I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

General discussion about Celestia that doesn't fit into other forums.
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Will Pittenger
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I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #1by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 02:13

My specialty in computer programming has always been making easy-to-use user interfaces. From my point of view, Celestia's UI is mostly missing.
  1. It needs a way to, from menus, select installed tours and scripts.
  2. It should warn users about scripts when they are installed (at least if they can be malware-type) like Firefox does.
  3. Google Earth lets users turn on and off objects on the fly. I think Celestia needs this as well.
  4. Users should be able to change between the real universe and purely fictional ones (like Star Wars or Dune) quickly. (At least, I assume data for those universes could be put together from the official data.)
  5. If most of the above can be added via something like Mozilla's XUL system, you might want to add it that way. (However, as someone with a lot of installed XPIs in Firefox, its UI can get rather cluttered. More intergration of those add-ons would be helpful.
  6. Toolbar -- with an auto-hide option in full screen mode
  7. When there are multiple items with the same name turned up by the Enter/Return search system, I need to either be able to click the name or use the arrow keys to select one.
  8. Full screen doesn't remember the preferred resolution. (Not truely a UI issue, but it is related.)
I also think a local help file should be present. Mozilla provides one that needs help. However, most platforms provide something like Windows's compiled help system.
Last edited by Will Pittenger on 25.05.2007, 03:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Post #2by Cham » 25.05.2007, 02:46

Points 1 and 2 should be addressed soon, with the addition of a scripts list under the File menu, and maybe a scripts browser.
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Post #3by dirkpitt » 25.05.2007, 02:54

With the recent addition of the Lua hooks system, Point 2 seems like a valid concern to me (Lua devs: what security level do/can Lua scripts run at?)

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Post #4by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 03:13

New items above with new numbers.
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Post #5by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 03:17

Cham wrote:Points 1 and 2 should be addressed soon, with the addition of a scripts list under the File menu, and maybe a scripts browser.

I also think that objects should be browsed via something similar to what Google Earth uses. It has a nice tree with icons, checkboxes, and even HTML-based descriptions.
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #6by hank » 25.05.2007, 03:40

Will Pittenger wrote:My specialty in computer programming has always been making easy-to-use user interfaces.

Will,

Are you volunteering to help with the implementation of UI improvements for Celestia? That would be great!

- Hank

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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #7by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 03:56

hank wrote:
Will Pittenger wrote:My specialty in computer programming has always been making easy-to-use user interfaces.
Will,

Are you volunteering to help with the implementation of UI improvements for Celestia? That would be great!

There are four ways to interpret what you mean. I am listing them in order of involvement.
  1. I could review what you have planned.
  2. I could build mockups with MS Paint (assuming the Windows 98 UI).
  3. I could install Visual C#.NET 2003 Standard (which I do own but am not using at the moment) and make mockups with that.
  4. I could work on the actual source. However, this could be a problem as I must download at dial-up speeds at the moment (mostly because I can't afford broadband). I also have no budget for development environments other than what I already own. (I doubt you use C#.)
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #8by Cham » 25.05.2007, 03:59

Will Pittenger wrote: (I doubt you use C#.)[/list]


Celestia is programmed in C++ and is using OpenGL.
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #9by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 04:04

Cham wrote:
Will Pittenger wrote: (I doubt you use C#.)[/list]

Celestia is programmed in C++ and is using OpenGL.

I knew OpenGL was used, but not anything else. (BTW: Google Earth supports both OpenGL and DirectX, but I feel it performs better (quicker anyway) with OpenGL :) .)
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Post #10by LordFerret » 25.05.2007, 04:49


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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #11by hank » 25.05.2007, 05:03

Will Pittenger wrote:There are four ways to interpret what you mean. I am listing them in order of involvement.
  1. I could review what you have planned.
  2. I could build mockups with MS Paint (assuming the Windows 98 UI).
  3. I could install Visual C#.NET 2003 Standard (which I do own but am not using at the moment) and make mockups with that.
  4. I could work on the actual source.

I think number 4 is what we really need, although detailed functional design specifications and mockups might be of some use. I don't think generalized wish lists are really all that useful. There's no shortage of ideas for improving Celestia; the problem is a shortage of programmers.

Your development environment sounds pretty limited, but it might be possible for you to do something using Lua along the lines of what Vincent has done with the UI for his Lua Edu Tools.

- Hank

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Post #12by Brendan » 25.05.2007, 05:16

Fridger's large locations file for Earth has places with the same name like Rochester, England and Rochester, New York. Only the one that comes first in the list can be selected.
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Post #13by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 05:41

Brendan wrote:Fridger's large locations file for Earth has places with the same name like Rochester, England and Rochester, New York. Only the one that comes first in the list can be selected.

What is the logic behind that? "Not implemented yet?"
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #14by Will Pittenger » 25.05.2007, 05:48

Cham wrote:
Will Pittenger wrote: (I doubt you use C#.)[/list]

Celestia is programmed in C++ and is using OpenGL.

How do you do the menus and dialogs? Are those platform specific? (Like Win32?) BTW: My C++ knowledge is for MFC/Win32.
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #15by t00fri » 25.05.2007, 06:45

Will Pittenger wrote:From my point of view, Celestia's UI is mostly missing.


That is a BIG exaggeration REALLY.

While some of your listed points are useful, most of them are either being discussed since a while among us developers or they are of fairly low priority.

The real issue that you do NOT address at all is related to Celestia being a CROSS PLATFORM application. We are presently discussing what toolkit (Qt?) is best suited for recoding Celestia's UI UNIFORMLY in all OS's.

