Project Names in the User Interface


Eclipse Committers at EclipseCon Europe: if you see me wandering around, or sitting in a talk or at table, please come and introduce yourself. I’d like to meet you.


Earlier tonight, I tweeted an observation:

Doug responded:

Almost none of the estimated six million users of Eclipse need to know that the Git support provided in their favourite IDE was provided by the EGit project. In fact, most of those users would probably be confused by that knowledge. I like to think that most of them would sort of understand the purpose of an “EGit” perspective, but what they’re really looking for is a means of working with Git repositories. And so it is with CDT. Users of CDT are building C/C++ applications, not CDT applications. EGit and CDT get it right. So do a lot of other projects.

Project names belong in the “About” dialog and installation details. They don’t belong in the menus, views, editors, preferences, etc.

I think that getting this right is important. In many (perhaps most) cases, project names are like code names: they’re important to help a small subset of the community disambiguate providers of functionality. But when I use the software, I’ve noticed that I tend to think of the project-named functionality as being not-so-tightly integrated with the rest of the IDE experience. EGit and CDT on the other hand seem like very natural parts of my Eclipse configuration.

What does it mean to create a new “Woolsey Project”? (note that the Woolsey project doesn’t actually contribute anything like this). Those in the know would understand what it meant, but the broader audience would not. Some brave souls would give the option a try, but most users will just skip over the option and happily build a new “PHP Project” (PDT) or a “Maven Project” (m2eclipse).

It’s in a project’s best interest to avoid the “what the hell is this?” factor in favour of providing the most obvious “I want to do this” sort of option. Ultimately, though, project team members are the ones who best understand their community and what they expect to see when they sit down to use Eclipse.

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4 Responses to Project Names in the User Interface

  1. Totally agree!

    On a side note, you can embed tweets as of not so long ago and preserve the conversation!

    https://dev.twitter.com/docs/embedded-tweets

    Or you can use something like Storify.com too😉

    In the end, both options are better than screenshots😀

  2. PS says:

    It shouldn’t stop there. Take the PDT website for example. http://www.eclipse.org/projects/project.php?id=tools.pdt

    Under “Software Repository” it says this:

    This project maintains a p2 repository of binary artifacts. Copy and paste this link into the “Install New Software” dialog to install this project’s software.
    Note that the repository link will not necessarily display anything meaningful in your browser.

    A “p” what now? Binary artifacts?

    Who uses the “Tool Project” and “Top Level Projects” links in the left sidebar. I don’t really what those terms mean let alone understand what the difference is between a them.

    I’m picking on PDT here, but applies across all the projects.

    • waynebeaton says:

      I wasn’t including project websites in my post. Perhaps I should have.

      In defence of PDT, that page is automatically generated by some infrastructure we provided at the Eclipse Foundation. I’m working on a replacement and will consider your comments as we move forward with that.

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