Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

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laup
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Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by laup » Mon Sep 18, 2006 9:32 pm

I reported on my original impressions three weeks ago. After those three weeks of heavy usage, my impressions are now as follows. Details follow, with items in rank order within a category of Pros, Cons, Shortcomings, or Other Suggestions. I am rapidly losing any ability to see things fresh, so this is a data dump.

NET ASSESSMENT


I enjoy using Mellel, and plan on continuing to do so. I worry about recommending it to others without some improvements in its user friendliness. "Shortcomings" are a different issue. Word is powerful in part because it is expensive and bloated, with related problems of performance and corruption. I would like extra features if they don't cause trouble, but I'd put much higher priority on fixing interface problems asap.

PROS

Cocoa environment: clarity, quality, speed

High quality software (no crashes, corruption of files)

Outliner

Integration with Bookends

AutoOutliner (but with mixed emotions as discussed below)

The excellent search-and-replace function

Multiple streams of notes (I find having footnotes, endnotes, and "author notes" very handy. I eliminate, in one fell swoop, the author notes when I've taken care of the various problems I've scribbled down).

Style variations (rather a curiosity, and potentially troublesome, but I'm getting to really like them)

CONS


User-hostile mechanisms for creating one's own complete style set, which involves styleset, setup, and perhaps other things such as pages and notes. There should be one paradigm for editing and having edits change the "complete" style set automatically. There should be at most a single file in Application Support to move between machines to keep things consistent.

agree with BreakNeckRidge (September 10), Nicka, and others that interface improvements are badly needed!

Complications in changing styles, due utlmately to the elegant bottom-up design of the style-setting mechanism, which provides power but also imposes detail and complxity. Perhaps a simple tool could enable the "inherited style" mechanism, although with the potential for it breaking when the OS is updated. I imagine that it would use hidden AppleScripts, but perhaps there is a better and more stable mechanism.

Not having a complete plain-English list of incompatibilities with Word

Not having a second writing pane or option for extra window

Minor imperfections in transfers to and from Word

Current Shortcomings (i.e., not criticisms)

No cross-referencing (if by that one means that if I have an autonumbered figure, and I refer to it in text, then the text will change as necessary if I add or delete a figure that changes the figure numbers)

No mark-up and comparison-copy mechanism (although adding this might really cause trouble for the software, as it has with Word)

A relatively primitive table of contents mechanism

The inability to have two or more type "sections" at a given "level" (e.g., chapters and appendix sections, numbered and lettered, respectively, or unnumbered and lettered, or...).

No mechanism that I've discovered for EASY right-hand autonumbering of equations pasted in from MathType

Other Suggestions

As discussed previously, templates that illustrate all features so that people see them from the outset. I agree that to fully appreciate Mellel one should get one's hands dirty, but the current buy-in price is much too high. Further, most people learn from examples and I believe that one can "see at a glance" a great deal when provided with a rich but short template. Even a well written primer, like Don B's, if hundreds of pages long, is intimidating.

Some mechanism to help with "configuration control." That might involve automatic tagging of style-set names or some such. It's not a subject that I've thought about much.


To conclude, I would again note that I am enjoying Mellel; a very nice product. Fortunately for Ori, there are still a few things left to be done. Otherwise, he'd be bored.
Paul

Harvey
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Post by Harvey » Tue Sep 19, 2006 2:24 am

Quote: 'As discussed previously, templates that illustrate all features so that people see them from the outset. I agree that to fully appreciate Mellel one should get one's hands dirty, but the current buy-in price is much too high. Further, most people learn from examples and I believe that one can "see at a glance" a great deal when provided with a rich but short template. Even a well written primer, like Don B's, if hundreds of pages long, is intimidating.'



A variation on adding templates to 'Hook' new users;
I've been very impressed by DevonAgent's and Devonthink's recent video tutorials.
Like Mellel, they tremendously useful programs which require some effort by the new user to appreciate their power and unique workflows. A Mellel video could both introduce simple program features with 'best practice' document setup and workup (from the Redlers own prospective) and get the new user excited with the program's features. A possible side benefit might be allowing the Redlers to examine Mellel with a novice's eyes and perhaps, rethink their priorities for Mellel development

Regards
from Ottawa
Harvey

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Post by joewiz » Tue Sep 19, 2006 3:49 am

Harvey wrote:I've been very impressed by DevonAgent's and Devonthink's recent video tutorials.
Just to chime in here, the video tutorial / screencast for kGTD at http://www.kinkless.com/kgtd/intro was great. It gives a brief introduction to the program's philosophy and actual use. It helped make the program approachable (though I decided not to use it).

