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I really want to learn to use inkscape well, but just can't grok the interface. It's a sad symptom shared by many open-source projects.

They seem to want to differentiate themselves as (e.g. "not photoshop" in gimp's case) but seem to equate that with "ignoring good ui/ux design".




This is what I used to think, but reflecting on my usage of these tools lately has shaken my belief. Here's my theory, illustrated on a personal example:

I've been using Photoshop for a long time, and I've learned a lot of its shortcuts and intricacies. Basically, when I want to accomplish something in Photoshop, I already have an idea on how I'll go about it, using the functionality that's available. But GIMP, on the other hand, never really clicked for me. I find it very unintuitive and limiting, and it's a huge pain to have to do something in GIMP when Photoshop's not readily available. I've convinced myself that this is because GIMP has a much inferior UX and is orders of magnitude more limiting than PS (at least the subset of their features I use in my day-to-day usage).

On the other hand, since my light vector editing needs have been satisfied by Photoshop for a long time, I haven't really learned Illustrator. Recently, for various reasons, I've had to do some heavier-than-usual vector editing stuff, but still nothing requiring more than simple Beziers, fills and strokes, so I've been doing it in Inkscape since it's just been handy. After some time, I decided to try and use Illustrator, figuring it'd be like a whole new world. And then, surprisingly, I realized I don't really like it. The interface was illogical and not in line with my mental model at all. I struggled to complete basic tasks, and finally gave up and did the job in Inkscape. Basically, it was very reminiscent of the Photoshop―GIMP situation.

So my conclusion is that the tools and their UX are very powerful in giving me a mental model of a task, and significantly more so than I would have imagined. So it might not be 100% true to say that the UX in these tools is inferior. It's just so different from what we're used to that we have a very, very hard time separating the "different" from "worse" in our heads.


GIMP also has some weird omissions. You can't lock a layer so that it won't move, for instance. This is apparently coming in the unstable branch, but it boggles my mind that this wasn't a feature from day one. There is also 'anchor' but that doesn't seem to mean what anchor means in just about any other CAD/Graphics application.

The expected behaviour in Photoshop is that if you drag-move, you only move the selected layer. It seems like in GIMP if you drag-move, you drag the highest layer that has a painted pixel under your cursor. There are probably situations where this saves time, but more often I try and drag some text around and I end up moving a background layer by mistake.

I often find myself using Inkscape to save time, it's intuitive enough and it works well.


Drag layer under pointer and Drag selected layer are two options of the move tool. You will find them in the tool properties pane.

All in all, I've always found Gimp more intuitive and easy to use than Photoshop, probably because I learned it first!


I've been using Gimp forever and I have the opposite experience: to me it's much more intuitive and powerful than Photoshop. I have used both in the past, but I always come back to Gimp because for me it's so much better.


Reading between the lines, I suspect you're trying to say that Inkscape is gratuitously different from Adobe Illustrator? Well, it's interface is also suspiciously similar to (older versions of) Corel DRAW, so maybe it's not so much deliberate differentiation as it is just borrowing from a different tradition than you're used to.


When I last used both regularly (2009), Inkscape's editing tools were pretty far ahead of Adobe Illustrator. I found it much easier to work with BĂ©zier curves, automatic tracing, complex stroke and fill styles, and especially gradients.

It does take a few days for things to sink into your noggin after so long in a different tool, but I certainly think Inkscape's quality is very high. It's worth learning, unlike (imo) GIMP.


Maybe you are used to certain UIs and behaviors? OSS doesn't want to 'be different', it just doesn't adhere to industry practices and doesn't try to imitate the competition, especially in niches like video/photo/audio editing, which is IMHO a good thing.

I don't think the Inkscape UI is really that hard to understand, it's just different. Granted, I haven't used Photoshop and Illustrator since version 6.0, but I had no trouble getting into Gimp or Inkscape within a couple of days of using it. I didn't find it hard to grok the UI and the intended behavior, it became pretty usable very quickly (bugs aside...).

