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Michael Barton
I forgot my own advice to cross-post.

Michael Barton, Professor of Anthropology
School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402

phone: 480-965-6213
fax: 480-965-7671
www: http://www.public.asu.edu/~cmbarton

------ Forwarded Message
From: Michael Barton <[hidden email]>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 23:59:58 -0700
To: Stephan Holl <[hidden email]>, <[hidden email]>
Conversation: [GRASS5] Re: GRASS GUI and Qt
Subject: Re: [GRASS5] Re: GRASS GUI and Qt

This is a general set of questions to people who have said very positive
things about QGIS. I just picked Stephan's post because it was the last of
the series that I've received so far.

What would be most helpful is for people to try to think about what it is
that they like about QGIS. That is, which GUI features seem to be most
appealing; which could be improved and how? This is not intended as seeking
a set of improvements to QGIS. Those comments should go to the QGIS list.
However, in order to come up with UI specs for GRASS, it would be good to
know what anyone finds especially great about the interface of ANY GIS
package out there. For example, do you just love having the layer display
attached to the side of every display window? I don't, but I'm sure that
some people do. Along these same lines, most of you have some experience
with ESRI products. But does anyone out there have experience with Idrisi or
other GIS software, and have encountered some interface features that they
feel are especially great (or absolutely appalling)?

The second item is something of a commentary of why QGIS cannot become THE
GRASS UI, but is ultimately related to the initial set of questions. Please
read on to the not so bitter end. This has nothing to do with the quality of
QGIS but is more of an issue of pragmatics. QGIS could become the _basis_
for a GRASS interface, but could not become THE GRASS interface without
changing so that it is no longer QGIS.

The reality is that GRASS is a very complex program. In an ongoing thread
about ESRI vs. GRASS, GRASS has been compared with ArcInfo and quite
rightly. In order to put all that complexity into a GUI, it is necessary to
pack a lot into nested menus, multiple buttons, and other interface
tools--including some new ones that may not be used yet. Case in point.
GRASS 5.3 had nearly 400 commands. I know because I coded them all into the
old tcltkgrass 5.3 menu system. In GRASS 6.1, we've trimmed that to a sparse
320. We cannot put all those commands into Radim's very attractive GRASS
tool-box. To make it work, we'd have to rearrange the toolbox, embed most of
the commands into a newly designed menu, add more buttons, etc. We'd either
have to get rid of some of the existing QGIS commands that are not GRASS
related or incorporate them also into an even more complex UI system. This
could be done, but the result would not the the QGIS of today, but an
interface that resembled QGIS in some way.

Furthermore, to simply use QGIS without changing anything else, we'd have
part of the UI organized around QT, many commands without a unified GUI to
call them, modules run from the command line in TclTk, NVIZ in a hybrid
TclTk/C/OpenGL. And QGIS would still have to be run within the GRASS
environment in order to maintain the command line access that many feel is
essential. Would the command-line modules run in the QT window or generate
their own independent x-windows? I'm not even sure that some modules that
produce displays (e.g., the wildfire spreading) would operate in the QGIS QT
display at all. These are all issues with GRASS, not QGIS. But they need to
be solved in an integrated way. Currently, we do have a reasonably
integrated UI in a functional sense whether people like green or not ;-).
Switching just a part of it to QGIS without revamping the interface more
generally would create something of a frankenstein's monster that would be
very forbidding for new users :-O. This is the opposite of what most people
are calling for.

So, even if 90% of the GRASS users and developers love the way QGIS is
organized, to implement it in the GRASS environment would take substantial
planning and reorganization of the UI to do it well. In other words, we
still need to systematically develop a next generation UI for GRASS. So,
back to my original question. For those of you who like QGIS a lot and use
it a lot, what features of the QGIS UI are something you'd like to see in
the GRASS GUI too? Also, are there any features that--as a GRASS/QGIS
user--you'd like to see implemented differently or that are missing in QGIS
and you'd like to see implemented? Let's create a vision of what a 21st
Century GIS ought to look like and see what we can come up with.

My personal view is that this is opportunity to make GRASS not just a free
version of the leading commercial GIS software, but a real leader in
providing complex spatial technologies that are accessible to a diverse,
international community of users. And importantly, help them learn how to go
beyond nice map making, and appropriately apply this technology to help
solve the many problems that involve spatial relationships.

Un saludo cordial
Michael Barton, Professor of Anthropology
School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402

phone: 480-965-6213
fax: 480-965-7671
www: http://www.public.asu.edu/~cmbarton

> From: Stephan Holl <[hidden email]>
> Organization: GDF Hannover bR
> Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 15:59:48 +0100
> To: <[hidden email]>
> Subject: Re: [GRASS5] Re: GRASS GUI and Qt
> Hello Māris,
> On Mon, 14 Nov 2005 16:36:25 +0200 Māris Nartišs <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
>> Hi,
>> IMHO keeping GRASS as GUI-less engine and having QGIS as GRASS GUI is
>> not a bad idea, but what will say qgis developers/users on this - they
>> app will become a frontend to grass. If we head this way, qgis
>> developers alsou shuld be invited to this discussion.
>> And if we talk about fragmentation of OS. I cannot understand why we
>> have a lots of OS GIS related apps that can do some things and in some
>> areas fail but we havent one killer app. Having 3 or more flavors of
>> GRASS GUI is same => at the end ESRI wins.
> Following the thread a while now I would like to through in some
> euro-cents of mine as well...
> I really like the QGIS-GRASS-integration and in my eyes this should be
> the focus of the GRASS-gui. It is _so_ easy adding new commands to the
> GRASS toolbox and I really like to thank Radim for his work on this
> topic!
> So, please, let us focus the main work on pushing QGIS as a GRASS-UI
> and not reinventing yet another GUI.
> The more userinput for improving the current QGIS-GRASS-integration
> the better it will become.
> just my 0.02¢.
> Stephan
> --
> GDF Hannover - Solutions for spatial data analysis and remote sensing
> Hannover Office      -     Mengendamm 16d      -     D-30177 Hannover
> Internet: www.gdf-hannover.de      -      Email: [hidden email]
> Phone : ++49-(0)511.39088507       -        Fax: ++49-(0)511.39088508

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