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Some ideas from another recent switcher

Post by Danoz » Tue Sep 19, 2006 4:06 am

Sorry...long post ahead.
Short precis = please allow us (Mellel community) to help you (Redlers) make Mellel insanely great.

Long post follows...

Here are some of my initial thoughts of 'issues' that I have with Mellel. Like the previous author, this is kind of like a brain dump.

• On the left (at least for left to right languages, like English), have a backwards facing arrow, a la M$ Word, that allows one to select an entire line.

• apple-click to select a sentence

• provide some feedback in the outline pane (the left pane in outline view) as to in what section you are working. This could be by highlighting

• explore the Omni Outliner way of working with sections, like hoisting. ie if you are working within one chapter, you can “hoist” this, so that it appears as though you are only working in this section, as if this one section is the entire document.

• split pane view and/or multiple window abilities so that you can see two separate pieces of the one document at one time.

• Given that everyone else is talking about Tabbed Windows (iChat, web browsing, Path Finder etc etc) perhaps some folks might like a Tabbed view option as well??

• You should be able to promote and demote when in the main pane of the window, not just when a section is highlighted in the outline pane—especially if you are working in, say, sub-section and you wish to promote this to a section, you should not have to go into the outline pane to select the current sub-section and click to promote it. The click to promote should recognise the current flow that you are in.

• it seems more difficult than it *should be* to select an end of paragraph marker. For instance, if you are in the final line of the paragraph, you are unable to select the last word (or words) and the paragraph marker, by selecting the word and dragging to the far right, beyond the paragrapgh marker.

• Provide an option for flow numbering (ie number units) using words (ie One, Two and so on). I guess if you provide this for English, then you will have to provide it for many other languages. Hmmm, maybe then allow for user-defined lists of number units. Then someone could use One, Two... or their language, or even January, February or whatever they so choose.

• Why not make more use of the “Heads Up Display” (the lozengy-shape cutout info display area thingy) and provide detail on what piece of the document you are in, ie using reference to the flows/sections that the cursor is currently in.

• Or, even better, allow the user to define what information they would like displayed. As an example, you could have an always visible word count, or line count, or whatever.

• Once you have made some text an auto-title, there appears (to me a this stage anyway) no way to go back later on and make it ordinary text.

• When you have some text in an auto title selected, you cannot edit its paragraph and character attributes, so these details in the palette should be greyed out. If you click on them to alter them, you should be warned that it is because they are part of an auto-title that restricts you being able to change their formatting.

• In the Auto-titles flows formatting area, allow the user to select multiple “lozenges” and apply the same characteristics to all selected at once, rather than having to do so item by item.


On a more general note, I must admit that the comments made on this forum leave me a little perplexed. I am not sure exactly how to phrase it, so I will elucidate. On the one hand, the comments are almost always obviously composed out of deep *passion* for the product. To have so many passionate users must put Redlers in an enviable position. And it is a great testament to them and the product they have created. However at the same time, I read so many comments made by people describing feature requests that have gone unanswered for sometimes even years!!! I like to read product forums, and try to contribute ideas/requests back whenever I can. But I must admit that I think that Redlers is in an almost unique position (except for maybe with Apple itself and the Finder) where people are so passionate about the product but at the same time so almost vitriolic about certain aspects. ie not just, "yeh...improving such and such would be good", but downright staunch criticism.

Could I suggest that Redlers please corral several of the expert users (or maybe lots of non-experts as well) and conduct a formal user interface design session/s to plumb the great depths of talent of the posters on this forum. Maybe it could be done text forum based, or via web conference interface (eg WebEx) or whatever. But I just think that several of these niggly little things are stopping Mellel from reaching the dizzying heights that we all know it deserves.

