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Developers to discuss new Style Guide

Published: 22nd Dec 2006, 13:22:10 | Permalink | Printable

Darling, that desktop is so 1993

The 1990s were gr8A new mailing list and wiki page have been set up in a bid to update the RISC OS Style Guide. The book, originally published by Acorn, shows developers how to design their applications so that they fit in with the rest of the RISC OS desktop - although some now say the guide is stuck in the 1990s, and a more modern reference should be drawn up. It's hoped a later revision will take into account desktop enhancements and updates provided by RISC OS Select and RISC OS 5.

The discussion list was created by Vince Hudd, and the wiki page is presently empty, although anyone can login and edit it. The project is unofficial, and separate to Castle and RISCOS Ltd's efforts to document the operating system.

Vince said: "This mailing list is open for everyone, users and developers, for discussion relating to the RISC OS Style Guide, pros and cons, suggestions for improvement, and so on.

"The wiki page only contains an introductory paragraph at present, but I hope that in time, and following discussions on the above mailing list, it will evolve into an up to date Style Guide."


Style Guide discussion list and wiki page

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Fantastic news. I;ve liong believed the style guide needs drastically updating. Lets hope that developers sign on to this.


 is a RISC OS Usernx on 22/12/06 1:30PM
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Oh dear, we all know what sort of interface you end up with when its designed by committee :( 1000 different opinions, no agreements, and the "lets make it optional brigade" muddying the water.

This is the sort of thing that needs to be dictated from on high, right or wrong, agree or dissagree, thats the way RISC OS is going to look. Unfortunately there is no-one with the clout of Acorn around to do this any more.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 22/12/06 2:38PM
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nx: It's OK saying it needs "drastically updating", but unless you can get everyone on board, drastic updates aren't going to be adopted by developers. And that's not even allowing for the fact that a lot of software isn't updated any more.

At least in the short term, any changes need to be aimed at taking into account things that weren't around back in 1993 (eg. things added by the Nested Wimp), not making radical changes to the look and feel of the desktop.

 is a RISC OS Userstevef on 22/12/06 4:02PM
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In reply to nx:

If you really feel that the style guide needs drastically updating then it's a wonder that you use RISC OS in the first place!

Personally I feel that the time would be better spent in ensuring that applications are compliant with the existing Style Guide. I have done a lot of work on several legacy commercial applications with this goal.

With regard to future applications, in my opinion style guide compliance is best fostered by encouraging developers to use the Toolbox. Acorn themselves recognised this. Whilst it is possible to achieve a style guide compliant interface without the Toolbox, it seems to me that most people lack the motivation and/or skill to do this.

I would like to single out NetSurf for praise, as an application that adheres to the standard beautifully without using the Toolbox. In fact I believe that some aspects of its GUI would be difficult to implement in a Toolbox application. However, this required a lot of work by experienced developers (and even then there were initially minor anomalies; e.g. behaviour of the Return key in dialogue boxes).

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 22/12/06 5:05PM
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"we all know what sort of interface you end up with when its designed by committee"

Do you think the Style Guide was written by one person at Acorn? If more than one, then it was designed by exactly the mechanism you are criticising.

That minor technicality aside, another benefit to having the Style Guide online, which is one of allowing people who haven't forked out for the C Tools or the PRMs to read it - such as end users. There is a benefit to them reading it, since they then have the opportuniy to find out precisely *why* we've done this, that or the other in our programs. This doesn't necessarily have to be in the wiki format; simply having the PDF online would be sensible. However, having it in a more easily updatable form is better - Steve has already reminded me that there is additional information on the Iyonix website that is SG related; ideally all of this should be in one place, instead of split out into a main document and disparate supplemental notes.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 23/12/06 9:32PM
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I don't think the style guide should be available publicly in an 'updateable' format its purpose is for authors to produce programs that users are instantly familiar with - this is what gives RISC OS its look and feel.

