UI themes (was Re: Serious Squeak (other "survey"))

Aaron Reichow revaaron at bitquabit.com
Thu Oct 19 20:44:10 UTC 2006

I'm a little slow on this whole replying business... But there were other
efforts for skinning as well. One I am fond of, and looks great (IMHO),
but doesn't cover everything Zurgle does (some widget Morphs) is called
simply Skins 2 by Stephan B. Wessels.   It's on SM, and also on Steve's

See also: http://minnow.cc.gatech.edu/squeak/1797

I've not looked to see if this works in anything newer than Squeak 3.7.
These are bitmapped themes, which are slow on slow machines, but have
seemed perfectly fine on machines with a 500 MHz PPC/x86 CPU or better. I
personally love it- I prefer the look of a lot of Ice WM themes plus to XP
or OS X.

I don't mean to start (or help fuel) yet another battle about native UI
and the way Squeak looks, but let me just say this:

1. If you want or need a native look for your app, check out the wxWindows
port for Squeak. I've not kept up on it, and I imagine it is far from
perfect, but the demo seemed neat enough.

2. If you want or need a native or nativeish look for your app *that bad*
investigate a Smalltalk that provides it. Ambrai, Dolphin, VisualWorks,
ST/X, etc.

3. I theme my Squeak images. Not always, but I tend to. I always really
like Henrik's bluelook, but I (or anyone else to my knowledge) never
ported it to 3.x, where it is broken due to there being a lot of Morphic
changes between 2.x and 3.x.  I think theming is a good way to make Squeak
look more "professional," which usually translates directly into "less
colorful and less fun."  I think you can achiveve this without having a
theme that looks just like the OS you're on.  The new look in 3.9, IMHO,
is a step in this direction- it feels much less ancient.

For instance:

Or, an image with the same theme installed, plus new fonts:

4. As always, it depends on your market, but consistent native UIs are
becoming a thing of the past.  So many people are using AJAX web apps,
Flash apps, downloaded apps with their own look completely, etc. This
isn't a cop out- I think we should have both for Squeak, but as always,
she who wants it the most is probably going to have to do the work, or
they can use what is available.

5. I, personally, prefer having a nice, non-native looking UI to a crappy
emulation of native UI. Most of the time, they don't look quite right, and
I feel it is more jarring to have a subtly weird wannabe native UI than
something completely different, but still clean, usable and good looking-
the latter we encounter almost every day somewhere online.  I prefer what
is in the above sq-w-theme.jpg screenshot to what I have seen in the past
in VisualWorks or Java's Swing (at least the OS X Aqua theme).  I like a
real, native UI if it's the real thing- but I hate nothing more than
something that is aiming to and pretending to be consistent and falls

I'm sure there are a lot of possible objections to what I just wrote, and
I wouldn't be surprised- I've been pretty out of touch with the Squeak
Community and its State of the Art for 3 years.  But, we've had this
discussion a thousand times.


revaaron at bitquabit.com || rev in #squeak on irc.freenode.net
   "Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must
         raise themselves to Liberty." -- Emma Goldman

On Sun, 15 Oct 2006, Bert Freudenberg wrote:

> Am 15.10.2006 um 10:00 schrieb Andreas Raab:
> > Bill Schwab wrote:
> >> At the risk of sounding a bit hostile, Jim Benson "put some damn
> >> effort
> >> into it" and was treated horribly IMHO.  I know it is not a popular
> >> statement (or at least it wasn't the last time I pointed it out), but
> >> there is still a glass ceiling in terms of affecting Squeak.  If you
> >> want people to "put some damn effort" into Squeak, the leaders
> >> needs to
> >> "put some damn effort" into reviewing their work.  Reject it if you
> >> will, but do not ignore it.
> >
> > ... the "mainstream" cannot necessarily cater to every subgroup. In
> > Jim's case it was pretty clear that this is work that will be
> > interesting for a particular subgroup of the community - people who
> > need 100% Windows looking apps. Jim did a *great* job at this but
> > the simple fact of the matter is that Squeak community is roughly
> > 30/30/30 between Windows, Mac, Unix and only a subset of the 30%
> > windows users really wants Windows looking apps. Meaning that
> > Zurgle might be interesting for (probably less than) 10% of the
> > overall users of Squeak. Personally, I don't see how Jim could have
> > been treated "less horribly" other than the people who care about
> > the native looking stuff to pick it up and help him. That he didn't
> > get much support -to me- is a clear sign that the percentage of
> > people who want Windows look is a lot less than 10%.
> IIRC Zurgle was not about Windows look but a general skinning
> framework, no? It was just that grabbing Windows bitmaps was easiest
> for Jim at the time, but he had a second theme, scifi-ish I think.
> At the time (1999/2000) several skinning projects were started. I
> contributed "Fur" (mouse-ish for "Skin"), which in Squeak tradition
> was about being able to change colors per window (I started with
> scrollbars, see http://wwwisg.cs.uni-magdeburg.de/~bert/squeak/fur/
> fur_prealpha.gif). Others like Jim's or Stephan's were "regular"
> bitmap themes (http://minnow.cc.gatech.edu/squeak/1114). None really
> took off, though.
> I think a new skinning framework (or resurrecting one of these) would
> be very worth-while. It *must* have an import capability for some
> existing themes so we get a decent look early, because the community
> lacks designers with spare time.
> I should also mention that in the Sophie project a XUL-based UI
> skinning framework was developed, and impara's designers put very
> nice-looking graphics into it. I bet there is a screenshot somewhere ...
> - Bert -

More information about the Squeak-dev mailing list