Red Hat Bugzilla – Bug 988979
"Manual Partitioning" screen is badly organized, making it very difficult to use
Last modified: 2014-01-02 12:55:26 EST
Description of problem:
The "Manual Partitioning" screen of the Fedora 19 installer is poorly organized, which makes it very difficult to use unless one is experienced with it. (And most users will use the installer a very few times, so almost none of its users will be experienced.)
Version-Release number of selected component (if applicable):
Typical workflows showing issues are:
Starting at the "Manual Partitioning" screen, click on the /boot mount point of an existing system.
The particulars of the corresponding partition will be shown on the right. In particular, the "Mount Point" field is available for use, suggesting that this partition can be assigned to a mount point of the new system.
Enter "/" in "Mount Point". This causes "Update Settings" to become active. Click on "Update Settings".
Unexpectedly, this fails, clearing the "Mount Point" field. This failure is unexpected because user was allowed to specify a "Mount Point" value, but no "Mount Point" value will be accepted.
Issue 1: The failure message is not presented in a popup window, as it is in almost all GUIs in the known world. Instead, it is presented in a band across the bottom of the screen, which I have found is very easy to overlook (presumably because it resembles the icon bars of Windows and other OSs).
Issue 2: The failure message is "That mount point is already in use. Try something else?" That message is incorrect, since the "/" *mount point* of the current installation has not been assigned. What the message intends to say is that the *partition* is in use. (This distinction will be addressed in more detail below.)
Again, select the /boot mount point of an existing system.
Enter "/" in "Mount Point". Click on the "Reformat" checkbox. Click on "Update Settings".
This demonstrates that the error in Situation 1 is that the partition was being used. Now that the user has specified that the partition is to be reformatted, it becomes free to be assigned to a different mount point, viz., the "/" mount point of the new system.
The user is presented with the "Manual Partitioning" screen. The user sees that the new system has no mount points listed, and, following the instructions listed for "creating mount points", he clicks on the "+" button.
The popup window asks for the mount point name and the desired size. The user enters "/" as the mount point, and some value for the size.
The "/" mount point is created on the left side under the new system (indeed, all the mount points for the new system are now shown), and the specifics of the partition are displayed on the right side.
The user is unable to specify the name of an existing partition for the "/" mount point.
The expected result is that the user would then be able to specify an existing partition to assign to his newly-created mount point.
The difficulty stems from a lack of clear separation between the concepts of "partition" (a section of the disk) and "mount point" (a role within a bootable OS). This separation is needed in order to clearly describe the two functions of manual partitioning:
- creating partitions
- assigning partitions for use as mount points
This lack of separation is particularly shown in the left side display. The items on the left side are shown ordered first by OS, and then by role within the OS (that is, mount point). In small, gray type below the mount point is listed the partition which is currently assigned to that mount point. Thus, the left side is clearly *organized* and *displayed* as if it is a list of *mount points*.
However, the actions that are possible when a left-side item is selected show that the items in the left side actually designate *partitions*, not *mount points*. For instance, if I click on the "/" mount point of the new system, I can't use the right side to select a partition to assign to that mount point. But if I click on a mount point of an old system, and I check "reformat", I can use the right side to assign the partition that was previously assigned to that mount point to a different mount point. The operations act on the partition (which is listed in small type in the selected item) not on the mount point (which is listed in big type).
This conflict explains why there is an "other" category at the bottom of the left side: Every partition must be listed on the left side, or otherwise there is no way to manipulate it. But since the left side is organized as if it is a list of mount points, there has to be (effectively) an artificial OS under which the unused partitions will be presented.
Within this conceptual framework, the action of the "+" button becomes clear: It is "create partition and assign it to a mount point". That description makes it clear why "+" cannot be used to assign an existing partition to a mount point. (As versus the current description "create mount point", which leaves the user confused as to why it cannot be used to create the "/" mount point and then assign an existing partition to it.)