Obviously you only looked at Celestia's UI in Windows.

There are presently significant UI differences in the various OS. Certainly the screen resolution is remembered in some. There are also nice toolbars in the KDE-GUI including a neat bookmark manager, for example. Fullscreen is even remembered in the Windows UI (if set correctly) etc.

The official Celestia distribution only supports visualizations based on SCIENTIFIC data. Phantasy/SciFi may be implemented via add-ons by users.

You missed out completely a number of urgently required UI improvements that are dictated from astrophysical points of view. That's what Celestia is about, after all. Such additions are far more relevant than further little UI-gadgets for the 'infamous dumb users'...

Like e.g. browser-based retrieval of multiple star systems with complete binary orbit information. Switches for changing frames/projections/... including grid systems in various coordinate systems, a loading-unloading manager for specialized scientific data catalogs and many more such really relevant things.

Bye Fridger
Last edited by t00fri on 25.05.2007, 08:08, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #16by Christophe » 25.05.2007, 07:29

Will Pittenger wrote:1. It needs a way to, from menus, select installed tours and scripts.

The KDE interface already provides a 'recently opened' sub-menu. It remains minimalistic but I don't really see what else we could do short of rewritting a file manager. If you have any ideas for this it would be nice to expose them in more details.

One thing I would see as more important would be the ability for scripts to turn on/off add-ons or even automaticaly download required addons.

Will Pittenger wrote:2. It should warn users about scripts when they are installed (at least if they can be malware-type) like Firefox does.

Well, since we don't have an add-on manager and addons or lua hooks have to be manualy installed by the user there is no real security issue yet. That however will be a required addition the day an addon manager is implemented.

Will Pittenger wrote:3. Google Earth lets users turn on and off objects on the fly. I think Celestia needs this as well.

Object classes can already be turned on and off. What is needed is the ability to turn on and off individual add-ons. But that's a lot more than a GUI issue, there are non-trivial memory management issues to deal with aswell (think addon dependancies).

Will Pittenger wrote:4. Users should be able to change between the real universe and purely fictional ones (like Star Wars or Dune) quickly. (At least, I assume data for those universes could be put together from the official data.)

That can be done easily by putting all your reallistic addons in one folder and the fictionnal ones in another and then starting Celestia with the appropriate --extrasdir switch. That's however something that should be taken into account when designing an addon manager.

Will Pittenger wrote:5. If most of the above can be added via something like Mozilla's XUL system, you might want to add it that way. (However, as someone with a lot of installed XPIs in Firefox, its UI can get rather cluttered. More intergration of those add-ons would be helpful.

Regarding an addon manager the UI is really the icing on the cake. There is a lot of work to be done on the core before we have to think about a GUI to manage add-ons.

Will Pittenger wrote:6. Toolbar -- with an auto-hide option in full screen mode

We already have a toolbar on KDE, the autohide feature in fullscreen would be a nice addition.

Will Pittenger wrote:7. When there are multiple items with the same name turned up by the Enter/Return search system, I need to either be able to click the name or use the arrow keys to select one.

You already can use TAB/BackTab. The problem here is that whichever entry you select in the list, you will always select the same object since the name of the object is the actual 'key' used internaly, so the search function will always return the same object. As you see this is also much more complex than a UI issue, it's a real core issue.

Will Pittenger wrote:8. Full screen doesn't remember the preferred resolution. (Not truely a UI issue, but it is related.)

That's purely on Windows, you can't choose the resolution when going fullscreen on Linux.

Will Pittenger wrote:I also think a local help file should be present. Mozilla provides one that needs help. However, most platforms provide something like Windows's compiled help system.


The full manual is accessible from the help menu in KDE, now that manual is in dire need of an update.
Christophe

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Re: I think Celestia needs some serious UI help

Post #17by hank » 25.05.2007, 15:03

Will Pittenger wrote:
Cham wrote:
Will Pittenger wrote: (I doubt you use C#.)[/list]

Celestia is programmed in C++ and is using OpenGL.
How do you do the menus and dialogs? Are those platform specific? (Like Win32?) BTW: My C++ knowledge is for MFC/Win32.

As Fridger noted, the Celestia UI is currently implemented independently for each platform, but there are plans to implement a common UI using a cross-platform toolkit. Qt4 seems to be the leading candidate, although wxWindows has also been mentioned. A Lua-based toolkit built on top of OpenGL or the C++ toolkit is also a possibility. Significant new UI features should probably wait for the new cross-platform version.

-Hank

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Post #18by Paolo » 26.05.2007, 10:26

Please can someone clarify this point: QT can't run in full screen mode?
But if I'm not wrong QT4 can use OpenGL as rendering engine.
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Post #19by Christophe » 26.05.2007, 17:59

Paolo wrote:Please can someone clarify this point: QT can't run in full screen mode?
But if I'm not wrong QT4 can use OpenGL as rendering engine.


Qt can do full screen rendering (simply by extending the OpenGL widget to fill the entire screen), but it can't switch resolution.

And yes, Qt can use OpenGL as a painting back-end, but I don't know yet how useful that can be for us.

The porting work is a bit tedious, but at least I can know compile the GLUT frontend with cmake and one file in the kde directory does compile (only ten left to fix...)
Christophe

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Post #20by Paolo » 27.05.2007, 22:16

The overpainting example in the QT 4.3 RC demos should be our case: 2D graphics drawn over 3D rendering. But the quality of 2D graphics obtained in general using QT/OpenGL seems poor.
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