Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Moved

Hi everyone,

some of you may know that I moved; we really needed more space, so we rented a nice flat only a few hundred meters from our old location. So, yesterday, we returned our keys to the owner of the old flat ... now it's time to decorate the new one and to start to feel at home.

Is this a true story? Yes, it is. We really moved ... and this was a real challenge, since it was the hot phase of the preparation of The Document Foundation you all are aware of. By the way, my deepest deepest thanks to all my friends who supported me to make my life a bit easier during that time ... they helped by e.g. painting our old flat. You are amazing, really!

Okay, back to amazing #2 and The Document Foundation. It seems that the dust settled a bit, and now it seems that our move to towards a more libre project is a bit similar. We already started to plan the interior, put some furniture in and started the decoration process ... to make our guests feel comfortable :-) So who are our guests? At the moment, there are a lot of people who seem to like the idea. It's incredible ... I really hope that Oracle sees the potential, too, and accepts our invitation to support the foundation and to finally get a better product.

Who is Oracle? In fact, it is the people ... I - being a volunteer - had always a more than great relationship with the guys being paid for the work on In fact, I consider some of them to be my close friends ... and I really (really) respect their work and their great engagement for the community project. So I'm looking forward that LibreOffice - as referred to in the FAQ - is a temporary name, but the foundation will become the new home of a more open development for all contributors. Either companies or individuals ... let's hope for the best!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stuff on the Shelf

Hi everyone,

as some of you know ... we are currently in the "hot phase" to prepare our upcoming move. After the flooding of parts of our house some weeks ago, the preparation for and being at the OOoCon, this is something that keeps us very busy at the moment.

However, I would like to share with you. I found something on the shelf: ancient StarDivision software that was my start to StarOffice, and later
Something I even mentioned in my very first UX blog posting.

If I had a computer with a floppy disk drive ... I'd try to install it.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Budapest, Day 2 and 3

I already proposed two days ago, that - if you like - we may have a look at Budapest together. Yesterday, I wasn't able to publish anything, so let's continue with a small photo series taken during the last two days.

What we found out: Budapest is absolutely amazing ;-) You may look at any house, any street light or any handrail - you will find tiny but interesting details. So if you are here, too - pay attention!

Something we didn't manage to see on Saturday was the Dohány Street Synagogue. So we went back on Sunday - here is a small picture showing some of the "leafs" of the memorial in the garden.

Where to go now? We decided to go to Buda Castle to enjoy some of the sights having a greatly improved weather situation. To avoid walking all the time (and we walked a lot ...), we used the famous Budavári Sikló (a hill funicular). Look down, but only this time :-)

Once we arrived at the top, we had to return to the Matthias Church (same game like the Synagogue) to get inside ... or better: insight. Although it has been said that both the interior and the exterior are astonishing, I slightly prefer the look of the latter one. But see for yourself ...

Once we finished that, we spent our evening with some community members. Delicious! The meals, of course.

Today, we started our tour with André and we decided to visit something that (most probably) won't be part of the usual tourist tours: the Szemlő-hegyi-barlang (flowstone cave). Maybe some pictures help to describe how amazing some parts look ...

Hint: the small lower part is the hiking route ...

Hint: his picture shows a ladder towards to top of the cave ...

Okay, let's finish this small excursion - most probably I'll be able to tell a bit more after our OOoCon Budapest City Tour that will take place tomorrow.

Good night!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Budapest, Day 1

Hi everyone!

Well, a few weeks passed by without providing any life signal. Sorry! To summarize it: many things happened that required to focus on the "real life".

Now I am already in Budapest and I'm looking forward for the Conference, especially to meet all the community members (again). Until that finally happens, there will be a few days for vacation ... if you want to join, here is a picture taken from the Géllert Hill.

See you!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Informal Meeting "FOSS and Usability"

LinuxTag 2010, anybody?

We invite you to take part in an informal meeting to share thoughts, experiences and other information covering the topics Usability and User Experience in the Free Software world. The meeting is organized by Björn from and Christoph from the User Experience Team.

You should join if you are interested in:
  • Integrating User Centered Development into the development of your FOSS project
  • Wanting to add your UX expertize to a FOSS project
  • Wondering how to take benefits out of community work with real users
  • Some usability tips for your FOSS project
  • ...

We are looking forward to see you at LinuxTag in Berlin, Germany!

