Novell Launches the Better Desktop Initiative

Extensive usability research, including video trials, is now available to developers worldwide at

10 October 2005

Novell today announced the launch of the Better Desktop initiative, a new component of the openSUSE project that provides open source developers with usability testing data and resources they can use to improve the quality of the Linux* desktop. Novell is releasing primary desktop research, including video footage and analysis of usability tests, at Instructions for constructing and operating a low-cost usability lab will also be provided. For the first time, open source developers worldwide will be able to see for themselves the types of desktop software designs that are succeeding with end users. As a result, open source developers will have the resources to build applications that better meet the needs and expectations of users and ultimately help drive the adoption of Linux on the desktop.

“This is a valuable contribution to the Linux community that will help open source developers benefit from Novell's research to create a better, more user-friendly desktop,” said Gary Barnett, research director at technology consultants Ovum. “Usability is a key requirement in order to drive the Linux desktop into the mainstream. Novell's focus on usability, and this contribution to the worldwide community of Linux developers, will help break down some of the barriers to mainstream Linux adoption on the desktop.”

Although usability testing and refinement can dramatically improve software development efforts, most developers lack the resources to conduct these tests. With Novell's contributions through, open source developers now have the information they need to refine applications, including adjustments to menus, screen layouts, dialog boxes, and even the icons and colors of a user interface.

“Novell's Linux desktop usability test results represent a significant addition to the resources available to open source developers who are working to enhance the Linux desktop,” said Jan Muehlig, founder of “Novell is making it easier for developers to get insight and fundamental information of how users interact with the desktop through state-of-the-art usability research. This will help open source engineers everywhere to create packages and applications which better meetuser needs, improving the overall quality of the Linux desktop.”

Nat Friedman, vice president of collaboration and desktop engineering for Novell, said, “As a programmer, it's sometimes difficult to know how ordinary people with no technical experience are reacting to your software. Linux people tend to know other Linux people. In these usability tests, we selected test subjects who were experienced with Windows, but who had never heard of Linux, and asked them to perform basic tasks using the Linux desktop. We expect that developers from a variety of projects will come to and review these results to see first hand how they can improve the design of different applications, desktops and distributions. Ultimately, improved usability will help Linux succeed on the desktop.” Momentum

The Better Desktop initiative is the latest addition to the fast-growing openSUSE project. Sponsored by Novell, is a community-based effort that involves developers worldwide in the review, testing and development of SUSE™ Linux with the goal of making it accessible to end users, not just developers. In the first eight weeks alone, more than 4 million page views have been logged at the project site, 7,000 Linux users have registered and beta editions of SUSE Linux 10.0 have been installed more than 30,000 times. With the shipment of SUSE Linux 10.0 last week and the release of the Alpha 1 version of SUSE Linux 10.1, the momentum around the openSUSE project continues to build.

About Novell

Novell, Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) delivers Software for the Open Enterprise™. With more than 50,000 customers in 43 countries, Novell helps customers manage, simplify, secure and integrate their technology environments by leveraging best-of-breed, open standards-based software. With over 20 years of experience, Novell's 6,000 employees, 5,000 partners and support centers around the world help customers gain control over their IT operating environment while reducing cost. More information about Novell can be found at

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