Usability Review of KPackageKit for use with Kubuntu 9.04

Version tested: 0.3.1-0ubuntu1~ppa2 (running Kubuntu 8.10)

  • - Apparently the version of KPackageKit available in Jaunty is newer (as well as PolicyKit) and so there may be some things which work better. I may be able to install Jaunty on a virtual box later this week.


The purpose of this Expert Usability Review is

  • To evaluate the suitability of KPackageKit as a replacement for Adept in Kubuntu 9.04
  • To find usability issues that need to be fixed in order to use KPackageKit in Kubuntu 9.04
  • To give recommendations for fixing usability issues

Conceptual differences toward Adept

Different concepts for software installation and package management vs. single concept

Up to now (K)Ubuntu separated software installation and package management in two different concepts:

  • Software Installation (install major GUI-applications from a concise selection by category)
  • Package management (install minor GUI or text applications or additional packages from all packages available in repositories)

Novice users could install most of the applications they needed without knowledge of the package concept while advanced users could do package management efficiently. KPackageKit only has one „mode” and thus confronts even novice users with the whole spectrum of available packages. It is currently not clear if there will be a separate application/mode for application installation besides KPackageKit.

  • - We discussed this at UDS. It may be easy enough to add an "Applications" page in addition to the "Software Management" page. In that case, "Software Management" should be renamed to "Packages". -- Depends on how that page will be workung, right?

Note: Work to patch this functionality is underway by me -- roderick-greening 2009-02-09 20:59:59

Package management and source configuration in one application vs. separated

Adept allows to configure repositories directly, Synaptic offers a menu item to the sources configuration tool. KPackageKit only allows to select or deselect repositories in „Settings” but not to add new ones or completely remove repositories or add package signatures. Thus if Adept is going to be replaced by KPackageKit either complete sources configuration functionality has to be added to KPackageKit or there has to be a link to a separate configuration application.

  • - Low priority issue: Most users will never need to add new repositories. There are several "optional" repositories shipped as disabled that users can configure. Add/Remove from the list would be a nice feature but not important. -- Are there any numbers on that? I for my part have used additional repos practically since starting with linux. For example easycam, which is needed to get some webcams working, is installed using a third-party repo...

Note: This functionality has been patched in by me (added an Edit Sources button which calls software-properties-kde). -- roderick-greening 2009-02-09 21:16:30

UI Issues in Source Configuration

Labels under KPackageKit Settings should be right aligned.

Could not find a way to enable the "Notify when long tasks have been completed" option in the Smart Tray Icon group box.

Not sure what "show origins of debug and development packages" means. Does this only apply when you have debug and development packages installed?

KPackageKit only asks for authentication when performing changes

Adept and Synaptic ask for root privileges to get apt lock on start. KPackageKit uses PolicyKit and thus only asks for authentication when performing changes.

  • - KPackageKit asks me for the root password on start via kdesudo. How are you starting it? From Kickoff/command line/Krunner?

    -- I started it using Kickoff. Hm, maybe my PolicyKit settings got messed up somehow. Don't know how to change those, though...

Search by Category

If the user first enters a package name and clicks "Find" and then chooses a category from the dropdown on the right, all packages of that category are displayed, regardless of the search field's content. The search field is neither cleared nor disabled, suggesting it is still applied. The same holds true in the reversed order: When entering a string in the search field after selecting a category, the category is still shown as selected but corresponding packages of all categories are shown. As a consequence

  • The status displayed in the search controls does not match the search criteria actually applied, thus creating inconsistency.
  • The category selection is hardly useful at all this way, since without further filtering/searching there are far too many packages per category for browsing through them. - High priority issue: The filters should appear next to the search box and the Find button should be reordered to be at the end of the line so there is a sense of what order you should do things in. What do you think of making the "Filters" a configuration popup? Configuring radio buttons in a drop down cascading menu is very weird. -- Agreed, a dialog would probably work better there,

Labelling of category dropdown

The label "All Packages" for the category dropdown does not imply it's function as a category selector. "Category: All" as default would be more meaningful here.

Filters not applied immediately

The filters are not immediately applied upon selection, instead they only apply to the next search or category selection. This is not consistent with expectations, leading users to think that they are already applied or suspecting them not to work since there is no feedback.

Instant/incremental/dynamic search has become widespread and thus expected by now, so users expect search results to be displayed as they type. KPackageKit still uses a "search" button (which is labeled "Find") to start a search. This is especially a problem because KDE tends to use dynamic searches in the rest of the environment. Users who are used to this functionality might not notice they must click the Find button in order to activate the search.

  • - High priority issue: KPackageKit should use the KDE dynamic search. At the very least the label for the Find button changed to "Search".

No search in descriptions

The version of KPackageKit we tested did not support search in package descriptions. This feature is essential for users who only know what purpose they are searching software for, not the name of the software/package. However, users have to be given the choice to optionally only search in packages names.

Issues in the package list

Plus/Minus icons are not appropriate

The plus/minus icons used to install/remove packages are not appropriate here because

  1. They are used in KDE4 not to describe actual installation/removing of components, but only adding/removing widgets to/from the desktop or panel. These are different actions and thus correpsonding visual representations should not be mixed.
  2. It is not clear whether the icon represents the current status or the available action (which in this case is the exact opposite). This is a problem in the "Add Widget" dialog as well, but it is less critical there since a widget's status (placed on the desktop/panel or not) is clearly visible outside of the "Add Widget" dialog. This is not the case in KPackageKit. - High priority issue: need mockup of possible alternatives. -- If we don't find anything better, even the "checkboxes" Synaptic uses work better (though I agree that they are ugly)

No feedback while loading descriptions

On slower computers (tested on an Intel Pentium M 1500 MHz) Package details sometimes take several seconds to load. There is no feedback about that. In fact, the user still sees the description of the last selected package. Either the loading times should be considerably reduced or there should be clear visual feedback of the loading process.

  • - I don't remember what type of feedback the KDE dynamic search has if it has feedback at all. Changing the search to dynamic is a high priority so hopefully there wont be a need to provide search progress since search results will appear dynamically (and is the feedback). -- Seems I didn't describe that very well. It's not the list that doesn't get updated but the Description that is displaed when clicking a package name. It doesn't change immediately after clicking another package. So for several seconds on my machine it shows the new package selected but still the description of the last one.

Software Updates

Icons too big

The icons indicating the kind of update are too big. This is more of an aesthetical problem, though.

  • - Low priority issue


I was expecting to get a list of previously updated software, not how long ago the cache was last refreshed. That happens once a day, so that is pretty useless information. Should this functionality/button be removed? If people really care when the cache was last refreshed, we could put is in the blank list box until they choose an option.

Update description not working

Currently (under Kubuntu Intrepid) update descriptions cannot be loaded.

Potential security issues

No warning when installing unauthenticated packages

There seems to be no warning or notification when trying to install unsigned/unauthenticated packages (tried with updates from ppa repositories)

  • - High priority issue

KPackageKitReview (last edited 2009-02-09 20:18:30 by pool1)