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Success Stories ‘07: Okular

Published on September 30th, 2007 by Ellen Reitmayr


Okular is the default document viewer for the next major version of the K Desktop Environment. As it is capable of displaying various document and image formats, a major challenge is the design of the toolbar to facilitate browsing, zooming and selecting text passages of the displayed document.

Consequently the objective of the Okular student, Sharad Baliyan, was to develop an alternative toolbar layout. This was to be accomplished by applying parts of the interaction design life cycle. The planned milestones for the student included user and task research, a best-practice and comparative analysis, prototype development and lastly designing the actual alternative toolbar.

Okular Toolbar Mockup

Florian Grässle, usability mentor:

The Okular SoU student project was finished successfully. […]
The survey results serve as a valuable basis for future design decisions. Parts of the proposed okular toolbar mockup will be incorporated into the next version of the KDE Desktop Environment.


Project: Okular. Okular is the default document viewer for the next major version of the K Desktop Environment. It is capable of displaying various document and image formats. Based on its extensive feature set many exciting interaction design questions arise.

Okular screenshot

Student Intern: Sharad Baliyan, India. Sharad Baliyan is a post graduate student of Software and User Interface Design at NID, Ahmedabad.

Usability Mentor: Florian Grässle, Germany. Florian Grässle is a member of the KDE Usability team.

Technical Mentor: Pino Toscano, Italy. Pino Toscano, one of the main developers of Okular.

Project Work

During the five months that Sharad worked on Okular, he first investigated competing document and image viewers to familiarise himself with the state of the art document and image viewer applications. To get a feeling for the needs of the target user group, he then conducted an informal pilot survey with around twenty interviewees from his university.

By evaluating the results of his pilot survey he gathered common tasks and features. In collaboration with the Okular development team he prepared the questions for another survey which should be conducted remotely and cover a more representative proportion of the user base. Recurring open issues from e.g. bug reports and user feedback on mailing lists were included into the survey.

Finally, Sharad launched the survey and spread the link in suitable user forums and mailing lists. From the results, he gathered information about usage habits, common tasks and required feature sets. He then Sharad conducted a best-practice comparative toolbar analysis and reviewed the toolbars of popular document viewers across various platforms.

Based on the findings from the toolbar analysis and the survey results Sharad finished his work by creating a toolbar mockup.

Downloads and Links



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