Saturday, April 3, 2004

CUPS and Usability

Eric Raymond:

I’ve just gone through the experience of trying to configure CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. It has proved a textbook lesson in why nontechnical people run screaming from Unix.

Eric Raymond:

Good UI design, and doing the right thing by Aunt Tillie, ought to be a matter of gut-level pride of craftsmanship.…None of this is rocket science.

John Gruber:

What Raymond is proposing, in fact, is no change at all. This idea, that the hard work of development is in building the underlying foundation, and that the easy part is writing a “GUI wrapper”, has been the Linux/Unix way all along.


What I think would be a good start(TM) would be a program that interprets config files and turns them into GUI menus when possible, turning integers into fields, lists of commented out options into checklists/dropdown menus, etc. I know it wouldn’t be perfect but it would make editing a config file less scary for less experienced users.

Sven-S. Porst:

I’d still say that Apple’s managing of printers isn’t particularly intuitive these days.

Rick Schaut:

When you’re working on end-user software, and it doesn’t matter if you’re working on a Web application, adding a feature to an existing application, or working on a plug-in for some other application, you need to design the UI first.

Matthew Thomas:

Gruber’s point is somewhat undermined by the printing system of Mac OS X, an OS Raymond holds up as a shining example, being a “GUI wrapper” around the same Cups system Raymond was criticizing.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

My sentiments exactly. I've discussed Raymond's article and Gruber's with geek friends. On the whole they don't have a clue what I'm talking about. They stare at you with blank faces as if Aunt Tillie, or whoever, is going to figure out all this stuff and won't mind a UI that does practically nothing. Show the pref panes of OSX to a long gone Linux geek and he says "so what." They're nutz. I run my own Linux server but darned if I'm going to use Linux on the desktop. What a joke.

The starting point of Raymond's article was printer sharing. I am not sure Mac OS X relies on CUPS for the discovery of Rendezvous shared printers. I'd say it has a bit more than a wrapper around CUPS in this regard.

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