Coffeehouse Thread

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Software I have written

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  • vesuvius

    Over the last year I was involved in writing some software for analyzing DNA, RNA and Protein. The download is not available yet, and probably would not make any sense to most folk anyway, but a talented team of 4 (sometimes 5) developers wrote this from scratch using WPF 4.0 though the crippling bug in the present WPF 4.0 version meant that the graphing component had to be winforms as innumerable commercial WPF charts could not deal with the amount of floating point data that we were dealing with, and was probably my biggest disappointment.

    The software will be used by research facilities and universities, something that I am especially proud of, this is post is to try and show that I don't pretend that I write software, I do actually do it sometimes Cool

  • W3bbo

    Needs bigger screenshots.

    But from the tiny screenshot on the website, I see a ribbon control with only two tabs. Ugh, ribbon for ribbon's sake, eh?

  • cbae

    @vesuvius: Great job! Do you think you'll try to refactor the graphing component to WPF using .NET 4.5?

  • cbae

    @W3bbo: What would you have them do? Add a third tab and spread out the controls arbitrarily just to have more tabs? I think having two tabs is just fine. I see two-tabbed dialog forms all over the place. There wouldn't even be anything wrong with having only one tab on a particular form, if your intent is to have a consistent look across all of your forms.

  • Bass

    Needs more and bigger screenshots. It does look nice though.

    Although you all should rewrite it in JavaScript. Tongue Out

  • vesuvius

    @cbae: I am limited in the information I can divulge, suffice to say, this is the first release, and several years of development are anticipated, with lots of functionality added subsequently so a Ribbon is the perfect candidate. Yes it looks a bit bare now, but it won't be bare for very long.

  • vesuvius

    @cbae: It took several months and thousands of hours adding drawing onto that graphic component in GDI with absurdly complex math. It then took a few months data validation, just to ensure the component was as bug free as possible so I cannot see migration at all, it is just too complex and expensive to do so.

  • evildictait​or

    , W3bbo wrote

    Needs bigger screenshots.

    But from the tiny screenshot on the website, I see a ribbon control with only two tabs. Ugh, ribbon for ribbon's sake, eh?

    One could say the same of the Ribbon in wordpad, paint and Win8's explorer (and indeed I would say the same for them. Ribbon is good for office, sucks for everything else).

  • vesuvius

    @evildictaitor: It was built as a replacement for this when we started (probably the worst bit of software being sold on the planet in terms of bugs), so a toolbar was just not going to be acceptable as an update.

    The customer really wanted a product that had a UI that was modern. Being scientists, they are really quite conservative, so any Billy Hollis type UI concepts were binned as soon as they were mentioned.

     

  • BitFlipper

    I hope it is not too off-topic, but I think it is somewhat relevant. As a developer I worked many years on C++, then C# for many more, mainly using WinForms. I also did various pet projects in WPF, XNA and SL. My question is: Which framework should we use to develop applications like this in going forward?

    If I were to start a new project like this, I would really be unsure what to do with all the uncertainty regarding "legacy applications" and the apparent direction of turning everything into a finger app. Anything other than a finger app in Windows 8 will be considered a legacy application. To me, "legacy" means "outdated" and "no longer the recommended approach".

    Please advise...

  • Dr Herbie

    Congratulations, looks like a job well done.

    I often thought of using my 'old' skills to write something useful like this, but I just never got around to it.

    Herbie

     

    EDIT: By 'old' skills I mean skills from my previous, scientific training.

  • Bass

    @BitFlipper:

    JavaScript using something like PhoneGap, ExtJS, or JQuery.

    I've used ExtJS professionally. It's got a large learning curve but you can make some nice UIs with it, definitely rivaling most desktop apps (including charting and what not).

    JQuery I have minimal experience but I know while it accomplishes similar things to ExtJS, it is less widget-focused and more about enhancing HTML. Although there is a metric ton of plugins that let it do everything and anything.

    PhoneGap makes really nice web apps that look native on phones. I don't know much about this one, but I also know it's really popular.

    Microsoft actually sponsors both PhoneGap and JQuery.

  • BitFlipper

    @Bass:

    My question is specific to MS technologies so what you suggest is irrelevant in this case. Personally I'm not interested in web-development, and as far as I can tell, vesuvius's application is a full-fledged desktop application. Those are the kind of applications I'm interested in developing.

  • W3bbo

    , cbae wrote

    @W3bbo: What would you have them do? Add a third tab and spread out the controls arbitrarily just to have more tabs? I think having two tabs is just fine. I see two-tabbed dialog forms all over the place. There wouldn't even be anything wrong with having only one tab on a particular form, if your intent is to have a consistent look across all of your forms.

