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Old 01-09-2012, 11:46 AM   #31
theducks
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Originally Posted by fesja View Post

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.
We don't know the skill of the Average user, because most of them DO NOT post here at MR.
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Old 01-09-2012, 01:36 PM   #32
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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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I just think some people are going to struggle no matter what and my mum is one of them.
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Originally Posted by Terisa de morgan View Post
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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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.
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We don't know the skill of the Average user, because most of them DO NOT post here at MR.
I also wanted to quote the post about the interfaces of K4PC, etc, but multi-quote across multiple pages is something I've had issues with. Anyway...

There is a vast distance between the simplicity (and minimal features) of K4PC et al, and calibre. That gap is one which has not yet been filled by another software solution. If someone were to embark on creating new software, I think the smart thing would be to try to fill that gap rather than try to compete with calibre's features.

I feel that to try to make calibre fill that gap, and to make it more accessible to some users, would not be an ideal solution. Fesja notes that there is no decent alternative at the moment, but that does not mean it's calibre's job to make up the difference. I'd love to see calibre take over the world, but not at the cost this would require.

Thasaidon notes that some folks "just want to store, load and remove books from their ereader" - calibre isn't actually needed for any of these things, so why would these individuals be using calibre to begin with?

As was noted by Stampercam and Terisa, some people are just going to have issues and others won't. (It's not a matter of "IT vs. everyone else" - I think that's too much of a generalization.) How do you separate folks who only have issues with calibre from those who simply don't get along with computers in general?

Finally, as theducks says, you won't find a valuable quantity of "average" user cases here. The sampling is too small and specific.

Any software application has room for improvement, but making it "for everyone" is a different animal. Yes, there are still things I have trouble with in calibre after a year, but when you pack that many powerful features into an application, things will be a bit complicated. My only real criticism about the UI is this - buttons that delete things should probably not be green.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:24 PM   #33
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@CWatkinsNash - creating "another app" to target that type of user is an idea that's been mentioned on other threads, I may have even said it myself at one point a long time ago IIRC on a thread about someone rewriting calibre in C++. Wonder if he is still working on that?

I think the big challenge for someone attempting that is in the same way calibre has grown organically, you are going to fairly quickly find yourself hitting some "must have" feature which opens a giant can of worms. My example use case I've mentioned is where a person just has a single device. However lets assume your new software is so utterly brilliantly simple and amazing the user tells the rest of their family about it. Suddenly they want to use other devices with your software. Rut roh, multi-device support. And maybe some of those devices are only ePub and some are only MOBI - darn it, that means conversions are required. So quickly you are kakked.

Those are just two simple examples of where scaling upwards from a basic application creates astronomical development/support requirements, that calibre has had years to iron out and resolve. The beauty of calibre is that it scales upwards (in functionality) exceptionally well - through plugins, custom columns and the ever ongoing dev cycles etc. All the kudos for that belongs to Kovid & co of course.

So the barriers to entry for someone writing their own lightweight alternative is pretty huge unless they massively limit their scope - like for instance K4PC supporting one format and one device. The question it seems we a number agree with is whether calibre should in any way attempt to scale down.

When it comes to managing books unless you have been using ereaders/mgmt software for years (very few have) then predicting what features you will really want/need is damn hard. Pick wrong, and hours spent gathering metadata and making your collection look pretty go down the drain and have to be done all over again. Pick calibre, and at least whatever need that you "might" come up with, chances are calibre can do it. Those who have stuck with it are perhaps like me feeling fairly smug and happy with our decisions. Whether the love can be shared further is the question
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:48 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by theducks View Post
We don't know the skill of the Average user, because most of them DO NOT post here at MR.
Agreed, and we can confidently assume that the 80-20 rule applies to calibre users as it does to computer users in general, namely that 80% of them have no idea what is going on under the hood, wouldn't understand it if you tried to explain, and don't see why they should understand it to use it. Many (if not most) of the 80% would have trouble explaning the concept of "directory" since all they know is icons live in windows and if you click them new windows open.