Go ahead and find more information on the Informal Meeting Wiki page. And if you would like to know how this event looks like, have a look at the last year's LinuxTag blog posting.


PS: Of course there will be a presentation on current Renaissance topics. I'll provide some more information soon ...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

You definitively know the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words", don't you?

Low Fidelity vs. High Fidelity

Generally speaking, the saying is absolutely true! But why do some of our drawings, sketches, GUI mockups or software prototypes do cause such an amount of discussion ... afterwards? Very often it turns out, that some of the discussions don't focus on what the original author intended.

I would like to show you two examples to guide you towards what the main intention of this posting is ... Tell me, what of the following mockups has the higher fidelity?

Do you think the right one? My answer: Nope.

The right picture might look better, because the there has been more attention to visual detail. But when looking at the interaction quality of the dialog designs (taken from the printerpullpages effort by the way), the left drawing offers nearly equals the interaction quality, maybe it even uses a better approach of visualizing content (the print page preview).

Got the point? When looking at ideas, it doesn't work better if it just looks better. Moreover, strange guys like the UX people do even try to avoid keeping too much attention on visual design (in the first run). Mostly we use something called "wireframes" to present our ideas. Why? Because otherwise you might easily run into something called "taste war" :-)

Problem solved, and now?

Not really! Now it gets even more complicated. As you may have noticed, there is an effort to improve the StartCenter. The original idea was to apply the refreshed the branding, then changes have been added which address the handling. Well, many people already brainstormed and presented ideas for this and that ... but what's the problem?

Now, it is really easy to mix up the "visual design" and the "interaction design". What is your idea about? Terminology also unchecked yet? Then, you are in real trouble ;-) At least if it is just intended to show your "visual" ideas.

When I was at the CHI (see CHI 2010, Day Four) I attended the course "Developing an Effective Prototyping Strategy". The guys proposed to address such problems with an fidelity matrix which is supplied to each design artifact. To me, being the author of the pictures above, it would have been easy to rate the intended fidelity of the content. Have a look ...

Of course, the example pictures have been discussed in detail and the intended use has been described. But does everybody like reading that? I assume not :-)

So, if people would like to discuss the graphical content of something like the StartCenter, then simply add the matrix. For example, it might then be very unlikely that get "hit" by UX comments about unfinished interaction design or sub-optimal information design. So, it also deals with your comfort ;-)

Another thing the guys in the course proposed has been the expiration date. Simply speaking: things change and you cannot do anything against it. In the first months your ideas might be great ... but then technical constraints change and your design might look like the wrong approach. Take care of that. So here is how this might be avoided ...


At work, I found this "fidelity matrix" and "expiration date" approach work very well. So I propose to add at least the former item to each of our proposals - website design, software mockups, marketing stuff, ... And then, let's keep focus! Then, a picture is really worth a thousend words. And doesn't cause a thousand lines.


PS: Is there anyone who can help me to work on a small template for our wiki? I don't have any clue ... Currently, I think of replacing the fidelity numbers by little stars or dots.

Update: I've added a SVG template to the User Experience Tools Page.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Departure ahead!

I was wrong. Simply wrong. In my last posting, I announced to go back to Germany ... but the "vulcano ash situation" changed the schedule a bit. The flight has been delayed by 6 days ... so I will leave today. Most probably.

But I wasn't the only one. Some people of the Georgia Tech University did start to organize stuff. Managing events and keeping us up-to-date via Twitter, Facebook (there is an own group for people "stranded" after the CHI 2010), Google Documents ... they have been just great. The lists contained about 160 people who - partly - needed help. Imagine all the students and their limited financial resources. Or all those business people who required a simple desk. They took care - thank you so much!

Yesterday for example, the guys organized a movie night ... we all watched The Terminal. To be honest, this has been fun because we already knew that things are moving on in Europe.

Europe. There have been many people from Germany, so we went out on Sunday to hang out at the Dogwood festival. And, some of us spent also some time in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Funnily, they had an exhibition called "Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters" ... and they had some control boards to "build your own vulcano". Strange. At least in the current situation.

However, I've learned a lot in the last days. Most important: sleeping during the waiting loop when calling the airline support hotline :-) Please keep your fingers crossed that I can avoid that in the future.


Friday, April 16, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Four

Finally, the last day of the conference CHI ... so what happened?

