The next update viewer

We’ve got a new experimental update viewer in GNOME PackageKit. It looks something like this:

It’s currently called gpk-update-viewer2, and isn’t the default yet. I’ve patched Fedora rawhide to use it by default so we can get some early feedback and testing.

UI feedback welcome. Some of those strings are mighty difficult to understand, for instance, my fiancée didn’t know what a production system was. I also don’t like how the URL’s look. Ideas please. Thanks.

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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.

29 thoughts on “The next update viewer”

  1. Hm… would it be possible to add a (un)select all updates button? Sometimes one would like to do update only of a few selected packages, but if the available updates list is long, it takes forever to unselect all the (at that time) unwanted updates…

  2. From an accessibility point of view, you are using a visual medium (the icons) alone to communicate install priority. Perhaps, as with the restart icon, there should be a key for these items. It also makes sense to have the key above the place where it is being used in the screen.

    The text describing the update is going to be confusing for most users to be honest; as soon as you talk about Bugzilla or drivers you are going to be confusing some users.

    Due to the nature of packaging, I don’t think there is an easy way to fix this. Plus you do not want to dumb down this information, as to some people it is essential for them to complete their tasks (system administrators etc)

    I think the key usability issue with package management systems in Linux is also their biggest technical strength, that they have lots of little packages which other applications share. For example, the HTML GTK widget listed above. I suspect many people will struggle with concepts such as this, as many people think in applications not packages.

    A key strength of the design above is that it highlights the purpose and benefits of updating. I think, however, this is all the information that should be displayed by default. Hide the list of packages and the update text by default; however, provide an intuitive and efficient way for the user to see this information.

    I think this work is very valuable by the way. In this circumstance, I think less visually is more effective.

    Hope that helps.

  3. @hughsie and martin

    If it is not explicit in the interface you cannot expect users to know about it :) However, you do not want to clutter the interface.

  4. BIG improvement over the old version.

    The shutdown icon makes no sense there. I don’t think this kind of information is really needed anyway. Updating the kernel will not force a restart, you can keep on using the old kernel. The shutdown icon seems to suggest a forced reboot a la windows updates “The system will now reboot 9… 8… 7…”.

    Maybe move the description text to a >>fixed size<< (well not fixed, as in not resizable, but fixed as in same size for all packages) expandable “Description” or “Details” area? This way it won’t confuse people who don’t want to see it (as Jon mentioned). The expanded/not expanded state should be remembered.

    I wonder what the “Status” column is good for… actually, I can’t think of anything that would fit there. Less is more :)

    The right-click menu should have items to “select all security critical updates”, “select all …. updates”

  5. Also, does it make sense to show the arch for every package? I don’t think so. I doubt you fiancée knows what i386 is for example.


    Note: the “power user” in me wishes for a slightly reduced view btw:

    Install | package name | current version | available version | DL size

    would hit the spot for me. For me the package name is more useful and I find the 2-line layout difficult to scan quickly if you know what you are looking for. Because of this I mostly “yum upgrade” atm….

    Also, the human readable description text is nice, but a real ChangeLog (not as default!) would be awesome.

    Making the GUI easy to use for Joe User is most important atm (and I think you are on the right track) but a “power user” version would a really nice gift in the future.

  6. It seems to me that it would be clearer if you said “This update is needed to fix a security vulnerability in the currently installed version of this package.” or something to that effect.

    Also, a restart is only required if you want the changes to take effect — you might want to say “The machine must be restarted in order for this change to take effect.”

  7. Very nice!

    This is obviously per distro, but
    Text, way too much text. The explanation should be very short and, just have link for the details.
    If it’s going to be shown for every user, it should be understable for every user.
    A) What it enables
    B) What it fixes (or why i need it). Sometimes security issue is good enough.

    I guess it’s hard to fix considering it’s the developers who write it.

    Also, if the list cold fold together multiple packages that are produced from the same source package, it would at last tape over the awfull naming policy debian has. It’s such a horrible fix.

    Does the update button open a new window? Awesome if it doesn’t!

  8. I agree with Frej Soya, there should be no new update window.
    however i don’t think it’s too much text, but the size of the window is too wide imho.

  9. Please make sure that the text displaying the changes of a package is selectable with the mouse (i.e. highlight) and thus can be copied and pasted. One case where this is helpful is when there is an URL in the listed changes that is not clickable, since you cannot select it either you are forced to retype it into your browser. But that is just one example where it would be helpful to be able to so.

  10. Perhaps some people will shut down before installing the updates when they see “a restart is required”, perhaps changing to “a restart will be required”? :-)

  11. hugsie, are we reinventing wheel again? The UI of Update Manager in Ubuntu is fine – just rip it…

  12. @Frej Soya:

    No, the install button doesn’t open a new window. The status column is used for a progressbar for each update as it is downloaded and installed. I’ll upload a screencap in a few days.

  13. When I firstly saw that restart icon (without reading its explanation below) I thought: “Wow, a turn-off-when-done icon”.
    Then I realized this could not have sense to be put in every single row, and noticed the legend.
    Anyway, I think an icon like “Refresh current page” in Firefox would be better.

    Congrats, great job, please make *Kit rock the world.


  14. Is there really any value in having the update UI popping up constantly? I don’t think that I have ever done anything other than click “Install Updates” on it.

    It would be useful to have a “Don’t bother asking me again ‘coz I don’t understand this stuff anyway, just patch my machine for me” checkbox.

  15. how about “A restart should be performed after this update.” This implies you can still use the old kernel, and that you “should” restart but that it’s not mandatory a la windows.

  16. I agree with Micheal in that the text should be put in an expandable/hideable Details area. By default it should be minimised. And it should remember it’s state, so that you do not need to expand/hide it again for each new update you are look at. Also it should expand to fixed height for every update. You should be able to change it yourself but the textfield shouldn move around just because the text description is longer or shorter.

    As for making the text details + links more readable, why don’t you split it up in a 2-pane view like it is for the add/remove software window. On the left would be the changelog or description what this update does (including if you need to restart). In the right pane would be first the date (Issued: 28 Nov 09) below that in a new line the Arch and then below that the links to all related Bugzilla entries (Something along these lines:
    Related bugs :
    Gnome #345262
    Freedesktop #159845
    Fedora #243523)

  17. It doesn’t fit on a 800×600 screen, which is the biggest you can have for kvm guest for now.

  18. It would be nice and vastly simple if the information part is hidden by default. There should be a small drop-down arrow which when clicked should show the text in the text area. This could be an acceptable compromise between being simple yet providing the information.

    Optionally, a checkbox saying “Show stable updates only” would be good too.

  19. It shows download size! Yes!

    My only gripe: I’d like to see what version the update replaces. Maybe a “Replaces: foo 1.2-3” line inserted at the top of the description box?

  20. Hi !

    I like the new UI a lot :-)
    Congratulation for the good work !

    I am not sure it was stated be don’t you think that a ‘cancel’ or ‘don’t install’ button could be put beside the ‘install updates’ button ?
    Explicit is better than implicite : I prefer a button with a label indicating it won’t install anything instead of closing the window and pray that it won’t install anything …

    Thanks again for the great job !

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