Amazon recognizes that the 80% is very important. Look at Kindle for PC--it's so simple (and limited) a child could learn to use it just by clicking around. Of course, that's the whole idea--Amazon doesn't want any cognitive barriers between its customers and its products.

It's very easy for someone who is technically sophisticated (and this probably applies to the majority of regular posters to this forum) to look at the calibre interface and say "What's the big deal? It's customizable and if you have 5,000 books you can't beat the functionality." But I know lots of technically unsophisticated people who would be flummoxed by the calibre interface and don't have 5,000 books to organize. They don't know what metadata is and don't have a clue about different ebook formats. All they know is they have an "x ereader" (x=Kindle, Nook, etc.) and they want to sideload books onto it or they've heard about calibre's news recipes and would like to try them out.

I think what calibre needs to broaden its appeal to the masses of technically unsophisticated ebook users is an alternative UI that looks a lot like Kindle for PC--namely icons in a window with a limited number of things users can do with those icons. When a user installs calibre with that interface, exactly one question is asked: what device do you have? Users can drag-and-drop books in and out of the window. If a book with the wrong format is added to UI will ask if it should be converted. To send a book to the device a right-click or drag to a device icon should suffice. This UI should NOT be customizable in any way--it must be the ultimate dumbed-down interface for users whose needs are essentially trivial.

That said, it should be possible for a user to switch to the calibre UI, which is why this new UI should be integrated with calibre, not created as a stand-alone front end to the command line tools.

I'm interested in people's opinions on this, and as always I'm willing to do the work myself. All I'd need to know is (a) there's agreement this would be worthwhile and (b) it would be integrated with calibre to be available as an alternative interface, selectable upon installation or at any time after. I'd start with a limited prototype that showcases the UI.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:11 PM   #35
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First, I want to know what you use from Calibre, how you use it. It has many options, many buttons, many filters. But, what do you use? What's your primary use? How do you send your books to your ebook device?

$ ebook-convert OriginalFile.epub NewFile.mobi

[Defaults are almost always good enough for me]

$ ebook-viewer NewFile.mobi

[Verify output looks OK -- even this is entirely optional]

$ cp NewFile.mobi /media/Kindle/documents

That's all I use it for... I'd rather have an installation of just the core command line components w/o the GUI parts (even if that meant no viewer to confirm the book quality).

I manage my ebook library on my Linux server, storing the original files in a simple folder structure by author's name with the filename as the book title, so I don't really care about the quality of the metadata nor the cover image. I only keep four or five books on my Kindle at a time... the one I'm currently reading, and a few that I'm considering reading next.

I guess my needs are simpler than most.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:24 PM   #36
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I need to open an old library and on the Mac there is no Open library button or option. There is a mata file in the clibrary folder but when I open calibre it does not recognize it. There needs to be a simple way to chose libraries. . . Plus I would like to be able to paste a cover in when there is none available thru the metadata function.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:27 PM   #37
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I need to open an old library and on the Mac there is no Open library button or option. There is a mata file in the clibrary folder but when I open calibre it does not recognize it. There needs to be a simple way to chose libraries. . . Plus I would like to be able to paste a cover in when there is none available thru the metadata function.
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On th Library Icon: Use the arrow: Create/Switch
Point to the other Library


When done, you can use the 'quick switch' back to the old one
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Old 01-09-2012, 10:43 PM   #38
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Plus I would like to be able to paste a cover in when there is none available thru the metadata function.
Via a simple right click on an existing or blank cover you can paste a cover directly in the metadata window or the book detail window, see attached. Or use the browse button (in the edit metadata window) to locate and paste the cover to the book.
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Old 01-09-2012, 11:04 PM   #39
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The issue I see here is, there is some demand for a version of calibre that does nothing else but "put book on reader". This version is presumably supposed to be targeted to those people that have no needs beyond "put book on reader". The problems I have with that are:

1) Why use calibre at all in that case? What does calibre buy you over just using the file system?

