On Sunday 24 January 2010 03:37:35 pm Jack Armstrong wrote:
I use Inkscape to create vector files that ultimately are converted for use with computerized paper cutting machines - these are either converted vinyl cutters or special purpose machines designed for use by home hobbyists to make scrapbook pages, cards, etc. The users are amateur crafts people, not professional artisans nor skilled computer users. Unfortunately, the software they must use to drive their cutters is almost universally Microsoft based. Not to generalize, but most of these users are women, and most are barely comfortable turning a PC on and using it for email.
We would like the cutter and scrap booking communities to not have to use proprietary software as well. But like you said most of the people in those communities are not skilled computer users. There in lies the rub most non- technical user think the technical user don't care or want about their input.
I participate in several forums for these hobbyists, frequently answering questions about how to use PCs in general. I've recommended Inkscape, but many of them find the learning curve too steep, preferring proprietary software that comes with their machines - very limited in what it can do, but stone simple to operate. Photoshop is a stretch for these people, and things like Illustrator totally beyond what they want to learn (or pay for). I've also recommended Linux distros like Ubuntu, but this is a different audience - if it doesn't turn on and work by itself, they look elsewhere. Like all too many PC users, if their machine gives them any problems, they dump it and buy a new one - with the latest Microsoft disaster. Apple loses out on this market except for those capable of using Boot Camp to run their cutter software - plus their added cost.
What exactly are they having troubles with? Is it have to learn too much at one time. If so the easy solution is to make a tutorial that clearly state these are the only tools and functions you have to know. All the other stuff is extra and can be fun to play with if thing have time, but totally not needed.
A second thing that will help more in the long run is to help us build a user profile that helps us account for this type of user when making design decisions.
Back to Inkscape - I'd love to see a scaled down version that implements a short list of features sufficient to create line designs (color is immaterial here - cutters only cut, not paint), save files in svg, and perhaps with an optional plugin to allow output to craft cutters. Some of these machines use HPGL, but too many require some variation thereof and would have to be customized for a particular machine. Not a huge audience, and one that would require some initial hand-holding, but once introduced to Inkscape in a gentle way, I predict they would be enthusiastic supporters and want to grow into using more advanced capabilities. I know there has been some interest here in an HPGL output option, but there needs to be a means of specifying additional information - i.e., cutting speed, knife pressure, etc. that are generally unique to the cutter being used. I do correspond with some advanced users who use Inkscape like I do, but they tend to be skilled artists in another life and very skilled in the use of computers in general.
This is clearly an area the Inkscape and the FOSS world in general needs help. We were starting to work with a couple of groups to help get this sorted, but the project fell apart. We really just waiting to find a motivated contributor who is interested in this. Since everyone works on the things that interest them. The good news is joining the team is easy. Two patches, translation updates, documentation additions get you commit rights to BZR.
Sorry if I offended any of the Inkscape or Linux community, but I've long held the belief that machines need to accommodate to the user's, not the other way around. Assuming a basic knowledge of Unix skills and vocabulary in order to use a device makes support a lot easier, but severely restricts the user base.
I'm not offended. I'm worried that there is someone in our community that has given you that impression. We are a warm and friendly community and if anyone is not treating you correctly, please let us know so it can be dealt with.
I'm probably very jaded for determining if Inkscape is requires *nix skills and vocabulary since I completely moved away from the windows world 6+ years ago. Please tell us exactly were we are making things overly complex or to unix-y this will help us improve our user experience.
If you have time please relay to us your experiences with the communities you work with this will help us build a better Inkscape.
Joshua L. Blocher verbalshadow