Up until KDE4, we shipped with kuickshow as the entry in the simple image viewer category. That was originally written by Carsten Pfeiffer for KDE1. Yes, '1' as in 'uno' or 'ichi' or "before two". It was ported to KDE2, KDE3 and even now KDE4. It's really fast and has a super simple interface, though it could a fair number of things like rotate images and crop them. It had an 'xv' style of interface, so was rather comfortable for the X11 crowd. I'm amazed that kuickshow is still with us, having been ported through 2 massive rearchitectures of the KDE API (2 and 4) and one other major release (3). These days, kuickshow lives in extragear-graphics.
This is because, starting with KDE4 we now ship gwenview as the default entry in the simple image viewer category.
A brief aside: I noticed something while making the kuickshow screenshot ... In KDE4/Qt4, if an app has toolbars that don't fit you get the usual ">>" button. Clicking on it, however, does something new: it animates down a full panel that you can pick from. Soooo much nicer than the old drop down menu!
The KDE3 version of gwenview was feature rich but it was your ... typical KDE3 app. Let me show you a picture to illustrate what I mean:
Yes, lots of features ... but also lots of toolbars, buttons, controls, viewports without much alignment or immediate clarity of purpose. Now, I really like gwenview and often used it to browse images. In fact, I used it in my presentation two aKademies ago when I did that slideshow of photos of KDE people set to music. But .. yes, the UI could be better.
In KDE4 one of the common goals shared by various development teams was to improve the look, feel and usability of our apps. Did Aurélien succeed? Well, I'll let you decide:
Now that certainly looks better. But is it as functional? As easy to use? Here's another shot showing the app in action (click for a larger version):
The sidebar certainly jumps out at you: it contains all the common contextual actions at a glance. Select one or more files and then choose from the sidebar. Yes, the context menu is still there but as I often point out to people: when it comes to touch screens, which finger is the right mouse button? ;) Interfaces that don't require multiple buttons travel much better to touch screen devices, extra bonus points for avoiding intensive clicking exercises. Gwenview does well here, and gives me a whole new reason to love it.
Notice the information area in the sidebar? There's a nice little "More..." link there that pops up a window showing more information than you may ever need to know about the given photo. They are organized into a sensible tree and have checkboxes next to them. Clicking the checkbox for any given item adds it to the sidebar in the main view.
You can also expand or collapse any section of the sidebar just by clicking on the headline. Nice for small screens.
You may notice that little slider at the bottom of the window. What does it do? This is actually my main gripe right now with gwenview: that slider isn't labeled, not even with a tooltip. Not much of a complaint for a "main" gripe, especially for a brand new dot-oh interface, but there you go. Well, when you slide it back and forth the size of the picture thumbnails shrink and grow! This was also in the KDE3 version but it was tucked way up in a mid-level toolbar. The KDE4 version does much smoother transition animations for the resizing and the grid spacing is much, much more reasonable. I slip a bit further in love ...
When you mouse over an image, you get a little minibar that fades in. Right now it has three actions in it: full screen, rotate left, rotate right. These are arguably the three most common actions and now they are right there at my fingertips (again, on a touch screen that's literal ;). The KDE3 version? No such love.
So I can scan through my pictures and rotate and view really, really fast. What happens when you rotate or select one of the other transformations in the sidebar? A little "Save" action icon appears in the lower right area of the icon. You can see this in the screenshot above. But what happens if you scroll away through your picture collection? Won't you lose where that picture was? Not with gwenview!
When a picture is modified a little blue bar animates in at the top. The animation makes it noticeable so it isn't lost on the user, but it's not over the top and distracting. The contrast colours (matching your colour scheme, of course) make it stand out just the right amount. In that box you can navigate to the changed picture(s) and if you want save the changes either one at a time or all at once.
So how hard is it to configure this beast? Well .. the configuration dialog is sort of a joke. Not because it's poorly designed but because it has exactly three options: the view background colour and two options controlling how the thumbnails are displayed. All the other items, such as thumbnail size, whether or not to show the sidebar, etc are all done via the interface directly. This is something I've taken to calling "passive configuration", not to be confused with "passive aggressive". The latter is infuriating, the former is liberating. ;)
Other nice features are the now-standard breadcrumb bar for navigation (yes, click to the right and you get the edit bar ... aren't shared libraries cool? =), the crop feature and the rather spiffy slideshow system. The speed is good as well: I never find myself waiting for it to catch up with me.
Where will gwenview go from here? Only Aurélien probably knows for sure (and anyone who might step up to help him). Personally, I'd love to see some sexy transitions in the slideshow, KIPI plugin support to expand the number of transformations that can be done, the sidebar put into a dockwidget so it can be moved around or even undocked easily ... but already with how it is in 4.0 I've fallen in love all over again with gwenview.
Perhaps most impressively, this application is 10,690 lines of code, most of which is in the gwenview library (some 6,822 lines of code). As a reference point, that's about twice the size of kuickshow. Given what gwenview does, how well it does it and how generally sexy the app is .. that's a pretty decent line count.
Obviously gwenview is not a replacement for something like digikam or kphotoalbum which have different (though related) use cases, but for quickly skipping through images and tidying them up ... gwenview is usually my first stop. Honestly, I can hardly bear to look at the KDE3 gwenview now, the improvement has been that drastic.
And that is one of the things that I keep noticing while using KDE4 in my day-to-day. My hat's off to Aurélien .. but he's not the only one. I'm not sure exactly what app I'll write about next: there are so many to choose from! =)