In the last five years the Desktop user interface of Marble hasn’t changed much: A QMainWindow with a central, large map (MarbleWidget) and a QTabBar based left sidebar with several widgets to control the map, perform searches and routing etc. Marble 1.5 (KDE 4.10) for example looks like this:
There are two main disadvantages when using a QTabBar here: Only one of its widgets can be visible at a time, and switching between the widgets in the tabs involves much mouse moving from top to bottom and the other way round (have a look at the tab positions in the screenshot).
To improve things we now introduced a new layout based on QDockWidgets. Its initial view resembles the old look and feel with a sidebar on the left, but shows two widgets at one time:
Dock widgets alone are not enough of course; the screenshot above also shows many further improvements. The Map View makes better use of the available space using smaller icons, showing the name and description to the right and indicating whether map themes are favorite ones using small overlays. Controls to choose the projection (sphere vs. flat map) and celestial body (planet) are condensed into a toolbar unless there is more space available to expand them. The old Navigation tab is gone in favor of a new map overlay visible in the bottom right. It’s also the first overlay to receive a modernized styling. The search results previously also shown in the navigation tab have moved to the new search dock which also integrates the search field previously found in the main toolbar. The latter is disabled again to leave more space for the map and dock widgets.
A big advantage of dock widgets (in combination with QMainWindow) is their configurability by drag and drop. Wide aspect ratios like 16:9 are used for many monitors now, which results in a good opportunity to create a right sidebar by dragging the dock widgets you’d like to see elsewhere to the right window border:
On closer look you’ll find that the routing dock has received a small facelift as well. The input fields for via points now integrate the drop down button previously found to their left. Actions working on the route previously found in various push buttons are now grouped in a toolbar.
It’s very easy now to assemble a new layout that shows all the controls you need in a certain situation. All features shown in the screenshots here are available in the Qt version of Marble in the master branch and will become part of Marble 1.6 / KDE 4.11. Feel free to give it a try. Please note that only the Qt version bin/marble-qt has implemented the changes at this time; the KDE version bin/marble will follow shortly.