Conference Stuff

I attended the course "Developing an Effective Prototyping Strategy". As far as I understood, the term "prototyping" comprised everything from idea creation phase until the start of the implementation phase. Personally, I tend to think a bit different about that ... I prefer to distinguish between idea generation, requirements engineering, design proposals. The latter one may be prototyped via paper, computer graphics, ... whatever is available :-) And this is already an important information - use whatever is appropriate for a certain problem.

One of the trainers published the book "Effective Prototyping with Excel". I am not kidding; he presented astonishing results of famous web pages and their Microsoft Excel counterparts. However, they affirmed that they had been using Calc for that purpose, too.

Two nice things popped up in the course: First, they use fidelity matrixes and and mockup expiration dates. I think I'll cover that later until figuring out how to make use of them.

After that, I went to a few presentations and joined a discussion group ... day job related. Finally, the conference ended with the Closing Plenary and "Doing what’s right with robots: an ethical appraisal of robot application". Very interesting.

Open Source User Experience

Later, I had the chance to talk with Paula Bach (Pennsylvania State University, Microsoft; I mentioned her in the previous blog posts) and Alex Faarborg (Principal Designer on Firefox). We went out for dinner and I introduced them the project and our UX team a bit.

Alex asked some very good questions about our goals and the overall strategy ... but since we (whole Community) haven't commonly agreed on anything, it became (again!) clear that there are still major issues within the project. At least when it comes - he also asked questions about that - the kind engagement of our volunteering community members. However, we will stay in contact since they (and others) are interested in a general open-source usability / user experience / human-computer interaction / ... activity. Cool!

Sorry for the picture of us three. I mean, not for the picture itself, but for the low quality ... there is always a risk when asking strangers to help out ;-)

So, to sum up the nice guys I've met in the last few days:
  • Máirín Duffy (interaction designer, RedHat)
  • Paula Bach (open source researcher, also working for Microsoft)
  • Roshanak Zilouchian (open source researcher)
  • Alex Faaborg (principal designer, Firefox)


Today I will depart - unless the recent activities of the vulcano Eyjafjallajökull will again cause delays or cancellations in the European air traffic. But even if everything wents fine, please don't expect further messages to soon ... I'll cure a bad jet lag ;-)


PS: By the way, the next conference is the LinuxTag in Berlin. My proposal "Project Renaissance in the year 2010" has been accepted. Great, isn't it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Three

The Pictures Post :-) I'm sorry to throw so many pictures at you, but many things happened and I think it is worth looking at it...

I noticed that I completely missed to show you where the conference is located - it is a big hotel in the dowtown. Although I live nearby, I would like to share the great interior of the hotel lobby.

The first item that day was the panel "Managing User Experience ... Managing Change" - insanely good when looking at corporate environments. Managers from Google, Cisco, Microsoft and (...) talked about their experience bring User Experience into the company. The funny thing was, that these people had also worked for Yahoo! or Oracle - so the attendees could greatly benefit from their experience.

As I said yesterday, I tried to attend "Involving Reflective Users in Design" by Paula Bach. I didn't knew that she made a study of the posts on our mailing lists, more precisely how our UX team members (she called them reflective users) describe problems and potential solutions for The thread she cited was the one about "showing or hiding rulers per default in Writer" (sorry, no link). I'll ask her to provide the text (the "real" paper can't be shared, it is copyrighted by the conference organization).

The absolute "wow" came with the hospitality event in the evening. It took place at the Georgia Aquarium: Sharks, Whales, Small Fishes ... similar to the participants in an open-source project (just kidding).

IBM Research provided sweets and coffee - and announced that with a sign. But when the perspective is changed slightly ... see for yourself :-)

As I said, the real "wow" came with the aquariums - here just two examples. You could walk trough a tunnel and look the fishes from below!

Another great thing was the widescreen aquarium with a huge glass front. Unfortunately the time was up already, so we had to go. Chatting with others and watching the fishes are two things which compete too much.

In the late evening I wanted to talk a bit with Paula, but I didn't see her in the masses. Instead, I've met Roshanak Zilouchian and her supervisor - great! Roshanak is an open-source community researcher and we talked about how we develop and how we interact with the corresponding tools (wiki, issue tracker, ...). Maybe you remember - there have been some mails by her on our mailing lists.

However, I was happy to join them and we went to a revolving restaurant with a great view ... enjoy!

