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Bug 317764 - make desktop icon text easier to read
make desktop icon text easier to read
Product: nautilus
Classification: Core
Component: Desktop
Other All
: Low normal
: ---
Assigned To: gnome-themes-standard-maint
: 351429 416861 (view as bug list)
Depends on:
Reported: 2005-10-02 19:58 UTC by Jean-François Fortin Tam
Modified: 2018-01-02 18:47 UTC
See Also:
GNOME target: ---
GNOME version: 2.21/2.22

screenshot with inverted colors (59.84 KB, image/png)
2006-09-26 01:39 UTC, Jean-François Fortin Tam
gnome, kde and mac comparison screenshots (600.00 KB, application/x-tar)
2007-07-25 15:44 UTC, Jean-François Fortin Tam
example light wallpaper (201.18 KB, image/png)
2008-03-13 14:18 UTC, Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek
GNOME vs KDE legibility, KDE's side (790.00 KB, application/x-tar)
2008-03-13 14:43 UTC, Jean-François Fortin Tam
GNOME vs KDE legibility, GNOME's side (880.00 KB, application/x-tar)
2008-03-13 14:44 UTC, Jean-François Fortin Tam
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 1 (565.13 KB, application/x-compressed-tar)
2008-03-14 00:28 UTC, antistress
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 2 (458.55 KB, application/x-compressed-tar)
2008-03-14 00:28 UTC, antistress
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 3 & 4 (700.45 KB, application/x-compressed-tar)
2008-03-14 00:29 UTC, antistress
Outer border instead of dropshadow on desktop icons (#317764) (1.29 KB, patch)
2010-07-31 10:22 UTC, Marcus Carlson
rejected Details | Review
Screenshots after applying outer border patch (440.50 KB, image/png)
2010-07-31 10:23 UTC, Marcus Carlson

Description Jean-François Fortin Tam 2005-10-02 19:58:36 UTC
Currently, 99% of themes do not highlight icon's text on the desktop (this
functionnality was just added recently through a patch, if I'm not mistaken).
However, the desktop items are very difficult to read. I have to change
background pictures according to the content of the desktop.

I suggest adding an option to have a "all-around border" instead of a
drop-shadow on the icon text. This would ensure that it is easy to read in any

We currently are as difficult to read as windows XP. Here is an example:

Other information:
Comment 1 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2005-11-17 18:58:52 UTC
After searching a bit, I found the "other solution" I was talking about :

It's only a "workaround" for this issue as it is theme-dependent.
Comment 2 Vincent Untz 2005-12-31 12:55:52 UTC
Moving to nautilus.
Comment 3 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2006-09-26 01:39:43 UTC
Created attachment 73408 [details]
screenshot with inverted colors

Here is additional "proof" that it sometimes is really hard to read. I took a screenshot, and inverted the colors. This is not cheating (I don't think so), it just reveals in a more obvious way how my eyes see that text pretty much all the time. Even white on a blue background is hard to read.
Comment 4 Gene Z. Ragan 2006-12-04 03:45:55 UTC
I have been working on some related issues to this and have posted some thoughts on the nautilus list.

Rendering text over any sort of bitmap can lead to visibility issues.  We never came up with a good solution while I was working on Finder.  My current thinking is to use the selected text selection frame and do a file with a certain level of opacity. This would make the text pop out for most cases.  It would introduce a visible change that some people would not like though.
Comment 5 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2006-12-04 03:56:43 UTC
What do you mean, "do a file with.." ? You mean add the transparent background like in bug #305144 as the default behavior?
Comment 6 Gene Z. Ragan 2006-12-04 05:47:31 UTC
Sorry, my response got a little incoherent there.  Yes, I was thinking of a transparent background, but one shaped like the rounded selection rect to give some visual continuity.  Just filling the background of the label rect would cause
an odd shift when selecting and deselecting.
Comment 7 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2006-12-04 14:43:30 UTC
Yeah, that is what I can currently do by editing gtkrc files:

It would be neat if I was not forced to hack every gtk theme I stumbled upon (and it certainly is a non-discoverable feature). The visible change: just add an option to toggle it and people will be more than happy.
Comment 8 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2007-07-25 15:44:44 UTC
Created attachment 92402 [details]
gnome, kde and mac comparison screenshots

also includes a screenshot of a gnome desktop using a hacked gtk theme with these values:

Could this bug at least be confirmed? It has been there for two years!
Comment 9 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2008-03-10 22:57:31 UTC
What an example of ignorance in GNOME project... Nice.

CC'ing myself.
Comment 10 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-11 00:01:23 UTC
heh. Just as I was bumping into this issue again today. 

IANAD, but is changing the current (existing) dropshadow effect to a "stroke" effect *that* difficult codewise? Isn't it just like, making it bigger and centering it? Why hasn't this at least gotten confirmed or commented upon by a usability team in two years (or so it seems)?