Thanks for making such a great product, but please, please, please allow us to help you guys make it INSANELY GREAT.

Danoz

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Post by Timotheus » Tue Sep 19, 2006 4:43 am

« […] where people are so passionate about the product but at the same time so almost vitriolic about certain aspects. ie not just, "yeh...improving such and such would be good", but downright staunch criticism »


That's very, very true. But that's what happens when requests which are very sound and fully justified are frustated for years.

The Redlers are very gifted developers and very kind people, but they are rather stubborn too. They continue to think, for instance (or so it seems to me), that if so many people dislike the implementation of styles in Mellel, this is only because they are still accustomed to Word, and that they should just take some more time and have some more practice in order to be able to fully appreciate the way things work in Mellel.

As long as they wil hold on to similar convictions, Mellel will NEVER become a really popular wordprocessor.

FA1
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Post by FA1 » Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:03 am

Somewhat off-topic:

Not that this forum is really that crowded, but since there's only one category, how about making a separate one for feature requests? Although I suppose most people here know what's been requested already.

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Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:51 am

Timotheus wrote:... But that's what happens when requests which are very sound and fully justified are frustated for years.

The Redlers are very gifted developers and very kind people, but they are rather stubborn too. They continue to think, for instance (or so it seems to me), that if so many people dislike the implementation of styles in Mellel, this is only because they are still accustomed to Word, and that they should just take some more time and have some more practice in order to be able to fully appreciate the way things work in Mellel.

As long as they wil hold on to similar convictions, Mellel will NEVER become a really popular wordprocessor.
Timotheus -- it is neither neglect nor stubbornness that leads to the delay in the implementation of some features -- it's simply the way things are.

For every actively developed application, the constant internal debate is whether to go ahead and add new (and needed) features or stop and refine existing features and the way they work.

Up until version 2.1, we tended to favour the first over the latter: Mellel simply lacked too many needed features to allow us to stop and reconsider most of our existing features.

All this is going to change, as the following month will easily reveal, and we're going to divide our time, as equally as possible, between improving and polishing up what we have, and adding the things we still lack.
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Re: Some ideas from another recent switcher

Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 20, 2006 3:21 am

Danoz wrote:Sorry...long post ahead.
I'm of course lurking here [enter cough muffled laughter] and writing down all the suggestions.
Danoz wrote: On a more general note, I must admit that the comments made on this forum leave me a little perplexed. I am not sure exactly how to phrase it, so I will elucidate. On the one hand, the comments are almost always obviously composed out of deep *passion* for the product. To have so many passionate users must put Redlers in an enviable position. And it is a great testament to them and the product they have created. However at the same time, I read so many comments made by people describing feature requests that have gone unanswered for sometimes even years!!! I like to read product forums, and try to contribute ideas/requests back whenever I can. But I must admit that I think that Redlers is in an almost unique position (except for maybe with Apple itself and the Finder) where people are so passionate about the product but at the same time so almost vitriolic about certain aspects. ie not just, "yeh...improving such and such would be good", but downright staunch criticism.
This is as it should be, I think: harsh criticism follow high expectations. We arouse those expectations and, naturally enough, expect to be criticised (and harshly). when and where we fail to meet them.

Danoz wrote:Could I suggest that Redlers please corral several of the expert users (or maybe lots of non-experts as well) and conduct a formal user interface design session/s to plumb the great depths of talent of the posters on this forum. Maybe it could be done text forum based, or via web conference interface (eg WebEx) or whatever. But I just think that several of these niggly little things are stopping Mellel from reaching the dizzying heights that we all know it deserves.

Thanks for making such a great product, but please, please, please allow us to help you guys make it INSANELY GREAT.

Danoz
Well, that's a very good idea. Can anyone suggest a practical way to do that -- a sort of round table meeting... ?
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Re: Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 20, 2006 3:25 am

pkensildavis wrote:I reported on my original impressions three weeks ago. After those three weeks of heavy usage, my impressions are now as follows. Details follow, with items in rank order within a category of Pros, Cons, Shortcomings, or Other Suggestions. I am rapidly losing any ability to see things fresh, so this is a data dump.
I'm encouraged to see that most of the pros are what we do and most of the cons are how we do that. It's easier to mend your ways than to invent new ways.

