[PD] Max/MSP vs. Pd [was: shadow patch bug]

chris clepper cclepper at artic.edu
Sun Oct 6 19:50:09 CEST 2002


One of the main problems I find with the 'stock' pd GUI is the fact 
that it doesn't take advantage of what a GUI can do for the user.  In 
short, the Graphic aspect of the pd GUI needs to be emphasized more. 
For example, there is no visual differentiation between data/control 
and signal paths.  There's also very little visual difference between 
object, message, and number boxes which makes things harder to read 
in large and cluttered patches.

IMHO these need to be addressed, and it doesn't need to be a radical 
change either.  Perhaps a double line border for an object (like Max) 
and different colored patch cords for data and audio paths would be 
enough to start?  Adding these features would make patches easier to 
read, take a look at how jMax and Max handle this. Variable font 
sizes could also improve readability and allow for cleaner layout of 
the example patches.

In my experience of showing pd to people, the GUI is the number one 
complaint.  The irony is that Max/MSP was often criticized for having 
a poor or ugly GUI, so most of the changes in Max4 addressed those 
concerns (and unfortunately not the stability/performance issues). 
There is something to be said for having an environment that is 
pleasing to the eye, and thus makes it nicer to work in.   Also, the 
clearer data is displayed to the user the more productive that 
environment will often be.

I'm hardly an expert, but I've had enough experience using these 
programs to discover how they both aid and hinder my work.  I also 
realize that the issues of appearance and usability are quite 
subjective, and that you can make a poorly organized patch in Max and 
a nicely ordered one in pd.  But from most of the list postings and 
discussions I've had concerning the graphical layout of pd, I have 
determined that enhancements to the GUI would both entice more people 
to use pd and enable greater productivity for the users of pd.


>  > They were talking about Pd like I would talk
>>  about Csound: not user-friendly, needs to much knowledge,...
>Most max users that i know don't want to waste their time with a long
>learning phase. They are musicians, not programmers.
>Max is delivered with a large number of working examples to be modified for
>one's perform patches.
>>  OTOH, Kim had very bad luck with his Powerbook on the night's
>>  performace because his whole machine crashed three times... That about
>>  MacOS 9.
>Yes, OS9 is the worst OS i've ever had to work with. OSX is much better in
>many respects and i'm eagerly waiting for max being available for it.
>Yet, this won't prevent max from crashing... it's just that one is faster
>back to continue performing....
>>  Max has some very cool usability enhancements compared to Pd. Some are
>>  directly visible, for example the greater count of GUI objects. I want
>  > multisliders, too.

>Yes, with my Max patches i normally use a number of different font sizes and
>colors to guide the eye

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