GSoC Project: Revitalizing Pallet

René J.V. Bertin rjvbertin at
Fri May 29 01:59:26 PDT 2015

On Friday May 29 2015 15:49:59 Ian Wadham wrote:

>In my opinion, a really good and complete GUI would liberate MacPorts from
>its somewhat "geeky" image and make Open Source software accessible to a
>much wider range of Apple Mac users (i.e. some of the people you see at the
>Apple Store).  However, I am not sure that this is what the MacPorts and FOSS
>communities would really want.  It could be a Pandora's Box for them.

This is not entirely true in the sense that even before (or so I suppose) Linux distributions started developing their own "store fronts", there were things like synaptic and aptitude's GUI. A good GUI makes it easy to peruse the available packages without having to type multiple commands: in the CLI, you need at least `port search` followed by at least 1 `port info`, whereas only a search pattern (and some mousing) would be required in a GUI.

I think that the issue with MacPorts is that an important portion of the ports don't "install an icon", so you still need a terminal to start that FOSS utility you just installed. That's true even for GTk/Gnome applications that for a good part do install the usual .desktop and .service files that are used on Linux to provide the application via the desktop GUI. Sadly there is no native companion to QuartzWM that does this (for instance via a menu in the Dock icon that also holds the open window list in another submenu; are you listening, Jeremy?). This is one of the reasons I ended up installing xfwm4 and xfce4-panel: the latter can provide a quicklaunch menu containing the applications you use regularly, selected via an offering based on the available .desktop files.
KDE applications do show up in the Finder in /Applications/MacPorts/KDE4, but anyone who has ever installed a few end-user applications that are of actual interest (kdepim4, kdevelop, ...) knows that very quickly you drown in a sea of stuff, much with only a default icon.

So in short, a MacPorts GUI for package management is nice, but there's also the risk that it leads to disappointment from the kind of user who expects a GUI for everything and who discovers that after installing things through that package manager he cannot find them, or doesn't know how to use them.

I think that such a GUI should not be alone. It must be complemented (and maybe even preceded) by a launcher, akin to the tools providing "Start Button" like functionality on Linux desktops, but that would sit in the Dock on OS X. It could provide the full range of features provided by (personal preference of mine) Lancelot: break-down of installed applications (.desktop files) in categories, favourites, a quicksearch widget and anything else that would make sense (and for which required stuff is installed). Ideally it would be written with native APIs, but I suppose a Qt-based application would be acceptable too (LXQt may already have something useful that one might be able to strip out, and there's launchy).


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