What I can say -- and very shortly, as we do not discuss stuff we've not implemented yet -- is that we'll address some of the cons shortly, and many of the shortcomings even sooner.
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Re: Some ideas from another recent switcher

Post by zoul » Wed Sep 20, 2006 7:15 am

Ori Redler wrote:
Danoz wrote:Could I suggest that Redlers please corral several of the expert users (or maybe lots of non-experts as well) and conduct a formal user interface design session/s to plumb the great depths of talent of the posters on this forum. Maybe it could be done text forum based, or via web conference interface (eg WebEx) or whatever. But I just think that several of these niggly little things are stopping Mellel from reaching the dizzying heights that we all know it deserves.
Well, that's a very good idea. Can anyone suggest a practical way to do that -- a sort of round table meeting... ?
I once thought about the UI design in opensource applications and came with a different idea that serves similar purpose. Would it be possible to create a library that would track and log all the UI actions done by user? (Think of website traffic analysis for GUI applications.) Once the log contains a significant fingerprint of the way certain user uses the GUI, it could be sent back to developers and visualised in some sort of way – “this option does not get used at all, this is used frequently, they ignore this and do it much harder way” and such.

There are two catches: First, it requires that it is possible to tap into the UI messaging queue on one or few places, because nobody is going to add a line of trace code next to every UI line. Second: I am not sure whether the UI messages convey all the necessary information. If both these requirements are met, maybe this could even be developed as a standalone project. Users do not need to wory about privacy, because the typed text would be inserted just as some kind of “typing, X characters, 25 seconds”.

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Post by Timotheus » Wed Sep 20, 2006 8:46 am

@ Ori:

I realize of course that Rome was not built in one day, and that it takes a lot of time to implement in a responsable way XML, cross-referencing, indexing and all the other 'big' things. But there are other, small things which should be easy to implement, and which to many users are really important.

Just one small but significant example: the grey beam in the outline panel almost never marks the section in which the cursor is located. For those who work with very long documents, like me, this is a very nasty and time consuming shortcoming, not to say an everyday's torture. It compells you to scroll back or forth an infinity of times in order to see in which section of the document you are at a given moment. It should not be an Herculean nor a very time consuming task to adjust this shortcoming, which has been discussed many times on this forum. You promised ages ago this would be solved; but we're still waiting …

I'm sure many members of the Mellel community would be very grateful for this.

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Re: Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by BreakNeckRidge » Wed Sep 20, 2006 10:40 am

pkensildavis wrote:... put much higher priority on fixing interface problems asap ... agree with BreakNeckRidge
That's so funny, because as I was reading your long post I was agreeing with YOU! :lol: It's true though, the thing that Mellel needs most right now is a new interface so that everyone can actually use all the great power that's sitting under the hood.

I'm sure a lot of people who use Mellel are in the same boat as me. I haven't even scratched the surface of what's possible with Mellel because every time I try to do something new I get slammed in the face by Mellel's incomprehensible complexity, even when trying to do something simple. I don't have the time or desire to learn what is basically is a whole new programming language. If I wanted to use a programing language I would've become a programmer! :wink: Mellel is a great program that's worth the purchase price, it's just a shame that most of the features are locked away inside an impenetrable fortress of complexity.

I bet many people who tried the demo decided not to buy it after getting flabbergasted by the interface.

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Re: Some ideas from another recent switcher

Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:28 pm

zoul wrote:I once thought about the UI design in opensource applications and came with a different idea that serves similar purpose. Would it be possible to create a library that would track and log all the UI actions done by user? (Think of website traffic analysis for GUI applications.) Once the log contains a significant fingerprint of the way certain user uses the GUI, it could be sent back to developers and visualised in some sort of way – “this option does not get used at all, this is used frequently, they ignore this and do it much harder way” and such.
I'm not sure how this could be done. We might be able to "track" clicks, but we cannot "track" thoughts. For example, If a person clicks the "Insert Table" button, and it takes 10 minutes for him or her to enter the number of rows -- does this mean that there is a problem there? That he went to make a cup of coffee? That he pondered whether he should call a friend? day dreamed?

