Installing codecs with PackageKit

Totem wants codecs. It asks PackageKit to install some codecs. This is the first UI that is shown, and isn’t ideal at all. Has anybody got any suggestions for better explainations and wording? Thanks!

what I’ve got so far…

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Richard has over 10 years of experience developing open source software. He is the maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, GNOME Power Manager, GNOME Color Manager, colord, and UPower and also contributes to many other projects and opensource standards. Richard has three main areas of interest on the free desktop, color management, package management, and power management. Richard graduated a few years ago from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Electronics Engineering. He now works for Red Hat in the desktop group, and also manages a company selling open source calibration equipment. Richard's outside interests include taking photos and eating good food.

37 thoughts on “Installing codecs with PackageKit”

  1. Hi! That is a simple UI. I like it :D

    I don’t know if this is the right place for this, but still… Many users have no idea of what a codec is. Or why they need one of those??

    It would help if there was a little text explaining that a codec is needed to for the movie player to understand the contents of the file. Or something similar…

    Where is the text coming from? Is it sent via dbus from totem? Or is it part of PackageKit?

  2. Could the dialog start searching right away? So the user sees something like

    “Searching for additional software required to play this file. Please wait…”

    If a codec is found, the accept button could become sensitive and just say “Install Software”.

  3. How about not spamming the user with useless dialog? Users definitely never want to cancel. They don’t want to “search” for codecs either. They just want it to work. Automatically fetch the codecs transparently and start playing.

  4. Yes, I agree with rawsausage.

    You could mark this codec as installed from Totem/media player in the history/log.

  5. Put a message “searching for codecs” or similar in the movie player window itself. Then, perform the search and installation automatically. If the search fails, put that erro message in the movie player window too. One less popup to annoy the user. :)

  6. Definitely prefer “requires additional software” instead of “requires codecs”, and simply “Search” instead of “Search for codecs”.

  7. If the codecs are installable just do it!
    No pop dialogs/windows! Just display status inside the empty totem window.

    If no codecs are available in existing repo’s… who knows. That’s trying to solve the same problem as installing 3rd party applications.

  8. I don’t like the suggestions of automatically searching for codecs. At least not without it first asking if its allowed to do that the first time. Because personally if i want to play a movie and i see the media player connecting to the internet without telling me why, i won’t be happy about the media player.

    About the naming, perhaps just incorporate the codec name in the wording.
    “Movie player for GNOME requires windows media video 9 decoder to play this content.\n
    Would you like me to search for it?”

    It then still has the word codec in the button, but i think if people read the sentence they should understand that a codec is then a piece of software needed to play the content.

  9. I think the default action should be to automatically search and install the relevant codecs, as rawsausage said. There should, however, be a cancel button for this.

    There should possibly also be an option somewhere for a person to turn off this automatic download.

  10. First time this happens – globally, not just totem or swfdec or whatever:

    Additional software is required to play this file.
    [x] Automatically do this from now on
    [Abort] [Install software]

    And then pop up a progress bar with something like:

    Installing required software
    [===== ]

    That’s my idea at least.
    Possibly the same thing should happen for software selected with your mozilla plugin.

  11. I’d go for Installing additional media support… perhaps with (codecs) appended to that. And of course including a “Cancel button”.

    Though then again, this might surprise the user. In that case, it’s probably better to use a dialog saying Additional software to support this type of media is required. Would you like to find and install this software? with buttons saying Cancel and Install. I would make Install the default option though.

  12. Please don’t auto-install anything. It’s a really, really bad idea for people who don’t want the codecs installed for whatever reason (think: corporate environments). I certainly wouldn’t expect it to just grab it for me and some info on what is happening would need to be shown.

    But yes, I agree, “A ____ decoder is required to play this content”.

  13. IMO you could automatically search the local package lists for matching packages, but you should ask the user before searching online, or downloading or installing anything. Which usually should result in a single dialog like “I want to install this WMV9 codec; is that ok with you?”.

    Oh, and talking about “software” rather than “codecs” sounds better to me.

  14. Movie player needs additional software

    In order to play this kind of media (Windows Media VIdeo 9) the following sofware needs to be installed:

    Windows Media 9 codecs
    gstreamer-foobar 0.10.20-2, 2.3 MB

    A secret trojan rootkit
    rootkit-ng 2.12-1, 0.2 MB

    [ cancel ] [ install ]

  15. I agree with Otte. Most (non-techie) users will be happy for it to auto install and it should be easy for them to let it. (ie. they shouldn’t have to phone their grandson to find out whether they should click okay). It’s sneaky to not notify and give an option to disable automatic installation first time through though.

    Also, if I’m not missing something won’t it pop up a password dialog to install the codecs anyway? Or does it install them in ~?

