Ansel (was: R&Darktable)

I normally avoid writing lenghty posts here but as a dev with lots of commits in darktable (dt)let me describe my standpoint on this topic.

YES: i have read through all that lengthy post of AP and i could appreciate some of his humour and his criticism of dt code.

YES: i absolutely adore his work on color maths in dt, his driving force towards what he calls “scene referred” and the contributed code that made dt the sophisticated piece of software it is today.

YES: lengthy parts in the mentioned post are imho just personal assaults - in no way acceptable. The reasons for that i can’t understand at all.

In a number of posts here in this thread the rationale behind AP’s criticism of dt code was mentioned, so let’s go into this.

The UI of dt is a design decision and so can always be debated. (BTW you can read in github how that is done)

We have too many options in preferences. Everyone here can come up with suggestions via a github issue or even a pr and i can assure you, it will be discussed. I have done such several times.

Dt is full of “bloat” making the code un-maintainable?

In the post there are lengthy statistics, but those data don’t prove a single point. Some parts of that code indeed look weird and it might be very good to refactor but proving bloat? Absolutely no.

Some details (removed code in ansel as being bloat)

  1. The MIDI interface. Have you used that? I got myself a loupedeck+ a year ago and concider that the best investment i ever did for raw photo work. Much more important than a new piece of glass. It speeds up the work and allows to focus on visual output while developing enormously. A no-go to be removed.
  2. The new selection filters. How much hate-speech was put on that. I just like to use it every day.
  3. The various lightroom modes. Absolutely a must is the culling mode.
  4. Support for slow machines (“performance over quality”, “resolution of preview images”). I don’t care personally (due to my system’s power) but i certainly want user experience to be good even on slower machines than mine.

Question here: You still concider above code as “bloat”?

It was said, because of the “bloat” dt is slow and eats up the CPU/GPU.

Have you tried recent dt master and checked performance vs ansel? You are strongly advised to do so :slight_smile: I installed ansel from github code yesterday while investigating an issue on common code and the performance difference was to be noticed immediately and the perf gain was not pro ansel. And the better dt performance was not only for exporting but in darkroom.

Did you follow the vast number of commits removing endless lines of sse2 specific code? That’s what i would call removing bloat and reducing complexity for performance.

Last points for now. Would you want to miss the new screenshots? A performant slidesow? The new presets? Style previews? Bugfixed ISO mode? Some new algos? Lens correction based on manufacturer data? EDIT: The list is much longer, just have a look into 4.2/4.4 release notes.

Use the software you want!
If interested to do so make constructive criticism on dt using arguments on github! We love to get that sort of feedback!
Have fun with your photos and keep going!


LOL software bloat:

The term is not applied consistently; it is often used as a pejorative by end users (bloatware) to describe undesired user interface changes even if those changes had little or no effect on the hardware requirements. In long-lived software, perceived bloat can occur from the software servicing a large, diverse marketplace with many differing requirements. Most end users will feel they only need some limited subset of the available functions, and will regard the others as unnecessary bloat, even if end users with different requirements require those functions.


I don’t want to add fuel to the fire, so I’ll keep this short.

I LOVE the “new” keyboard shortcut system, with its “vim-style” key bindings. I’ve seen it first in Capture One where you hold a “speed key” while moving the mouse to change a setting. This is incredibly quick and precise.

I also ADORE the new Lua capabilities. Binding a key not just to a specific function, but actually to code is a game changer.

To my personal taste, Sigmoid has been a revelation. Color rendering is a personal thing, and sigmoid is exactly the kind of look I personally strive for.

There is a bunch of brilliant engineering happening in darktable beyond Ansel’s cutoff that I do not want to miss.


I certainly and fully agree on this. But how can we get valid insight on what features are not used and thus could/should be removed? A user survey - as we had some time ago - gives a huge bias making it very diffucult to interpret correctly. Any good idea on this? Sort of data-collection inside dt visible to the user who might report that?


There will always be at least one person using most features (if only the developer who wrote them) so looking for “unused” features probably won’t be helpful. Also there are divisive “love/hate” features that will be an issue. Data collection in darktable is only really useful if it’s anonymously collected via some sort of analytics feature (and of course people might try a feature then never use it again). What we really need is opinions (because “I love this” and “I hate this” are things you need to capture as well) but yes, these are hard to collect in an unbiased manner.

1 Like

No, I haven’t.

The question I would wish to ask here is about priorities. Was the MIDI interface a priority in DT development, or was it an itch that one or more developers wanted to scratch?

The other question I would wish to raise is, is the MIDI interface stand-alone, or could it be used as the basis of a unified input system, incorporating keyboard/mouse/graphic tablets as well?

Just some observations. People (I’ve asked them all) have got used to a world that generally just works and is intuitive. (Remember when devices came with instruction manuals? How quaint.) Rightly or wrongly, DT is not that. It’s a while since I’ve used LR (cue panto boo, hiss) but I guess that it’s closer to being so, and Apple Photos obviously is, with obvious loss of user control. I have recommended DT to photogs on various forums though tend to add a health warning that it’s worth the effort. There are lots more people to whom I would never recommend it. Is that a problem? Dunno


What? Our manual is like 300 pages long and answers at least 50% of the questions asked about dt here on this forum.


