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 Post subject: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:45 am 
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Hello,

I get more and more feedback about boring user interface of my apps. They're using the XMLDialog feature of PureBasic and of course, they look like apps look like. The operating system buttons and stuff. But it looks like people expecting user interfaces like the new dialogues of Windows.

Today, PureBasic interfaces very much looking like this:
Image

But people expect it to look like this:
Image

But this sort of dialogues seems impossible to me with PureBasic (cross-platform!). Some web based interface would allow such, but this is not available (at least not officially).

What makes me boring:
  • I tried, but I can not even change the Window background color without having to set the background color manually for all placed checkboxgadgets and textgadgets. This worked fine in the past with Visual Basic 6 or .NET but even today it is not possible with PureBasic.
  • I tried to use self drawn buttons, but using such on XML dialogues is a pain in the a**. DPI scaling makes it close to impossible to have such working reliable on all devices and setups.
  • Using bitmaps in XML dialogues fails completely because of missing scaling options (link to my post about this).
  • XMLDialogues do not even vertically align labels and stringGadgets correctly. My apps dialogues looking like this are really ugly (below a screenshot from a dialogue on Linux compiled with PB 5.46 LTS))

Image

How do you solve that issue? How to get more modern user interfaces for our PB applications?


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:01 am 
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Windows GUI is butt-ugly. There is no getting around that. I would take 3.1 or even NT4 over the looks of 10. I can't see very well and the shit is ugly. I can only imagine how bad it is for those with much better sight.

macOS and Mint Cinnamon are both appealing to me, but many will find those just as ugly as Windows.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:08 am 
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I have tried several different skin engines like SkinCrafter or Windowblinds (check out these Themes) - some users love the result, others complain because its not "windows" anymore. So i made it optional inside the app. It adds quite some work (i use a wrapper for all of those functions now) and cost though.

ps: don't licence any skin engine without trying them. some are horribly incomplete and will limit your GUI in ways you never expected and others are either super expensive or impossible to use due to the interfacing. Your app will get larger and slower - consider carefully before entering this road.

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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 11:36 am 
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Hello,

thanks for your thoughts and insights, but this does not solve my problem. No matter if we like or dislike the new interfaces, users are common to it. Especially the younger generation is used to work with apps that look more "fancy". And I can't fulfill their wishes with PureBasic today. Not because the language is bad but because of the incomplete dialogue and layout engine.

The skinning engines I found are always "Windows only" and do not make sense to me because we deliver for Mac and Linux, too. The software has to stay one code for all.

Is the only solution to write my own GUI engine? Complete with all needed gadgets and a layout engine? Before trying this, I will try to re-develop using alternatives like MONO or even JavaScript (ElectronJS, Cordova etc).

Any other solution ideas?


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:37 pm 
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Quote:
Any other solution ideas?
Native (non-PB) GTK with a custom skin.

https://github.com/nana-4/materia-theme

On Linux, it should be possible to set this skin even on PB controls.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:23 pm 
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Unfortunately, these Windows GUI controls are not available for other apps, we are left with Win32 standard API. If you don't need to much button style, you could use CanvasGadget() to the GUI elements, so you have a complete freedom.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:37 pm 
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Kukulkan wrote:
No matter if we like or dislike the new interfaces, users are common to it. Especially the younger generation is used to work with apps that look more "fancy". And I can't fulfill their wishes with PureBasic today. Not because the language is bad but because of the incomplete dialogue and layout engine.

On modern Windows systems, there are 2 different kinds of "apps": the traditional desktop apps (usually called "programs"), and the newer Metro-style apps. These are two different kinds of beasts. PureBasic does not have an incomplete dialogue and layout engine. It just cannot create Metro-style apps (and was never designed for doing so). Maybe you can tell your users that you do not write "apps", but classic "programs".
For more information about the differences between "programs" and "apps", see e.g.
https://www.howtogeek.com/129130/7-ways-modern-windows-8-apps-are-different-from-windows-desktop-apps/

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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:56 pm 
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After some research, here is what you are looking for (I guess): https://sciter.com/ . It's free if you use the DLL, which seems a pretty good deal (and not so expensive for Indies if you want to statically link it). As it's a DLL, it should be easy to use with PB.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:27 pm 
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Hello,

@Fred:
Thanks for the sciter-link. For us it would be $2720 in the first and $1720 in any following year (Business+). Whow, that is a lot of money... Maybe the existing PB features can get enhanced a little to allow more and better integration? For example, better support for owner drawn canvas based gadgets in XML dialogs? Also, some vertical center alignment feature to allow better placing of TextGadgets in front of StringGadgets etc (see my first post to see the issue). Not the right place to discuss in detail here.

@mohsen:
I already tried to solve several issues by developing my own gadgets: My own Button, My own Treeview, My own Pie-Chart etc... But integration of such into a XML dialogue is hard. Just try it and you will find out (try on all three OS and also try to switch DPI ;-) )

@Little John:
Quote:
Maybe you can tell your users that you do not write "apps", but classic "programs".
Nah, I mainly do not discuss with the end users. I get feedback from our re-sellers and their IT support and I'm pretty sure it does not help to tell them. They are also not interested in the reason. It does not make it better to know that it is a program. They simply tell us that Skype, Dropbox and even some Windows Tools are looking better.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:29 pm 
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Just for curiosity, why the Free version won't work for you ?


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 4:21 pm 
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Hi Fred,

I just spent some time on their website. You are right, as long as I only use the precompiled libraries it seems okay. The license simply wants us to mention their usage. But currently we do not use anything external that we do not have sourcecode access (for example libcurl or crypto++). We always want to be able to fix and build by our selves to make sure that we do not have a dependency that is elementary. But for PB we do not have such, too. Therefore I have to consider if such dependency is safe for the future or not. Currently, sciter looks very good to me. We will definitely spend some time on this! I also have seen that already someone else is trying to use sciter.dll with PureBasic. Let's have a look if he is willing to share his progress with us...


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 10:09 pm 
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Kukulkan wrote:
Is the only solution to write my own GUI engine?


I started to go down that road back when the canvas gadget first was first introduced, but quickly ran head first into the lack of 32-bit support for the canvas gadget.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:27 am 
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There is also ProGUI, which is still sold. Not what you are looking for, but it is certainly better looking than native Win32 Windows 10.


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:09 am 
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Hello Kuron,

thanks for the link to ProGUI, but this is the look of 15 years old Office 2003 :-(

I will try to follow the Sciter path a while to test it...


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 Post subject: Re: Users complain boring user interface of my apps
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:20 am 
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Yes, it is dated, and even if you create your own GUI, it will still be dated compared to Metro.

XButton is floating around on the forums and it allows for Metro style buttons. That may give you a building block if you chose to roll your own solution.

Kudos to Fred for putting the work into seeking a solution that may work for you. Yet another reason why PB is the best.

Kudos to you, Kukulkan, your enthusiasm over this is infective. I am looking forward to seeing what you can do with Sciter. This may be one of the most exciting things to happen for PB in a few years. :)


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