Re: FAQ -- why the MSDI interface? (aka, no pagers please)

Subject: Re: FAQ -- why the MSDI interface? (aka, no pagers please)
From: Randy Kramer (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 21:46:41 CDT

I wrote the following response, then, did some time trials, which are
recorded below the response.

Original Response:

If I had my "druthers" (and I, like Tim, will forgo an MDI vs. SDI
argument), I'd like to see AbiWord stay open with no document under the
discussed scenario. If it must have a document, then fine, give me an
untitled document.

Aside from the "direct" AbiWord related UI issues, I think we must also
consider the responsiveness of the overall systems. I'm trying to
switch from Windows 95 to Linux (Mandrake 7.2 plus MandrakeFreq), and I
find Linux to be much slower at opening new applications (and new
windows). Thus there is a high penalty to pay in terms of time if
AbiWord closes when you did not intend it.

Time Trials:

(Done on different computers, Windows box 64 MB of Ram and 233 MHz.
processor, Win95 last edition, Linux box 128 MB and 200 MHz., Mandrake
7.2 with MandrakeFreq, KDE 2.1.1, identical motherboards, similar
harddrives.) All timing done with a stop watch with readout to 100ths
of a second, but rounded to 10ths or quarters. Some, but not all cases
included multiple trials, then averaged. Both versions of AbiWord were
about the same, on windows it was 0.9.2, on Linux it was a locally
compiled version from cvs post 0.9.0.

I am not presenting these times as any sort of official or precise
benchmark, but just something I did to satisfy my own curiosity and to
share with anyone who is interested. (Aside: Other applications were
open on both machines, what I would describe as an "average" load.
Counting now: 14 applications open on Windows before starting the test,
23 (desktop) applications open on Linux, plus Apache. It's actually
more typical for me to have more applications open on Windows and fewer
on Linux. The Resource Meter in windows "died" since my last reboot,
and for whatever reason, I can't get it restarted until a reboot. Top
in Linux shows about 6 MB of RAM free, and 16 MB of swap used.)

Test approach: I opened AbiWord or Word with no document and measured
the time until the blinking cursor appeared. I then opened a document
without timing it. I then opened a new blank document and measured the

For the web browsers, I opened them with blank documents, then opened a
second instance with a blank document, measuring the time in each case.

Action Windows Linux
Open AbiWord 3.3 secs 4.8 secs
Open new blank document 0.75 secs 1.8 secs

Open IE5 1.0 sec na
Open new blank window 0.5 sec na

Open Konqueror na 10 secs
Open new blank window na 4 secs

Open Word97 3.9 secs na
Open new blank document almost instantaneous na

Comment re "almost instantaneous": Opening a new blank document in
Word97 took two steps, first clicking on new, which called up the dialog
to choose the type of document, and then clicking on OK to call up the
document. I am ignoring the time I (or any user) might spend choosing
the type of document. Each of the machine reactions were so quick I
could not measure them. (I probably have somewhat slow reaction time.)

Revised response:

I still stick by my "druthers", but I'm thrilled that AbiWord on Windows
loads faster than Word97, and don't have too much trouble with the
AbiWord times on Linux, especially in comparison to Konqueror which
drives me to distraction in comparison to IE5 on Win95.

Good job, guys!

Randy Kramer

Tim LaDuca wrote:
> On 18 Aug 2001 16:43:36 -0700, Paul Rohr wrote:
> > At 03:22 PM 8/16/01 -0600, Tim LaDuca wrote:
> > >I think there is only one very specific problem with the current
> > >MSDI interface, and that is the ambiguity of File->close. If I
> > >start AbiWord, it opens with a new blank document. I did not ask
> > >for this blank document, so I would expect that File->Open opens
> > >the document in the same window(say by-bye to the blank new
> > >document. Currently this is exactly how abiword behaves.
> >
> > Excellent description. Thanks. :-) Next time I'll respond to the posts in
> > order, so I won't have to introduce the window reuse argument myself.
> >
> > >If I now
> > >go to File-Close, I would expect abiword to return to it's state
> > >before I did File-> open. That is, return to a blank new document.
> > >Currently however, that is not what happens, instead AbiWord
> > >closes. I beleive this is what a majority of the people
> > >complaining about the MSDI interface (including myself) have a
> > >problem with.
> > >
> > >When a document is already open, we have consistent behavior. File-
> > >Open opens a new window. File-Close returns abiword to the state
> > >it was in before I chose File->Open, that is, it closes the window.
> >
> > I've gotta admit that this is a creative solution I'd never thought of. Do
> > most church secretaries think in stack frames like that? If so, will they
> > revoke my geek credentials? ;-)
> >
> > I always had a different narrative to explain what happened. In any modern
> > desktop, there are two ways to launch an application:
> >
> > - with a document (double-click the document)
> > - with no document (double-click the app)
> >
> > In the latter case, it's quite friendly of AbiWord to give you an empty
> > Untitled document, because that's almost certainly what you want to do.
> > Yes, it's a guess, but in this context it's a very very good one.
> >
> > However, if for some reason what you "really" wanted to do was work on an
> > existing document, for example:
> >
> > - you forgot to specify the document when you launched AbiWord,
> > - you knew it was on the MRU (most recently used) menu,
> > - your desktop is broken and you can't double-click documents,
> > - you just *like* using cramped dialogs to find files, or
> > - some other perfectly valid reason,
> >
> > then, well, the Untitled guess was wrong. In that case, the only polite
> > thing for AbiWord to do is say:
> >
> > Sorry for being presumptuous.
> > Please forget about that silly Untitled document.
> > Pretend it was never here.
> > Here's the document you really want.
> >
> > In that narrative, the user can work all day, opening and closing more
> > documents as they see fit. However, what do you think their reaction will
> > be at the end of the day when, upon closing the last document of the day,
> > AbiWord opens that initial Untitled document back up?
> >
> > Huh? Now where did *that* come from?
> > That rude little ant wants me to write *another* document?
> > No way! I'm going home!
> > Die, Abi! Die, die, die already!
> >
> > Talk about nasty surprises. :-)
> Hmm, well, I'm probably a bit more logical thinking than a church
> secretary, but to me, File->Close implies closing a file, not closing a
> program/window. The "X" implies get rid of this window. I think this is
> where the SDI interface is weak. It really confuses things by tying
> together file operations with window operations.
> > >Further, I think when most people go to File->Close they
> > >think "close the document", not "Close the window". If the window
> > >closes as a side-effect, that's fine, as long as it is
> > >appropriate. On the other hand, when most people think "I want to
> > >close the window" (at least on windows 9x) they click the little X
> > >in the upper right hand corner, and that's what they will do if
> > >they really want AbiWord to go bye-bye completely,(or they'll
> > >click File->Exit).
> >
> > Erp. In what widely-used SDI application does File / Close *not* have the
> > exact same semantics as clicking the little X? And why aren't they in the
> > User Interface Hall of Shame?
> :-) Microsoft Word. When you click File-> Close you are left with a
> "document-less" window. But most others behave like you say. To be
> clear, I'm not arguing that AbiWord is not behaving like other SDI
> programs, just that tying the File menu items to window operations just
> doesn't make sense overall, but SDI basically forces you to do this.
> Also to be fair, I am not a fan of the SDI interface, so I could
> probably argue all day with the "SDI people". I'll stop now ;-)
> Cheers,
> Tim
> > Paul,
> > GUI fanatic
> >
> >

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