Some proposals on usability

Discuss the development and future direction of Play.
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sphire
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Joined: Tue May 22, 2007 8:15 am

Some proposals on usability

Post by sphire » Tue May 22, 2007 8:34 am

After using Play for a couple of days, I am starting to really like it, which is probably largely due to ReplayGain support (god, I missed that one since switching from Windows/foobar). However, there are some areas where I would like to see improvements. Of course, these are just my personal preferences.

1. Cmd+W will quit Play. I can‘t remember how often that has already happened to me. I recognize Play is a single-window app but can be quite annoying nonetheless. (Yes, I read the suggestion about doing exactly the opposite.)

2. The top area is too big for my taste. When given a choice, I would like to hide it completely and just use keyboard shortcuts.

3. The Browser is a nice feature. However, it would be much more helpful if it did provide an actual tree view. For example, when looking for a specific artist, I still might want just one album.

Of course, I don‘t expect any of this to be implemented over night – or at all for that matter. Play is pretty great as it is but I think a little input can‘t hurt.

RonaldPR
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Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Re: Some proposals on usability

Post by RonaldPR » Tue May 22, 2007 10:17 am

sphire wrote:1. Cmd+W will quit Play. I can‘t remember how often that has already happened to me. I recognize Play is a single-window app but can be quite annoying nonetheless. (Yes, I read the suggestion about doing exactly the opposite.)
Interesting, a switcher from Windows complains about an application stopping when its (last) window is closed. :wink:

I argued in favour of quitting when closing the window because that is the expected behaviour for many single window applications in MacOSX.

Instead of closing the window, you can also minimize it (Cmd-M) or hide it (Cmd-H).

(Other hiding tricks: You can also hide an application while switching to another application by option-clicking on a window of the application you want to switch to. And holding cmd-option while clicking will hide all running applications except for the one you clicked. When you have multiple applications running with windows opened, try cmd-option clicking anywhere on the desktop. It's my favourite.)

sphire
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Joined: Tue May 22, 2007 8:15 am

Re: Some proposals on usability

Post by sphire » Tue May 22, 2007 11:20 am

RonaldPR wrote: Interesting, a switcher from Windows complains about an application stopping when its (last) window is closed. :wink:
Well, I switched about a year ago. Also, Windows is never a good reference on usability :wink:.
RonaldPR wrote:I argued in favour of quitting when closing the window because that is the expected behaviour for many single window applications in MacOSX.
In my own (obviously limited) experience, that is quite inconsistent between different apps. Hiding windows is of course an option. Maybe it‘s just a bad habit and I will get used to it. My main argument for not quitting when closing the window is: the view is not vital to Play‘s main purpose (playing music). Just because I close the UI doesn‘t mean I want to quit the whole app.

RonaldPR
Posts: 433
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Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Re: Some proposals on usability

Post by RonaldPR » Tue May 22, 2007 1:54 pm

sphire wrote:In my own (obviously limited) experience, that is quite inconsistent between different apps.
Yes, you are right. It used to be the normal behaviour for one-window applications in MacOS, but it is less consistant now in MacOSX. As a long-time Mac user, my reaction is the opposite of yours. Before Play's behaviour was changed, I would close the Play window to quit Play and then still needed to quit Play as yet.

(Regrettably, much of the GUI behaviour is less consistant in MacOSX compared with the old MacOS. I do like MacOSX, I have been using it for five years now and I do not wish to go back, but I still miss the consistency, the simplicity, the elegance of the MacOS GUI, of the MacOS Finder in particular.)

Mike1
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:55 pm

Re: Some proposals on usability

Post by Mike1 » Wed May 23, 2007 3:45 pm

sphire wrote:In my own (obviously limited) experience, that is quite inconsistent between different apps.
This only relates to document-based applications. System Preferences, for example, quits when you close the window, because it's not document-based. It's the same for iPhoto.
In most cases, applications that are not document-based should quit when the main window is closed. For Example, System Preferences quits if the user closes the window. If an application continues to perform some function when the main window is closed, however, it may be appropriate to leave it running when the main window is closed. For example, iTunes continues to play when the user closes the main window.
Apple HIG: closing windows

It's different for something like TextEdit, because it's a document-based app--presumably, the thought is that you might conceivably want to open another document in the same session, so the application might as well stay open. If you look at the %CPU column in Activity Monitor for any document-based application that is open but currently has no windows it always seems to say "0", so why not?

Ghost_Danser
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Location: Canterbury, Kent, UK

Re: Some proposals on usability

Post by Ghost_Danser » Thu May 24, 2007 3:43 pm

sphire wrote: 2. The top area is too big for my taste. When given a choice, I would like to hide it completely and just use keyboard shortcuts.
I find I am using keyboard shortcuts for the first time. I was more used to using remote buttons on the menubar for iTunes (using 'You Control: Tunes'). When I am not interacting with the application I tend to hide it from sight. Whilst the top area of Play does not offend me, I have to admit I rarely click on the play controls. Whilst I am using keyboard shortcuts, I would like to see some remote control features in the menubar. Other than that on the top part of the application I would like to see the album art reinstated, having never seen Play in its earlier development I am curious!

