Botching the Trivial

As a developer, I’m used to screwing things up. It comes with the job, and that’s why we have beta testers, QA, and code reviewers. You get used to it, and usually it ends up not being too big a deal.

What’s really embarrassing is when the screwup is literally staring you in the face and makes it into a major release. This was the case with the VMware Workstation and Player application icons in Workstation 6.0.

During development of Workstation 6.0, I felt the icon set needed a refresh. We try to fit in well with the GNOME desktop, and our icons just didn’t match. They weren’t bad, but they could have been better. I spent a lot of my free time creating a new set of icons for the application in the Tango style. This included application icons.

Our previous application icons were beveled and out of place in a Tango-themed desktop, so I replaced those as well. The result was really nice. After getting people to look at them, I committed them and wrote scripts to install all our fancy new icons with the product.

But something wasn’t quite right. I knew it but didn’t really think about it until after the release. There was something about the icons in the panel and menus. They looked fine on my development system toward the end of the Workstation 6 development cycle, but didn’t look right when I next installed a build on that system. I guess I shrugged it off as just being something screwy with my setup, but when I installed Workstation 6 on my laptop, the icons still looked wrong.

They were blurry. I made nice crisp icons! Where did these blurry ones come from? I figured it had to do with my panel size and that it scaled the 24×24 ones down to 22×22. That must be it, I thought.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago when I finally decided to look into this thoroughly. What I saw made me so sad. The .desktop files for the applications contained:

Icon=/usr/share/icons/hicolor/48x48/apps/vmware-workstation.png

Yes. I never updated the old .desktop file generation code to use an icontheme name. It was still using the really old code querying the 48×48 icon we used to ship.

I suddenly realized why it used to look fine on my box. When I first tested these icons, I hand-modified my .desktop file to test the icons. It wasn’t until I installed a new build that I got the shipped .desktop file.

As you can imagine, I felt like an idiot. I decided to fix this quietly without making my idiocy too obvious to everyone else. (Don’t tell anyone, please. They think I’m smart.)

Just to give a sense, here’s a before and after shot.

Before
Broken WS6 icons

After
Fixed WS6 icons

Ah, much better. We have pretty icons again! Of course, had I fixed one single line of code and looked at a generated .desktop file once before release, that wouldn’t have happened.

But everyone makes at least one stupid mistake in a release, right?

VMware Tango Icons ♥ Creative Commons

The VMware Workstation 6 betas have been out for a while now, so I’m sure those using it have noticed that we’ve been trying to make our icon theme fit in with the Tango icon style (well, to the best of my current abilities). So far this has proven to be a dramatic improvement over our older icon style used in Workstation 5.x, and it really fits in a lot better on modern GNOME desktops. The overall look feels clean and polished, mostly thanks to the hard work of the Tango project.

We’ve been lucky in that the Tango project has provided such a good variety of high-quality icons. I haven’t had to do nearly as much work as I expected in designing these icons. There were several existing VMware icons that we needed to move to the Tango style still, such as power icons, USB, serial port, message log, etc. Just a handful, but while many of them may be somewhat VMware-specific, there are some that we felt could be useful to other software projects, icon designers, and, perhaps, to Tango itself.

So we’re releasing our non-trademarked icons (everything the lawyers are okay with) under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. It’s only fair that we give back, afterall. There will be a dedicated page for this later, but for now, you can download it directly from here:

Download: vmware-tango-icons-0.5.tar.gz

You can see what we currently have available in the image below. I’ll put out updates as we come up with new icons and tidy up some of the remaining ones that we still want to release.

Thanks again to the Tango project for all your work in making the Linux desktop a more beautiful place, and if any of these icons look at all useful to the project, please feel free to use them, modify them, or have me tweak them.

VMware Tango Icons