Within a few days of starting to use PD, I had created a text file called wtf_pd.txt with 17 annoyances that immediately jumped out at me in terms of UX. I've now figured out how to work around most of them, but I would very much like to address these problems, hopefully by getting accustomed with the coding standards of the project, submitting some PRs, and getting buy in from the development team.
Do you have a Github account? You can open an issue and list all of your "paper cut" annoyances together.
Another approach is to bring the your list to the pd mailing list, then we can open an issue and bring the discussion there.
Last, if neither of those work, send me your wtf_pd.txt...
A perfect example being the fact that I can't resize the graph-on-parent canvas size by clicking and dragging, but have to enter in values manually in the properties dialog. Feels like editing HTML/CSS in the early 2000s .
Yup. Resizing to the object boxes was only added a few years ago but it would be great to have the same for GOPs.
I still think Tcl/Tk has failed to keep up with modern standards, and I have my doubts that it will ever catch up. So, I still think that Pd hampers its own progress by hitching itself to the Tcl/Tk wagon.
I think most people agree with you, myself included. Tk is clunky but it's in the current code base and has been kept so far since it works, although admittedly barely in many cases.
The last couple of posts here are encouraging.
I know development is slow, but it's really working against inertia. Momentum has been growing the last years and that's mostly due to more effective collaboration to tackle some of these issues. I think finding a sustainable approach to the GUI is one of the largest ones, so is taking a while to grow.
IMO a fair comparison is: normal screen size in Linux vs normal screen size in Mac.
Nope. See above.
Developer vs user perspective. The user sees clean diagonals on Mac, and jagged diagonals on Linux or Windows, and I think it's perfectly legitimate for the user not really to care that it's the OS rather than the drawing engine that makes it so in Mac. (It's correct, of course, to point out that the diagonals on a retina display will look smoother than antialiased diagonals without retina.)
Yup, you are totally right. I didn't mean to imply the Linux screenshot looked good since "that's the way it is" just more that it looks so much better on macOS since the screenshot is likely double the resolution as well.
I started using Pd on Windows circa 2006 then jumped to Linux for many years, then to macOS. My feeling was that Pd worked best on Linux but a lot of that has caught up as the underlying systems have developed but in some ways the Linux desktop has not (for many reasons, good and bad).
- Your point (c) already happened... you can use Purr Data (or the new Pd-L2ork etc). The GUI is implemented in Node/Electron/JS (I'm not sure of the details). Is it tracking Pd vanilla releases?... well that's a different issue.
I did try Purr Data, but abandoned it because (at the time, two years ago), Purr Data on Mac didn't support Gem and there were no concrete plans to address that. This might have changed in the last couple of years (has it? -- I've looked at https://agraef.github.io/purr-data/ and https://github.com/agraef/purr-data but it seems not quite straightforward to determine whether Gem+Mac has been added or not).
That's a result of many of the forks adopting the "kitchen sink" monolithic distribution model inherited from Pd-extended. The user gets the environment and many external libraries all together in one download, but the developers have to integrate changes from upstream themselves and build for the various platforms. It's less overheard for the user but more for the developers, which is why integrating a frankly large and complicated external like GEM is harder.
I'm happy to download the deken GEM package because I know the IEM people have done all the craziness to build it (it's a small nightmare of autotools/makefiles due to the amount of plugins and configuration options). I am also very happy to not have to build it and provide it to other users but in exchange we ask people to do that extra step and use deken. I recognize that the whole usage of [declare] is still not as easy or straightforward for many beginners. There are some thoughts of improving it and feedback for people in the teaching environment has also pushed certain solutions (ie. Pd Documents folder, etc).
Tracking vanilla releases was the other issue. A couple of years ago, [soundfiler] in Purr Data was older and didn't provide the full set of sound file stats. That issue had been logged and I'm sure it's been updated since then. "Tracking" seemed to be manual, case-by-case.
By "tracking" I am referring to a fork following the new developments in Pd-vanilla and integrating the changes. This becomes harder if/when the forks deviate with internal changes to the source code, so merging some changes then has to be done "by hand" which slows things down and is one reason why a fork may release a new version but be perhaps 1 or two versions behind Pd vanilla's internal objects, ie. new [soundfiler] right outlet, [clone] object, new [file] object, etc.
- As for updating Tk, it's probably not likely to happen as advanced graphics are not their focus. I could be wrong about this.
I agree that updating the GUI itself is the better solution for the long run. I also agree that it's a big undertaking when the current implementation is essentially still working fine after over 20 years...
Well, I mean, OK up to a point. There are things like the Tcl/Tk open/save file dialog, which is truly abhorrent in Linux.
Hah yeah, I totally understand. My first contribution to Pd(-extended) was to find out how to disable showing hidden files in the open/save panels on Linux. You would open a dialog, it defaulted to
$HOME, then you had to wade through 100 dot folders. Terrible! Who did this and why? Well it wasn't on purpose, it was just the default setting for panels on Tk, and I added a little but of Tcl to turn it off and show a "Show hidden files/folders" button below.
OTOH I have a colleague at work who's internal toolkit still uses Motif. Why? Well it still works and he's the only user so he's ok with it. I'd say that Tk also still uses Motif... but there are many users and they have much different expectations. ;P
Some puzzling decisions here and there -- for example, when you use the mouse to drag an object to another location, why does it then switch to edit the text in the object box? To me, this is a disruptive workflow -- you're moving an object, not editing the object, but suddenly (without warning) you're forcibly switched into editing the object, and it takes a clumsy action of clicking outside the object and dragging the mouse into the object to get back to positioning mode. I feel so strongly about it that I even put in a PR to change that behavior (https://github.com/pure-data/pure-data/pull/922), which has been open for a year and a half without being either merged or rejected (only argued against initially, and then stalled).
Ah yes, I forgot about this one. It wasn't rejected, just came at a time when there were lots of other things shouting much louder, ie. if this isn't fixed Pd is broken on $PLATFORM. I would say that, personally, your initial posting style turned me off but I recognize where the frustration came from. I also appreciate making the point AND providing a solution, so the ball is in our court for sure. I will take a look at this soon and try it out.
"Still working for 20 years" but you could also say, still clunky for 20 years, with inertia when somebody does actually try to fix something.
Another approach would be to try to bring improvements to Tcl/Tk itself but the dev community is a little opaque, more so than Pd. However I admit to not having put a ton of time into it, other than flagging our custom patches to the TK macOS guy on Github.
WRT to the rest, any architectural improvements (e.g. drawing abstractions so that the Pd core isn't so tightly coupled to Tcl/Tk) that make it more feasible to move forward are great, would love to see it.
As would I... we are preparing for a major exhibition opening in December, but I will have some time off after and I may take a stab at a technical demo for this (among other things) then pull in some other perspectives / testers. It has been an itch I have wanted to scratch since, at least Pd Con 2016 in NYC.
@Nicolas-Danet Don't interpret "I'm happy" as "I'm happy and never want it to change."
I've looked into Jonathon's GUI communication interface and there is not too much to change within the sources, really. Just replace most of the sys_gui calls and add gui drawing details to the GUI itself. He has his approach documented in the Purr Data readme. This is after I had already personally gone through all of the GUI code to integrate the Pd-extended sizing and improve issues with IEM GUI draw order. In fact, a lot of the IEM GUI sys_gui calls are redundant and could be better refactored.
For example, the Purr Data
g_bang.csources do not send any custom tcl strings, just "update the bang with this color" and the drawing is done on the GUI side: https://git.purrdata.net/jwilkes/purr-data/-/blob/master/pd/src/g_bang.c#L35
I hope you are not already writing your own custom implementations of the built-in GUIS for your project. I would suggest we work together into porting Jonathon's
gui_vmessapproach first. I am also in the same boat having written custom implementations in CoreGraphics for iOS but I'd love to replace those with more built=in handling, ie. just draw/update the bang on the Obj-C side without the placement & interaction code.
UPDATE: I do not mean to "toot my own horn" in these responses. By stating some of the work I've done personally, I meant to show that effort was made on some of these points and they were not dismissed out of hand. Also, having spent some time with the code itself, I want to convey that some approaches are definitely possible and the issue is less technical (can we do this) and more organizational (what is the best way to do it and make it sustainable / future proof).
Here is an old demo with live guitar and generated drums (no samples): 2009_4-16-11_drum_test.mp3
I used to have a lot of free time and a friend (Damian ala dlib) and I spent a weekend with 808 wav recordings at different knob settings and signal block diagrams for each drum channel. We managed to work out how each was generated and do some basic "analog modeling" in Pd. I think the results are pretty good, although I didn't make the toms and the bell was stolen from Andy Farnell.
I just found this and want to respond from my perspective as someone who has spent by now a good amount of time (paid & unpaid) working on the Pure Data source code itself.
I'm just writing for myself and don't speak for Miller or anyone else.
Mac looks good
The antialiasing on macOS is provided by the system and utilized by Tk. It's essentially "free" and you can enable or disable it on the canvas. This is by design as I believe Apple pushed antialiasing at the system level starting with Mac OS X 1.
There are even some platform-specific settings to control the underlying CoreGraphics settings which I think Hans tried but had issues with: https://github.com/pure-data/pure-data/blob/master/tcl/apple_events.tcl#L16. As I recall, I actually disabled the font antialiasing as people complained that the canvas fonts on mac were "too fuzzy" while Linux was "nice and crisp."
In addition, the last few versions of Pd have had support for "Retina" high resolution displays enabled and the macOS compositor does a nice job of handling the point to pixel scaling for you, for free, in the background. Again, Tk simply uses the system for this and you can enable/disable via various app bundle plist settings and/or app defaults keys.
This is why the macOS screenshots look so good: antialiasing is on and it's likely the rendering is at double the resolution of the Linux screenshot.
IMO a fair comparison is: normal screen size in Linux vs normal screen size in Mac.
Nope. See above.
It could also just be Apple holding back a bit of the driver code from the open source community to make certain linux/BSD never gets quite as nice as OSX on their hardware, they seem to like to play such games, that one key bit of code that is not free and you must license from them if you want it and they only license it out in high volume and at high cost.
Nah. Apple simply invested in antialiasing via its accelerated compositor when OS X was released. I doubt there are patents or licensing on common antialiasing algorithms which go back to the 60s or even earlier.
tkpath exists, why not use it?
Last I checked, tkpath is long dead. Sure, it has a website and screenshots (uhh Mac OS X 10.2 anyone?) but the latest (and only?) Sourceforge download is dated 2005. I do see a mirror repo on Github but it is archived and the last commit was 5 years ago.
And I did check on this, in fact I spent about a day (unpaid) seeing if I could update the tkpath mac implementation to move away from the ATSU (Apple Type Support) APIs which were not available in 64 bit. In the end, I ran out of energy and stopped as it would be too much work, too many details, and likely to not be maintained reliably by probably anyone.
It makes sense to help out a thriving project but much harder to justify propping something up that is barely active beyond "it still works" on a couple of platforms.
Why aren't the fonts all the same yet?!
I also despise how linux/windows has 'bold' for default
I honestly don't really care about this... but I resisted because I know so many people do and are used to it already. We could clearly and easily make the change but then we have to deal with all the pushback. If you went to the Pd list and got an overwhelming consensus and Miller was fine with it, then ok, that would make sense. As it was, "I think it should be this way because it doesn't make sense to me" was not enough of a carrot for me to personally make and support the change.
Maybe my problem is that I feel a responsibility for making what seems like a quick and easy change to others?
And this view is after having put an in ordinate amount of time just getting (almost) the same font on all platforms, including writing and debugging a custom C Tcl extension just to load arbitrary TTF files on Windows.
Why don't we add abz, 123 to Pd? xyzzy already has it?!
What I've learned is that it's much easier to write new code than it is to maintain it. This is especially true for cross platform projects where you have to figure out platform intricacies and edge cases even when mediated by a common interface like Tk. It's true for any non-native wrapper like QT, WXWidgets, web browsers, etc.
Actually, I am pretty happy that Pd's only core dependencies a Tcl/Tk, PortAudio, and PortMidi as it greatly lowers the amount of vectors for bitrot. That being said, I just spent about 2 hours fixing the help browser for mac after trying Miller's latest 0.52-0test2 build. The end result is 4 lines of code.
For a software community to thrive over the long haul, it needs to attract new users. If new users get turned off by an outdated surface presentation, then it's harder to retain new users.
Yes, this is correct, but first we have to keep the damn thing working at all. I think most people agree with you, including me when I was teaching with Pd.
I've observed, at times, when someone points out a deficiency in Pd, the Pd community's response often downplays, or denies, or gets defensive about the deficiency. (Not always, but often enough for me to mention it.) I'm seeing that trend again here. Pd is all about lines, and the lines don't look good -- and some of the responses are "this is not important" or (oid) "I like the fact that it never changed." That's... thoroughly baffling to me.
I read this as "community" = "active developers." It's true, some people tend to poo poo the same reoccurring ideas but this is largely out of years of hearing discussions and decisions and treatises on the list or the forum or facebook or whatever but nothing more. In the end, code talks, even better, a working technical implementation that is honed with input from people who will most likely end up maintaining it, without probably understanding it completely at first.
This was very hard back on Sourceforge as people had to submit patches(!) to the bug tracker. Thanks to moving development to Github and the improvement of tools and community, I'm happy to see the new engagement over the last 5-10 years. This was one of the pushes for me to help overhaul the build system to make it possible and easy for people to build Pd itself, then they are much more likely to help contribute as opposed to waiting for binary builds and unleashing an unmanageable flood of bug reports and feature requests on the mailing list.
I know it's not going to change anytime soon, because the current options are a/ wait for Tcl/Tk to catch up with modern rendering or b/ burn Pd developer cycles implementing something that Tcl/Tk will(?) eventually implement or c/ rip the guts out of the GUI and rewrite the whole thing using a modern graphics framework like Qt. None of those is good (well, c might be a viable investment in the future -- SuperCollider, around 2010-2011, ripped out the Cocoa GUIs and went to Qt, and the benefits have been massive -- but I know the developer resources aren't there for Pd to dump Tcl/Tk).