The only feasible way of checking usability, it seems to me, is through user-testing and even that is not always a reliable measure.
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Re: Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 20, 2006 12:51 pm

BreakNeckRidge wrote: That's so funny, because as I was reading your long post I was agreeing with YOU! :lol: It's true though, the thing that Mellel needs most right now is a new interface so that everyone can actually use all the great power that's sitting under the hood.
In my view, the problem is not the interface but the rather inflexibility of the way certain things work in Mellel.

For example, when you enter a footnote and suddenly notice that the font is all wrong, the divider is too thick (or too thin) and that you'd rather have A, B, C and not 1, 2 3 -- there is a way to mend all this, but it is much too demanding and not at all intuitive. People intuitively want to fix a problem where they see it -- that is, from within the footnote -- and do the fixing directly.

They can do that, of course. One needs only change the font, size, etc. of an individual footnote, and save the changes, and then all the footnotes will line up with this change. There's also a direct access from the contextual menu to editing the notes attributes. Still, this is too indirect and unintuitive for most, especially since when they open the Edit Note Attributes sheet they cannot change the formatting of the note and note text directly, and need to close the sheet, go and edit the styles, save the changes and then go back to the Edit Notes attributes. Not a very intuitive approach.

This is solvable, of course, mainly through ad-hockisation of such procedures.


Another problem -- which many writers suffer from -- is much more difficult to solve: namely, most people want a clean, consistent manuscript, but do not want to work with styles, nor are they interested in learning how to work with them. Strong templates and "masking" styles with more flexible defaults (e.g., mapping cmd+b to "bold this" as part of the default setting for the default template) can alleviate this. I'm not sure how this problem can be solved completely, though.
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Re: Some ideas from another recent switcher

Post by Danoz » Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:37 am

Danoz wrote:Could I suggest that Redlers please corral several of the expert users (or maybe lots of non-experts as well) and conduct a formal user interface design session/s to plumb the great depths of talent of the posters on this forum. Maybe it could be done text forum based, or via web conference interface (eg WebEx) or whatever. But I just think that several of these niggly little things are stopping Mellel from reaching the dizzying heights that we all know it deserves.

Thanks for making such a great product, but please, please, please allow us to help you guys make it INSANELY GREAT.
Ori wrote: Well, that's a very good idea. Can anyone suggest a practical way to do that -- a sort of round table meeting... ?
C'mon Mellelers. The Mothership has just extended an incredible offer to us.
Let's not miss the great opportunity that this affords. Please contribute some thoughtful ideas of how this could be best handled.

These are some very rough initial thoughts...

• Make a new sticky note at the top of the forums to cover this topic. This note would also seek to recruit willing participants

• Redlers recruit a number (2, 3 more???) of expert users as moderators-relying on just one person might be too onerous a task. e.g. those who have been active contributors to the forums and perhaps those who have had many of their requests go unfulfilled (as an olive branch ;-)

• These moderators recruit something like around 10 people for each session (more might be unwieldy).

• Participants would agree to NDA terms (if necessary/appropriate)

• Session participants would contribute beforehand a list of issues they would like addressed, elements of different apps that they like and would like to see in Mellel etc

• Depending on the type of requests, the sessions could be run in 'tracks' ie the Styles track, the Interface track etc etc or just each one could cover the lot.

• The sessions could be mainly text chat based, but maybe Redlers could look at subscribing to the WebEx service to allow screen sharing and voice conferencing. That way, there would be less confusion as to what people meant.

• Redlers could provide, if available, mockups of different interface elements that they are toying with.

• Session notes/outcomes could be made available for commenting over the subsequent week or so, for those people who could not attend the live session.

• My thinking would be, then, something along the lines of 4-5 sessions, each hosted by a different person, someone from Redlers would attend each of the sessions as well. The sessions would run over, say, a week, with feedback over the following week. There would be a month or so planning beforehand. So, in 6-8 weeks, there would hopefully be a huge wealth of ideas to take Mellel even further.


I suggest then, that from now on, this thread be used to discuss how we can address Ori's request that we practically implement this round table. I truly believe that this is an excellent opportunity given to us by Redlers and we should not squander it.

Nick

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