2) Where are these books going to come from? If they are DRMed amazon books, then just having amazon deliver them to your device is a much better solution that copying them to your computer and then copying them from your computer to your device, via calibre or otherwise.

2.1) If they are DRMed epub, you will have to figure out how to download them using Adobe Digital Editions, find the actual file somehere hidden on your comuter, add it to calibre and then transfer to your device. Just using ADE is easier, it provides a perfectly adequate, get book and transfer to reader function. And in any case, if you are willing to figure all that out, I highly doubt that having a few extra buttons on a toolbar is going to faze you in calibre.

2.5) If they are pirated, you would have to figure out how to pirate in the first place.

4) Again, what is so complex about calibre? There are extra buttons on the toolbar, whose function you may not know. As I outlined before the actual basic use case with calibre is extremely simple. If you are the kind of person that gets fazed by that, you're never going to be able to use calibre to the extent that you get any benefit over just using windows explorer, without someone else (like the family tech guy's) help.

This is a serious question. calibre today has over 6 million installs, the vast majority of which are by people that are in no way good with tech. I remain not convinced that calibre is actually hard to use. Undoubtedly, there are people who find it hard to use, my point is that, would they actually find anything that exposed more functionality than the add books/send to device button easy to use?

@fesja: You say that the large number of calibre users is because there are no alternatives to calibre. As a matter of fact there are many alternatives. None of them succeeded. Of the top of my head: Alfa ebook manager, Hamster ebook manager (which actually uses calibre code under the hood, and is free), a couple of OS X specific programs that I cannot recall the names of. A couple of paid windows programs. And of course all the device specific ones, like K4PC or the SONY and Kobo software.

My vision for calibre is that it is a tool for people that are serious about maintaining a collection of personal document/books/etc. I am not trying to compete with tools designed purely for throwaway content consumption. This probably means that calibre is never going to be universally used, and for people like us, that know what calibre is capable of, that is a shame, but I believe that there are more than enough people in the world for whom calibre will remain an excellent value proposition.

@kiwidude: Your main gripe is about author sorting. I agree that it is a pain if you are not happy with the calibre default. But really, are people that only want to get book, send to device going to care about how author names are sorted?

@nickredding: If you are willing to maintain an alternate UI that only exposes a couple of functions, I am open to discussing it. But I remain skeptical of the need for it. Perhaps, if you flesh it out some more. Exactly what would it have and what would it leave out? How would it simplify the functions it has, compared to the current UI? My minimum requirement for such a UI be that it provide a prominent (and permanent) switch to advanced UI button. And that I will not have to maintain it

EDIT: In summary, I am unable to envision a subset of calibre that would actually be useful to a lot of people in the just put book on reader category

Last edited by kovidgoyal; 01-09-2012 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 01-10-2012, 06:33 AM   #40
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My vision for calibre is that it is a tool for people that are serious about maintaining a collection of personal document/books/etc. I am not trying to compete with tools designed purely for throwaway content consumption. This probably means that calibre is never going to be universally used, and for people like us, that know what calibre is capable of, that is a shame, but I believe that there are more than enough people in the world for whom calibre will remain an excellent value proposition.
Which perfectly answers the question I put out there a few posts ago, and is why any threads discussing simplifying the UI will meet the same fate that every such thread has met in the past.

I was willing to add some support to people wanting to explore options but I'm not going to bang my head against a brick wall about it. It is your product and your vision and a valid position to take, so now we have an official response we can point to when it comes up again.
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@kiwidude: Your main gripe is about author sorting. I agree that it is a pain if you are not happy with the calibre default. But really, are people that only want to get book, send to device going to care about how author names are sorted?
Obviously my posts were too long and poorly explained if that was the only conclusion you drew . Yes author sorting is one issue, metadata plugboards are another. Both are far more easily resolved for the user by a simple question at startup than forcing them to spend hours of frustration and googling. They come up every week in the forums - and that is just from those who can be bothered to do so.