I am not a UI expert, but it seems to me that these user confusions could be dramatically reduced by changing the UI in ways like the following:
Make the left side be a list of mount points, with the assigned partitions shown in small gray type much as they are now. Partitions that are not assigned to known mount points of known OSs would *not* be shown. When the screen is first shown, the mount points for the new system should be shown, and in small gray type, they would say "no partition assigned". For mount points that must have partitions (e.g., "/"), below "no partition assigned", there would be a triangle-and-! with the message "a partition must be assigned to this mount point".
When a mount point is clicked on, two buttons appear or become active: "create partition and assign to this mount point", "reformat existing partition and assign to this mount point". Clicking on either of these makes a right side appear or become active that is much the same as the current right side. The user fills in the required information, and then clicks a button at the bottom, either "create partition" or "reformat partition"
There would be an additional button, "delete existing partition". It might present a very simple right side, with only one data item, the partition to be deleted.
(Or by analogy with the current "+" and "-" buttons, what is described above as the right side might be large popup windows.)
Unfortunately, since the left side would no longer do double duty as a list of both partitions and mount points, it would be helpful to put somewhere else on the screen a list of partitions and their sizes -- organized by the physical or LVM volumes that contain them. This isn't strictly necessary (since the right-side "choose partition" fields will present the list of partitions as their selection lists) and that information isn't readily available in the current screen, but it will help the user keep track of their disk organization as they create and delete partitions. Perhaps it can be shown as a scrolling list in a relatively small part of the screen space.
Thanks for your comments. Another problem with terminology in the storage configuration GUI is that if you click "+" to add a new mount point, you will find that "swap" is listed as a possible mount point.
"... since the left side is organized as if it is a list of mount points, there has to be (effectively) an artificial OS under which the unused partitions will be presented."
At the top level, the left side lists installed systems, except for "New Fedora 19 Installation". Storage devices that cannot be identified as belonging to any installed system are listed under "Unknown". What do you see listed at the top level on the left side?
Could you attach a screenshot showing your particular storage configuration as presented by the installer? Annotate it with comments, if you like.
In general, a bug report should address one specific issue, so developers can manage each issue separately. Feel free to open new bugs for specific issues you have identified:
Bug Writing Guidelines
Created attachment 779106 [details]
screenshot showing sda3 listed under "Unknown" in Manual Partitioning
Dale: When you say "artificial OS", are you referring to the "Unknown" list of partitions, as shown in the attached screenshot?
Until I read your comments, I could never understand what was "Unknown" about a known partition. :-)
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #0)
> ... there is an "other" category at the bottom of the
> left side: ...
Could you attach a screenshot showing this?
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #0)
> - creating partitions
> - assigning partitions for use as mount points
Good points. The intent, AIUI, is to do both simultaneously, but that may not seem natural to experienced users who are used to doing each step in order:
1. create partition
2. format partition
3. configure mount point
Logical volumes add another complication to this ... :-)
BTW, the installer uses /etc/fstab to identify partitions that are part of an installed system. If you comment out a spare partition in /etc/fstab, that partition will be listed under "Unknown" by the installer. That is what I did to get the configuration shown in the attached screenshot.
(In reply to Steve Tyler from comment #4)
> Good points. The intent, AIUI, is to do both simultaneously, but that may
> not seem natural to experienced users who are used to doing each step in
I am assuming that the manual partitioning screen is targeted toward users who are quite aware of that disks are partitioned, that the partitions are assigned roles in the OSs that can be booted, etc..
One way of looking at my complaint is that the current format of the screen tries to gloss over those complications and distinctions in a situation where (1) the user does understand the complications, and (2) to be effective, the user has to cope with those complications.
In contrast, the default partitioning options do not require the user to understand, but at the cost that the installation reformats one or more disks and dedicates them entirely to the OS being installed.
Now that I think about it more, I believe that the default partitioning options are a Good Thing for naive users, but that the manual partitioning screen tries to hide too much from the user.