As you might guess - I have to hurry up. The last day of the conference is today ... and I don't want to miss that.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Two

Wow, time is running ...

As already said, yesterday I attended the course "Storyboarding for designers and design researchers". It was just great. But storyboarding? Isn't that the thing used for making movies? Doesn't it look like comic strips? What is it for?

Basically, storyboarding is a tool to share and idea within an interdisciplinary team. Okay, we assume that if you want to build a good solution for a complex problem, then this requires people being experts in different areas (e.g. our I-Teams). But that doesn't necessarily mean that they understand each other - each domain has a different language, a different understanding of things. (Ever watched a discussion between a psychologist or cognitive scientists with a computer science guy? Sometimes like being in a cabaret show.)

One proposed solution is storyboarding: a graphical way to look at the problems of one or more persons. It may look similar to a comic strip which explains situations and how the new "thing" (whatever it will be) has (a good) impact on the life of the user. It is not about discussing the final product ... it is about to get an understanding what the problem is about. To be absolutely clear: It is not about drawing comics! There are important rules which make it work ... or completely fail. End of disclaimer :-)

In my day job, we started using storyboarding with the help of a colleague with great design skills. Working in another department, we can rarely ask him to help us ... but the solution is so simple: Act with a group of people, take pictures, and add the things you need by simply drawing them.

We have been told to work out a remote control for several people watching TV. I proposed to consider the place restaurant, because I am sometimes a bit annoyed by all the TVs showing up here (yesterday, "our" restaurant had about 15 TVs running .... grrr). Other people decided to go for a family home, the gym, public places, ... We planned our scene and acted accordingly. After the planning, the simple "doing" took not more than 30 minutes - including enhancing the scenes by objects and adding sub-titles etc.

Here is the result...

You see that the tables, the TV and some other items are simply drawn. After showing that to other people, nobody had any question with regard to understandability ... which means that our team (Thank you members!) did rather well. Here is a picture of the teams showing their results ...

So is this something for Sometimes yes, sometimes not. I think, if we go for more "unknown" topics like advanced collaboration and use of documents in (more) daily life, this could be something to consider. It worked very well - and providea information visually instead of having a lot of detailed text (which is sometimes mandatory).

The rest of the day is less important to you, I think. Except that I have been able to talk with Paula Bach (from Microsoft) who was one of the organizers of the FLOSS usability workshop I've talked about yesterday. Unfortunately, we had only a few minutes, but it is really nice. She told me that she will give a talk with some references to If possible, I'll try to attend ...

The rest of the evening was spent with my colleague ... in the cinema. The media-showcase, where people showed their new solutions in short films. Hey, and the conference team provided popcorn ... this is how learning new things should work all the time ;-)

When I went home, I've met another guy staying in the same hotel. Okay, another two hours of intensive and funny talk. He turned out to be a usability professional for software APIs. I am not kidding ... he is a researcher/consultant to make software programming as efficient as possible. Interesting ...

That's it for today! As usual, I have to hurry up :-)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CHI 2010, Day One

Many people might think that providing a good User Experience doesn't involve any "rocket science". Well, that is true. But - in fact - it requires the work in many other research areas. Many of the researchers and practitioners working on these topics meet at the CHI 2010, the premier conference on Computer-Human Interaction.

I'm happy to say that I was able to join for reasons of my day job - last time I have been at the conference in 2008. However, these topics are also related to the User Experience in, I would like to share how it feels to be here. Here? Atlanta.

The next picture is about my way to the place where the conference takes place. The most important reason for providing the picture is to tell that there is some day light - before we get into the deep and dark conference rooms :-)

The opening session of the conference - you might notice that there is room for quite a number of people. As far as I remember there are about 2500 HCI people from all over the world. The conference will provide over 200 events like talks, workshops and courses. And here you might grasp the main problem - there are so many interesting things (still, we talk about my day job) that it is nearly impossible to grasp everything. Sigh.

I talked about my day job - but here is something remarkable. There has been a workshop on "The Future of FLOSS in CHI Research and Practice" on Sunday. I was able to meet one of the participants - Máirín Duffy, a (formal) "senior interaction designer with Red Hat, Inc.". We discussed a lot similarities and differences in the communities - now you know what lunch breaks are meant for :-)

The next noteworthy event (both for you and me) might be the "visit" in the Hard Rock Cafe - together with a colleague of mine, from the Palo Alto team, and some other extremely nice guys from e.g Volkswagen Research. Besides many (!) HCI related topics, I consumed my first "real" American Burger. More detailed, a cheeseburger with American cheese.

