New Icons aren't an improvement

Bug #379641 reported by Kattekrab on 2009-05-23
This bug affects 1 person
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Krzysztof Kosinski

Bug Description

I'm running inkscape on ubuntu - built yesterday from SVN.

The new icons are NOT an improvement. What was wrong with the old ones? I know there's been a lot of discussion and issue with the icon code, but I understood this to be to make it possible to change the theme easily - not throw out the existing icons.

the new icon for the tweak tool is possibly better, but the new node icons are terrible. It's very difficult to see the difference between the symmetric and auto-smooth icon - and as such it doesn't communicate that difference at all. Knowing that one is a square and the other is a circle doesn't really help the user understand the difference.

The align and distribute icons are not as clear either.

just... well..... yuck yuck yuck.

Is there a reason for the change? Is this to enhance usability? based on what guidelines? Or just because someone designed some new icons and felt like it?

I understand I can probably change this back for myself by swapping out some icon file somewhere - but for the average user who doesn't know that I really don't think this is an improvement. In fact I really believe it decreases usability and discoverability.

Also - what happened to the KB shortcuts in the tool tips?


The Tango-ish set is installed only for Linux, where the majority of design applications use the Art Libre set (tango). Windows version uses the old set.
The reason of the change, though it wasn't shared by everyone, was to bring a unified look with other applications as Scribus and GIMP.
Of course, if you consider that some icons aren't clear enough, you can help fixing them and making them better. The old set has some problems too and some help fixing them would be great.

Afaik, it is possible to use the old set if you want, copying the old default set to the icons directory.

Oh, by the way. Please try to avoid the "this sucks" text in the summary of the bug. Somebody worked on the new set and yelling that sucks may sound a little bit disrispectful.

summary: - New Icons SUCK!!
+ New Icons aren't an improvement
Kattekrab (donna) wrote :

Yeah sorry about that. apologies to the person who made the icons. They are attractive, and the tango scheme is great. But some of them are less USEFUL. So while they look good overall, and have a more consistent approach, I don't think they're actually helping the user get the job done.

Also - not really sure it's a great idea to have such a radically different set of icons for linux / windows / macos users... If we want the user experience to be the same across all platforms then that approach would seem counter-intuitive.

As for helping make the icons better... what about applying the tango colours and design spec to the existing icons? Rather than having completely different ones?

You say there are problems with the existing set too... what are those problems.
Has this been discussed somewhere I can review the history?

I would think it would be better to have the same icons across all platforms. Not a different set for linux. I don't understand why having different icons for linux is an advantage? Perhaps someone could explain that?

Kattekrab (donna) wrote :

"Of course, if you consider that some icons aren't clear enough, you can help fixing them and making them better. The old set has some problems too and some help fixing them would be great."

Patches welcome?

Sorry - I just don't have time to become an expert in user interface design to fix the icons.

But I am an Inkscape user. This is real feedback which identifies a real problem.

Real people use Inkscape to do real work. 'experimenting' with the user interface isn't helping them unless it is driven by evidence based usability testing and interface design.

I can't become an expert overnight on this, so I suggest that those who are actively trying to improve Inkscape seek advice from experts in this area. Telling someone like me to submit a patch is unlikely to be able to make it better.

prkos (prkos) wrote :

There were extensive discussions about this on the dev mailing list, you can search for "Tango icons" on nabble but be prepared for a longer read ;)

Some people hated the Tango icons and some loved them. Im my personal opinion there were more of those who loved them. Those who hate Tango icons usually argue that it's difficult (for them) to use them, it slows them down. There were a lot of people who urged to implement Tango because of the more polished look, they witnessed people reject Inkscape because the interface didn't look polished, outside appearance affects marketing.

No one is right when discussing looks, people will always be different, a universal icon theme that could fit with everyone probably can't be made. There is a bug that neither the old nor the Tango can solve, and that is using them on dark backgrounds, a separate theme should probably be made for that case. That's why in the end everyone agreed that a way to offer theme chooser is the right way to go. As long as you can choose the theme you like everyone will be happy.

The reason why Tango was set as default on Linux is because it fits better with the rest of the visuals there. I'm not an expert but I think people mentioned Tango as the best fitting icon set for windows too. It means that they don't feel out of place. This falls under the general OS interface discussion, different OSes have different interfaces and different ways to do common tasks, when you're working on one OS you are used to the looks and ways things work. This way your work speed increases, and if you change OS you feel a slow down. That's probably the main reason why applications should aim to fit their interface into the environment. And don't worry a lot of thought has been given to this topic, it wasn't somebody's whim to change the icons.