  16. I’d recommend you use “Search”, use the GTK Stock button label and take advantage of the internationalization already built into GTK.

    Ordinary users shouldn’t need to know about CODECs, to some it would be jargon, it is just some software not yet installed.

    As Sam suggested it would be better if you could jump straight into “searching…” for the necessary software – what most users are most likely to want – and allow users to cancel (since it could potentially take a while, long lived operations etc)

  17. Yes, this dialog is entirely needless. I don’t care for codecs, I don’t want to search for them, just make the file play for me. Don’t even show me what I need to have installed, put that in a hidden “Details” part that only geeks would want to check out.

    Additional software is required to play this type of file.

    Details >

    Cancel. Install.

  18. If you try autoinstalling, you’re going to need to go superuser at some point, so the user’s going to be left wondering why they have to enter their password to play a movie. I suggest saying

    “[appname] needs additional software in order to play this file.

    Searching for [whatever it is that’s needed]…”

    Then maybe a pulsing progress bar, or a real one if you can have progress reports from the backend.

    The buttons would need to be Cancel and Install, although the latter greyed out until the search is completed. When it is, replace the searching text and the progress bar with something like.

    “The following packages are required:”

    Then a list of packages which will be installed to get the codec and satisfy its dependencies, and enable the install button.

    Or the first dialogue could just say “Searching for additional software required to play this file”, but that might be a bit abrupt.

  19. I think the best would be two options:
    “Install codec” and “Don’t install codec (won’t be bale to play file)” or something similar.
    Going through a “search for codec”-step feels unneccessary. Are there cases when there is actually two or more different codecs to choose from?

  20. It’s not the app that requires the codec, it’s playing the movie file. Also the main reason people don’t want automatic searches is for privacy. So the dialog should be something like:

    Additional software is required to play this file. Do you want to automatically find and install this software?

    [ ] Remember my decision

    [Privacy…] [Cancel] [Find software]

    Perhaps even better would be if the player had a list of available codecs, so the dialog could be more positive:

    Additional software is required to play this file. You can automatically install this software from .

    [Privacy…] [Cancel] [Install]

    Or an option to update the list, and instructions for manual install if the codec isn’t available.

  21. One thing that I’ve noticed recently in a lot of dialogs is putting too much text in the bold section. Its meant to be a snappy title for the dialog, then the bulk of the text goes in the normal style, like so

    [bold]Additional Software Required[/bold]
    Media Player for GNOME requires additional software to play this file. The additional software is:

    Windows Media Video 9 Decoder

  22. I lack context here, somewhat, as to what information has already been given, but to me this dialog is currently useless. I want to know:
    – What kind of software is being installed; I vehemently object to the idea that this might be omitted because some people might not know what it means.
    – Why is this software being installed? I.e., which movie is causing the prompt?
    – What software options do I have? I suspect this may also include issues of Free-ness.
    I want the ability to:
    – Select and install the relevant softwre
    – Or, do nothing.
    Preferably, it would be nice if the issue wasn’t brought to a modal dialog at all, but a better user interface used.

  23. That looks very nice, but all users might not know what a codec is. Can I suggest you figure out a simple way to explain what a codec is needed for?

    You’re on the right track, but not quite yet.

  24. Unable to play this type of movie/sound file. Additional software must be installed.

    I would avoid the use of the word “codec”. But please please keep the name of the codec viewable somewhere, even if it moves into a disclosable details.

  25. Don’t mention “GNOME”, and don’t call them codecs. “Additional Software”, “extensions” or “plugins” would probably be better.

  26. The damn software is known as a fucking codec by everyone who uses a name for it. Don’t remove information because some people might not understand it. Try to make it easier to know what it means; don’t make it stupid ware.

  27. I’d say “Movie player requires codecs to be installed”, keep the codec type in italics, and then underneath it provide an explanation for novice users:

    “Codecs are pieces of software that allow playback of certain video formats. If you do not install the requested codecs, you may not be able to play some video files.”

  28. Take a look at the UI used by totem in Ubuntu/Debian for this. I think they’ve got the balance of wording, obtrusiveness, etc. exactly right.

  29. Just my 0,02 €C: Search automatically for codec packages. When there’s only one then just show it. If there are more then show a list of checkable packages where the one (the preferred) is selected by default:


    Additional software is required to play “[%TITLE%]”. In order to play this kind of media ([%FORMAT%]) {the following sofware needs|please select one of the following software} to be installed:

    [x] Windows Media 9 codecs
    gstreamer-xxx 0.10.20-2, 2.3 MB

    [ ] Some other proprietary codec
    paxkage-xyz 2.12-1, 0.2 MB

    (Some general comments about codecs or a link)

    [x] Automatically install software from now on
    [Abort] [Install software]

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