That's it for the moment. I have to hurry up to get my course ... storyboarding. See you tomorrow...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

I wish everyone a Happy Easter*! Please enjoy the time with your family and friends ... And maybe it is even more enjoyable (for some) that I will be offline for a few days :-)


*) where appropriate

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CeBit2010: The Ribbonator

Phew, last week I attended the CeBit and I was greeted with "Finally, the Ribbonator is there!". Jacqueline, one of the German project co-leads, told me how glad she was that somebody of the UX team arrived to manage the Renaissance related questions. Many people had already asked for the changes to come in - being driven by interest or pure fear ;-) To me, it is still surprising how many people believe in the press coverage that intends to "copy and paste" a competitor product ... ts ts ts. It seems that the presentation I did last year was less sucessful ...

However, I was glad to join the German team on the fourth day of the conference. Team also refers to some friends who are usually present at the trade fairs: Sun/Oracle, SCAI, Teamdrive, FOSS Group, ... And surely, there have been many questions concerning Renaissance, but I was able to answer many of the questions with the help of the video coverage that sheds some light on the current development (e.g here or here). But also the current printer improvements have been interesting to some of the attendees. Finally, everybody agreed that this will bring a step forward :-)

Forward? Fast forward! There have also been other great meetings / discussions / events ... Jacqueline was so kind to sum it up in her (German) CeBit 2010 Summary. Really worth to check it out! Personally, I would like to thank all people involved ... especially Liz and Rosana who had been sick and therefore weren't able to attend :-(

Lotus Symphony

The IBM stand - mmh, it covered nearly on fourth of the exhibition hall - was not too far away from the booth. Since we have been asked to provide some feedback on Symphony (which is based on, I took the chance to check it out. So, if you want to know what I encountered in the short period of time ... have a look at the mail on the UX discuss mailing list.

Although I was the nit-picker, I got a "stress ball" which will be more than helpful to cope with some current topics :-)

KDE KOffice

Another cool thing was the in-depth discussion with the people from KOffice who were also present at the CeBit. The talk started with some questions concerning our change tracking system, but since I lack the knowledge how it is implemented, I was able to slowly change the discussion towards comments ;-)

To be honest, they seemed to be very interested in what we achieved since they are currently working on bringing both change tracking and comments into KWord, the KOffice word processor. Thus, I presented them what we documented in the wiki during our great Notes2 time. Maybe I paid a bit too much attention to detail, but I was more than happy that somebody might pick up some thoughts, since many (!) of the detailed feature proposals and rough ideas still have to find their way into But also the discussion of basic behavioral questions brought some lengthly Notes2 I-Team discussions to mind :-)

Finally, attending the CeBit was much fun - although the other community members and I had only a few hours to share ...


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Back me up, Scotty! Aehm, BackupPC.

What a week. After the Community Council Meeting...
  • I visited my family (for e.g. 70th birthday party),
  • came home (and fought against my Inbox *g*),
  • went to a two days business trip (exhausting and the current train situation a bit annoying...),
  • spent a nice evening with my colleagues (oops, I totally forgot about our Indian style dinner),
  • in the same night, I helped my neighbor since her husband had a hypoglycemia and required emergency medical services,
  • then overslept the day after,
  • tried to support some colleagues with their pilot study (some computer in the network did say goodbye), ...
... and finally I got called by my girlfriend who told me that her computer had been stolen. Oh dear, what's next?

Unfortunately, she requires the notebook computer for her day job, so there wasn't that much time find a suitable replacement. Now, about 24 hours later, we already bought another one, set it up with Ubuntu Linux, and restored most of the data.

Why is that so important that I wanted to tell you in a blog post? The reason is to say "Thank you!" to the people in other open-source projects who do a great job to make others' lifes easier. For example BackupPC - the system that saved (most of) my weekend :-)

BackupPC resides on a little server and scans the computers in the local network. If it detects a known one, it connects via a SSH tunnel and syncs the files to RAID disks. The file history can then be accessed via a web interface which also provides to (usually) easily restore them including access rights. The goood thing is, no one has to worry about doing the backups manually.