I often compile new dev versions to test new features. I always used Tango icons as default, ever since they appeared. But there was a period recently when because of the work on icon code a theme switch wasn't possible so I was stuck with the old ones. It was weird and it slowed me down a bit, but not significantly since I used to use them before Tangos appeared so I was familiar with them. Now when Tangos reappeared I can tell you that it's much easier for me to work and I'm less confused about the interface. The Tangos used now are the improved set and I can feel the difference, thanks to the person who did it! Although more improvements can be made, some icons I don't even look at because I remember by their position on the toolbar what they do but I suspect they are confusing to the new users, I find it easier to work with Tangos.

Asking people to contribute is a common thing in open source world, you are not obligated to do so. It is a gentle reminder that people working on Inkscape are volunteers, experts or no-experts, and everyone is free to pitch in.

LucaDC (dicappello) wrote :
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I'm one of those that prefers the old theme over Tango. I'm a Windows user. I've already explained that I prefer the old theme because it's cleaner than Tango.
You say that under Windows a lot of people like Tango too: I don't have any statistics to say if that's true or not, but I feel that themeability under Windows is much less used as under Linux, so I'm not really convinced about that. I feel that the old theme is coherent with Windows' look, at least more than Tango.

Anyway, I liked one of your sentences:
"But there was a period recently when because of the work on icon code a theme switch wasn't possible so I was stuck with the old ones. It was weird and it slowed me down a bit, but not significantly since I used to use them before Tangos appeared so I was familiar with them. Now when Tangos reappeared I can tell you that it's much easier for me to work and I'm less confused about the interface."

So, what do you think all those users used with the old theme could say if Inkscape suddenly switched to Tango?
You gave the answer by yourself.

You were used to the old theme but a lot of people that started using Inkscape with the old theme and had no reason to use or even try Tango, could just be confused.
I've tried Tango and I've decided it's not for me.

Changing an interface is something that must be done after a very deep evaluation, it's like changing someone's face: the brain is still the same but you could have the feeling of speaking with someone else. If you close your eyes you realize that nothing important really changed, but you can't use Inkscape with your eyes shut ;)

So, ok with themeability (which I agree is the right solution to adopt), but be careful: those who will move to 0.47 without knowing about the choice to use Tango as default and that with themeability they can revert back to what they were used, could be disappointed and simply reject all those good improvements and fixes that have been added in functionality (they are a lot, really, I couldn't use original 0.46 after getting used to dev versions: move quickly to 0.47 because this is something that can really make people discard Inkscape, much more than the icons issue!).
Please consider that I would say the exact same think if we were speaking about moving from Tango to the old theme.

In my opinion, a change in interface should be done gradually, or at least it could be worth a question during installation, like:

  Do you want:
   - "classic" (not to say "old") or
   - "Tango" (or "new" or "cool" or "better" or whatever you think it is)
  look for your Inkscape installation?
  (you will be able to change this under Options->Interface->Theme...)

So people saying that the old theme makes Inkscape lose new users will be happy (what do you think people will choose? ;). Simply changing it without saying anything to anybody wouldn't be kind with old users.

Ah, and about helping icons' improvement: why should I help improving just to keep using something that's already good for me?
This reminds me about a big software house that keeps releasing new versions of their programs so users have to buy them because if not they can't share documents between th...


prkos (prkos) wrote :

LucaDC you directed your last comment at me, as if I offended you somehow. Offending anyone was definitely the last thing on my mind, I only tried to help.

I'm not a developer, I feel privileged to be using such great software for free, but I don't consider myself to be a part of an elite of some kind. It wasn't me personally who decided on anything concerning icons, it wasn't any one person either (you can read the discussions on the nabble forum i linked to), and the discussion still isn't over because 0.47 isn't out yet.

It's good that you gave your opinion, developers need it, and it means you are already contributing. I don't understand what you wrote towards the end about a big software company, how that relates to this issue. Do you feel you will be stuck with Tango and you don't like that design? Developers already agreed that the only way to sort the icon issue is to give people the option to choose. I doubt it will be during installation, I think that a Preferences entry was considered but I don't know how that's going to turn out.

There is one thing where you are completely wrong though - that asking people to contribute is a way to ditch their opinions. If you're not familiar with how open source software is made please read more about it before forming an opinion. There are so many channels where you can voice your opinion about Inkscape matters, this bug tracker being one of them, all opinions are welcome as long as they are communicated politely.

