new working set icons... not unique?

Matthew Woehlke matthew.woehlke at
Wed Dec 18 20:46:18 GMT 2013

On 2013-12-18 08:08, Sven Brauch wrote:
>> Just upgraded to 4.6.0 today... the new working set icons are...
>> interesting. I'm not quite sure if the color is determined by the on/off
>> pattern (16 icons possible) or orthogonal (81 icons possible?).
> The pattern is random.

Yes, I've since determined it is orthogonal.

This is rather dubious from the principle of usability/accessibility. 
It's good that you at least don't appear to be using colors that would 
be less distinguishable to people with color vision limitations. However 
you also don't seem to be restricting the possible colors to ones that 
are distinguishable, period. (More on this below.)

There is a u7y/a11y guideline somewhere that color should never be used 
as the sole distinguishing feature of an interface element.

(Hum. This reminds me, I was reading somewhere about algorithms to 
generate recognizable graphical "fingerprints". I wonder if that would 
be applicable here. I believe the general technique is to do a random 
walk over a modest grid size - in KDevelop's case, probably 5x5 or even 
3x3 - and increment the cell value per visit, using a mapping of number 
of visits to, in the case I was reading, an ASCII character. For 
KDevelop, I would probably have two 'bins', one red and one blue, choose 
one at random to 'operate on' initially, and alternate that choice every 
time the random walk tries to cross the edge of the grid.)

>> However,
>> besides that upgrading destroys any previous memory associations, the
>> new icons don't feel nearly as mnemonic; it feels much harder to
>> remember that a particular set is associated with "the blue rising
>> (left-to-right) diagonal pattern" than the old icons which were e.g.
>> "world", "alarm", "portrait", and so forth.
> Ok, I see your issue. However previously, there were lots of
> complaints like "why is there an alarm clock icon in my IDE" and a lot
> of people were confused why there were random icons representing
> completely unrelated things used for the buttons. And I agree with
> them, it was really weird at places.
> That's why we decided to introduce a new, neutral set of icons.

...and I get where you're coming from also. Just saying, that despite 
their other flaws, the old icons were at least easy to remember. It 
would be best if there was a way to have both attributes.

>> (Especially as one could
>> creatively 'add all' to get a particular icon to be associated with a
>> particular working set such that there is some logical association
>> between the set and the icon, e.g. "improving the testing framework"
>> with "alarm".)
> Well, that was never meant to work like this

Obviously :-), but it /was/ a convenient coincidence.

> We could have a "new random icon" button to allow picking new icons
> when you get one you find particularily hard to remember, if that
> would help you.

What about just letting the user pick the icon? One option then could of 
course be to generate a new, random one, but this would allow the user 
to assign genuinely memorable and relevant icons as well.

>> Worse, however, in one of my sessions I have the same icon twice but for
>> different working sets!
> This is a valid complaint. It is indeed possible that icons which are
> very similar to each other are generated (if you look closely, you'll
> probably find they differ by a bit).

Ah. Well, if I resort to KColorChooser, that claims there is a 
difference. And now having done so, *maybe* I can tell. But as you can 
see from the attached, it's not ideal.

> Suggestions on how to improve this are welcome.
> Would a "generate new icon" button help here, too maybe?

Yes, or choose, or as per the first paragraph, limit the possible color 
choices to ones that are reasonably distinct to begin with. Even if you 
limit the colors to [dark, light] × [red, magenta, blue] (and dark 
gray), that still gives 7^4 (2401) possible icons, which ought to be 
enough to choose unique ones for any reasonable session. (I'd be 
surprised if any human can realistically cope with 100 sessions, let 
alone thousands...)

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: kdevelop-session-icons.png
Type: image/png
Size: 1045 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>

More information about the KDevelop mailing list