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Parley – Vocabulary Learning made Fluffy

Daniel already wrote about the KDE Education Sprint in Randa and some of the news in Parley land. Harald and I recorded a screen-cast with a Fluffy Parley that should have never seen the light of day. That pink monstrosity surly seems to have taken a special spot in our hearts 😉 And yes, we shamelessly stole from other well-known sources. That includes the Fluffy Bunny Plasma theme and the KBlocks Pink Bunny theme. Sabine reports that her daughter is in love with Fluffy already. What is it with all these bunnies anyway? Could someone out there please draw me a Pink Unicorn instead? Bonus points if you also draw a nice Unicow. I will buy beer for that.

Since we had so much pink now, I’ll stick to the boring stuff that also happened. Our plans for Parley included separating the graphical part of the vocabulary practice and the back-end that manages the whole show. At some point we noticed that using a simple painter to draw random images in the background of the app was fun. Of course it was clear that just using a bitmap there would not be a good idea, that’s why all of KDE Games and some Education apps use svg-magic instead. Just like our beloved Plasma. So after sitting down and trying to grab the best pieces from all of these, we have something to show. Of course much more work went into polishing what goes on behind the scenes. But that’s hard to show… Daniel and I started to first plan this update at Akademy last year, almost a year ago.

Parley still carries around some of the luggage that KVocTrain had accumulated in KDE 3 times. KVocTrain had a ludicrous amount of settings and would let you enter lots of details for each individual word. I was always reluctant to saw away features there. The funny thing though, was that most of the data you could enter for your vocabulary, was just plain useless. If it doesn’t show up in a learning session, what’s it for then, eh?

Some of this madness has been cleaned up for KDE SC 4.5. Now it’s not pointless any more to add pronunciation to a word for example. Many features now work the way you’d expect. The recent sprint motivated us to sit down and polish lots of things. So far the early tester feedback has been very positive. We knew since long that the practice part needed lots of love. Some of the code was basically untouched since KDE 3 times. Many things were not working.

One prominent example was conjugations, where none of the progress was saved. Not ever. So it was basically impossible to learn conjugations with Parley in any sensible way. Now finally, Parley lets you practice your conjugation skills, only shows words that you should actually work on and gives sensible feedback.

With the working practice modes and the svg featured additional fluffyness, much of what I wanted Parley to be has come a step closer. Learning vocabulary is not the most fun thing in the world, but at least it doesn’t have to look horrible! I’m very happy that I was in touch with Jarle Akselsen already, now we have a great bee theme for Parley. No, I assume bees are not fluffy, but the bee theme is the best looking we have so far! You heard of the Bunnies already, they have more value in that you can shock your friends with them 😉 I’m curious to see what other themes will show up. Of course we use get hot new stuff to let you grab new Parley themes as they pop up 🙂

Of course no KDE-related blog post without a call for help. Currently we’d appreciate one or two more themes, if anyone is interested, we have documentation inside one svg. The other part that is painfully obvious is the lack of a good manual. We’re currently writing on it, but I for example wasn’t born to write manuals (something deep inside me tells me that). So if you feel like improving our writing, we’re currently working on and will convert that to a proper doc-book format once we have some good contents (freezes say, that would be tomorrow).

Update: When doing screen shots past midnight, there is a danger of messing things up, such as German grammar… "Ihr seid" it is of course.