Wednesday, September 28, 2005

KOffice -- Kids Office

In addition to being active in the development of KOffice, I have also done some work on two other KDE modules -- kdegames, where I am the KReversi maintainer and kde-edu, where I do a lot of small tasks for other people. Most of the time it is simple stuff like bug fixing and code cleaning.

I am also working in a company that provides Linux solutions for, among other customers, schools. This has given me some insight into how school people think, and also what problems they face. I have also talked to a number of Linux packagers that provide special Linux distributions for school use, among them Skole-Linux and another European initiative that currently is working to provide Linux for several thousand schools (that I am not allowed to reveal any details about). These people say that the kde-edu module is one of the immediate reasons why they chose KDE instead of... well, The Other Desktop(tm).

I was in the shower the other day, thinking of a lot of different stuff, when I suddenly got an idea: How about a special edition of KOffice for kids in School? I imagined a much simplified office suite with fewer components (no kexi or kplato for instance), and much fewer features for each program. But not only that: I imagined also a softer and friendlier GUI with rounder corners and a lot of nice colors. This would make it less frightening for the kids to use, and also a lot simpler.

I mentioned this idea to Danny Allen (dannya on irc), who happens to be an artist, and also happens to have a vision for the future of kde-edu. In fact I wanted to model the program(s) after his vision, KidsPlay, and asked him if he could perhaps throw together a quick graphical hack to illustrate my point.

Well, it turns out that Danny liked the idea so much that he went completely into hibernation and disappeared. When he reemerged, not only did I get a quick hack, but I got a complete concept portfolio! So with no further ado, I and Danny Allen give you: KOffice for Schools -- Kids Office

This is the imagined GUI of the word processor. Danny has called it WordUp as a code name. I think he has captured my vision perfectly! Notice the simple and -- really -- intuitive GUI. Notice the lack of menu bar. Instead there are just a few icons that capture the most important functions. This could actually be used by kids age 8-10 to write a small report on some group work they did in class.

Another thing that he used when he designed this is the concept of 3, i.e. max 3 things grouped together: Cut/Copy/Paste, Bold/Italic/Underlined, Sans Serif/Serif/Fancy, Left/Center/Right aligned. You don't need any more! This is perfect! And the notepad metaphore is also perfect.

In addition to all this, he came up with a clever scheme to use color for coding features: green for safe ones, red for dangerous ones and blue for neutral ones.

Note, in the picture above how the paste icon is green when active. Paste is safe, because the pasted text can always be removed without problems. Cut would be dangerous and thus red. Copy would be neutral, i.e. blue.

Here is the complete toolbar for WordUp, as Danny imagines it. I can't say I understand all colors, but it sure looks nice, doesn't it?

He also added a mockup for the New and Open features, where the user can select a number of old documents or templates. I'll let the picture speak for itself:

Now, imagine this together with a shell like the one shown for KidsPlay above and with an integrated drawing application (DrawUp?), and you will have a very, very good office suite for young school kids.

As I said above, kde-edu is right now a big reason to choose KDE in the schools. This could make KOffice another one. And once they are hooked, they will never leave!

23 Comments:

Blogger jayKayEss said...

You know, get rid of the notebook spiral, make the icons and text labels slightly smaller, and you'd have a damn fine interface for *adults*. Nice work.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Kleag said...

Really great idea !

My daughter is 6 and learns to read/write. I hope that when she will be 7 or 8, these apps will be ready :-)

1:43 PM  
Blogger jbmohler said...

Forget the children. Make this for my 58 year-old mother. Not to mention the fact that probably all the under 10 crowd can deal better with the current interface & mouse than my mother can.

I love this idea. I think there needs to be a way to

2:49 PM  
Blogger jbmohler said...

(oops, sorry about the partial post).

I love this idea. I think there needs to be a simple way to "grow into" the entire interface in some way as well.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

I like it! Simple is our friend, and I think I could use this in place of OOo in my lab at school.

BTW, nice aseigo joke; there needs to be more humor in KDE development.

:)

5:47 PM  
Blogger Nathan Adams said...

That's pretty awesome. I was wondering the other day if there were any programs like the old Creative Writer still around for kids that weren't bad Director media shows.

Did you forget about undo/redo though? Or do you think it's too complex for the target audience. Maybe under the guise of a time machine metaphor or something...

12:31 AM  
Blogger Bobby said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful... my daughter would love this!

7:11 AM  
Blogger Linux Unix said...

Informative blog. Check out my 42xbr950 kde blog.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Will Beckwith said...

Do you think that you could setup the icons roll alway to the side of the screen. They are a little big. Big is good, but not 100% of the time.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Excellent, this whole design should be applied heavily to the maths modules as well (gridded paper?).

It's best to get all the specs done before the software is produced isn't it? I'm sure It'll speed things up in the long run.

The new QT is really going to make interfaces like this shine, shame they created Arthur instead of using cairo (yes, I use gnome).

BTW, the colour-coded buttons are done badly, there should be a maximum of three different colours IMHO. Kudos to the designer on the choice of subdued colours though.

10:10 AM  
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9:44 PM  
Blogger Tormak said...

This is a fantastic idea. I've shown it to the other guys in the office and we think that this would be great for 80% of the adults out there too. Please make this a reality!

10:31 AM  
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8:55 PM  
Blogger alexandra said...

im a kid can italk to a kid im 8 years old i need to talk about 5-10years old

8:02 AM  
Blogger alexandra said...

who wants to talk

8:04 AM  
Blogger Gabriel Hurley said...

Re: New and Open features

What kid needs to write a CV? :-)

3:16 PM  
Blogger guillaume said...

it's a very good idea, but not only for kids. Linux need a very simple office suite, simplier than works for everyone.

9:12 AM  
Blogger guillaume said...

it's a very good idea, but not only for kids. Linux need a very simple office suite for everyone, simplier than works

9:12 AM  
Blogger Rob Beard said...

I think this is a really good idea. I've setup a PC running Ubuntu for my kids and they love things like Tuxpaint.

My eldest daughter is getting to the stage where she wants to write things although she finds OpenOffice a bit overwhelming. Something like this would be ideal for her (and would probably go a long way to introduce Open Source into her school).

Rob

2:31 PM  
Blogger kieranmooresblog said...

Be good for the OLPC project

11:38 AM  
Blogger Maximilien said...

I can't hurt to try new ideas, and offering a hugely simplified interface as an alternative option could be nice.
But don't go for an exceedingly childish look, as it could alienate users who could otherwise be interested. Kids aren't as impressed as you think by greyish icons, and the mockup reminds a little to much of MS Bob or the friendly interface that came with the IBM PS/1...
And I think you may be targeting a very small group of users : I'd say that for basic functionality kids can probably handle something like wordpad, and older kids would probably have no trouble learning the new MSOffice, with the very explanatory and less abstract UI...

Just my 2 cents ;)

8:28 AM  
Blogger jonh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

This looks amazing...far better than anything I have been able to find so far that is geared towards kids. Hurry up and make this available!!! :)

7:57 AM  

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