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By: Open Printing, m+mi works and Relevantive


Project state: not dead, just resting

As of the openPrinting summit 2010, in San Francisco, the state of the common print dialog interaction design is as follows.

known usability defects

In April 2010, based on the preliminary UI specification, a rough KDE implementation had been readied for usability testing, by relevantive AG, Berlin. The results of these usability tests were presented at the summit and in general validated the interaction design concepts, like the preview and the aggregated (instead of exclusive, i.e. tabbed) view of different print parameters. However, the tests also showed usability issues with the presets and tagging concepts, and with some of the parameters representations.

Apart from these outstanding issues, the print dialog is also not specified for every type of mainstream printer, for instance large format plotter types.

not ready for implementation

It is therefore that the usability specialists at relevantive and the interaction architects at m+mi works have to conclude that the usability of the current interaction design is not sufficient to warrant implementation.

Developers fix bugs in their code. Interaction architects fix usability issues in their concepts. To do so, m+mi works has worked out, in cooperation with relevantive, a plan to finalise the interaction design. This involves user surveying, UI redesign and usability tests. Quite straightforward, just solid usability and interaction design work.

get moving

What is lacking at the moment is support, beyond words. Of those with commercial interest in, or other plain dependencies on, a modern printing infrastructure for linux, i.e.:

  • the linux distributions;
  • the KDE and GNOME desktop environments;
  • the linux community organisations;
  • the printer manufacturers;
  • leading open source applications;
  • large linux end-user organisations.

Any of these would ride the wave of a modern common printing dialog. None of them is forthcoming with funding, for what actually makes the cpd work: the interaction design and usability.

Until that is resolved, the common print dialog is simply just resting.

Project Overview- developing the Linux Printing UI project

These pages are for the collaborative effort to develop an optimal unified printing dialog for Linux (and other unix-related systems), the job control, printer installation and printer management.
It is maintained by Jan Muehlig from relevantive. Peter Sikking and Kate Price from m+mi works do the bulk of the design work here, with support from Celeste Lyn Paul from User-Centered Design, Inc. and KDE, all in the context of

The key stages of the design process are:

Analysis: Initial analysis of the challenges and requirements of the project, as well as a process of evaluation and testing, has enabled us to construct a truly innovative solutions model that realises the open printing project goals.

Design: We are creating a detailed layout and interaction model for the printing dialogue. We are engaged in a painstaking process of feature by feature analysis and design, challenging assumptions and looking from the bottom up at each printing control, for each printer type (via the printer clusters).

Documentation: All the interaction is documented in a detailed UI specification consisting of written description and detailed screen drawings.

Testing and Feedback: We are testing at key points in the design process and welcome and engage with the feedback we receive from all the printing UI project stakeholders.

See the Input page for an overview of current topics under consideration

Project History

It all started at the first OSDL printing summit in Atlanta, in Spring 2006. Next up was the printing summit in Lexington, where peter sikking took over the project lead.

Currently, each desktop environment, even some applications, implement their own printing related dialogs. The consequences are obvious:

  • manufacurers cannot produce one solution that will work or at least be displayed correctly on all free desktops.
  • users may be confronted with different printing related dialogs that should provide the same functionality.
  • application authors cannot rely on a GUI environment.


Our aim is to provide universal printing dialogs for the free desktop environments.

After intensive reviews (mostly based on Ellens work) -and discussions- we came to the conclusion that it may not be reasonable to head for one dialog that fits all use cases and usage scenarios, all applications, all printing environments. Therefore we want to suggest a segementation into different types of printing dialogs. The deliverables will consist then in 5-6 proto-dialogs that are suitable for different usage/user/application/environment clusters. Also, some user tests we did showed that (home) users are accepting and expecting different printing dialogs for different applications.

The new UI designs for the universal printing dialogs are detailed in the Specification section

Design Development

Stages of development:

  1. Inital Design Phase
  2. Detailed Design Phase
  3. Testing
  4. Input page


The detailed Specification and documentation of the designs for the CPD