So please guys, keep an eye on your data. Usually, one realizes how important it is once it is lost... :-)


Monday, February 8, 2010

CC F2F Meeting in HH

The heading seems to be a bit cryptic, isn't it? It is about the "Community Council Face-To-Face Meeting in Hamburg".

We, the Community Council, had the chance to meet each other in the real world. Two days to catch up with all the tiny bits and pieces which are sometimes so incredibly difficult to discuss - mainly via IRC and in parallel with the "competing" usual project work.

The folks at the Hamburg office offered a warm welcome - many thanks to Jürgen and the members of the Team e. V. who cared about our creature comforts.

This is how the participants looked like - just a snapshot since we missed any opportunity to posture ...

There were some interesting information and sometimes even strong discussions. Hardly surprising, since each of the council members has a certain viewpoint. As you may know, each of the members is elected by a special constituency, so that the person can represent the interests of a certain group in our whole community.

Besides he official discussion there were - maybe even more important - the lesser official discussions until late in the night. I can just repeat my request to everyone to use any chance to attend such a local meeting or even conference ... :-)

Here is a picture of what happened with the results ... aehm ... the media which was used to collect the results.

You may take the chance to have a look at the draft minutes John was so kind to prepare. Most probably, there will be some more information in the near future. Until then we have some more Action Items which have to be resolved ... let's go!

That's it - many thanks to all the people who were directly and indirectly involved!


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brainstorm New Ideas: Contextual Undo

Last year I started a small series of brainstorming ideas for improving So maybe you remember the idea Document Check which was targeted to make finalizing documents more easy. Now let's continue with...

Contextual Undo

Idea Summary

The central idea of "Contextual Undo" is to let the user revert changes in a certain part of the document only. Thus, it overcomes the basic limitation of the conventional undo functionality which basicly is a linear list for "editing steps" for the whole document.


Productivity software like provides different functionality to revert changes in a document. A very common one is "undo" which enables the user to revert changes of the current document editing session step-by-step. When looking on the following - rather simple - document workflow, then we'll now focus on the step "Modify".

Let's first have a look how the today's "undo" functionality is presented to the user. The following screenshot, which shows the expanded "undo" drop-down in the standard toolbar, will be used to explain the behavior.

 The current "undo" functionality ...
  • ... provides a list of editing actions in reversed order (e.g. "Insert graphics" was the last one)
  • ... is rather independent of the kind of actions (e.g. typing, inserting, deleting)
  • ... already merges 'atomic' steps into more logical larger ones (e.g. typed words instead of single letters)
  • ... helps the user by showing the number of actions to be undone (e.g. "Actions to undo: 5")
  • ... has only a limited number of actions to be undoable (see Tools -- Options -- -- Memory -- Undo)
  • ... is a document-centric functionality and therefore e.g. available in the standard toolbar
There are many little things to be improved with regard to the "undo" functionality, but at the moment the very last last statement - being document-centric - is the one to be adressed. Thus, you may have noticed that the user (you?!) can only undo his actions step-by-step. Even if the user choses to go back five steps, then executes "undo" five times one after another. It is impossible to only revert one step (or a series of actions) which has been applied in the past.

Goal: The user is able to simply revert changes to a certain element in the document without affecting the other changes made during the document editing session.

Use Cases

Use Case 1: Reverting Unwanted Changes in a Calc Sheet

Sara uses an Calc spreadsheet document to do her private accounting. The information is spread among different sheets, so she works on some parts of the document. Unfortunately, she made some little mistake in the one sheet she worked on several minutes ago. Since she doesn't want to loose all her work, so she decides to use the "contextual undo" functionality which makes it really easy to revert the changes in the selected sheet. She can continue to work on seamlessly and focus on the topic.

Use Case 2: Reverting Changes of Pasted Content

John works in a large company. His boss requests to create a new presentation which presents the project he currently works on. He collects the related documents - texts, diagrams and graphics - and starts to compose the presentation. To keep the presentation document in a reasonable state, he first adapts the information and formatting in the source documents before pasting the content in the Impress document. For example, he adds some text which better explains the information in the given context and adds it to slide 3. Later he notices that some of the information is somehow doubled on slide 12 - it seems that the current source document already contained it. Thus, he wants to revert the changes on slide 3 with "contextual undo". Luckily, keeps the full editing history of the text which has been pasted and so he simply reverts some of the text changes without affecting the rest of the document. He is happy that this saved some time, since his boss needs the presentation in less than one hour.