By definition changing it changes how you would expect a program to work and would lead to confusion as some programs would use the old way and some the new. You are always free to write your programs in any way you want but don't expect users to instantly understand what you are trying to achieve you will only be able to do that by adhering to the current style guide. The style guide is not something you can change every week because you thought of something better.

 is a RISC OS Usercoling on 23/12/06 10:01PM
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In reply to VinceH:

I'm sorry but Druck is fully correct - there may well have been several people at Acorn involved with the Style Guide, but there would have been one DECISIONMAKER.

 is a RISC OS UserNeilWB on 23/12/06 10:14PM
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As an end user, I cannot see any reason to change the Style Guide. I like the uniformity and ease of use. Using RISC OS is just like shopping at a branch of Lidl, in the case of the supermarket, it does not matter where inthe country I am, the layout is always the same, I don't need to go for my coffee, kitchen cleaner tins of soup etc; likewise with RISC OS it does not matter which application I am using, I know what happens when I press f3, Ctrl-A etc. The Style guide is what makes the RISC OS desktop such fun to use. Mess with it at your peril.

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 24/12/06 11:20AM
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edit above: ...I dont need to go **hunting for** my coffee, kitchen cleaner...

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 24/12/06 11:24AM
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Yes, but Druck didn't say "there should be a single 'DECISIONMAKER'" he said (in effect) "It shouldn't be designed by more than one person".

I agree that there should be someone who has the final say, and IMO that someone should probably be someone at Castle.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 24/12/06 11:25AM
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re Availability; How about people who write stuff FOC using (say) GCC? Shouldn't they be allowed to see what the Style Guide says - or should they be made to pay in order that they can provide free software?

Coling and JWCR:

re 'Updateability'; Let's make it perfectly clear that I am not talking about changing things for the sake of changing things. I'm talking about updates to cover ommissions in the style guide, and to reflect additional considerations that have come about with the changes that have been made to the OS itself in the 13 years since the style guide was published.

I believe there *are* ommissions in the style guide - the usenet comments have already brought to light that those who criticised Pluto's use of '[field] label' on Style Guide grounds are in error since the Style Guide doesn't insist on 'label [field]' and I'm reasonably sure there are other areas. Where they aren't in error is on the basis that it doesn't make sense in the instances they're used that way in Pluto, which is why the Style Guide should cover it.

I don't think (not going to check right now) that the guide doesn't cover toolbars at all - I don't think I had very many apps that had them back then, but they are common now. In what way should they be covered? Well, the guide provides some very specific information on the sizes that various icons etc should be, and I would suggest that the same level of specific information should be presented for tool bar icons. (I personally think an ideal size is twice the height of the window furniture tool icons).

Changes to the OS? Again, I'm not going to check now, but IIRC the SG as published covers choices, but tells you to contact Acorn because the subject is under discussion. Is it still under discussion at Acorn, or has the matter been resolved. Hmm, let me think - oh yes, it has, it's been resolved so the situation has, in effect, changed - and there is a very good document on the subject published on Justin Fletcher's website. More disparate information. (Along with the additional information on the Iyonix website, as I mentioned yesterday).

The Style Guide needs to be updated so that we have a *single* document containing such things, and it needs to be 'updateable' so that new concepts, new tools, and so on can be covered where necessary.

(I might agree that you had valid arguments if they were that the wiki - where anyone can log in and change it - is not the best solution, but that isn't what you argued).

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 24/12/06 11:51AM
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"I don't think (not going to check right now) that the guide doesn't cover toolbars at all"

Duh. Should say...

"I don't think (not going to check right now) that the guide covers toolbars at all"

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 24/12/06 11:55AM
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I'm not arguing against public availability only against public changeability. For me the style guide outlines the OS authors vision of the OS *they* create and has nothing to do with anyone else - just as how I write my programs and whether or not they comply with the style guide is my business.

 is a RISC OS Usercoling on 24/12/06 2:08PM
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Sorry - I misread an 'or' into your first sentence.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 24/12/06 3:02PM
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