Adding the accessibility keyboard and bumping version numbers/priority because I'm desperate.
Comment 11 antistress 2008-03-11 01:46:08 UTC
This kind of report is very very very useful since it points out without ambiguity what you felt was wrong without being able to express it clearly

See the comparison attached between GNOME, KDE and Mac :
i think that KDE is clear winner with very good readability, while Mac is 2nd and GNOME is such a shame

This bug has to be fixed ASAP
Comment 12 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2008-03-11 06:01:50 UTC
When I look on my mobile's screen I see white text with dark stroke (theme dependent) or white text with yellow stroke.

I'm not sure how we should render this text, but let's see how others draw this :) .

1) KDE3:

   White text with dark stroke

2) KDE4: (little bit covered by windows, but dark background of icon is visible)

   Dark background and completely white text

3) XFCE4 (xfdesktop/Thunar):

   Dark text on colored background

3) Windows XP:

   White text with shadow

4) Windows Vista:

   White text with stronger black shadow

5) Mac OS X Tiger:

   Bold white text with strong shadow OR user-selected colored label (on screenshot we see selection of icon, which looks similiar to colored label)

6) Mac OS X Leopard:

   Same as Tiger
Comment 13 Vincent Untz 2008-03-11 09:01:27 UTC
I know this bug can be annoying to many people, but there's no need to say we're ignoring the problem (as in "bah, again, they don't care"). There are tons of bugs in bugzilla, especially for nautilus. So many bugs that it's hard for the nautilus maintainers to even keep up with new bugs here.

If the developers are not working on this, it's because they have other priorities, that's all. You might not be able to work on solving the bug, but I'm sure you'd be able to help improve the situation in bugzilla by triaging some of the nautilus bugs...
Comment 14 Vincent Untz 2008-03-11 09:04:01 UTC
(and again, I didn't write the comment to dismiss the bug -- I was just replying to comment #9)
Comment 15 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-13 00:40:39 UTC
I sent an email to the accessibilty list in the hope of getting this worked on for the accessibility outreach program:
Comment 16 Bryen Yunashko 2008-03-13 01:40:46 UTC
Looking at the attachment with the three desktop environments, GNOME, KDE and OSX, I'm very confused.  

I agree that the GNOME screenshot looks worse than the other two.  But at the same time, the other two have nice solid background thus enabling a nice clear contrast between the icon text and the background.  It seems unfair that the GNOME one should have a cluttered wallpaper behind it and then blame GNOME.  Am I missing something here?

I've got a solid GNOME wallpaper and I have no problem seeing the contrast with icon text on my Desktop.  This hardly seems like a fair comparison, and for me, as a low-vision user, I'm not having any trouble here.  Maybe you could clarify it a bit more for me?

If anything, I would suggest adding a customized text-box around the icon text where the user could set colors correctly for contrast where needed, rather than highlighting (which does work now), but is only useful when you click once on an icon, rather than reading all icons at once.

I see this as a usability issue, not an accessibility issue and I'm not sure why this is being proposed as a task for the GOPA contest.
Comment 17 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2008-03-13 05:50:23 UTC
Should I give you another example? I have light bg on desktop and white text label.

It is hard to read them.
Comment 18 Bryen Yunashko 2008-03-13 12:38:11 UTC
Jakub (re Comment #17)

Yes, I would like to see another example, so I can understand this issue better.  

From an accessibility standpoint, most low vision users would not choose white text against a light background.  We choose some kind of wallpaper that provides good contrast.  I see this more as a usability issue than an accessibility issue.
Comment 19 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2008-03-13 14:18:06 UTC
Created attachment 107221 [details]
example light wallpaper

> We choose some kind of wallpaper that provides good contrast.

Doesn't matter what this bug is related to. Choosing wallpaper to fit the text is... Stupid :> .
Comment 20 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-13 14:43:45 UTC
Created attachment 107224 [details]
GNOME vs KDE legibility, KDE's side

see the next attachment for the GNOME side of things
Comment 21 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-13 14:44:30 UTC
Created attachment 107225 [details]
GNOME vs KDE legibility, GNOME's side
Comment 22 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-13 14:45:21 UTC
Are those last two attachment benchmarks more fair to you? The KDE side of things is not the absolute best*, but it obviously kicks nautilus' ass in a very brutal way.

Screenshots taken using the same wallpapers in tiled/mosaic mode. The placement of icons differs slightly for technical reasons, but I think this is still pretty valid proof. The GNOME shots are the left ones, and the KDE shots are the one on the right.

This is an accessibility issue because it is an area of the desktop that definitely lacks contrast for visually impaired users, or even normal users. Their only choice would be to use no background at all, or a dark-low-contrast one.

