[GRASS-dev] Making start of GRASS GIS easier for newcomers

Markus Metz markus.metz.giswork at gmail.com
Thu Jan 22 00:48:36 PST 2015

On Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 11:15 PM, Vaclav Petras <wenzeslaus at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 4:55 PM, Markus Neteler <neteler at osgeo.org> wrote:
>> On Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 8:16 PM, Moritz Lennert
>> <mlennert at club.worldonline.be> wrote:
>> > On 21/01/15 19:35, Markus Neteler wrote:
>> >> In my opinion we should not have the location selection dialog at all.
>> >> Revolution!
>> >>
>> >> We should start GRASS right away in latlong like most GIS in the world.
>> >>
>> >> Then let the user open the dialog to change projection if desired from
>> >> inside.
>> >>
>> >> This would avoid a lot of questions right away.
>> >
>> > Please don't do this !
>> OK, now being back from phone to a real keyboard, I can write a few more
>> lines.
>> I am thinking about this issue for seeral years meanwhile (hint: I
>> started in 1993 to use the software, getting stuck at the text start
>> screen not having a manual :-).
>> So my full suggestions are
>> - beautify the actual screen (hence my recent suggestion which is
>> lively discussed here),
>> - optionally (!) allow to start GRASS without welcome/loc/mapset
>> screen but to open it in LatLong as described above. Again, as an
>> option. We could implement that in trunk and see how it goes. All the
>> tools to select locations, projections and such are there.
> I think that you have to go all the work anyway and the dummy location is
> there just to show that it is possible.
> There are some potential problems, for example how it works now with the
> .bash_history file?
>> > I find the fact that GRASS does not provide a default
>> > projection system, but forces the user to think about projection from
>> > the
>> > start, one of its strengths, both for work and for teaching.
>> On of it strenghts, yes. But I have been teaching GRASS a lot to GIS
>> professionals who got trained on different systems. And many asked
>> "why this screen? why cannot you just start like the other GIS"? And I
>> tend to agree (again: optionally). The point is that we, on the
>> contrary to many other GIS, still have all the control mechanisms in
>> place which avoid that the user mixes projections. So that's all fine.
> And what will you do after 'just starting'? Do you have your data as LL? Or
> will you use -o flag to ignore the projection check?
>> Also in Portland at the FOSS4G conf (where I showcased GRASS GIS 7)
>> people suggested to let 'em get into the system right away. They
>> explained to me that a newcomer wants to see the menu to understand
>> how powerful the system is. But they would get stuck at the welcome
>> screen... Yes, and they don't want to think before they open the
>> program but "just try", out of curiosity.
> This is a good point. I can see that. However, manual is also useful for
> this. This is what I use. Works for command line programs too.
> To satisfy everybody, I suggest to provide a buttons with something like
> "Take me to LL", "Take me to default location" and "Take me to XY". What do
> you think about that?
> But the real improvement should be the messages which would guide you
> through the process.

A suggestion for a compromise:

Have a minimal welcome screen that says something like
"Starting GRASS GIS in location X, mapset Y"
nothing else, no list of all the available locations and mapsets

Only two buttons: OK, Change
Make OK the default, Change will bring up the current welcome screen.

The user has then just to hit enter and GRASS is running. This would
reduce the (confusing) amount of information on the current welcome
screen. It would also give more space for a little graphic ;-)

Location and mapset can be taken from GISRC, if that does not exist,
create a new GISDBASE in the user's home, put the demolocation in it
and use this (I think the wingrass installer is already doing that).

Markus M

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