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Old 01-08-2012, 09:56 PM   #16
kovidgoyal
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@fesja: All those negative reviews you posted are complaining about how "ugly" the user interface is, not about its usability. And about 90% of those will be on OS X, where the interface is admittedly ugly, as it doesn't use native toolkits to render itself.

Here's the typical calibre start use case:

Run calibre, answer two or three simple questions in the Welcome Wizard (@kiwidude: you're desire to add more questions to the Welcome Wizard complicates precisely this use case). Then calibre starts, the very first, very promininent button you see is Add Books. Click it and you can add any ebook file you like. If you're used to using drag and drop instead, calibre allows you to do that, too. Plugin your device, calibre tells you it is plugged in. There's a very prominent button labeled Send to Device. If the book is in a format the device doesn't understand, calibre auto-converts it for you. It simply isn't going to get any easier than that.

Now there are things that are complex, and that could be stand to be simplified, metadata plugboards, changing the default author sort algorithm, and finding preferences in general, connecting to MTP devices, setting up the content server.

But, you need to realize that those are complex things by their very nature. The "simple" apps you are talking about from Amazon and Apple will not even let you customize these kinds of things, let alone provide a simple interface for them. Those apps are simple because they are dumb. They force everyone into a one size fits all, highly streamlined, but completely un-customizable workflow.

Now, I choose to respect my users. I believe that most people will, when given the chance, appreciate having the ability to do more complex things, as long as the basic use case is as simple and painless as possible.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:51 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leep View Post
Since the tool bar is customizable, I am not sure I see a need to 'simplify' the Calibre user interface.
I agree with this sentiment. The UI is infinitely complex and utterly simple. The basics stare you in the face when first installed, Add books, edit metadata and upon connection of a ereader the Send to device icon. Yet you can customize the UI to meet your requirements. You can see from my attachment what functions I use relatively regularly by looking at my toolbar and context menu. I follow Chaley for the most part, except I manage my tags through the customizable tag mapping found in the Goodreads Metadata plugin.

The only thing not showing that I use often is the tag browser. I start up calibre without the tag browser but when needed I click the icon down the bottom right to show the tag browser.

I suppose it would be feasible to have Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced menus as preset baselines and allow users to modify the UI from there, but breaking down the info and setting those menus would be quite a feat.

As Kovid states the offerings from Amazon, Sony and Apple limit flexibility and features, as such they can provide a very basic simple UI.

Good Luck in compiling the data required to move this project/concept forward.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:05 AM   #18
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@Dwanthny Looking at your thumbnail I notice your Calibre looks different to mine, the biggest difference being that the Tag Browse window on the left is missing in yours, how did you remove that? I know I can shrink it but when I do there's still a grey bar with yellow line where as yours appears to be gone completely
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:30 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melmac View Post
@Dwanthny Looking at your thumbnail I notice your Calibre looks different to mine, the biggest difference being that the Tag Browse window on the left is missing in yours, how did you remove that? I know I can shrink it but when I do there's still a grey bar with yellow line where as yours appears to be gone completely
That's the big positive about this user interface it can be customized to exactly reflect the individual user's requirements.

If you go to preferences - tweaks you can set a tweak so the yellow line does not show. I open and close the tag browser via the left icon (of three) at the bottom right. I changed the font and font size (preferences - Look and feel) to suit me, in my case Arial Narrow [13pt] is my current choice. I also use a different set of icons (because I can) as outlined here. Finally, I chose to populate the menu bar (via Preferences - toolbars) so I have an additional menu across the top that is not there on Windows machines by default.

Last edited by DoctorOhh; 01-09-2012 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:33 AM   #20
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Dwanthny How did you get the picture with all the books above the book list. I learned something from reading this thread . I did not know you could drop and drag books into Calibre
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:46 AM   #21
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Dwanthny How did you get the picture with all the books above the book list. I learned something from reading this thread . I did not know you could drop and drag books into Calibre
The three icons at the bottom next to the Jobs queue open or close the Tag Browser, Cover browser and the Book details pane. Toggle each one to see what happens.

Also my User interface layout (preferences - Look and Feel) is set to Wide.

