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The webOS Wish List: A unified Preferences app 37

by Derek Kessler Mon, 26 Mar 2012 8:44 pm EDT

The webOS Wish List: A unified Preferences app

If there's one thing to like about iOS, it's that all of your preferences and settings are accessible through one app: Settings. It's, at least in my mind, poorly organized and hit-or-miss with third party app settings (that's an iOS rant all its own), but it's all there. If there's any one thing about webOS that drives this blogger crazy, it's that webOS splits managing your settings and preferences in no fewer than eighteen different apps, which on every webOS device I own usually end up with a launcher page dedicated to themselves (and a handful of similar-purpose homebrew apps). Sure, you can open them up in multiple cards, but how often do you really need to change your wallpaper, connect to a new Wi-Fi network, and manage your Text Assist shortcuts at the same time?

The webOS team tried to solve this before. In fact, they were well on their way with the very first TouchPad beta emulator, which contained a combined preferences app title System Preferences. It was pretty rough, clearly a cobbled-together app that literally had the code of the old webOS smartphone preferences apps injected into it, but it worked, and it was pretty webOS-like in its behavior. But, alas, System Preferences as a combined app never made it past the first beta, and those eighteen- individual apps still take up an entire launcher page. With 9.7-inches of real estate to work with, there's no reason that a unified Preferences app wouldn't work - especially since every one of the individual apps is designed so that it takes up less than 500 pixels.

Have your own thoughts on this webOS Wish List entry? Of course you do - the comments await. Without a doubt you have your own ideas as to what ought be on the webOS wish list, and so we've created a forum thread just for that - and an awesome discussion it has proven to be.

Edit: For clarification's sake, this is about system settings, like Sound Settings, Bluetooth, and the like. Individual apps would still have their own preferences in app. That only makes sense.

37 Comments

I actually enjoy the current split preferences setup. It allows me to put my most used settings in easier to access areas, like the dock, or the first launcher page.

Weird. I liked the split preferences for some reason and kind of miss it on my iPhone.

it's odd, I like it split too. In fact way before i ever used webOS, one of the things I hated most about iOS was the combined settings tab. I was always having to switch back to settings to change something in the middle of a task. It was just annoying. I can see the merit of it. If there was a way to do both, that would work, but again....dreaming...

I prefer the split preferences as well. Nothing like having your app preferences IN the app when you're actually using it, rather than wading through what was it? 18 or so other totally unrelated preferences.

Then again, if you were talking about just the System Preferences, sure that would be nice to have 'em all in one page. But when you start sprinkling in other app preferences like Facebook, Foursquare, etc. in that same page, it becomes too unwieldy and cluttered.

If there's one thing I absolutely hate about iOS, it's not having application preferences available from the application.

Maybe we could have -both- worlds, though. With a unified and standardized preferences system, it would be simple to have both.

As is, though, there isn't really a unified system, only that all the stock apps all have the same look to theirs .. which, btw, looks kinda lame on a tablet.

just webOS newbie so I will go with what's offered with no comment

I like it just the way it is inside the app, who wants to exit just to change some settings. Makes no sense to me, not jealous of iphone there

I don't want a unified settings app.  I mean how often are you going to want to change settings for a bunch of apps at once.  Maybe some of the core application and OS settings could be grouped into one 'system settings' app.  One that would is having one place to set notification and ringtone sounds - though I still think that function belongs (even if redundant) in the separate (core) apps too.   I don't want 3rd party apps muddying the waters in system settings.  

I agree with ALL of the comments so far. It is why a single preference page like iOS never made it out of beta. Have to exit an app to get to the preferences is not efficient, because you generally want to change the preferences when you are in the app. At least that is when I think most people decide they want to change a preference, including me. I use an iPhone and iPad and Touchpad and Pre2 regularly. iOS has some features that are better than webos, but this isn't one of them.

Came here expecting lots of folks jumping on the unified preferences bandwagon. Was going to comment that I like separate prefs better.

