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

Rainer M Krug Rainer at krugs.de
Thu Jan 22 01:01:15 PST 2015

Markus Metz <markus.metz.giswork at gmail.com> writes:

> 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"

Which would be the last opened mapset or, if opened for the first time,
the demo mapset?

> 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.

I would add a third button which says "Start in demo location"
to make it easier to return to the demo location after having already
used GRASS GIS - for e.g. running examples and tests of other
applications which use the demo dataset.

> 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).

This sounds like a good compromise.

And if then there is a nice QGIS like dialog to create a new location /
mapset including projections, to start GRASS would be much easier.

Thinking of it - a history of recently used mapsets on the welcome
screen, which shows the projection, extent and the file path, is
something which would be really useful.



> Markus M

Rainer M. Krug
email: Rainer<at>krugs<dot>de
PGP: 0x0F52F982
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