*: the accessibility change I suggest here would need to have a "blacker" border, and 1-2 pixels wider all around.
Comment 23 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2008-03-13 15:01:30 UTC
For what it's worth, I have 2518 wallpapers, only 147 of them are in my "super clean" folder (which exists because of this bug).

In short, about 6% of my wallpapers are suitable for use with the current gnome desktop (unless I disable /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop entirely), whereas the number is different (I don't know the number of course) if the text is "bordered" instead of "shadowed". Finding clean and dark wallpapers that do not look uglier than just using "solid color fill" is, believe it or not, very hard :) I don't know if this is just an usability issue or accessibility issue anymore if we want to play around with words, but I will sum up the problem: 

legibility is terrible.
Comment 24 Calum Benson 2008-03-13 17:09:00 UTC
I know it's not 'the solution' by any means, but just for information, the High Contrast gtk themes do have the 'NautilusIconContainer::frame_text = 1' property set by default. So switching to one of those might be a more convenient workaround for some of you in some situations.
Comment 25 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2008-03-13 19:53:16 UTC
Workarounds are easy for forget and not enabled by default.

We need to have this bug fixed.
Comment 26 antistress 2008-03-14 00:28:01 UTC
Created attachment 107258 [details]
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 1

From comments #20 & #21 : the same pics, but displayed side by side.
Left hand is KDE, right hand is GNOME.
Let's face facts !
Comment 27 antistress 2008-03-14 00:28:33 UTC
Created attachment 107259 [details]
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 2
Comment 28 antistress 2008-03-14 00:29:08 UTC
Created attachment 107260 [details]
KDE vs GNOME (side by side) part 3 & 4
Comment 29 Christian Neumair 2008-03-14 00:34:09 UTC
I see the point, thanks guys.

We'll see what we can do. We'd really appreciate anybody who supports our development team that is currently formed of people being distracted by GIO programming, and others that are in important phases of their life.


best regards,
 Christian Neumair
Comment 30 Marcus Carlson 2010-07-31 10:22:30 UTC
Created attachment 166874 [details] [review]
Outer border instead of dropshadow on desktop icons (#317764)

With help of Companys' patch in #625099, thanks!
Comment 31 Marcus Carlson 2010-07-31 10:23:14 UTC
Created attachment 166875 [details]
Screenshots after applying outer border patch
Comment 32 Jakub 'Livio' Rusinek 2010-07-31 10:30:36 UTC
Looks ugly and doesn't make it easier to read.
Stronger shadow (bigger) with blur under would be better.
Comment 33 Jean-François Fortin Tam 2010-07-31 12:44:01 UTC
I'm agreeing with Jakub regarding the latest patch, the border would need to be more powerful to significantly improve legibility, otherwise it's almost the same as the original. You have to stand back from the monitor and ask yourself if you could read it easily even if it was written in german/french/$other_language.
Comment 34 Cosimo Cecchi 2010-08-01 10:40:30 UTC
*** Bug 416861 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 35 Marcus Carlson 2010-08-01 12:05:32 UTC
Adding a stronger border is easy, but how to blur I don't know. I tried but didn't get it working. I'll see if there's someone I can ask how to do it.
Comment 36 Cosimo Cecchi 2010-08-01 13:22:45 UTC
Comment on attachment 166874 [details] [review]
Outer border instead of dropshadow on desktop icons (#317764)

Patch itself would look fine, but I don't like the final effect too.
Perhaps it would be nice to have some input from the design team?
Comment 37 Vish 2010-09-21 08:33:21 UTC
Similar bug has been reported in lp:
Comment 38 William Jon McCann 2012-09-19 18:32:44 UTC
*** Bug 351429 has been marked as a duplicate of this bug. ***
Comment 39 Adolfo Jayme 2014-05-26 04:30:28 UTC
This is yet another bug that has gone stale. Since version 3.1.92, Nautilus dropped the hardcoded shadow effect, which is now handled by the GTK theme.

Please move this bug to gnome-themes-standard (or whatever it’s called now), and use CSS.
Comment 40 Juraj Fiala 2016-06-26 18:08:13 UTC
Since the gtk3 version of Adwaita was moved into gtk+, these bugs belong there.
Comment 41 Matthias Clasen 2016-06-30 03:34:02 UTC
Moving to nautilus again; I don't think we want to handle this in the theme; it is really application-specific.
Comment 42 António Fernandes 2017-08-17 19:35:30 UTC
Review of attachment 166874 [details] [review]:

eel_gdk_draw_layout_with_drop_shadow was remove by commit 22707fdc469dfc7548adc8020e3aaf63b20ae1bf. This patch no longer applies. Also, nowadays, we should be using CSS.

Rejecting to clean up the list of pending patches, on Carlos's request, before transition to GitLab.
Comment 43 António Fernandes 2018-01-02 18:47:31 UTC
Starting with version 3.28, nautilus will not handle the "files on desktop background" feature. For better alternatives, read this blog post