Biggest wish is that I would like to see the ability to sort on several columns. I am also a Foobar2000 user when I am in a Windows environment and am spoiled by its sorting capabilities.

I love using Play! I think that the only reason I have to open iTunes these days is to play CDs :(

Longer term I would like to see tagging support fully implemented and my pipe dream is reliable lyrics support ;)

Well done on producing a well functioning and reliable music application!

Stewart

pragmatik
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 7:36 am

Post by pragmatik » Thu Jun 21, 2007 3:19 pm

Here's a little story, take it with a grain of salt... :)

I installed Windows XP on my macbook so that I could do two of the many things you can't do on an Apple. Play games and music.

I was too lazy to boot back to Windows after my Girlfriends MSN sessions, and decided that it's time for some music. Seeing that I am apparently fed up with iTunes and all those other useless players, I started up Play as usual.

You see, Play is not just an alternative to whatever, it's the only proper choice people have if they have opposing thumbs and any experience with proper audio players.

However, I decided to document what I was doing from the very moment when I started to feel like things were not right:

0. Start Play. (I've already made library some time ago)
1. Try out applekey+b to see if it brings out the sidepane.
2. Wade through artists. then albums. then maybe some more artists. Don't you just find it funny how you can't browse for both properly?
3. Forget about sorting. Just cope with it. Pick out an artist that you've been listening to anyway since at least then you know what you are looking for. After all, there's a reason why you didn't listen to those albums you haven't been listening to lately, right?
4. Select Artist.
5. Try to find Clutch - From Bale Street to Oblivion.
6. What, it's not in the Library yet? Let's add it manually.
7. Check why watched folders doesn't work. Realize that you didn't add the folder last time because you thought it was broken. In reality it has to be named. Why, nobody knows.
8. Let's look for the album again. Select "From Bale Street to Oblivion"
9. Now we reorder the files in the lower part of the window so that for example, the first song is first, not last, and vice versa. This is actually how the artists intended it. I don't even like the last song that much.
10. double click the first song.
11. double click it again.
12. oh yeah, it's not playing. They're just added to the queue. Empty queue.
13. select all from lower list of files.
14. drag and drop the files to upper list of files.
15. click at the top window's first song.
16. enjoy the music!

Now, you may think that I'm somehow bitter, or maybe even a bit retarded as it takes me 16 different phases to play music and I have Apple.

But bear with me on this one:

It just doesn't add up that even if I cleanse that list of 16 steps of my failures, I can't get it down to the two: Choose song to start with, Play from there in correct order.

Now the Correct Order of course can be stretched, but in general, it's the order in which the songs were on the Album as intended by the very Artists themselves.

Of course we can't do nothing about broken metadata, nor can we help broken filenames, but sometimes the latter can be helped by correcting the former...

So let's get back on the track: before people start going on about gapless playback and album art and metadata editing and god forbid a web browser, never forget that these two things need to be properly implemented:

Choose song to start with, [b]Play[/b] from there on in the correct order.
KISS.

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sbooth
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Post by sbooth » Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:15 am

pragmatik wrote:It just doesn't add up that even if I cleanse that list of 16 steps of my failures, I can't get it down to the two: Choose song to start with, Play from there in correct order.
<snip>
Choose song to start with, Play from there on in the correct order.
This is good feedback- thank you!

Do you have any suggestions for how to change Play so it can achieve your two steps simply?

pragmatik
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 7:36 am

Post by pragmatik » Mon Jun 25, 2007 5:41 pm

sbooth wrote:
pragmatik wrote:It just doesn't add up that even if I cleanse that list of 16 steps of my failures, I can't get it down to the two: Choose song to start with, Play from there in correct order.
<snip>
Choose song to start with, Play from there on in the correct order.
This is good feedback- thank you!

Do you have any suggestions for how to change Play so it can achieve your two steps simply?
Oh Do I. However, once more, a disclaimer is in place - I just took a big gulp of cough syrup to accomodate my terrible ail that has beaten me like a red headed stepchild.

First of all, let us do the obvious, which is to inspect the main display of Play.

Now this may come to some of you as a surprise, but I respect greatly how much effort has been put into the icon. Usually coders can't do graphics for shit and tend to be so socially inhibited that they lack any ability to ask for a proper one. So thanks. Although I could go without it, seeing as it just takes room. But sometime in the future when everything else has been worked out, you can replace it with album art, Right?

So then there is the "Now Playing" info so to say. It's nice, but I can also see this information from the Play Queue. I got something big brewing for this, so take heed...