Last edited by DoctorOhh; 01-09-2012 at 01:48 AM.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:48 AM   #22
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I don'k know if this is the right place to ask this. Is it possible to download the users manual so you do not have to go online to use it?
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:52 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gardenman View Post
I don'k know if this is the right place to ask this. Is it possible to download the users manual so you do not have to go online to use it?
First page of the Online calibre User manual has the manual available in ePub form, you can download it here.
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:53 AM   #24
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@Kovid - yes indeed, adding to the wizard would delay users getting to the "good stuff" by a couple more clicks.

However I do have some recollection of my first time experience of calibre since it was less than 18 months ago, and it was very frustrating. To the point of more than once googling for alternative products so I could uninstall it. Since I fall into the technical user category, I ended up posting in these forums about some of the various issues I had - author sorts, not a clue about "plugboards" etc.

Of course I stuck it out, thanks both to the great support and the fact that if you can get past the pain points calibre is by far and away the best product out there. However it wasn't a "fun" process getting there during that first few weeks, and I wasted a huge number of hours that a few simple extra dropdowns/checkboxes would have solved.

When I first started adding books for the first week, I had no clue why or how titles and authors were swapped around, series info extracted etc. To find out I had to revist regular expressions just to get books into my library shocked me. Like an ever increasing high % of users out there I have a Kindle, not a Sony - so a metadata plugboard is essential, which can only be done by visiting the forums. I don't think like a librarian, so I don't agree with the default sorts which means learning about tweaks. I learnt the long, hard way that reading metadata from the file is not a smart thing to do.

I spent dozens of hours and went through several library attempts before I got a setup that did the basics of what I wanted. I was grumpy and annoyed at having to spend so much time searching through forums and experimenting. It all could have been solved by a couple of extra questions when I first started calibre.

What do people do if they are not motivated to go through the same process? They put series in their title fields. They put up with stuff sorting oddly, and metadata downloads not working for them. They use only a tiny fraction of what calibre can do.

If you don't want to add to the startup wizard, then the only alternative I can think of is something like a standalone "How do I" plugin. Something that gives a dumbed down user friendly front-end covering stuff like I have mentioned for the wizard. However since only a teeny % of users know what a plugin even is, it would have to be bundled with calibre. And for the users this is targeting to discover it, it would have to be on the main toolbar. And that would upset other/power users who think the toolbar has too many things on it already. Which is why I suggested it should be in the existing wizard.

Calibre is necessarily complex in the amount of settings it has to cater for all sorts of functions, devices and formats, so we can't just "remove" stuff, just because x% of users don't ever use it.

However for me the question is whether you even want to try to target users who don't care about any of that stuff, and just want to "put books on their Kindle". They don't know or care about the format wars, they only have one device to begin with, they just want to sort, categorise, search and send their books and possibly track ones they have read. Over a longer period of time they may get adventurous and start finding out about custom columns, yada, yada - but not during those crucial first few hours of trying out calibre to see if they will stick with it.

Now maybe you don't care about those users and suggest calibre is just not the product for them. Which is a perfectly valid approach, it gives you a (obviously smaller) user base that is slightly more technical or motivated and hence easier to support. In which case threads like this have an easy response.

Obviously for my own usage I have no need of some simplified setup nowadays, so I'm not going to get upset if everyone disagrees with me . Certainly calibre has also moved on a lot since I started using it, the forums have been reorganised, stickies added, help file sections, obviously the plugin community I think I helped bring to life and so on. I do agree with the comments that say *once* you know what you are doing, calibre is very easy to use, and with the exception of the file system (yawn) no-one questions its flexibility. I would not have spent thousands of hours writing and supporting plugins/calibre if I didn't think calibre was worth the effort. But that doesn't mean I don't empathise with the OP about the first time experience
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:56 AM   #25
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For what it's worth, the features that I use are:
  • Importing books. I also add paper books as empty records, and add audio books (if the audio book is a single MP3, I add the MP3. If not, I add the files to a gzipped tarball and add that)
  • Converting between formats
  • Clean up/fix metadata (usually consists of adding my own tags, and adding a description)
  • Some books go into a hierarchical set of custom columns. For a while, I had those in a separate library, but I've now decided that this works better for me

I've used the Get Books function a few times.

The only plugins I use have come from Apprentice Alf.

I like the the news download function, but I found that I never actually read the news that I downloaded, so I don't use it any more.