The icons that are default in 0.46 weren't the first icon set in Inkscape, you can see the old ones if you like, they are in a file legacy_icons.svg somewhere in the Inkscape folder. I don't know exactly how and why the current set was made and why it replaced the legacy ones, but I can tell you that a request for Tango icons came from users, and it was also contributed from a user. They wouldn't have it done if it didn't make sense to them right? It wasn't a developer conspiracy lol

Anyway that is the way things work in developing Inkscape, if someone hadn't come forth with an almost finished iconset we wouldn't have that new option now.

I guess the conclusion from this bug report is that more opinions need to be gathered about what iconset should come as default in the new version (maybe even platform dependent).

Jon A. Cruz (jon-joncruz) wrote :

As per Bulia's request, please restore the prior icons for now. Perhaps after GSoC is completed we can revisit this.

(For the record, setting aside all concerns of aesthetics, there are some functional usability issues with the current Tango icons that I think we would need a round of art tuning to correct)

Changed in inkscape:
assignee: nobody → Krzysztof Kosiński (tweenk)
importance: Undecided → Critical
milestone: none → 0.47
status: New → Confirmed

To the people who think that Tango icons look good but have usability issues, could you please point what are those problems?
The guy who completed the set is one of the contributors of the Tango project, so we are talking about someone who has the skills and has been approved by the Tango project mantainers, so I think we can discuss with him the issues to make the set better and usable.
Anyway, I can't help thinking that this is more a matter of taste and habit that anything else. I know that there are several icons that can be improved, but most of the people seem to say "hey, don't change the icons, I'm used to how they look and if they are different I'll be lost".
The flamewar is over, people had their opportunity to discuss about tastes. Let's try to be objective now and fix the usability problems. :-)

LucaDC (dicappello) wrote :
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Ok, sorry for being misunderstood. For sure it was my fault and is due to how I tried to express my opinion. I must admit I did not hit the point.

To prkos,
I'm not so good in transmitting my mood while writing: you probably thought I was angry and attacking but that's false.
I appreciate the whole work about Inkscape, a program I like and that I would probably keep using also if I were forced to use with Tango theme.
I wasn't offended in any way by you, and by anybody else. I reported directly something you wrote, so I found natural directing to you. Sorry for making you think I was against you.

You're true about my feeling about being stuck with Tango and loosing the old icon theme that's "Inkscape's face" for me (so you also understood the reference to that big company that doesn't let you decide what to use... ;). You wrote it better than me. Thanks.
But that's not the point: I don't want the project to follow my taste. I was just trying to point out that changing the appearance of a program is something "strong", has a great impact on users. It can't be done only because somebody thinks the new appearance is better. I don't say it wouldn't be better, I just say that people could simply be not ready for that. Then I gave a suggestion: make it clear that themeability is present and let all users choose during installation, in an easy way, the theme they prefer.
I know there's already someone working on that but I feel more an urge to move to Tango rather than having a clean way to switch theme. I hope I'm wrong on that (and it wouldn't be the first time... ;).

I didn't want to say that you feel as being part of an elite. The point was different and is not related to you in particular but to the whole community.
I've already read answers saying that if something isn't good for someone reporting something he could contribute to see it fixed. It seems to me that someone is sometimes using this answer to say: don't bother with that problem, we don't think it's important so if you want it fixed do it yourself.
Ok, I don't want to generalize: please try to understand my point. Most of the time I agree with the concept, but sometimes it seems like an excuse: "the problem is there because you haven't contributed to fix it yet".
This can be said between developers, not to "normal" users that simply found something they don't approve and tried to give their contribute saying their opinion. I'm just trying to give voice to all those that received this answer (I personally haven't, yet) and had a negative reaction (I wouldn't). I agree that they didn't get the true meaning, but if more than one didn't maybe there's something wrong in the communication. I was just saying: be careful in giving such advices because they could be misunderstood. You can't assume that everybody writing here has the ability or the time to fix or to help, also if they would really want to (I am one of those).
I (think I) know how open source contribution should work but maybe not everybody writing here does and doesn't have to, if they simply want to help with a program they like, right? So, just keep explaining it as if nobody knew or simply avoid that "suggestion" if yo...


ScislaC (scislac) wrote :

No longer an issue for 0.47

ScislaC (scislac) wrote :

This is no longer an issue for 0.47... we will have appropriate on-topic TECHNICAL AND AESTHETIC discussions after 0.47 is released.

Changed in inkscape:
status: Confirmed → Invalid
jazzynico (jazzynico) wrote :

(Please don't restart this discussion, Just changed to lighten the 0.47 milestone targeted bug list. Thank!)

Changed in inkscape:
importance: Critical → High
milestone: 0.47 → none
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