To the right there are the controls. Now I'll be damned if these are removed, unless they can be user customized back there. For some reason, being the minimalist mutant I am, I love the buttons. I like to click them, WITH A MOUSE. They are actually the right size, but I suppose smaller icons could suffice. I think this is a matter of taste more than a question of practicality.

And there's the dragbar for song position, which to my enjoyment includes both "time played" and "time left," logically in our western left to right- order. I've got a final solution to this one also, and a well justified one too.

But this is the bomb: let's just drop the icon & the large album information for now. We divide it thusly:

prev, play/pause, stop, next, play order (random etc), select random track --- Customizable display of metadata, defaulting to: Artist, Year, Album, Tracknumber, Track. New line.

We put the play position here. Why? Depending on the way the drawbars often used for track position perform, it's easier to select a particular part when there is more room to it. We could use that fancy progress bar used for file copying since this is apparently an aesthetically questionable choice...;) If not possible to float, time remaining/elapsed should be discussed further. New line.

Now we should get into that heavy think tanking people, help me out here my little hobbits. I will, for the sake of courtesy, insist on leaving the play queue here for now - I have great faith in the practical uses of not having motorically challenged people scewing up your album library and it's sorting.

However, we need drastic changes to the way the play queue behaves. We must sustain all the functionality it has right now to accomodate the very cunning ideas our developer has had about it, such as possiblity to add 10 tracks at random (Great idea by the way, High Five!) yet we still must retain the oldschool functions of audioplayers every mac user doesn't for some insane reason seem to miss.

Just as the library, the play queue should be possible to sort by directory, filename and every data possible and give the columns sorting priority preferred by the user. Path & filename MUST be shown if there is missing metadata.

Now that we got that out of our system, there is the library. Let's separate it from the play queue with a search bar. new line

library. New line.

And that sidepain? Why they are often misspelled as sidepane, I can not comprehend. It simply does not compute, that on one side of the window there is an ugly extension of that very window that usually goes out of screen bounds. In our particular case, there is very important information to be viewed, so we should not under any circumstances use this for viewing our collection, but rather playlists or other irrelevant data. Actually, we should only use it if playlist can not be achieved by using tabs.

So there, a complete rewrite of the user layout (I'm not even touching the menus right now, I'm starting to feel a bit tipsy.) We of course could make all objects floatable for shit and giggles so that people like me wouldn't then flood this forum and complain about the order in which for example the top part of the window is aligned. People like freedom right?

Now that we got the visuals out of our system, let's get to making lists part:

1. Sorting
2. The Number Two
3. Customizable simple looks
4. File Buffering
5. Other notes

1. Sorting

Emphasis on proper customizable sorting by priorization of data columns, and robust file (meta)data handling is EVERYTHING. No Apple player does it. I repeat. APPLE PLAYERS DO NOT SORT FILES PROPERLY.

So Go for it man. Be the dude everybody will talk about. The Daring One, The One Who Made an Audio Player That Is Not Shit of which generations and generations will talk about in awe. You, Dear Sir, Will Persist in the Grinding Teeth of History. I will give you hundreds of Internets for that.

2. The Number Two

Yeah, the shithole. We all got a Number two. It's like this mp3 folder with all these random clips and other crap people have sent you, some lost and found clips and funnies from the internet. iTunes users call it the Library as they have no choice and I have a folder called mp3_misc etc etc.

It's something you definitely want to separate from the rest of your audio, because you don't want to hear about Howard Stern's nutz all the sudden in the middle of Grave and Hypocrisy.

The thing with this Number Two is that it also messes up the common libraries, as you will get hundreds, god forbid, thousands of artists with a singe track on your library. So this must be thought of.

3. Clean Looks

I suggest steering clear of custom graphics and skinning for now. Integration into the OS is imperative, which has been done well so far. Although it just so happens that people are not using OS X to please themselves, but to score with chicks, it's nice if their audioplayers don't look like something from gnome developer circle jerk party.

4. File buffering.

Very important with network drives & NAS/NSA applications becoming more popular. I'm not sure if it's already implemented since everything is working fairly well but many applications lack this.

5. Other notes

Proper support for audio formats (I suppose these kind of things are already taken care of?) It can of course be argued if supporters of even more exotic audio formats (sid, mods etc.) should be endulged. I say let us not go there for a while. A very, very long while. A while even longer than my rantings. That long.

I might've forgotten something and we might not be talking about the most comprehensive definition of a project, but at least I had fun - didn't you? :)

EDIT:
I of course didn't answer your question, to which the answer is: once the library is ok, it can be browsed and you can choose a song which is then doubleclicked and therefore played, after which the next song in the sorted order will start manifesting itself through the sound system.

Moar EDIT:
The Playlist has, in my opinion, never been more than an extension of the users library, be it a directory structure from which files are added or a player specific database, that is why it's use should be possible, but not enforced.
KISS.

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