What is Wine about?

One of my self-appointed duties has been cleaning up the Winehq.org web site.  It was, in short, failing miserably at its purpose.  Users would go to the website and still not really know what the Wine project was about.  If they read a lot of words, they might be able to learn what the program does and where to download it, but if they read too much they’d land on a status page that hadn’t been updated since 2004.

Documentation that makes the user feel less informed after reading it is a very special kind of awful.

If everything is broken, start with what’s most visible

The two most popular pages were the front page and the About page.  They seemed like simple enough targets.  The front page was just a handful of links and large, friendly buttons, however even here there was substantial room for improvement.  The key is to use affirmative verbs to imply what happens when the user clicks: Overview of Wine features becomes Learn about the Wine project.  By simply changing a subtitle, we’ve already given the reader confidence and come off far more sincere.

Unfortunately, if the user actually clicked the About page, they would see this:

Wine is a translation layer (a program loader) capable of running Windows applications on native programs Windows 3.1 ports for other Unixes bug tracker Win32. Here’s a link to 7 even longer articles.

It went on for 4 paragraphs – that’s an awful lot of text to have on an about page.  We needed to start from scratch, and that includes figuring out what the page is actually supposed to do:

Goals of an About page:

  • Tell them that Wine can run their Windows programs on Linux (or Mac)
  • Not make it sound like Wine is complicated enough to require shaman dances
  • Point users to AppDB if they want to know about a particular program
  • Encourage users who are still on Windows that migrating to Linux is ok
  • Be concise enough to read
  • Explain the open source nature of the project, and the role of Codeweavers

I worked on it for a good number of hours.  It’s surprising how long it takes to do focused writing, but when you do it right you end up saying more than twice as much in half the words.  I’m quite happy with the new text on the About page, although now there’s a new problem: the text is so short it looks really flat and wide.

This is a good problem to have.  The traditional answer for long text is to collapse it into a narrow column.  If you read a Paul Graham essay, for instance, you’ll find that 3/4 of the page is whitespace on a typical widescreen monitor.  For an About page, this is the perfect place for a picture.  I don’t, however, have one just yet.

Can you think of a picture that sums up what Wine is about?

Announcing plans for a second Wine Bug Day

On another note, since the last Wine Bug Day was so successful, I’ve decided to do the exact same thing again.  I’m not yet certain of the time, however. I’ve heard feedback that a weekend might be better than a Monday, but I don’t really know.  If you have experience with this sort of thing, please feel free to comment.  Thank you, especially if you want to participate.


Bryan QuigleyAugust 5th, 2009 at 3:00 am

Couple of extra suggestions, make it obvious this is an index page. To history, etc. Can we use similarly cool buttons as the main page?

Maybe after the basics have two “portals”:
Technical – to history, more on organization sturcture (what it is now)
– goes into more depth on how Wine can be used in layman’s terms but still a lot of detail

The best idea I have for a picture is a screenshot (from Ubuntu or elsewhere) of the Wine menu structure showing some installed applications, that make it obvious it can run MS Windows software. (and showing Browse C Drive, Configure Wine, as well.

If you want to give me one (or more) of these pages to edit or write, I would be more than happy to help.

YokoZarAugust 5th, 2009 at 5:28 am

Bryan I actually had the same idea for a screenshot, but I’ve got a few worries:
- The applications->Wine menu is going to change in Karmic (some of the functionality will move to other menus)
- I have to pick a group of applications to install and show
- The Wine icon itself is also changing.

Maybe this doesn’t matter, as in a few months karmic will be out and it’ll be consistent anyway.

Zach FreyAugust 5th, 2009 at 5:51 am

Well done!

One nit: the link for ‘free software’ is self-referential…

Marius GedminasAugust 5th, 2009 at 7:00 am

Posts like this are why I read Planets. You state the problem clearly and concisely (I love the “words” icon!), and then show the solution you’ve already implemented. Awesome!

