Package categories… what do you think?

More on the Fedora Packages web application project here… 🙂

The problem

So one thing that might stand out to you in the package profile mockup for Fedora Packages, above, is that the package has a big, beautiful vector icon from the GNOME icon project.
Sadly, we do not have big, beautiful icons for most of our packages. (If you’re an icon designer and would like to help, though, you’ll want to join the icon project and pop into #gnome-art on to get started!) So we need to figure out what to display there so folks can visually, at a glance, get an idea of what package it is that they’re looking at.
Later on, that icon area could be used for a collaborate screenshot gallery, for example, where folks can upload their screenshots or logo artwork for a given package. For now, though, let’s try to get a nice icon display first!

A proposal

So Luke, J5, Spot, and I came up with a scheme to handle icon display for the many scenarios in which a package does not have an icon, or has a small icon.
One idea we had was to have a set of fallbacks; see the flow chart above for the full details. The main gist of it is:

If a package doesn’t have an icon, check to see if it’s part of a set of pre-defined categories. If it is, use the icon for the category. If it isn’t, use a generic package icon.

Furthermore, sometimes a package has an icon, but it’s too low-res (say less than 96×96 pixels.) The idea for handling this is:

If the package has a category, display the package’s smaller icon as an emblem layered in the corner of the category icon. If the package does not have a category, display the package’s smaller icon as an emblem layered in the corner of the generic package icon.

We think this scheme has a good potential to work out in practice. What do you think?

Defining the categories (and how you can help)

So here’s a stab of categories we put together that we could assign to individual packages in the Fedora universe, with an example of a package that would qualify for each:

  • Command-line utility (think core-utils)
  • Library (glibc)
  • Service (cups)
  • Programming Language (python)
  • KDE (kdebase)
  • GNOME (gnome-shell)
  • Plug-in (gxine-mozplugin)
  • Applet (hamster-applet)
  • Windowed application (xpdf)
  • Game (robotfindskitten)
  • Core OS (kernel)
  • Development (xorg-x11-proto-devel)
  • Subpackage (tkinter)
  • Driver / Module / Firmware (xorg-x11-drv-nouveau)

Surely, we’ve missed some important category or split things up incorrectly. It would be really, really helpful if you could provide us feedback via the blog comments here on where we’ve gone wrong.
How do we apply these categories to the packages once we’ve got them set and have developed icons for each? We may have an interesting idea for that; keep on tuning in to learn more as it develops. 😉

Wait, what…. what are you doing?

We’re developing the next iteration of Fedora Community, a centralized web application for folks who manage packages in Fedora or simply want to learn more about packages can go to look information up quickly & easily without having to ramp up on our rich suite of command-line developer tools. If you’re new to packaging in Fedora or you have no intention of becoming a packager and want to explore our package set, this tool is really for you.
Read more about the project in this introductory blog post, and you can see the full set of blog posts regarding the project. We also have a Fedora wiki page with mockups and are working to get our application thus far working in a staging environment so you can play with it!
Anyway, I really look forward to hearing your comments on this!


  1. I’ve wanted something like this for quite some time. (So I could look up which packages were there as well as some info no them) Some of the other distros have similar things, but it looks like Fedora is going the extra mile on theirs! Rock on!

  2. heh, apologies for being totally non-constructive, but i kinda had to do it

    1. mairin says:

      LOL thanks for the giggle 😉

  3. Oron Peled says:

    1. The idea of category icon + package emblem should be
    (IMHO) the default and not only of packages with small icons:
    – It creates a consistent visual pattern
    – It may be used in other contexts (e.g: list view for search
    results) and help visual grouping
    2. Let’s not invent another package taxonomy.
    Fedora already have at least two:
    – Each rpm package contains a (little used) Group: tag
    – The “comps” files defines groups for yum/anaconda.
    Let’s choose one of those as the basis for categorization.

  4. I like the idea of the Fedora Packages project, and I really like the attention to detail for icons here. GNOME 3 has some gorgeous icons, and they deserve to be showcased whenever possible. Plus it’s awesome that people are working to fill in the gaps in its catalog.
    Two questions:
    1. Are there any plans to extend this icon-work-stuff to the GNOME Shell? Because my delight at seeing the high-res icons in Fedora 15 turned to dismay, when I saw all these ugly and blocky icons showing up right next to them after installing old favorites like Frozen Bubble.
    2. Are there any plans to create a more intuitive packaging interface for Fedora users? Because my experience with PackageKit was a lot like the one that I had with the Fedora installer, that I wrote up for you. >.>b I know, everyone uses Yum, but I feel like Fedora deserves something better and shinier for its GUI package installer. Especially with everything else getting redesigned for the better.

  5. How about a screenshot?

    1. mairin says:

      A screenshot of the app? We’ve talked about expanding to show those eventually, but we can’t rely on that for many packages that aren’t graphical (or aren’t even apps, say a library.)

  6. I don’t think subpackage is worth of being a category.

  7. Mattias says:

    “Applet” does not sound like a widely used word to me. I think Add-on or Extension are more commonly used.
    “Windowed Application” also sounds a little weird, it might get confused to have something to do with Microsoft Windows. Perhaps simply “Application”?

    1. mairin says:

      I agree, applet is the wrong term. I like “add-on” and “extension” – maybe “add-on” is more easily understood. (Extension makes me think specifically of firefox.)
      I also agree “Windowed Application” isn’t the best terminology. The point I was trying to get across there is that it has a UI. Maybe something like, “Graphical Application” would be better?

      1. Mattias says:

        I see, Graphical Application sounds better.
        Oron Peled pointed out the comps-file. I agree that it could be used as a basis (someone probably put a lot of thought into that categorization). In the comps-file the applications-category is broken down into a dozen groups.;a=blob;;h=1a9b4cd19efd90a4ae96c9798de59ec93a92459b;hb=HEAD#l7165
        Oh, and good work with the mockups, they look great!

  8. Meg Ford says:

    +1 for Oron Peled’s comment. It sounds like a good idea, but I would use the folder icons as an example of how to make this work. Also, if you layer a small icom on a larger one, use the version of the icon with the least detail, or remove detail when you scale down 🙂

  9. Miroslav Suchy says:

    I do not like the categories: KDE, GNOME, Windowed application. I – as user – do not care, which framework was used during coding of that application. It is all just graphical application.
    I would suggest categories by semantics: Multimedia, Internet, Office, Graphics…

  10. […] this looks pretty awesome but for others, not so much. We very much appreciated your suggestions on an earlier blog post about package categories and how to display icons for packages that don’t…, but again in keeping with our focus on the core and having something ready for you to check out by […]

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