I've also used the donate button
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:57 AM   #26
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@Kovid - yes indeed, adding to the wizard would delay users getting to the "good stuff" by a couple more clicks.

Obviously for my own usage I have no need of some simplified setup nowadays, so I'm not going to get upset if everyone disagrees with me . Certainly calibre has also moved on a lot since I started using it, the forums have been reorganised, stickies added, help file sections, obviously the plugin community I think I helped bring to life and so on. I do agree with the comments that say *once* you know what you are doing, calibre is very easy to use, and with the exception of the file system (yawn) no-one questions its flexibility. I would not have spent thousands of hours writing and supporting plugins/calibre if I didn't think calibre was worth the effort. But that doesn't mean I don't empathise with the OP about the first time experience
I think you have made a very valid point, which I agree with completely.

I too have been using Calibre for about 18 months and have gradually learnt to use it but I am still learning about how to harness its power. I haunt the forums because things regularly crop up, which I do not know, and often are not covered in the manual (no manual can cover everything). In this I am helped by the fact that am a long time PC user who worked in IT for a number of years and so have no fears about playing with software.

The problem is that (as kiwidude said) other people, who do not have a similar background, or interest in IT, just want to store, load and remove books from their ereader as easily as possible and can be overwhelmed by their first view of Calibre.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:35 AM   #27
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I set up calibre for my mum, and gave her as simple toolbar as possible along with simple to follow step by steps for the few things she'd want to do... Add, convert, send to device. She still is struggling, but I don't think that simplifying the GUI any further would make a difference. As we live in different state,I have resorted to a phone call, while I'm on her computer via remote access and add books for her and send to device. It's driving me nuts. My next plan now I have my online odps catalog running is to give her access and see if she can get books any easier from there.

I just think some people are going to struggle no matter what and my mum is one of them.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:59 AM   #28
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A friend of mine is using calibre now for converting books (that, at least I know, I don't know if she uses another feature). She's not a very IT person, or has a lot of knowledge about computers (she installed the new version for Sony software and PRS talking by phone with me for giving her instructions). I haven't to tell her anything, however, about calibre, she's using it on her own, so I think it depends on any user.
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Old 01-09-2012, 09:06 AM   #29
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That was exactly the reason that I asked above if it's possible to export and import Calibre configurations. If it were possible, one could have different configurations for different use-cases; eg, a beginner's configuration, a Kindle-owner's configuration, etc.
I don't know if Calibre has built-in function to export user's configuration, but it definitely can be done. I had copied my Calibre's configuration file (including plugins) from Linux to Mac OS X . The catch is that when opened first time in Mac, it will complains that Calibre Library path does not exist. Then it simply just a matter of pointing Calibre to the directory where your library is located.

Btw, the path for calibre's configuration is:
Linux: ~/.calibre
Mac OS X: ~/Library/Preference/Calibre
Windows: /Users/user_name/AppData/Roaming/Calibre (I'm not sure though, maybe others can point out if I'm incorrect?)
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:25 AM   #30
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However for me the question is whether you even want to try to target users who don't care about any of that stuff, and just want to "put books on their Kindle". They don't know or care about the format wars, they only have one device to begin with, they just want to sort, categorise, search and send their books and possibly track ones they have read. Over a longer period of time they may get adventurous and start finding out about custom columns, yada, yada - but not during those crucial first few hours of trying out calibre to see if they will stick with it.

Now maybe you don't care about those users and suggest calibre is just not the product for them. Which is a perfectly valid approach, it gives you a (obviously smaller) user base that is slightly more technical or motivated and hence easier to support. In which case threads like this have an easy response.
I think that's the main question. I believe Calibre has to have all the features that it has today and some more (like sharing lists of books a la spotify or lending books to your friends with a click). And that doesn't mean it can't have an easier and simpler user interface for beginners and the average user. Of course there can be a simpler UI with better user experience for the average user. For all of you who need more features, you can activate them.

Will calibre be for IT people or will it be for everyone? I don't accept the answer "lots of average users are using it now" because there is no decent alternative right now. If calibre doesn't get easier to use, and an alternative appears, I believe the move will be instantaneous among those average users. If you believe calibre should be for everyone, I think it's time to work on it and accept some changes.

Last edited by fesja; 01-09-2012 at 10:29 AM.
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