The GNU/Linux Desktop and Borrowed Assumptions about Usability
Is the GNU/Linux desktop headed in the right direction? Recently, I have started to wonder.
Despite the emphasis that major distributions place upon usability, nobody seems to ask the question about what definition of usability is being assumed, or what kind of users that definition produces. Or, whether those users will be capable of reaching the free software goal of being able to control their own computing.
The conventional wisdom is that free software began by mostly ignoring usability issues. It was software designed by geeks and for geeks, and functionality was more important than ease of use.
Then, gradually, influenced by documents such as the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines and the freedesktop.org standards, the community became aware of the need to consider usability, and came to rival the standards of proprietary software.
Now, with KDE and GNOME taking the desktop in new directions, Ubuntu overhauling usability, and OpenOffice.org revamping its look and feel via Project Renaissance, free software is in the middle of yet another great leap forward in usability.