Solid Ideas VS Glass Ideas

When my postings could not get more weird than this, I am going to take you through a few ideas of mine on the elements that conform the KDE desktop on OpenSUSE. These ideas may not have been thought of as the new KDE 4 was being developed but this is my personal take on it. I am trying to understand the basic idea behind the KDE desktop stylistic elements as shown by the Plasma Desktop and in OpenSUSE.

From what I remember, the Plasma desktop wanted to be a full rewrite of the underlining technologies that were part of KDE. One focus of the graphical developers of KDE was a stress on glossiness or rather glassiness. I think that many of them, although there are many differences, used Windows Vista as an inspiration for the desktop. KDE graphic developers stressed glassy looks and a lot of shine in the widgets. They created the Oxygen theme, which at the beginning was pretty rough but still people found it interesting and soft.

I remember when Nuno Pinheiro showed me some of the early mockups for the upcoming Oxygen window style and I loved it. He told me, at the time, that although this style was beautiful, there was a great bridge that had to be crossed between design and practicality. The style looked great on the mockups but, in my opinion, still not the same as the mockups. Another thing was also pointed out somewhat to Nuno, and it was the fact that the style lacked contrast. I believe this is still true, the Oxygen style needs better contrast and better outlining.

But these things aside, the overall idea of the KDE 4 desktop, at least on the front face of it, was to give it a shiny and glossy look. My problem with this approach, which sometimes is unorganized because of the many contributors to the project, that KDE has lost sight of what they really want the desktop to look like. They seem to rather focus on what the desktop "can do," not what it "can look."

If I compare basic thought and ideas that I associate to glass, I always think of things that I can touch but very carefully, such as a flower vase, a chandelier, a glass of water. These objects are artfully molded but very delicate. I want to appreciate them but not touch them.

However, when I think of solidity, I associate this word to things like rocks, metal, strength. These objects can be molded in many different ways and they do not seem to break. They are rigid and they feel solid enough that I can rely on their strength or sturdiness.

When it comes to graphical environment design, I see many differences and even confusion as to what the idea behind the whole is. I believe that there should be an overall idea behind the construction of a GUI, but as of right now OpenSUSE seems to be a little divided between the solids and the glassy elements of its KDE desktop.

Here is a solid-like design that I got to use a long time ago. I love QNX. It was only 45 MB and it was very nice looking. I think it still is, but now it's not so readily available.

Others have decided that transparency and glassy ideas are better. I just think it could lead to confusion.

Where does OpenSUSE stand on this?

OpenSUSE has a mix of various solid and glassy elements on it. The solid comes from the Oxygen window style. A very pretty element, but in my opinion, I think it lacks contrast that can give better understanding of its solidity as a window. Maybe a different color scheme or, even better, a brand new style just made for OpenSUSE. One that can bring out the beauty of the green and gray.

OpenSUSE also shows solidity on the Kickoff menu. But even here there are design elements that can be improved. For example, the way the colors and highlights are used seem very insubstantial. They do not clearly show what you are selecting. Again, an element that adds confusion to the overall line between solid and glass.

An area where SUSE shows glass is on the panel. It is equipped with a few icons for the Internet, desktop switching and it features a few buttons, plus the system tray at the right end. System tray however, does not seem solid. The same goes for the buttons featured in the panel appearance control.

I know well that this sounds like rant against KDE 4 and OpenSUSE, but I assure you that it is not. This is just an attempt to find an overall scheme in the design of OpenSUSE.

What should OpenSUSE do about glass versus solid?

So, OpenSUSE should try to look solid. Why? because solidity shows a stronger idea of strength and reliability. Glass looks are good and glossy, they are very eye candy, but could give the impression that it is something that can't be touched.

This means that OpenSUSE should have it's own window style, with custom buttons and window borders. Do not use Oxygen. Change the overall plasma theme and use graphics that show solidity. Use for example an updated version of the Domino style: