Application naming

Posted on by Chris Warburton

Yes, it is a sad day when the Free Software community is divided by issues such as application naming. Well, just to stir up a little crap I thought I’d give my (therefore, THE) answer to this “issue”.
The problem of naming arises when names are made to be silly (like LINA, which stands for LINA Is Not an Acronym), or based upon previous names (like the name of the C++ language is based on the name of the C language (where C++ in the C language means “add one to C”), and the name C itself is one more than the name of its predecessor the B language, so called because it was developed at Bell Labs, or, which is an implementation of the X windowing system, which is one more than the W windowing system which stands for Window) and thus describe their function in the world about as well as a grapefruit (WHY DO THEY EXIST?! Seriously, they tast SOOOO bad!).
The easy way of naming applications on a system is to use their names. However, with the names described above this creates a less than obvious setup for the uninitiated. The other camp seems to think that forgetting an application’s actual name in favour of a description is more appropriate, often citing Microsoft products referred to as “Messenger”, “Media Player”, etc. However, I think this is wrong too.

I think applications should be allowed their own names, which should try to hold some relevance to the way they work if possible (but not doing so is forgivable if it is funny) like Inkscape draws as if with ink, GNUPaint draws as if with paint, etc. This should then be followed by the catagory of application they are, so GIMP Image Editor and Inkscape Image Editor. This way the purpose of the application is obvious, yet there is no kind of favouritism when competing applications are involved, eg. Microsoft can include “Media Player” in Windows because they only make one media playing application, whereas Free Software offers choice, so having Totem Movie Player and Gxine Movie Player is more preferable to any being called just Movie Player, since then users attempting to get support, for example, would be asking “The movie player won’t play my video” which would start suggestions involving gstreamer, asking the user to click certain menu options, etc. After some frustration it could become apparent that by “the movie player” the user was actually using Gxine, which had arbitrarily been named Movie Player, and thus gstreamer plugins would not be of any help, and she would be asked to select menu entries which aren’t there.

This system, already used by distros like Ubuntu (I can’t be arsed to check any others), works because questions like “the image editor crashed” can be followed by “which image editor?” and the user can look and say “the GIMP image editor”, or somebody recommending Free Software to a friend can say “I think the Inkscape Image Editor is the best one, because it lets you move lines around if they’re not quite right”.

OK, cleared that one up. NEXT!