Use Case 3: Working on the Bachelor Thesis

Michael works on his bacholor thesis in Writer. Since he lacks a bit concentration today, he jumps back and forth in the document and works on different sections. After a break, he briefly scans the changes made to the document and wants to revert some text he worked on some hours ago. He selects the modified paragraphs and executes the "contextual undo" - he browses the history of the changes and reverts all the unwanted changes with one click.

Detailed Description

Read on in UX Idea Contextual Undo (Wiki) ... here is a first "sneak preview".

Closing Words

My girlfriend loves fortune cookies on the New Year's Day and so I picked one, too. The message was: "Your head is full of new ideas. Apply them!" Okay, I do. But you, please don't forget to rate them ... or even better ... add your own!

If you are interested in more ideas, then please check out the Wiki category UX Idea.


Friday, January 15, 2010

UX meeting in Hamburg, Day Two


This is my second – and last – posting which covers my two days stay “UX meeting in Hamburg”. In the last posting, I've talked about non-disruptive messages and the common goal for Now, we will have a look at Impress and the printing improvements.

Christian and “What is going on for Impress?”

I had the chance to attend the meeting of the Renaissance team which currently works on the thinning out process for Impress. As discussed earlier, this process is intended to “clean up” the current user interface of Impress with the goal to ease the work on major improvements planned in the future. So let's state that we currently talk about how to improve the already well-known user interface.

The design principles are currently a bit implicitly stated, therefore I would like to turn it into something more explicit (as it has been explained to me)....
  • Only important things (I repeat, important things) should be made available in the toolbars
  • Some (currently unnecessary modal) dialog content might be considered for being used in the task pane
  • The task pane will be improved to be more usable on small screens
At the moment, I want to talk about the last item – how to improve the task pane. So why is this required? There are several reasons, but let's pick out two of them which mainly deal with the task selector elements:
  • They eat a lot of space: Each element is presented and therefore reduces the available space. Especially for the vertical arrangement of user interface elements, this is problematic. I've added a screenshot below how Impress looks on my 1280x800 notebook screen. You may notice (highlighted area) that the space being available for animation effects is … limited.
  • They require large mouse traveling: Especially if people search for a certain option this is even worse – they may explore the interface by clicking through each available task selector pane. Although we try to take care of how things are named, people might not be aware of the meaning of “Layout” and “Master Pages”.

But there are also advantages with regard to the current solution – the reasons for which they had been selected initially. For example, each task pane name is directly visible (e.g. “Layout”). If we would use icons alone, we might end up with the problems of the navigator and stylist. Many similar looking icons for context change and – at the same time – many clueless looking eyes ;-)

Okay, how to improve that? Some days ago, Christian Lippka already published an early visual example on Youtube which saves much space and which has been discussed in the Renaissance team. Finally, Christian Lippka, Frank Loehmann and myself ended up in discussing advantages and disadvantages of this and alternative designs. And, luckily, we were able to use the solution proposal by the IBM Lotus Symphony team which has been added to our wiki some time ago.

Within the discussion Frank sketched a proposal which presents versatile task pane content which might be docked on different places. It may be even present at “context” locations, e.g. selecting the slide layout directly on the slide. That leaded to the question whether toolbar content and task pane content etc. have to be technically different (with regard to future developments). If not, then this might ease the realization of an even more optimized UI in Renaissance.

We started to summarize the ideas in some wireframe mockups which also contain some explanations how it might finally behave. This time, I was in charge to produce something – and Frank took to opportunity to take a picture.

Please click on the graphic to explore the details.

I think, one of the most elegant ideas is the (decent) fading of the task pane content during mouse over on tabs. That would make it possible for the user to simply move the mouse pointer down (on the tabs) until she or he finds the appropriate element (in the contents area). A simple click makes the tab persistent. For most users, this might be far more efficient than looking on the headers only – since people usually search for visual clues (like the slide designs).