(In reply to Steve Tyler from comment #3)
> > ... there is an "other" category at the bottom of the
> > left side: ...
> Could you attach a screenshot showing this?
I was labeling the item semantically rather than literally. I mean the "Unknown" pseudo-OS, as shown in the screen shot that you attached in comment #2.
(I don't know how to get a screenshot from Anaconda, as I only run it via the Fedora install disks.)
(In reply to Steve Tyler from comment #2)
> Dale: When you say "artificial OS", are you referring to the "Unknown" list
> of partitions, as shown in the attached screenshot?
Yes. If you look at the organization of the left-side list, the top level is "which operating system installation" and the second level is "which mount point (role) within the operating system". Hence "Unknown" functions like an OS ... Which makes no sense to the user that is not practiced at using Anaconda. (And almost no Anaconda user is practiced at it.)
On a larger scale, the problem is that the left-side items are treated as if they are an enumeration of mount points, but if you select an item, the actions you can perform on it are essentially operations on partitions. E.g., if you select an item, you can reassign the selected partition to an entirely different mount point, but you can't assign that mount point to another partition (even if the mount point has no partition assigned and the partition in question is not assigned any purpose).
I would like to encourage the maintainers to pay close attention to the usability of Anaconda for naive users. It's the first program that people are going to touch when they try Fedora. Worse, even heavy Fedora users are unlikely to run it more than once every six months, so they will not build up any knowledge of its quirks. Hence the need for it to be very carefully crafted for usability.
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #6)
> (In reply to Steve Tyler from comment #3)
> > > ... there is an "other" category at the bottom of the
> > > left side: ...
> > Could you attach a screenshot showing this?
> I was labeling the item semantically rather than literally. I mean the
> "Unknown" pseudo-OS, as shown in the screen shot that you attached in
> comment #2.
Thanks for clarifying that. I completely agree that there is a mish-mash of categories in the left pane ...
> (I don't know how to get a screenshot from Anaconda, as I only run it via
> the Fedora install disks.)
A digital camera or cellphone photo would be fine.
If you are using the Live image, you can use the desktop's screenshot tool.
What installer disk are you using? (Live? DVD? netinst?)
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #5)
> In contrast, the default partitioning options do not require the user to
> understand, but at the cost that the installation reformats one or more
> disks and dedicates them entirely to the OS being installed.
I apologize for quoting your comments out of context, but this really got my attention ... :-)
Did you actually have this happen?
Did you lose any data?
Was the resulting system bootable?
Were other operating systems bootable?
FYI, if the install completed successfully, there should be installer logs in /var/log/anaconda/ on the installed system. It would be helpful if you could attach them, so the developers can determine what happened during the install. Please attach them as separate, uncompressed, text/plain files, so they are easy to open in a web browser.
In particular, there is a disk selection screen which allows the user to specify which disks are to be used for the install and which disks are to be ignored. Did you attempt to select install target disks with it?
Created attachment 781406 [details]
screenshot showing Installation Destination dialog with sdb selected as an installation destination
This dialog lets you select which disks are install targets and which disks are to be ignored. The white on black tooltip displays the disk's serial number, IIRC.
Were any disks that you did not select here reformatted?
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #6)
> (I don't know how to get a screenshot from Anaconda, as I only run it via
> the Fedora install disks.)
FYI, the screenshots I have been attaching are from a virtual machine (VM) running in a window:
$ qemu-kvm -m 4096 -hda f19-test-3.img -hdb f18-test-2.img -cdrom ~/xfr/fedora/F19/Fedora-19-x86_64-DVD.iso -vga std -boot menu=on
You didn't ask, but since I am going to keep asking you for screenshots and specifics, here is a mini-tutorial on using a VM:
Open a terminal.
