Don Marti

Sun 17 Apr 2005 08:33:52 PM PDT


Reverend Ted writes "One of the things about open source that bugs me is cloneware". The interesting part is that Ted explains he doesn't want to do a pixel-for-pixel clone of a proprietary UI. That's a good thing.

It's a bad idea to copy other people's bad interface decisions out of a misguided concern for user comfort. For example, "Label all buttons with imperative verbs", don't mangle the text of a dialog to make "OK" and "Cancel" fit.

But lots of software, free and proprietary, borrows useful UI conventions, and even entire application layouts, from other software. (Did MacWrite or Microsoft Word for MS-DOS have the "ruler" first? Either way, somebody borrowed it.) Fortunately for user sanity and productivity, "look and feel" is not copyrightable. I'm all for "cloneware" when it's the equivalent of putting the turn signal on the left side of the steering wheel or the Back button on the web browser.

But there are UI features that aren't either "bad: replace this" or "good: copy this to help users". They only help give the software a distinctive look to identify it. So, Ted, why the useless, screen-space-hogging, "branding bar", copied from Microsoft windows XP, at the side of the GNOME Main Menu on NLD? If cloneware is bad, this should go away and NLD should get a slimmed-down Main Menu minus the banner ad.