A Small improvement, A Big reason

I have always had a special inclination towards Linux. Privacy, Security, Simplicity (GUI) and Power (Shell). It has its issues but it has its strengths as well. However, sometimes you find that in a software, when that one thing that makes or breaks your workflow is absent, you find yourself unable to continue using it.

In my case, it was Evince.

For many reasons I had to use Windows for a couple of months. Dual Booting on my laptop failed despite many tries and my college project required exclusively Windows-only software and the Microsoft Office Suite. They are just 2 reasons of many. However, one big reason I used Windows was the lack of the exact PDF reader I wanted. Silly? Let me explain.

Being an engineering student, I find myself required to read multiple books at a time – often juggling between them for different sections, subsections and references. I also have to read many papers for projects. 99 percent of the documents I need are in the popular PDF format. Now because I have to read so many different documents, I find it extremely convenient if the PDF reader auto-saved the document at the point where I closed it and opened it up from the same spot. Bookmarking becomes too messy when you are working with 30-40 documents at a time, and, takes away precious mental power when you open a document and search for the bookmark. I just could get comfortable with it.

I have dealt with many shenanigans when using Linux. Driver problems and the consequent fan problem. Screen tearing while playing videos. I accepted them all. But for some reason this really ticked me off. It became quite a big reason why I could not use Linux even if I wanted to. Like, the developers of Evince (and even Okular) could have added an option for this in the menu – is it that hard? As a substitute I had to use the excellent (and open source) SumatraPDF on Windows to fill that gap. I found that it really filled that small but big need of mine.

Today, after my project was over, I saw myself reinstalling Linux. Why? Because when I tried out Ubuntu GNOME 17.04 after many many months, I found that Evince finally has that feature. My esoteric Windows engineering software requirement is also gone as the project has ended successfully. I may not be juggling through 50 documents at once, but I still read few (mostly technical) books for leisure and knowledge. This little feature in Evince has contributed to me switching back to Linux.

Moral of the story? Sometimes what looks like a small feature to you might be a big deal for someone else, probably a potential user. Linux has a lot of these small-small things that stick out like a sore thumb – different thumbs to different users. I hate to admit it, but this is what Apple has managed to do successfully to a reasonable degree for the general consumer. So, GNOME Developers (or any devs for that matter), don’t needlessly remove options and settings from your applications to ‘simplify’ or ‘streamline’ development. Listen to your users. Listen to the suggestions. Be competitive and look at your worthiest competitors. Accept good patches from other people (Canonical is coming into your game, yo) A relatively small thing like this could be the reason why a user comes to your platform and your applications. And millions of such small things add up to an outstanding experience worth recommending to others.

Most people do not care about ethics or the open source philosophy – they care about the experience. The practical path to mainstreaming Linux (and open source software) is not just the morale behind it, it is the experience as well (more so, in my opinion).


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