But everyone seems to agree with me, what's up with that?

Is this the Internet from a parallel dimension?

I'm with the author. I love the way it's done on IOS all in one place.

I'm with the author. I love the way it's done on IOS all in one place.

I read this post again and I don't really understand what Derek is trying to say. Not one of his best efforts

It sounds crystal clear to me.

Derek's effort was just fine.

Its not clear to me because I don't see how he could be suggesting that we change to something that is more difficult. And as you can see its a poor effort of convincing anyone except snotboogie who is always trying to convince us of the evils of webos.

What Derek is really trying to say is that he prefers less launcher pages and he would like to have the settings page for something else. Some kinda folder or someting, he just went about it the wrong way trying suggest that the ios way is easier.

Derek is not saying to take away launcher pages at all. He is saying that a unified settings app is better than having this...

Sounds & Ringtones
Screen & Lock
Accounts
Software Manager
Help
Gesture Tutorial
Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
VPN
Exhibition
Text Assist
Location Services
Date & Time
System Updates
Device Info
Backup
Regional Settings
SIM Toolkit

and I agree.

It's your time of the month isn't it?

Like it split too Dboy! I agree with Gabber5.0 and almost everyone here (but the guy that thought himself funny enough to post twice his "I like it iOS way" comment).
Go with the flow here Derek boy (that's why I wrote Dboy at first. Get it? ;-)
By the way, never saw that the community refuted against something that was introduced by webOSNation golden boy Derek "Zoolander" Kessler (nothing against you Dboy...you don't like the nickname do you?).
P.S.: Nothing about iOS is great, but the retina display and its grand app ecosystem. For everything else, there's webOS!

I prefer the way they are now too. And how much are you adjusting settings anyway? I just spent a week setting up a Nook Color with CM7 for a relative, so I was in settings a lot (and what a mess of nested menus you have to deal with in Android, sheesh). But setting up a new device is the only time I can see this mattering much.

Prioritize other things, please! Like a web browser that remembers where I was when I tap the Back button. And changes the color of links I have visited. And. . .

From reading these comments it seems like people aren't clear on what is being described...

Having 16 different apps for settings is ridiculous and needs to change. A fix that would give both sides what they want would be to allow the creation of folders in the launcher pages.

What am I missing here? Doesn't every webOS device have a system/settings launcher? How much more centralized can you get? I think it is semantics here. You may as well call the launcher an app because it essentially does what the wish is describing.

I for one like how webOS settings work, it mimics windows and apple desktop OS setting styles. I do however wish customizing the interface was more of a settings scenario than a homebrew task.

I really don't think Apple had a very good idea trying to get developers to try and follow that approach of unifying all your settings in one place. First off, developers are creative creatures that will sometimes decide that the approved way of doing it is dumb. Second, the more applications you have, and the more similarly named those applications are, it becomes more cumbersome to manage.

You can stick with the cloud and base your settings in a secured remote lockbox database, but that really sucks when you're working without a solid connection. PalmOS did an interesting thing (that angered many devs back in the day) with embedding that data structure into the application itself and using it to hold onto application settings. Very neat and tidy, if you think about it...no .ini files or text files floating around, just all packed up into an exe that holds onto your settings if you back it up manually, automatically, or copy it to your other computer. No one will probably ever do that again because it was a good idea but many devs couldn't wrap their heads around it...ultimately, I figure the application itself, upon installation, will trigger the OS to create a little database (we're talking that sits out in the application's system directory that holds onto app settings and app-related data, and the OS settings app would sweep through those directories and let you get at the data through that type of Settings UI. Something like that. But it would probably be best implemented by HP team, of course.

"Second, the more applications you have, and the more similarly named those applications are, it becomes more cumbersome to manage."

You just named the reason why combining all the settings apps into one preferences app makes sense.

I have no less than four bluetooth devices and switch regularly between them. Am I supposed to stop what I am doing and press that stupid button and find settings, scroll to general settings, find blue... Hell I am tired already.