A couple of points:
Your point (c) already happened... you can use Purr Data (or the new Pd-L2ork etc). The GUI is implemented in Node/Electron/JS (I'm not sure of the details). Is it tracking Pd vanilla releases?... well that's a different issue.
As for updating Tk, it's probably not likely to happen as advanced graphics are not their focus. I could be wrong about this.
I agree that updating the GUI itself is the better solution for the long run. I also agree that it's a big undertaking when the current implementation is essentially still working fine after over 20 years, especially since Miller's stated goal was for 50 year project support, ie. pieces composed in the late 90s should work in 2040. This is one reason why we don't just "switch over to QT or Juce so the lines can look like Max." At this point, Pd is aesthetically more Max than Max, at least judging by looking at the original Ircam Max documentation in an archive closet at work.
A way forward: libpd?
I my view, the best way forward is to build upon Jonathan Wilke's work in Purr Data for abstracting the GUI communication. He essentially replaced the raw Tcl commands with abstracted drawing commands such as "draw rectangle here of this color and thickness" or "open this window and put it here."
For those that don't know, "Pd" is actually two processes, similar to SuperCollider, where the "core" manages the audio, patch dsp/msg graph, and most of the canvas interaction event handling (mouse, key). The GUI is a separate process which communicates with the core over a localhost loopback networking connection. The GUI is basically just opening windows, showing settings, and forwarding interaction events to the core. When you open the audio preferences dialog, the core sends the current settings to the GUI, the GUI then sends everything back to the core after you make your changes and close the dialog. The same for working on a patch canvas: your mouse and key events are forwarded to the core, then drawing commands are sent back like "draw object outline here, draw osc~ text here inside. etc."
So basically, the core has almost all of the GUI's logic while the GUI just does the chrome like scroll bars and windows. This means it could be trivial to port the GUI to other toolkits or frameworks as compared to rewriting an overly interconnected monolithic application (trust me, I know...).
Basically, if we take Jonathan's approach, I feel adding a GUI communication abstraction layer to libpd would allow for making custom GUIs much easier. You basically just have to respond to the drawing and windowing commands and forward the input events.
Ideally, then each fork could use the same Pd core internally and implement their own GUIs or platform specific versions such as a pure Cocoa macOS Pd. There is some other re-organization that would be needed in the C core, but we've already ported a number of improvements from extended and Pd-L2ork, so it is indeed possible.
Also note: the libpd C sources are now part of the pure-data repo as of a couple months ago...
But there's a big difference between "we know it's a problem but can't do much about it" vs "it's not a serious problem." The former may invite new developers to take some initiative. The latter discourages initiative. A healthy open source software community should really be careful about the latter.
IMO Pd is healthier now than it has been as long as I've know it (2006). We have so many updates and improvements over every release the last few years, with many contributions by people in this thread. Thank you! THAT is how we make the project sustainable and work toward finding solutions for deep issues and aesthetic issues and usage issues and all of that.
We've managed to integrate a great many changes from Pd-Extended into vanilla and open up/decentralize the externals and in a collaborative manner. For this I am also grateful when I install an external for a project.
At this point, I encourage more people to pitch in. If you work at a university or institution, consider sponsoring some student work on specific issues which volunteering developers could help supervise, organize a Pd conference or developer meetup (this are super useful!), or consider some sort of paid residency or focused project for artists using Pd. A good amount of my own work on Pd and libpd has been sponsored in many of these ways and has helped encourage me to continue.
This is likely to be more positive toward the community as a whole than banging back and forth on the list or the forum. Besides, I'd rather see cool projects made with Pd than keep talking about working on Pd.
That being said, I know everyone here wants to see the project continue and improve and it will. We are still largely opening up the development and figuring how to support/maintain it. As with any such project, this is an ongoing process.
Ok, that was long and rambly and it's way past my bed time.
Good night all.
I’m pleased to announce that the PdParty BETA has started!
Run your Pure Data patches on iOS with native GUIs emulated. Inspired by Chris McCormick's Android PdDroidParty and the (now defunct) original RjDj app.
After almost two months of work, there have been quite a number of improvements and I feel the app is now close to version 1.0 status.
I just need your help to find bugs, suggest improvements, and create demo scenes.
How this works
DM me your name & email*
I add you to the tester list
You should receive a notification email
Download the free TestFlight app form the App Store
Open TestFlight and install the latest PdParty build
*Those of you who participated in the alpha testing should already have received an email.
See [g_scope] in my rc-patches: https://github.com/danomatika/rc-patches/tree/master/rc