Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Should Mandriva 2009 use the new KDE Kickoff menu or the classical menu?

Mandriva 2009.0 installs KDE4 with the classical KDE menu, a decision I can only applaud. It isn’t decided yet whether this decision will stand until the final version. The Mandriva Community seems to be running into a tie, as the votes for either the new Kickoff menu or the Classical menu are virtually equal. My vote is a solid one for the Classical menu and I don’t mind explaining why.

Whether it is the KDE4 Kickoff menu, the OpenSuse GNOME slab or even the Windows Vista menu all suffer from the same problem. In order to launch your program you have to click and click and click from panel to panel to panel, not to mention the scrolling up and down to check whether the program is really in the category you expect it to be. If you have tried a distribution or two you know that isn’t always the case. The classical menu’s (in all three) simply required clicking on the starting point and then hovering over the menu tree until you found the program. True, it is possible to set your favorite programs on the first panel, but you shouldn’t want to use more than four of five programs to benefit from it.

I still remember that day in the early 1990s when my hands locked up while writing a piece on my laptop. I couldn’t move my fingers and it took three months before I was able to use a keyboard again. It must have been one of the first cases of what was to be called Repetitive Stress Syndrome or RSI. I am aware that recent research indicates that RSI doesn’t exist, but you know the dictum: “lies, damn lies, statistics and IT related research”. That experience made me a stickler for workplace ergonomics. I will pester my employer to have a decent chair, table and setup for my computer. At home I have a Microsoft natural keyboard and a responsive mouse. I don’t like a wireless mouse: the batteries make it unnecessarily heavy and when they loose juice the mouse responds sluggish. If there is a keyboard shortcut for repetitive tasks I will find it. The programs I use often are no longer in the menu, but in the top panel (I use GNOME). Needless to say it is littered with programs.

The path of “menu innovation” goes contrary to proper workplace ergonomics and just adds more repetitive tasks in day to day use, a dramatic increase in mouse clicks and lateral mouse movements.

The discussion in the Mandriva Community seems to point to a possible alternative, a Kickoff menu that doesn’t require clicks to move from panel to panel. We will have to wait if that idea matures into something more. In the mean time I am glad the option to switch to the KDE Classical menu will be there in Mandriva 2009. Then again, with the push of KDE4 I might not use the KDE menu for the next year anyway.

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9 thoughts on “Should Mandriva 2009 use the new KDE Kickoff menu or the classical menu?

  1. Im feeling the same way. For some reason, Spring (2008.1) installed the SLAB thingie.

  2. bjb_nyj101 on said:

    It would be nice if us non-mandriva users new what you were talking about…..how about showing us some pictures next time?

  3. Pictures? There is nice gallery of Mandriva 2009.0 here:
    http://tinyurl.com/5z94ew

    It’s not a Mandriva-only thing, because you can see it on various distribution where KDE4 is installed. This article focuses more on a trend where Vista, KDE and GNOME are moving into the same direction, namely replacing the traditional menu tree with a panel that is roughly 1/6 th of your screen and where you have to click from sliding panel to sliding panel to get to your program.

    To see the difference wouldn’t require pictures, but a movie. I’ll think about that.

  4. Sven on said:

    The issue is not kickoff, but that its features are not promoted adequately.

    Using the applications-tab is annoying because you have to click, no doubt. Yet I remember how annoying the classic menu was because if you moved the mouse a bit too wide, it was all gone.

    So for kickoff: if you use the search and place often used apps in your favourites tab with ~10 items and expand the history to ~10 items as well you will hardly ever need to use the applications-tab.

    If people do not use the favourites/search/history before clicking through the applications-tab, well…

  5. @ Sven
    You are saying two things here:
    (1) Kickoff could be made to work better (favorites/ search/ history) but those features are obvious enough for novice users,
    (2) Kickoff is good enough but users are not using the features that are there.

    Seems to me that you are supporting some improvements in Kickoff, at least to the point that tweak options are far more visible and easy to use than now. 😉

    On the other hand, what you are describing is tweaking Kickoff to the point where you don’t need it anymore, since your solutions do away with the applications tab altogether.

  6. Personally, I’ve switched over from the menu almost completely to the new KRunner (or Katapult if you’re still in KDE3 world). For keyboard oriented users, it’s a much faster way of starting programs than going through a menu.

  7. Mohan on said:

    I say give the user the choice. Like XP did between the XP menu and the old Windows 98/ME/2000 menu style. If they do that then the users can choose for themselves as to what they want to use. I currently don’t care for the Kickoff menu but prefer the one Mandriva 2009 has.

  8. Sven on said:

    @janstedehouder: one needs the applications-tab, as a fallback, i.e. if an application is not in the favourites/histroy-tab or I do not knwo what to search for, and if one installs new applications. They are shown on top of all categories in a “new applications” category. At least the opensuse 4.1 packages do so. I think this is very helpful for users who are not sure which category a new application was installed in.

    Kickoff does lack some more configureablity, e.g. the user should be able to set the number of items in the histroy, which was possible before but is now lacking.

    If people don’t like kickoff, fair enough, yet the design of the applications-tab is IMHO not a valid argument against using kickoff, unless you are a applications-menu lover and under no circumstances want to use the advantages of its other tabs.

    The latter is also why I do not understand why I would not need kickoff anymore, if I do not use the application-tab. I want to move it to the back, yes, but I do need it every few weeks for the reasons mentioned above.

  9. I have experienced the new kickoff menu in various distros but I definitely, without a doubt at this very moment, prefer the classic Kmenu.

    Why?

    Efficiency. I don’t want to click-click-click… to navigate the menu. I noticed some distros have make a little improvement over the new menu by automatically open the panel of a chosen category, then automatically scrolls when hovering the mouse over the panel. But it was too slow for my taste.

    It is much quicker to launch the programs by pressing AL-F2 combo, then type the command, if you know it.

    I do hope they give the user the option to switch back to classic menu when they finally make the new kickoff menu the default.

    If not, then it sucks big time.And it reminds me the way the new Microsoft Office 2007 switches over to the new ribbon style menu without the option to switch back to classic menu.

    BTW, the Mandriva 2009 Alpha2 KDE4 still keeps the classic menu. I do hope they keep it as default for final. Otherwise I might go with XFCE.

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