Remember Amarok 1.4? Remember how awesome it was? Here's a screenshot just in case you don't remember.
Does it bring back fond memories of music and comfortable GUI interfaces? It does for me. Those were good times. Keep that picture in mind.
Let's play a game called "Can we make Amarok 2.2 look like Amarok 1.4"? I've heard this as a response to complaints about Amarok 2's GUI: You can make it look like Amarok 1.4 if you want.
So let's try. Ready? Here it is:
Does it look the same? Not really. Kind of close. That's as good as I could do though. There are no headers on the columns in the playlist, so you can't tell what half of those things mean. You can't resize the fields (like you could in 1.4). You can't sort them by a simple click of a header (like you could in 1.4); instead you have that strange breadcrumb thing up there. You can't add new fields by right-clicking and picking them from a menu (as you could in 1.4). Not as many songs fit in the playlist in 2.2, but it's pretty close.
Now, here's the good part. How do you get Amarok 2.2 to look this way? By doing THIS!
AAHHHHHHH! Too bad Halloween is gone, because I could use that dialog to scare children. The title of this blog post, DISBER GROGTH GROCKS, comes from the mangled and truncated labels in that horizontally-scrolling list of icons. Doesn't it sound like the deranged grunting of a once-proud beast, now fallen into ruin, stumbling zombie-like through the world, a mere shambles of its former self? I think so.
Once in a blue moon, I'll witness the behavior of an application that's so off-the-wall, bat-honking insane that I'm reduced to maniacal laughter. That's not an exaggeration; I literally gape at the computer screen and cackle like a madman, curling reflexively into a fetal position. This was one of those times.
It took me well over a half hour to drag and drop all of those controls into that window in the right order with dividers between them. Thank God for 1920x1200 monitors or the dialog wouldn't even have fit on the screen. (No, it's not resizable.)
Why a half hour? Because I also had to click every single one of those elements and set its width as a percentage using a slider in a sub-dialog. By default every field is an equal width, so that a field with a single digit in it has a mile of whitespace on either side, while song titles are displayed as "C...". And this dialog is the only way to fix it:
How did I come up with 25% there? Laborious trial-and-error. Amarok 2.2. takes what was a click-and-drag-to-resize operation in every other application ever written, and turns it into an algebra problem. Twelve fields I had to tweak, one by one. I was probably in and out of that dialog 3 or 4 dozen times.
(I'll spare you what happens when you resize the window in Amarok 2.2. Suffice it to say once you get it looking OK, never touch it again.)
Now, I'm no expert on GUI design. But I'm guessing there's a reason most applications don't do things this way. Columns of data with headers at the top are nice. They're kind of boring, but they're boring like a doorknob. You turn it and the door opens. There isn't much room (or need) for improvement. I don't want to have to solve a logic puzzle to get out of the bathroom every morning, and I don't want to play a video game of line-up-the-widgets and guess-the-percentages just to get a playlist to display some fields of information.
In Amarok 2.2 there's also no button for Repeat/Shuffle, and the Equalizer tells me it disabled itself because I don't have the right version of Phonon, and the collection list is very unresponsive (even expanding / collapsing an artist's albums lags), and there are no visualizations, and no themes, and the volume slider is hidden behind a button in the bottom-right there unlike Amarok 1.4's perfectly functional slider, and well you get the picture. But hey, you can browse Flickr in Amarok now. Finally!
Amarok 2.2 is what I'd now call "just barely usable", which is actually an improvement from previous versions, but that's not saying much. I've used it for over a month, only because 1.4 can no longer even scan a collection on my computer, Last.fm is broken, and I got a notice today that Gentoo is deprecating KDE3 entirely. Amarok 1.4 is the new XMMS; Qt3 is the new GTK1. Some people will cling to them, somehow barely keeping them running on their systems, until bitrot and neglect force them to fade away into history, whether there's a good replacement around or not.
I was a huge cheerleader for Amarok 1.4; it was a flagship KDE / Linux GUI app. Now I don't know what to say. Final grade, Amarok 2.2: D+. It avoided an F because I can get sound to come out of it, and it didn't erase my hard drive.
(Anyone out there reading this, if you port Amarok 1.4 to Qt4 intact, I will pay you. Seriously. I will pay you money.)