There are other settings I would have preferred to have seen highlighted up front, but then my opinion will be coloured of course by the defaults that I suggest people change every time I recommend calibre to someone to install.

Anyways, not going to flog a dead horse - as I said previously I do remember just how steep the calibre learning curve was for me and being a developer I had a more advantageous starting point yet still struggled. Perhaps if I had started with a Sony device and liked Kovid's default settings it would have been easier.
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Old 01-10-2012, 07:40 AM   #41
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Simplification is not always all it is cracked up to be. I had the misfortune to tangle with Sony's Reader for PC. In its simplification it automatically does sync which I do not want and put files on my reader that were not even books, just chucks of CSS.

I generally work directly from html through sigil since I am a Sony Reader guy. But a day or two ago, I had the need of calibre and it was not hard to use. Load file into calibre, convert book, save to file (I don't need the library function.) Not hard at all.

It is difficult to automate what is not standard and much book source material is not standard, nor is there a consensus about even how a book should look (I am not a fan of indents nor care about pretty quotes or dashes.) So how do you automate matters of taste?

Some of the comments seem to center on Calibre's interface, some of which is dictated by its Swiss Army Knife nature. You can do anything with it, but there is always complication in how you access any given feature. Again no consensus, as many use Word but I prefer WordPerfect as its interface, for me, is easier to use. I grumble when forced to Word, that there seems the right way the wrong way and the Microsoft way.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:40 AM   #42
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Obviously my posts were too long and poorly explained if that was the only conclusion you drew . Yes author sorting is one issue, metadata plugboards are another. Both are far more easily resolved for the user by a simple question at startup than forcing them to spend hours of frustration and googling. They come up every week in the forums - and that is just from those who can be bothered to do so.
What you seem to be missing from my response is that those are specific things, that are indeed difficult to change for someone who doesn't like the way calibre does things, but, for someone who does, adding config for those options to the welcome wizard adds friction to the first use experience. That is a tradeoff, less frustration for some users (the set that dont like calibre defaults and that care enough to want to change them) vs. more friction for every new user. I'm willing to bet as much money as you like that if I were to make these changes, sooner or later some UX expert would make a post about how the Welcome Wizard threw off his grandmother and that therefore it is too complicated for someone trying out calibre, and that this is hindering calibre adoption.

Now I agree with you that setting up plugboards and chaging the author sort system is too complex. A solution to that, that I would be willing to merge is a wizard that runs on demand, rather than at startup and presents a few simple options for the common cases. Rather like the wizard I created for the column coloring rules.
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:45 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
My vision for calibre is that it is a tool for people that are serious about maintaining a collection of personal document/books/etc. I am not trying to compete with tools designed purely for throwaway content consumption. This probably means that calibre is never going to be universally used, and for people like us, that know what calibre is capable of, that is a shame, but I believe that there are more than enough people in the world for whom calibre will remain an excellent value proposition.
Fair point. Calibre is for Pros.

However, even with that position in mind, you should work more on the usability. I will write down a list of suggestions, and post them here in a few days. I don't know how to use all the features of Calibre (i've just used add, convert and send), so it can be a good position to help improve Calibre (ebook management for pro's)

regards
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Old 01-10-2012, 08:56 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovidgoyal View Post
Now I agree with you that setting up plugboards...
I've been using calibre for over a year and it doesn't cease to amaze me. Personally I wouldn't want a dumbed down version, but when it comes to plugboards, I must admit I looked into it at one point and got a headache

But maybe all this could be solved with themed skins. One theme could show just the simple interface - Add books, Sync to Device, etc - other theme could be an advanced UI and so on.

No matter what, for me, calibre is the app I couldn't live without.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:07 AM   #45
kovidgoyal
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@fesja: I am always happy to receive specific suggestions on how to improve a particular workflow. The calibre changelog should be more than enough proff of that

I can't promise that I will implement them, but unlike a large scale UI change, smaller suggestions have a much higher rate of acceptance.
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