[Debtags-devel] Data and Role restructuring proposal

Justin B Rye jbr@edlug.org.uk
Wed, 15 Jun 2005 17:45:09 +0100

Enrico Zini wrote:
>    Tag: role::sw-application
>    Description: (Software) Applications
>     A program that provides the user with tools to accomplish a task.
>    Tag: role::sw-utility
>    Description: (Software) Utilities
>     A program designed for general support of the processes of a computer.
> An improvement maybe, but I think we could do better.  At least, I
> instinctively feel that a better distinctive line can exist.

Is the "sw-utilities" category intended to replace plain
"utilities", or is it something different?

That long description for role::sw-utility seems to be talking about
major operating system elements on the level of sysvinit.  People
rarely refer to tools like sed or tar or pgmtopbm as "applications";
I often find myself using them "to accomplish a task", but their man
pages tend to call them "utilities". 

After a quick survey of three local users, here's my attempt to
summarise usage:
* At one end of the scale, if it has an interactive (or especially,
	graphical) interface, and is directly invoked by users in
	order to produce or consume particular kinds of contentful
	files (cf vlc or lyx), and comes in a package of its own,
	that's definitely an application.  One respondent offered
	the rule of thumb "if it has a save button, it's an
* In the middle is the big grey area inhabited by things like
	imagemagick or gps or spamassassin.  There was even
	disagreement over emacs.
* At the other end of the scale, if it's capable of being used as
	part of a pipeline (in an xterm or in a system script) to
	modify existing materials, and is bundled with lots of other
	similar tools, it gets called a utility.

On the other hand, if the dividing line is intended to be between
user-oriented and system-oriented software, I'll suggest mentioning
the word "infrastructure".
Ankh kak! (Ancient Egyptian blessing)