As a developer, I can easily understand what the intended behavior in these programs is, everything is very logical.... but maybe that's the problem many users have ;)

Edit: and I can see how the bugs can confuse users to no end. It might be even the greatest disadvantage, especially inkscape behaved really buggy the last time I used it half a year ago :(


I have the opposite issue - I've been using Inkscape for years for vector editing, and have a really hard time trying to get used to Illustrator's. Inkscape's keyboard command in particular are much more practical than Illustrator's for my workflow.


Open source UIs are by and large designed by committee. Even when the governance of the project is by "benevolent dictator", it is hard to turn away contributions from the wider community. Even if a UI starts out simple and elegant, it will eventually die a death by a thousand cuts.


I never liked illustrator but inkscape is straight forward to me. But I am a long time user of Corel Draw which is quite similar so inkscape feels like home, so I guess your background matters. It's simple things like point selection that make all the difference. Inkscape is open source with good ui while gimp feels like they are trying to add as many tools as possible under the same application with no regard of user experience.


I use inkscape and it seems fine and logical.


I'm thinking right now: maybe it's too logical.

It's easy to understand the behavior and UI from a programmer/developer's perspective, but the main portion of the target group in this sector does think completely different.


My demographic: I use Inkscape about once a year, to make a single small thing that I know would probably be best as a vector graphic, for sizing options.

For a thing that should probably take about an hour, it takes me half a day, to relearn the handful of things I need to do.

Which, I think, is pretty good, considering I'm not at all a graphics person, and usually have to search around just to discover the terms I need to search for how to do what I want.

My results are amateurish, but good enough, and probably wouldn't exist without Inkscape. I like it.


yes, making things illogical always helps to improve a product.


I agree, the list of well designed and usable OSS software is very short IMO. I suspect that most OSS software doesn't have a skilled UI/UX designer so they make due with what they have. Not to mention that GTK+ and Qt do not look very nice in general.

Inkscape's interface isn't too bad, not good, but I rarely have significant issues with it. GIMP is an absolute nightmare of UI/UX design, I can't understand how someone hasn't fixed that by now.


Qt, by default, mimics the look and feel of the host OS. On Windows and Mac, Qt uses native GUI elements so it's a little unfair to say it doesn't look nice. A well laid out Qt program should be indistinguishable from a native application. I'm sure people have very strong opinions on whether native UIs are nice or not!

The issue, as you point out, is lack of designer. Both Qt and GTK can be extensively customised, but you need to know what you're doing (in an artistic sense).


> GIMP is an absolute nightmare of UI/UX design, I can't understand how someone hasn't fixed that by now.

Of course you can understand that. Try writing actual code to fix any pet peeve with GIMP's UI/UX (or any app's UI/UX). Then we'll sit down and talk again about the role of volunteers in a free software project :)


I wouldn't say it's bad. It's confusing at first, like most interfaces with a ton of controls, but you gradually get used to it and know where things are.

The bad thing about the UI at the moment for me is the lack of HiDPI support (as far as I can tell). And back when I was using OSX, the interface seemed a bit janky since it used XQuartz and it generally wasn't very native both in terms of UI rendering and its default keyboard shortcuts.


There is support for HiDPI, to an extent (see e.g. [1]). What there doesn't seem to be support for is having both a HiDPI and low DPI screen.

[1] http://www.inkscapeforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=18684


This is coming in the next GTK Version.


> They seem to want to differentiate themselves as (e.g. "not photoshop" in gimp's case) but seem to equate that with "ignoring good ui/ux design".

Nope, we bloody well know GIMP's UI sucks in many ways. But UI doesn't fix itself as you might suspect. For every few thousands of people who complain about its UI we maybe get just one occasional contributor.


I think that it's more that they ignore the UX you are used to from other tools, not necessarily bad, just different.


Usually I'm the first to lament the sad state of UX in many (most?) OS programs but I've always found Inkscape to be very reasonable in that regard. However, I don't have experience with eg. Illustrator so there was no unlearning of muscle memory required.


I use it -- I agree that it's clunky, and there's probably a YMMV factor depending on your window manager. Once you learn where everything is you can get a surprising amount done with it.

Adobe Illustrator is, for a novice, surprisingly not that much better.




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