[Etoys] A few notes on eToys interface - playing with latest eToys in olpc

Milan Zimmermann milan.zimmermann at sympatico.ca
Sun Apr 1 18:20:13 EDT 2007


After a while, I have played with the latest OLPC eToys, and I'd like to share 
a few notes. I was running it on "regular" Linux distro . 

1) A few notes about eToys experience:

   - I really like the eToys new look, cleanup and changes.

   - It seems that some menus have been simplified, which is great.

   - The intro with 5 clouds and runing car is nice and fun! (Actually it 
would be fun if all menus were turned into clouds :) )
      - one note here, it seems the "Load a Project" text is _not embedded_ in 
it's cloud.

   - I think the largest potential issue is ease of eToys navigation for 
someone who is running the system for the first time. I am thinking how to 
modify the UI, without significant changes, to help a new user to not "get 
lost" (for example by following a few projects from the cloud menu). I think 
people's sense "not getting lost" is greatly satisfied when there is a way to 
know "how to go back" - either one step back, or all the way to the 
beginning. I realize this is where the "Navigator->Prev" is used, but it is 
not very obvious for a first time user, mostly because it's contents (the 
Prev button) is "hidden". I am thinking if the following would help:

         - By default, always show the "Navigator" toolbar 
contents "expanded", so user can see the "New/Prev". This way it would be 
more obvious how to go back. It seems to me this would be a nice usability 
help for a small price

         - Rename "Prev" to "Previous" or "Back". Add a more explicit popup, 
instead of "Previous Project", maybe "This button will take you back to the 
previous project"

         - Add a "Home" button, to "Navigator". The "Home" button would take 
user all the way to the clouds menu.

         - The demo is "modifiable" which is nice for playing, but at the same 
time it would be good if there was a way to revert it back to the initial 
state. The book now has this option which I love.

         - A bigger change, and probably overkill, would be at the time of 
entry to any project, a popup would show for 5 second, something like "Use 
the red Navigator button on the bottom-left to go back where you came from". 
This would, at all times, give a small hint as to how to navigate. 

   - In general, the popup help on various items could be more wordy. One 
example, on "Supplies", instead of "A Source for many basic types of Objects" 
popup, could be "Click here to find useful objects. You can drag out objects 
to the area above and start using them". I do not mean this one thing is a 
problem, but in general I find it helpful if popup help is a bit more wordy, 
not sure this is the best for all ages though...

2) Next, about how to help more users to try OLPC eToys.  I am running  
on "regular" Linux distro (non-olpc, Suse 10.2), by installing yum and then 
following steps on this page: http://etoys.laptop.org/.  Perhaps a note could 
be added to  http://etoys.laptop.org/, to explain that the steps described 
there will allow running OLPC eToys on any (reasonably recent) Linux system. 
(It was not clear to me, and I hesitated to install the RPMs).  Also, I am 
thinking it would help teachers and interested people to try OLPC version of 
eToys, if we add a few links on how to run OLPC eToys on Windows, and Mac, 
maybe just a link to the Windows OLPC emulation page.

Sorry this is longer than I wanted, I really love the changes and cleanup, 
great work,


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