The website for the open-source desktop publishing app Scribus isn't doing a very good job of selling it:

Compare to the website for Krita, an open-source digital painting app:

Or to the website of Affinity Designer, a vector design app created by Serif Europe, an independent British software developer and publisher:

It still evades me why apps like Scribus don't even try to be appealing.

Downloaded Scribus.

Got a warning that it isn't optimised for my version of macOS.

It looks like Retina support is completely lacking, and therefore, the entire GUI is rendered in 2x2 pixel blocks.

Putting all the tools along the top is a weird choice. It took me a second to actually find the text frame tool. They could've used a better icon for that.

Also, every creative app on the planet uses a slick dark theme these days. This Word 2003 look doesn't exactly put you in a creative mood...

Look at how sloppily arranged the bottom controls are. They're not the same height, their vertical positions are all over the place. The colours are inconsistent, and so is the shading, with a mix of flat and 3D components.

This what you might call superficial complaints, but allow me to tell you why this matters: This is typography software. Their entire job is to make things *look* right. The type of person who does such work is naturally going to be picky about aesthetics.

I could launch into a similar rant about GIMP and InkScape. They have similar issues with their user experience design.

You get the feeling that the developers who made these open-source creative apps didn't get much input from actual creative professionals as they were working on them.

I'm fairly sure that if a UI/UX designer attempted to improve these apps, their contributions would be rejected by the benevolent dictators. "We like it the way it is, so why change it?"

It's frustrating to watch. These open-source creative apps are always *almost* there in terms of professional features and UI/UX. All this work has been put into them, but no one's willing to put the cherry on the cake, and then they wonder why these apps aren't being used by the professionals.

You could argue that they don't need to be used by professionals, but I think it's crucial to get them onboard. They have a halo effect, and their input can help make the software even better.

One type of argument you often get into with FLOSS developers when it comes to making apps more appealing to professionals is their rejection of creative industry norms.

Such norms are usually there because the industry already knows what works for them, and also, if you follow them, collaborating with other professionals is much easier.

As the author of a FLOSS app, you will resist these things. Meanwhile, at Adobe, a developer is simply told to implement it, due to demand and competition.

I had a long debate with the creator of Open Broadcaster Software a few years ago. He had designed his audio pipeline to use variable-length buffers that he Tetris filled with audio blocks. This design allowed him to handle input from devices with all sorts of latencies and block sizes.

I told him he needed to implement a DAW-like audio pipeline with fixed-size blocks so he could implement VST plugin support. He refused.

A few years later, he told me I'd been right. OBS now has VST support.

I don't know if I can take credit for the VST plugin support in OBS exactly, but since I did put a fair bit of energy into showing him how professional audio apps work, and he did try to humour me, I suppose it must've had some kind of impact, even if it was a very delayed one.

@thj interesting, I've been having trouble letting OBS record my *low-latency pulseaudio* setup, where could I try this plugin?

@tleydxdy VST is not a plugin. It's an industry standard for audio effects processors defined by Steinberg:

It makes certain assumptions about how the audio processing pipeline of the host application works.

Most software audio effects processors and synthesisers are available as VST plugins. The API is defined on Windows and macOS, but not Linux.

@tleydxdy On the audio I/O side of things, Steinberg also defined the ASIO API:

For years, it was the only low-latency direct-to-hardware audio driver system available for Windows. Nothing else could offer the same <10 ms audio I/O latency.

These two APIs were the core of the legendary Steinberg Cubase digital audio workstation software. For a long time, the only system considered superior to it was Digidesign Pro Tools, with its HW acceleration and high audio quality.

@tleydxdy On macOS, the OS audio I/O system was considered good enough, so ASIO wasn't used there, but VST plugins were popular.

Later on, Microsoft defined an audio plugin system in their DirectX API and some vendors adopted that system.

In the macOS world, Apple defined their Audio Unit API which does essentially the same thing.

@tleydxdy So today, the situation is as follows...

Windows: VST, DX

macOS: VST, AU


Why did Linux avoid VST? Probably because Steinberg's licensing scheme for VST developers, albeit free of charge, didn't permit the VST API headers to be redistributed freely.

@thj ah, hmm I guess I have to figure out the OBS quirks some other way. thanks!

@tleydxdy I don't know the situation on Linux, but the last time I checked on these things, the JACK audio server was popular for low-latency setups. I have no idea what audio I/O systems OBS supports, though.

@thj because I'm recording game audio, I pretty much have to use pulseaudio, which is not designed for low-latency applications, but I was still able to get ~10ms (barely above my test resolution) of mouse click to sound playing in speaker delay out of it with some tweaking. it uses Alsace to talk to hardware AFAIK.

@thj I think part of the argument these days is that "even if we polish it, people won't believe it's polished."

I asked someone I know who's currently in art school if they ever used Krita. Their response? "I've found it hard to work with."

"Oh? What sort of work did you try and do?"

"Oh, uh, I haven't actually used it, I just like Photoshop."

That's a demoralizing attitude to market against. Not excusing it, to be clear, though.

@emsenn The funny bit is that Photoshop isn't even the best app for digital painting. Autodesk Sketchbook and Corel Painter both have better brush systems than Photoshop. The brush tools in Photoshop are designed for retouching, not painting.

That's just about the dark theme issue, but you raise a grander issue. It is well known the foss devs are not usually UI/UX expertd.

@ashwinvis You don't tend to see a division of labour in open source projects. They're following the old system where apps were made by C++ programmers and if any design happened at all, it was done by pixel artists who made UI controls and icons, and it was only done once for the entire OS or UI toolkit, with some customisation for the individual apps.

@ashwinvis In the modern system, we split this into three different roles:

* UI/UX designer
* Front-end coder
* Back-end coder

Meanwhile, most FLOSS apps are stuck in the "stock UI widget" world of the 90s and 00s.

My take is that UI/UX designers are not drawn into the FOSS developments because:

* Designers are drawn to aesthetics and appreciate well-developed desktops and applications. Only a user can eventually become a contributor.
* Git (or any version control) based development do not have proper channels to facilitate collaborative UI/UX development.

There are exceptions, however, like elementary and deepin OSs, where the design gets a priority.

@ashwinvis I think there is probably more than one young talented UI/UX designer out there who wants to make a name for himself and would gladly redecorate an open source app or two to have something to put on his resume.

"Did the sexy new UI/UX design for GIMP" would look good in a designer's portfolio, I suspect, even if it was a pro bono project.

@thj I ranted off about the install process for inkscape on Mac with similar feelings. It's a real shame. So much good hard work goes unused and unappreciated by the greater world because it doesn't clear the bar of "this looks like something I would use" for most people.

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