deduced that the names of the icons are closely related to the arrangement of the menu entries as these are organized by levels of specificity. Thus, the name of an icon – better said its action – would correspond to the concatenation of the different levels of a given input menu. Just taking a look at the names already registered in freedesktop.org, it is easy to see that the names of the icons match, in most cases, with the concatenation of the menu entries.
We finally decided that the next task to perform would be to define all menu entries and only then, define the actions and the names of the icons. In order to finish the standardization work, it would also be advisable to define each tooltip of the application (tooltips are descriptive labels that appear when the mouse pointer is held over an icon).
The position of the menu entries, therefore, was another key work. To set the new position of them, we rely on a complete analysis for the reorganization of menus that was done time ago by the project ‘s usability group. This group includes both gvSIG team members and external partners. This analysis is also based on standards and style guides widely used.
Thanks to this work, gvSIG 2.0 has its menu entries and icons placed in a more logical and natural (and therefore more intuitive) place, as well as standard icon names. We hope that, in future versions of gvSIG, the icons could also be exchanged.
But all this work would be useless if we do not ensure that future developments follow the naming rule set. To achieve that goal we have also defined a procedure that will be the issue of upcoming posts to this blog.