An up-to-date look at free software and its makers

Small Steps to Success

A single application such as Gnome Voice Recorder is unlikely to convince PC users to change their free desktop preferences. However, it is the small utilities in particular that make working with a PC that much easier and reduce the frustration that newcomers can experience. Of course, if utilities are missing or cause usability problems they can just as easily frighten off potential converts.

If users are forced to launch a feature-rich application like Audacity [11] just to record some noise because of the inadequacies of Gnome Sound Recorder, the computing experience will suffer. The program interface does not have the same look as the desktop, and controlling the versatile audio tool can mean a fairly substantial learning process. On the other hand, if users immediately find the right tool for a minor task and quickly achieve the desired results, they are likely to feel more at home in an environment.

The moral of this story is that even smaller projects should introduce a structured approach to programming. This includes following the lines that Bons has taken: Start by sketching the interface, solicit proposed improvements, and continually improve the sketches before starting to code. In line with this, the Gnome Voice Recorder developers invite users to contribute more ideas and help the project move along. When this issue went to press, a lively discussion was already in progress on Bons' blog.

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