Create a disk image (size can be from about 12G and up):
$ qemu-img create f19-test-1.img 32G
Start the VM and select the DVD/CD to boot from (memory can be from 1024 and up):
$ qemu-kvm -m 2048 -hda f19-test-1.img -cdrom ~/xfr/fedora/F19/Fedora-Live-Desktop-x86_64-19-1.iso -vga std -boot menu=on
Complete a test install.
Reboot into the installed system by selecting the disk from the boot menu.
For more command-line arguments than you can shake a stick at:
$ man qemu
NB: Your processor needs to support virtualization:
BTW, there is a GUI front-end for qemu called virt-manager:
Dale, I should warn you that this is the sort of reaction you may get from anaconda developers when they read a GUI design bug report:
Bug 978255, Comment 1.
(In reply to Steve Tyler from comment #9)
> If you are using the Live image, you can use the desktop's screenshot tool.
On the F19 Gnome Live image, press "PrintScrn" to save the entire screen and alt-PrintScrn to save the current window. Files are named ~/Pictures/Screenshot*.
> Did you actually have this happen?
Damn, sorry, I wrote hastily. I've not used any of the naive modes of the Installer, and was incorrectly stating how aggressive the Installer is. What I meant to say was that in a "naive mode", the Installer is necessarily going to be Procrustian will do things the way that it sees fit. That's perfectly fine with me, even if it is rather aggressive, as long as the user is properly warned of things he might find undesirable.
But once the user goes beyond "let the installer do it the way it wants to", the user really will have to be aware that there are partitions, and there are mount points, and that he's creating, deleting, and formatting partitions, and assigning partitions to mount points, etc. There's no way to present the needed information in a way that is simpler than that without obscuring information that the user must have clear access to.
I thank you for working on this, but are screen shots really necessary to address the issue? With enough hassles, I can get screen shots, but is my complaint unclear without particular images?
I would think that what you would find it more significant for me to make clear is what I think things ought to look like. I could write up ASCII art for that, but I'm not sure that would be the right thing for me to do. The reason for that is that the issue isn't such things as the screen layout of the data items, but that the screen isn't organized in a way that matches the mental model that the user *must* have to do the task effectively. And I know that I am not a UI designer; I've no reason to believe that any proposal I create would be a good fit for the task either, although it would probably alleviate the one problem that I've identified. The issue needs to be addressed by someone who is aware of the pitfalls of graphically representing a complicated task.
(In reply to Dale R. Worley from comment #17)
> I thank you for working on this, but are screen shots really necessary to
> address the issue? With enough hassles, I can get screen shots, but is my
> complaint unclear without particular images?
Comment 6 exemplifies why screenshots are more efficient than words ...
> I would think that what you would find it more significant for me to make
> clear is what I think things ought to look like. I could write up ASCII art
> for that, but I'm not sure that would be the right thing for me to do. The
> reason for that is that the issue isn't such things as the screen layout of
> the data items, but that the screen isn't organized in a way that matches
> the mental model that the user *must* have to do the task effectively. And
> I know that I am not a UI designer; I've no reason to believe that any
> proposal I create would be a good fit for the task either, although it would
> probably alleviate the one problem that I've identified. The issue needs to
> be addressed by someone who is aware of the pitfalls of graphically
> representing a complicated task.
Anaconda had a designated GUI designer:
(Note the digital camera photos -- there is no operating system running when the syslinux menu is displayed.)
A very nice GUI design analysis and mockup:
(Note the extensive use of annotations.)
More from Máirín:
The Partitioning Personas are brilliant:
What’s your partitioning persona? And, the partitioning UI thus far.
This shows the anaconda GUI design that was first implemented in F18:
More Anaconda Custom Partitioning
While we've made some changes around custom partitioning and are continuing to make additional changes to improve things, I'm going to close this bug. First, it's an awful lot of problems rolled into one bug which is always extremely difficult to track and know when you've finished something. Second, we are not a design-by-bugzilla component which this bug report is basically going for. If you would like to discuss things, I encourage you to join anaconda-maint-list.