How do you do it now? I hope you would just swipe down from the top and touch Bluetooth, that wouldn't change...

Actually, I like the prefs as they are.

If I am in application XY, I would rather edit my prefs directly there, instead of leavin this app, switching to the right launcher section, starting a prefs app and searching through countless entries to find the one, I need for my XY app...

I hated this in iOS.

I agree, that whole last tab on the TouchPad is poorly organized. I almost wonder if they kept them seperate in an attempt to keep the settings tab from looking too skimpy. Of course, if the settings/preferences were better organized there wouldn't be a need for a settings tab.

One could argue that consolidating all the settings doesn't make sense when multitasking is at the heart of the platform. Which may be true to an extent, but even consolidating it down to three or four apps with more general names (Connections) would make a lot more sense.

Mine is the same way. I stick all settings and system related stuff in the Settings tab; touchvol, xterm, systoolsmgr, govnah, internalz, etc.

Honestly, I'm not fond of the organization or naming of the default tabs in general. Downloads, to me, doesn't suggest what actually ends up there -- which is everything. The others are just as bad, in my opinion.

I understand the space issue, but even dividers so we could separate apps in the existing categories would be helpful. Even better, I think, would be a AM/FM style button or gesture than could essentially switch desktops or display alternate tabs.

P.S. I don't think he is suggesting that each third party app should have to be restricted to the webOS settings app/s

I lean on the "like it the way it is" side, or at least dislike the iOS way. WebOS is pretty intuitive, keeping the preferences associated with the apps that they affect. I've spent many wasted minutes hunting up and down the iOS preference app trying to find the place where they put things. All the while I was out of the application that needed the tweak.

My vote for having it like in the emulator: Separate apps plus unified app that lists them all and provides a frame for its user interface.

Finally, I think that putting links to preferences apps in an app's menu must not be hard - I'd say the developers don't think it's useful.

I like the split prefs, but i think some can be consolidated, like, backup and device info combined, wifi, vpn and bluetooth, the sort

Just switched back to Webos from a 4s to a Franken Pre 2. IOS preferences are really bad and cumbersome and the lack of a card system makes it that much worse.

WebOs preferences is one of the main reasons I switched back to WebOs.

I really think that there is something to be said for the idea that there could be a unified settings panel, as -well- as each app having it's own settings page.

Both methods do have their advantages and every user has their own ideas about how things should be done. I'm pretty happy with how the settings are handled in webOS, but there's room for an app, here, right? A little more into framework direction would be nice.

Anyway, if someone is going to code such a settings beast, it would be nice to have the possibility to hide the icons from the other apps. And, of course, it would be wise to devide between system-wide settings and app settings.

Edit: Nevermind.

I support Derek's idea, hopefully Open webOS will see that happen.

There has to be more important things to wish for

I think having a Settings Tab, with all the settings in it, is more or less the same as having a Settings app, with all the settings in it. Granted, not all settings for all apps are in there, but close enough for me.

I absolutely love them all seperate! I have a iPhone 3GS as my travel phone and thats one of my major things I hate and end up missing me Pre. I don't like having scroll threw all those different things just to change my wallpaper or my ringtone. I hate having to go to that settings app to get to my Wifi. I don't believe this should be changed in WebOS. It's perfect the way it is.

It's clear you don't use and under estimate the power of Just Type. You really dont even have to bring up the launcher page. Try it now, go ahead and just type "wall" Screen & Lock icon will appear, only type "Wi" Wifi will appear, and go head and start typing "rin" or "vol" Sounds & Ringtones will appear. Even if you start to type "aud" Sound & Ringtones will appear, along with music.

There's no need for a unified preferences app. I love the fact I can go straight to ringtones and only have the preferences for that at hand instead of having to deal with a bunch of other things I don't need at the time in hand. Infact some times I don't even bother reading them, since I can just see a big speaker and hit that, I know off hand thats my ringtones and vol settings.