OPEN LOOK/Motif, was Re: MOTIF: The GUI

Tom Yager tyager at maxx.UUCP
Mon Oct 30 08:38:41 AEST 1989

In article <6056 at gssc.UUCP>, jdm at gssc.UUCP (John David Miller) writes:
> I have written several thousand lines of code with the AT&T OPEN LOOK Toolkit
> (Xt+, based on the MIT Intrinsics) and have enjoyed the experience. 

I think it's great that there are finally some GUIs that inspire people
to say "I like writing code for it." I've been hearing for so long from
programmers (or engineers, if you prefer) who insist that, like medicine,
a good GUI must be hard to take.

Instead of taking pot-shots at each other, we should all recognize how
revolutionary it is that companies are cooperating to create products that
are, horror of horrors, easy for programmers as well as users!

> The user interface was extremely well thought out and has been highly
> refined by an public review program that ran for about a year.  Motif
> may or may not look like PM (I don't think it does) but OPEN LOOK is
> very similar to the Mac, and actually better in several places.  As 
> an example: the up/down (or left/right) arrows on scrollbars ride 
> with the position indicator, rather than being at the extremes of the
> region being scrolled.  Much less mouse movement is involved to 
> scroll back and forth.

The elevators are only one aspect of Open Look that appeals to me. I also like
the menu push-pins, the "help beam" (a help window that is projected from
the text or object that triggered it), and the fact that the interface is just
as attractive in monochrome. In fact, I've seen OL in color, and, frankly,
color adds almost nothing to the interface's attractiveness. I'll see more
recent renditions at UNIX Expo, and my opinion may change.

As for similarity to the Mac, you must recognize that MS and HP purposely
avoided an appearance that was too Mac-like. Remember that when OSF was
making their interface choice, Apple's lawsuit was getting lots of press.

> OPEN LOOK detractors have said:
> 	1. AT&T and Sun OPEN LOOK implementations have different looks.
> 		I personally find it ironic that, while the OPEN LOOK
> 		team was simplifying the look in response to industry
> 		review, Motif comes out with a very visually complex
> 		look.

You speak as though the OL team was the only one answerable to public demand.
OSF reviewed dozens of UIs (actually, UECs) before settling on Motif, and
then insisted that the API be modified to look more like DEC's. This review
was carried on by technical people, not bureaucrats. Sure, politics played
a part, but in the end, I think they reached a laudable decision.

Open Look was submitted, but since it hadn't yet been implemented as anything
but a prototype, the OSF couldn't use it. Pity. I would have liked a few
OL features rolled into Motif.

> 	2. But I really *like* Motif's 3D look.
> 		The color specification of OPEN LOOK allows for this "3D"
> 		implementation, if you really must have it.  I think that
> 		3D looks are cute at first, but they take up too much
> 		valuable pixel space.

I'll be looking for a 3-D OL at UNIX Expo this week. If you're talking about
manually doing all the shading that Motif does, forget it. If, however, there's
some resource I can set to bring up a pre-defined 3-D look, that will be
a powerful answer to Motif.

The real-estate gripe only applies with screen dimensions of, say, 640x480.
Screens larger than that can easily absorb the borders placed by the Motif
window manager. Besides, if all the borders take up too much space, they can
be selectively removed in the interest of conservation, and their actions
performed instead through pop-ups.

Applications can take advantage of the 3-D enhancements without too much
impact on the window's total size. Some of the shading and shadowbox
effects are carried out with lines that are one or two pixels wide. 

The real problem is colormap cells. Motif is color-hungry, and barely able
to run on a 4-plane system. With Motif running, so many colors are soaked
up that applications that can really use color are left to choose: Use
colors that Motif has already allocated, use a private color map (yuk!),
or don't run. Most apps I've tried will simply take the latter route. Lastly,
let me say that, without a doubt, Motif is one ugly mama in monochrome.

> 	4. Motif looks just like PM and we should just use that UI.
> 		I'd like to know how many people *really* think that 
> 		Motif looks like PM.  I don't.  Even if it did, I don't
> 		think that that is necessarily a good thing.  Why make
> 		your workstation look like it is running a DOS derivative?

Oops. Thought you were trying to avoid a flame-war! Presentation Manager is
damn good-looking, and I'd hardly call OS/2 a DOS derivative. In 3-D, PM
takes on a sexy appearance that OL can't touch. If I were trying to sell
machines in a booth at a trade show, I'd rather have my systems running
Motif and/or PM than anything else. With displays of the proper size and
depth, OL just doesn't come close to Motif's appeal. I'm aware that there
are many other issues, some more important, but purely on the basis of looks,
Motif wins hands-down.

> 	5. But Microsoft and IBM are behind Motif.
> 		No, they're not.  Microsoft wants OS/2 and PM everywhere.
> 		IBM does, too.  To them, X and Motif are placators.

Screw Microsoft. They don't have the clout to drive anything in the UNIX
business. The reason PM got picked up by OSF is that HP was behind it, and
had a real, working implementation to show. As for IBM, they don't know
what they want. 

HP/Apollo, DEC and the rest of the OSF are firmly behind both X and Motif.
IBM and Microsoft can go pound sand, as far as I'm concerned. Their
indecisiveness will probably leave them in the dust. UI and OSF have made
some earth-shattering decisions, and anyone who doesn't wanna play along
can take their chances.

I'll wager that Microsoft will eventually cough up a Motif API for PM.

> 	6. But what about OSF/1?
> 		Where is it?  UNIX SVR4.0 is in OEM's hands right now.

Hear, hear. Even though it will probably take a full year before any vendors
actually release a 4.0 OS, AT&T is clearly ahead of the race on this one.

> I have probably said too much, already.  I just wanted to register my
> somewhat emphatic vote for the OPEN LOOK GUI and encourage you to really
> look at all sides of this issue before making any decisions.  Write some
> code in each toolkit and see how easy it is to do what you want. 

Don't forget about Motif's UIL. This can help simplify development for a
broad range of applications. It's a little quirky, but it's nice to load
up all your widgets with a single call, and make changes to attributes
without recompiling the C code.

I'll agree with the overall tone of your posting: Don't get so caught up in the
politics of OSF vs. UI/AT&T that you never decide for yourself which is the
better interface. Open Look's got some catching up to do, but an application
could benefit greatly from being devloped with either it or Motif.

> -- jdm
> -- 
> ...!{tektronix!verdix}!sequent!gssc!jdm              John David Miller
> (503) 641-2200                                       Graphic Software Systems
> * This space intentionally  *                        9590 S.W. Gemini Dr.
> * left blank.               *                        Beaverton, OR  97005
+--Tom Yager, Technical Editor, BYTE magazine------------------------------+
|  NET: tyager%maxx at -or- tyager%bytepb at            | 
|  I speak only for myself           "If our knees bent the other way,     |
+-------------------------------------what would a chair look like?"-------+

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