That’s my point. (I realise now the confusion. I’ll add parentheses to make it clear that was a “witty” aside… that’s why the world still needs editors)

1 Like

It was written as a unified input system that replaced the old method of defining keyboard/mouse shortcuts and also supports MIDI. It works great and removes a lot of boilerplate code, but IMO is really hard to explain well (I’ve done my best in the user manual but I still don’t think it’s good enough) and I guess is much more fully-featured (and complex) than most users need.


If DT hat this feature, I would definitely opt-in, as long as the data is anonymized on the user end.

Designing an UI for a diverse group of anonymous users is enormously difficult. Let’s make it a tiny bit easier.

I am sorry to have launched such a debate following the publication of this link and I apologize to the developers if they feel offended, it was absolutely not my intention. I simply wanted to draw attention to the lack of respect shown to the whole Darktable and Free and Open Source Software community (developer, user, members of this forum).
In “Free Software”, I hear the word freedom and let’s not forget that the freedom of some stops where the freedom of others begins.

Personally, I am a simple user of Darktable since version 0.9, I am absolutely not in the field of computer science and software development, I am a baker by training and I have made my entire career in this field at different levels of responsibility and I am also an “AMATEUR” photographer, an activity that I do with love and passion without any commercial or financial purpose.
For me Darktable is the program that suits me perfectly and its greatest qualities are:

  1. The result obtained
  2. The possibility to choose between different modules and development methods
  3. The management and selection of photos
  4. Its instructions for use (manuals).
  5. The Midi support (to try it is to adopt it)
  6. The philosophy and identity of the software
    Currently, I use the master 4.3 without any problem and with nice new features, it is also very responsive on my laptop without opencl.

In some comments, I read some very interesting ideas and exchanges, I think it would be more appropriate to start a new darktable specific thread.
Greetings from Brussel,


Unification sounds to be a good design choice, eliminating stovepipes. The only thing one could take issue with is the implementation and quality of the code. Judgement on that front is beyond my capabilities.

I’ll try again. Is this wholly a good thing? Yes, that’s a normative question



Interesting I think I saw some comments from AP about how the UI in DT restricted its use for the “average” person. This from the man creating some of the most complex modules :slight_smile: In any case on that note I think he is attacking the UI on his project to try and simplify it… He has even introduced a menu and done some re-wording of key tasks…

I also read in a PR that he is removing the norms from filmic v7… so more simplification… almost sounds like his is taking more of an approach to the color preservation as it is presented in the sigmoid module…

It’s not the first time. He’s gone on a fair few rants with personal attacks only to later reverse and go on a new rant with personal attacks on his previous position. Strangely leaving out that he was vigorously and aggressively arguing the opposite point not long ago.

I’m not sure how many aggressive posts he made about how dt should be for experts crafting an image. Dismissing concerns about complexity and the need to efficiently handle large amounts of images.

He should have been kicked off this site way, way earlier because of how he treated some valuable contributors.


I took a quick look and the menu system is interesting…it pulls a few things together. AP has a lot of passion and great ideas but also a very abrasive online personality. I have never met him in person and so I feel that it would be wrong to make any statement about him as a person.

Online exchanges so often degrade and I wonder how many of them would turn out so much differently over a meal and a few drinks… :slight_smile:


Sorry but he isn’t two distinct people. The online and IRL persons are the same person.

1 Like

I know its well understood that a simpler interface is easier to understand, so you have less confusion and fewer questions. And to be fair, AP has implemented some pretty nice UI features into rgb color balance, tone equalizer and contrast equalizer

But when that can’t be done it really helps for the user to understand the cause and effect behind the controls. I remember when diffuse and sharpen came out, AP was disappointed that people hadn’t recognized a bug in the 1st-4th order anisotropy sliders. Well, a big part of the problem was that no one else really knew what how those sliders were supposed to behave so no one knew enough to question them. Of course AP fixed the problem right away and the module is now one of the best and unique feature of DT.

So I think one of the biggest challenges for new users is getting a hand-hold on the DT workflow based on what they learned on other programs, and that’s where a good UI can really help… when you can do that.

You may have context for that where I don’t so fair enough. I suspect you can learn a fair bit about a person from those conversations but online interactions are often just bullshit too. People standing face to face would often never adopt such postures as they do online.

There is no real human connection made online and rants often become the norm as do terse or cutting replies. If people talked like this to each other in person there would be a lot of people left talking to themselves as no one would want to associate with them. There are people that you just naturally connect with and those that annoy you. Generally in life you avoid the annoying people but online people get sucked in and the fun begins….

I generally view myself as basically a kind gentle respectful person, but I am a fit 6’ 6” 250lb man with a deep voice so my in person representation could be perceived and reacted to much differently than my online comments…

Online you can harass and be a bully whereas in real life if you talk like that you might find that your mouth has found itself a fat lip……

I fully support the notion of respect when interacting with others. I very quickly lose interest and respect when a person starts to act like a bully or run their mouth in a series of insults… That’s what politician’s do and we know how well everybody loves them….

I think the writing was on the wall for some time as time went on you could see the amplification of the discourse. Perhaps the split was necessary and best for everyone involved to provide a reset and allow everyone to pursue things in a more healthy environment….