Are we transparent enough?

We changed the default mouse click behaviour to double-click for KF6.
For me this was surprising, so I would like to raise a few questions here that might as well be answered with: "sure, we are", and I just did not see it because I am a bit out of touch with KDE development news (and modern ways of communication in general). Personal and biased opinion follows. But here are the questions first:

Are we handling such a prominently user-facing (as in in your face) changes transparently enough?

How do we decide for such (as in groundbreaking) new defaults?

Have the users (as in many of them) been asked?

Update: I want to stress again that I am talking about transparency towards normal users. I am aware that this has been discussed within the development groups involved for quite some time. Even though I did not stumble over those discussions then, they were happening and can be looked up now.

So, now for the personal opinion...
To me that change came a bit as a surprise both in it happening at all, as well as in the actual nature of the decision. I did not see any blog posts or mailing list topics regarding this before. I just found the already made decision at some point. And it felt weird. For me, the single-click behaviour, though surprising to users coming from Windows, has always felt like a good idea. On Windows I tended to weird-click sometimes, meaning, I tried to double-click, felt, that I would not be fast enough, cramped and then the intended double-click degraded half-way to a slightly longer single-click. So when I switched to KDE around 2004, I considered it progress when discovering the single-click behaviour. I even tried to enable it on Windows ... but since it is not the default, many apps do not really support it and either still use double-click or their work flows break. This is 15 years old knowledge of course so things might have changed since I stopped watching the Windows world with interest.

From what I see at work, Windows today uses some mixture of single and double-click depending on what you click. They also use a weird mixture of explicit Save button and auto-save depending on where you are doing your settings (as does the Web). And the world is still spinning. So people can adapt to even the weirdest behaviours.

The Web also uses single click. Back when the Web found its way into more and more households, people used to double-click on links (hyperlinks, as they were called back then). I remember that because I installed a lot of modems and Netscapes back then for non-techy friends and friends of friends and even enemies of friends. But the people adapted. These days the only one using double-click on links is your mom ... err, I mean, my mom. But she is even older than I am, so she is forgiven.

Then there are mobile platforms with their touch-based interfaces. They use single-tap. Users adapted. Not sure if there are people who would like to use double-tap to open files on their phones, but I do not know anyone who does.

So what do the people I know, think? I do not have many friends using KDE but all four of them use single click and like it. Three just switched from Windows in recent months and found it funny at first and nice shortly after. None of them chose to change the setting to double click even though I showed them how to do it.

On a side note, all of them changed the touch pad to tap to click but we did not change that one (yet?).

So in my little world, it does not make sense to fall back to the ancient double-click behaviour.

Of course, single-click behaviour has drawbacks. How to gracefully select a file would be the elephant in the room, I guess. The touch-interfacy long tap would probably feel weird (and hard to discover, unless you are cramp-clicking like me sometimes). So do the currently in-place select marker and the rubber band. Everyone hates at least one of them and more or less happily uses the other. But people adapt and go on with their lives. ... And so we will do with the new double-click behaviour in KDE. It just feels weird to me because single-click felt like progress and the recent change feels like going back to spinning drives again instead.

Bonus question: will the select marker be disabled by default now since it does not make sense to have it? And will said marker be enabled automatically if people switch to single-click behaviour? Might feel weird without having it then.

Anyhow, enough with the old man yelling at cloud.


Besides the fact that users rely on single-click to select things prior to performing an action, 'because people are used to it' is absolutely a valid UX decision, and when departing from commonly accepted patterns / paradigms, the onus is then on the interface to guide the user through through the shift, whether that's through affordances, progressive disclosure, a tutorial as a last resort, or some other means (unless you're GNOME, apparently). When the vast majority of computer users are already used to the double-click behavior, is it worth the time attempting to solve all of the design problems created by a single-click default when some power-users, who probably already know how to change the setting, can simply flip a switch?

By NathanU at Sun, 08/20/2023 - 21:56

Why don’t you follow closer project development, instead of ranting all over the planet? That’s toxic for a froma community pov.

By Jk at Sun, 08/20/2023 - 19:34

I was talking about "visible to users" and not inside development.

... And it was not a rant.

By schwarzer at Sun, 08/20/2023 - 19:39

The fact that a change was coming was announced in a blog post: With published two days ago, that makes two blog posts mentioning the change, and Plasma 6 is still at least 4 months away from being released. My blog is quite user-facing, as every week's "this week in KDE" article is posted to, the r/kde subreddit (which has 100k subscribers) and Phoronix (unknown number of readers, but it's my largest non-search-engine referrer, so presumably more than 100k). "Better defaults" is also my best-performing post of all time, with 13k lifetime views despite being only 3 months old. Niccolò has also made YouTube videos about the change. These are all very much user-facing communication methods. Much more so than mailing lists, at least. Today's users are on Reddit and YouTube, not the kde-community mailing list. Maybe not ideal, but it is what it is.

Since we don't have telemetry or require an account to use our software, we rely on users paying attention to our public communications or development channels if they want to get notified of upcoming changes in advance. So it's quite certain that many users will not hear about this change ahead of time. But so it is with every change. To a certain extent we rely on people to trust our decision-making when they choose our platform but decide not to follow the news or get involved in its development.

As for "did we ask the users?" I can recall multiple polls on Reddit that all showed a strong preference for double-click. Of course Reddit may not be representative of our users, but what would be more representative with a similar sample size? Recall that the r/kde subreddit has 100k subscribers. This was also before when our old forums were quite moribund, so we didn't do it there and we didn't anticipate that the sample size would be good enough to trust the results. Were it being done today, I think we'd run the poll again on Discuss, in addition to one on Reddit.

As for "how did we make the decision?" it was the result of multiple years of public discussions on that you can go and find if you want, with a final decision made at the 2023 Plasma sprint to draw the discussion to an actionable conclusion.

And finally, yes, the selection marker is automatically hidden when using double-click--at least in Plasma's Folder View. In Dolphin it's a manual configuration step. This could easily be changed to match what Plasma does, of course. Would be a good patch opportunity!

By Nate Graham at Sun, 08/20/2023 - 22:32

Thanks for the explanation. I was not aware of all the research that has gone into this beforehand. ... I guess the reason for that is that I am somewhat stuck on slowly but steadily obsoleting communication channels feeling alienated by all the reddits and twitters and whatnots. ...

By schwarzer at Mon, 08/21/2023 - 08:20

I understand completely. I also have not fully embraced all the modern communications channels, and am not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, or even Mastodon. I only grudgingly have a Reddit account that I use almost exclusively for KDE user support, and I'm trying to wind that down in favor of providing it on instead.

But you don't need to follow everything everywhere and go full modern social media. IMO, by its nature as an aggregator, remains the best place to get KDE news, either as a user or a developer. A few minutes a day scanning the "headlines", so to speak, is probably enough.

By Nate Graham at Mon, 08/21/2023 - 16:17

TBH, discussions in a bug tracker or review system are to me not a "public discussion". You see them only if you happen to watch that issue or MR. Otherwise they go unnoticed.
I still think mailing lists are a good place for public discussions (yes I'm getting old...). ;-)


By Alexander Neundorf at Wed, 09/13/2023 - 19:59

If there's no consensus (and there clearly is no) than one should not change the defaults. Especially based on some marginal reddit vote. I was never asked, but under every single post about that I complined and my voice was not heard.

I don't care about people comming from Windows. If there is some Windows-newcommers distro, than it can have different defaults. We should care about actual KDE users, not some potential users comming from other platforms.

And just as a side remark: Most of new users today, come from touch-enabled devices. No double click there either.

By kde user at Mon, 08/21/2023 - 08:45