Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kids Office part 2

When I blogged about Kids Office almost a month ago, I only wanted to present an idea that I had when I took a shower. It was the kind of idea that often comes to my head in lots of different situations.

I had no idea that it would generate such a big interest from a lot of people. I have received 10 comments on the blog alone, and numerous emails. Some people wanted to know if this was just an idea, some provided feedback on the GUI or the basic concept, and some wanted to know when it would be ready.

Curiously enough nobody offered to help with the coding. :-)

Anyway, it is nice to see that I might have stumbled on something that might actually be of use to people. One of the commenters said: Forget the children. Make this for my 58 year-old mother. Perhaps he is right, perhaps this would also be good for those who don't like to use computers, or are afraid of them.
Not one to let good feedback go to waste, I contacted Danny Allen again, and we discussed what we could do about it. We figured that our target group, kids of age 8-10, wouldn't need a full office suite. A writer application and a drawing application would be enough.

So here is the concept of DrawUp, our drawing application that he came up with. It reuses the button bar that we recognizes from WriteUp, and replaces some of the word processing tools to the right with tools more suitable for a drawing application. Here is the application mockup with an empty document:

It uses the same GUI concepts as the word processor described in my earlier blog: large icons, helpful colors, and less features than the full application. It also introduces some other simplifications. Like for instance this:

When you create a new object, you have some easy choices: a circle, a square, freehand drawing, a star, etc. But Danny came up with the concept of a Magic Object. It is a place holder that can be put on the drawing canvas that is like a template for some not so common objects, but still not uncommon:

After you sized and dragged it, you can remodel it into any shape from the magic object palette. The reason for this idea is that we don't want to create configure dialogs for the objects. The way that Karbon and Inkscape does it now is to have, for instance, a polygon tool that can be configured with number of edges. That is too complicated for the small kids that we want to give this tool to.

When you select an already created object, you can transform it in a number of different ways: its' color, the line type, etc, just like in any drawing program:

The difference with DrawUp is that we have tried to make everything as obvious and transparent as possible. Like this, for instance. Notice the lower right corner, where the fill color is shown as the current property to edit. You won't get much clearer than this:

Finally, here is the New / Open dialog. As before, you can you can create a new drawing from a number of simple templates. And you will of course have a preview of earlier created documents.

And finally some words about the implementation. If you want this to become a reality, please volunteer your time and skill. The current engines of KWord and Karbon are great starting points, and both of these programs will probably be little more than new shells (skins if you like) on top of them.

If you volunteer to help with Kids Office, I can almost guarantee you your 15 minutes of fame. I have been approached by magazine editors who wondered if I was implementing it already and when it would be finished. So don't hesitate or be shy. You can mail me or Danny, and you could go into #koffice on irc where we hang out sometimes.


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IMHO some ideas could be some real improbvement for KOffice itself !!!
The Magic Object concept could be very usefull for Karbon. The same goes for the way to modify shape properties

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