    No, I'm saying that people are overusing the ribbon because it's the current fad in UI design. Here's how I believe things should be:

    • 0-10 commands all used roughly equally - menu bar (Notepad)
    • 0-20 commands, but some used very frequently - menu bar with fixed toolbar for frequent options (ye olde Wordpad and Paint)
    • 20-50 commands (without menubar): 'context bar' and appropriate replacements (Vista/7 Windows Explorer, IE9)
    • 20-100 commands: menu bar with multiple flexible toolbars, preferably context-sensitive (Office 9x, non-Adobe image editing software)
    • 100+ commands: ribbon (Office and AutoCAD)
    • 100+ commands: a command-prompt (AutoCAD, Emacs)

    What sucks is that in Windows Vista and 7 the menu bar was (seemingly deliberately) made ugly and doesn't fit in with the rest of Windows (a vertical blue gradient, why?), I feel this is why developers are leaning away from the menubar.

    Photoshop is interesting because it keeps the menubar as a place to hide most of the commands (palettes and the context-sensitive toolbar aren't used as a starting point for issuing commands) - the menu system in PS (and the rest of their product line-up) is overly complicated and I do see a way forward as moving those commands to an area that represents the document's model (like how Layers commands are in the Layers Palette) but that isn't going to happen so long as Mac OS X keeps the menubar.

    , vesuvius wrote

    @evildictaitor: It was built as a replacement for this when we started (probably the worst bit of software being sold on the planet in terms of bugs), so a toolbar was just not going to be acceptable as an update.

    The customer really wanted a product that had a UI that was modern. Being scientists, they are really quite conservative, so any Billy Hollis type UI concepts were binned as soon as they were mentioned.

    "acceptable" according to who? I'll agree the old product was an eyesore, but I don't believe that's an excuse for inappropriate UI design. You can have beautiful applications that aren't garish and have an effective UI, but I can't really offer any constructive criticism because I don't know or understand your application so I can't go into detail about alternatives.

  • cbae

    , evildictait​or wrote

    *snip*

    One could say the same of the Ribbon in wordpad, paint and Win8's explorer (and indeed I would say the same for them. Ribbon is good for office, sucks for everything else).

    I like the ribbon in WordPad. It's great not having to remember which menu pad the "Replace..." feature is listed under or have to remember what hotkey combination invokes it.

    Besides, I don't see how the usability for the ribbon should be any different for WordPad as it is for Word. They both serve the same general purpose--editing of text-intensive documents. If UI paradigm is good for Word, it should be good for WordPad, you just get fewer features on WordPad. It doesn't change the general beneficial ergonomics of the UI.

  • cbae

    , W3bbo wrote

    *snip*

    No, I'm saying that people are overusing the ribbon because it's the current fad in UI design. Here's how I believe things should be:

    • 0-10 commands all used roughly equally - menu bar (Notepad)

    That's interesting because NotePad is the one program I really wish had a ribbon. About the only two menu options that I ever invoke in NotePad are word wrap toggle and replace. The hotkey for "find AND replace" is ingrained into my head as CTRL+F. The problem with NotePad (as well as WordPad) is that "find" has a complete different dialog from "replace", while more advanced programs (like Word) combine the two into one dialog. I find myself preferring WordPad over NotePad now because I don't have to remember that CTRL+F brings up the find dialog and that CTRL+H brings up the replace dialog. I just click the replace button in the ribbon which I can invoke with a single click as opposed to two clicks in NotePad.

  • W3bbo

    , cbae wrote

    *snip*

    I like the ribbon in WordPad. It's great not having to remember which menu pad the "Replace..." feature is listed under or have to remember what hotkey combination invokes it.

    Besides, I don't see how the usability for the ribbon should be any different for WordPad as it is for Word. They both serve the same general purpose--editing of text-intensive documents. If UI paradigm is good for Word, it should be good for WordPad, you just get fewer features on WordPad. It doesn't change the general beneficial ergonomics of the UI.

    There are simply too few commands in WordPad to justify using the ribbon (which is designed for 100+ commands, as per Jensen Harris' blog posts) - WordPad would be better suited by a toolbar (it just sucks that by default toolbars are ugly). I like the way OS X implements toolbars (and there's no reason that 'conceptual style' can't be done on Windows, I've done it myself, actually).

    , cbae wrote

    *snip*

    That's interesting because NotePad is the one program I really wish had a ribbon. About the only two menu options that I ever invoke in NotePad are word wrap toggle and replace. The hotkey for "find AND replace" is ingrained into my head as CTRL+F. The problem with NotePad (as well as WordPad) is that "find" has a complete different dialog from "replace", while more advanced programs (like Word) combine the two into one dialog. I find myself preferring WordPad over NotePad now because I don't have to remember that CTRL+F brings up the find dialog and that CTRL+H brings up the replace dialog. I just click the replace button in the ribbon which I can invoke with a single click as opposed to two clicks in NotePad.

    That's a problem with Notepad itself, not the ribbon or the menusystem (but a ribbon in Notepad? Methinks you need whacking a few times with the two-by-four of screen real-estate).

  • Ian2

    How do you shoot the bad guys?

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