Like usual some of the ideas aren't technically feasible, but we agreed on some basic behavior which may even be realized for the upcoming 3.3. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed ;-)

Philipp and “Printer Pull Pages”

One thing I'm particularly happy about was the meeting with Philipp Lohmann, the guy who is the I-Team lead for the printing improvements for (printerpullpages). We are working on this topic since several months but we've met never before … a great opportunity to change that.
But, I am sure that we talked about many – to you – less interesting details, I'll skip much of the discussion. The main message is, that we will further work on improvements for the printing. For example, we discussed the necessity of the small “Print in progress” dialog which is shown after clicking “Print”. This modal dialog be even replaced with a non-disruptive message (see above). You may notice how well things fit together, don't they? ;-)

The End

That's it for now. I hope you enjoyed some – if not all – of the topics...


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UX meeting in Hamburg, Day One


Last week I was on holiday from my day job so I went to Hamburg to spend time on my hobby: I experienced the kind and warm hospitality of Sun, especially the Sun User Experience team and had the chance to get in contact with some more “new” people and discuss some topics which have been around for a while. I will report on my visit in two parts. Today is Part One.

Malte and “How to Use Non-Disruptive Messages?”

One of the first meetings was a surprise: Malte Timmermann asked me to discuss some details of a non-modal information bar which I wrote about two years ago; you may recall the Direct Manipulation Snippets for Documents. In general, this kind of non-modal interaction/information elements are used in many different applications like Mozilla Firefox, Gnome Desktop, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft File Explorer (Vista), Ubuntu Desktop, … For you may simply think of an information bar above the document view port which communicates simple information or warnings. During our meeting, Malte referred to one of my use cases which I would like to quote again (to be found in the wiki):

Example 2 “Macros”: If a user opens a document containing Macros, she/he is asked to confirm the execution of the macros. Until the confirmation, the user has no chance to see the document content. So why not loading the document without executing the Macros and asking the user afterwards for the permission?

If you read the wiki page thoroughly, you may have noticed that these “additional” Direct Manipulation Snippets for documents don't yet consider all kinds of situations. This was the reason for Malte to ask:
  • What if several messages shall be shown at the same time? For example, four messages would cover large parts of the document or may be bigger than the whole window. How to present them?
  • What if a user wants to recall a message which has been shown to him some time ago? For example, do we require some kind of message stack to be accessible afterwards?
  • What if a message is rather large, e.g. a user shares a document in a Document Management System and adds a rather large comment? How to show this message to the user – instantly – without requiring a large part of the window area?
  • What if a message is related to in general, e.g. the invitation to join our Improvement Program or to inform about software updates?
… and much more. You see, the discussion isn't finished yet. The funny thing is that – during the discussion – we collected more and more ideas for using this kind of non-modal interaction to make working with more pleasing and more efficient. Some examples:
  • If users add comments/notes without having entered a user name, we may ask him to add this information when required.
  • If users open signed documents we could explain to them what signed documents are. Today, many people don't know much about that.
  • If users add extensions we might inform them about the newly added functionality.
I think you got the point why I think it is worth to work on it. Let's see if Malte and his colleagues share that opinion.

Kay and “What is our common goal?”

Kay Koll is the friendly marketing guy who, for example, publishes the monthly newsletters to the community. During lunch, we started a nice discussion about what goals exist for working on If the goals are inconsistent or unclear, for example when working on the core functionality, documentation, web presence, etc, we face inconsistency and diverging development. Thus, we talked about how to make working on more target-oriented.

For example, we talked about the current improvements like “release mottos” for upcoming versions and the current – rather technical – mission statement. You may know that large organizations, both non-commercial and commercial, invest a lot of effort in developing a common mission and goals to be used in all their projects, teams,etc. Personally, I think that this kind of “tool” might help to ease development decisions. However, our discussion ended up generating some ideas for an upcoming visual design and branding meeting , so, we decided to wait for the outcome of that meeting.…

The Small Print

I would like to say a bit thank you to Liz who took care of me, like she did for other community members some months ago :-) She provided (as she called it) a warm and dry place to sleep and (as I would refer to) some delightful discussions apart from and all the development stuff. The same is true for the hospitality of Frank who arranged many tiny things to make my stay as comfortable as possible.

Besides that, many thanks to all the people (Christoph Lukasiak, Christian Jansen, Matthias Huetsch, Eric Savary, …) who discussed all the ideas and thoughts – or just dropped by to say hello! I hope to see you again, soon...

Have a nice day!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Also from my side a happy New Year and the best wishes for you and the whole community in 2010: health, happiness, success, luck ... and an increased market share for OOo :-)