Multiple styles in icon themes and the future of the XDG icon specs
Bollinger, John C
John.Bollinger at STJUDE.ORG
Tue Nov 19 14:32:21 UTC 2019
> The Breeze icon theme currently has an issue where we (KDE's designers) want to use different styles for different parts of a GUI, but what we want to do cannot be done without breaking compatibility with XDG icon specs.
What you're describing could be characterized as using different _themes_ for different parts of a GUI, and indeed, it may be that structuring your design around that idea would provide a way forward that benefits from reasonably good support from existing foundations.
Do keep in mind, however, that one of the main objectives of themes is to provide UI elements that are consistent across applications and contexts. You may not remember the days when every application provided its own icons for everything, but it was needlessly painful and made everything harder to use. Consistent icon naming does support icon theme swapping, but that's a secondary consideration.
Consistency would not be impacted too badly by a multi-theme UI if the themes involved were appropriately designed for use together. For example, monochrome and full-color versions of the same icons would probably work together without too much friction, but even there you're stepping on user expectations: I predict that most users would suppose that there was some difference between the meaning of color and monochrome versions of an icon. In that particular case, in fact, I'd expect that some users would confuse the monochrome icons with icons for disabled actions.
> Could the XDG icon specs be modified to allow the use of different icon styles for different GUI components without requiring apps to request those different styles?
No doubt the specs could be so modified, but I don't think they should be. Themes already serve effectively as namespaces for icon names. It would be less disruptive and more portable to build support for multi-theming than to make themes themselves more complex. If you want to look at it this way, I suppose I'm suggesting that you approach the problem by adding a new layer of indirection.
From: xdg [mailto:xdg-bounces at lists.freedesktop.org] On Behalf Of Noah Davis
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2019 10:01 PM
To: xdg <xdg at lists.freedesktop.org>
Subject: Multiple styles in icon themes and the future of the XDG icon specs
Caution: External Sender
Hello, I work on KDE's Breeze icons.
The Breeze icon theme currently has an issue where we (KDE's designers) want to use different styles for different parts of a GUI, but what we want to do cannot be done without breaking compatibility with XDG icon specs. That, or creating a ton of icons with special names that kind of defeat the purpose of adhering to the XDG icon naming spec (allowing themes to be interchangeable). Icon themes with good icon coverage typically use tons of symlinks anyway though.
Examples of what we want to do:
- We want all applications to use monochrome/symbolic icons for buttons, comboboxes, appmenus and context menus without requiring applications to ask for symbolic icons.
- Note: We have some icons with names that end with "-symbolic", but those are mainly for compatibility with GNOME apps. We normally don't use any name suffix or prefix to mark icons as monochrome/symbolic or full color. If we did, then many applications would not use any monochrome/symbolic icons.
- We want to use just full color icons in certain situations, such as our system settings sidebar.
- We want to do both of these things while allowing our users to use other icon themes that may work differently (e.g., full color icon themes like Oxygen).
Problems we have with our icon theme and the XDG icon specs:
- Since before I started working on icons, Breeze has had 32px monochrome/symbolic icons in the actions category and 32px color icons in other categories. The people who created Breeze clearly wanted buttons and menus to use monochrome icons and other parts of applications to use color icons.
- The XDG icon specs do not allow us to do what we want. They seem to be designed around themes that only use one style. Icon categories are only for organization.
- App developers sometimes use icon names in ways that assume icons will only be in one style.
- For example, action icons like edit-find are sometimes used for preference categories.
- It's not necessarily wrong and it allows app developers to be compatible with many icon themes, but with Breeze it causes their apps to show a mix of color and monochrome/symbolic icons in cases where one or the other is not desirable.
Could the XDG icon specs be modified to allow the use of different icon styles for different GUI components without requiring apps to request those different styles?
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