Jared SpurbeckAugust 5th, 2009 at 8:10 am


For a pic, you could try a screenshot of something impressive (like Half-Life 2 or Portal) running on a Mac or Linux box?

Also, a few minor suggestions:

Not every program works yet, however there are already

This just doesn’t read right for some reason. I think that “however” isn’t a drag-and-drop replacement for “but.” I suggest changing it to “but” or changing the passage to read “yet; however, there are”. That punctuation is more cumbersome, but it seems to read better.

“especially Codeweavers who sell a”

Would you say “Codeweavers sell” or “Codeweavers sells?” I think it’s the latter since we’re talking about an organization, as opposed to a group of people called “code weavers.” Sort of like how you might say that the company called Wizards of the Coast “sells” or “makes” D&D.

Finally, burying the AppDB link in a statement about how “Wine is heavily reliant on its user community” doesn’t seem like the best idea, because the idea of “Check here to see if your app works” isn’t part of the subset of ideas “Check here to see what the community’s done.” Or it technically is, but that’s not the way that an outside viewer would see it, since it’s more important to her — as soon as she hears what Wine is — to see if she can use it for her programs.

Assuming she knows that Wine’s for the platform she uses … “other operating systems” is kind of vague! Not specifying technical things may be good to avoid being off-putting, but the hypothetical person who’d even be here to begin with is … okay, probably someone who had been pointed there. But still, confirming that it’d work with her platform of choice might help.

Sorry to be nitpicky like this; I hope that this comes across as the “Jump in and help wherever you can” thing I heard that people are supposed to do with Free / Open-Source projects. ^.^; It’s also sort of a “Now that you mention it … ” kinda thing. Either way, I’m glad someone is taking on the task of making WineHQ more readable, and I think you are doing a great job with it. Kudos!

ajmctaggartAugust 5th, 2009 at 12:02 pm


I for one love the idea of taking the “Developer,” out of the “About,” pages. It seems like a Linux noob that hears about this Wine-thingie would be all but fearing for their life after trying to get through the technical jargon.

(by the way, if you want help, just let me know, I love documentation)

As far as a picture, might I suggest a slogan/picture combination? See when I think of Wine, I think of a glass of wine. Many people may think of the barrel, the process, or the grapes; me, I’m thinking about getting off work and pouring a glass for myself. So, maybe a picture of a FULL glass of wine (not the half glass currently used), that reads, “Wine, now serving a full glass in Linux.” or “Wine, fixing the “glass half full,” in Linux. Something like that?

Good read, nice to know someone else cares about readability!


KasperHAugust 6th, 2009 at 6:38 am

The question of whether it’s “Codeweavers sell” or “Codeweavers sells” is an interesting one. It’s been a while since school made me have to study English grammar, but if I recall correctly the first form is the correct British English usage. Another example of that would be “Arsenal are going to win the title this year,” and I’m almost certain that anyone from USA would say “Arsenal’s going to…”

Dan KegelAugust 6th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I love the new, short text. Well done!

YokoZarAugust 6th, 2009 at 10:36 pm

@Jared: I think of Codeweavers as a group of people, rather than an organization. Since it can go either way I don’t think it’s a bad thing to humanize them in the text a bit ;)

You’re right that a user who sees their own platform instead of “other operating systems” will gain some confidence, however we run into problems if we try to specify them all. We end up using a whole lot of words, many of them technical. And if the list isn’t exhaustive, then we risk someone incorrectly concluding it doesn’t work and not going any further. The way it is now we sort of invite them to the download page (although we probably should link it.

I agree with you about the slight awkwardness of Not every program works yet, however there are already — I think I might change this to Although not every program works yet, there are already… to eliminate the contrast issue altogether.

DaVinceAugust 24th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

How about specifying the two most popular OSes instead – like “Linux and Mac OSX, amongst other OSes”?

DevinSeptember 6th, 2009 at 10:36 am

How about tux as a wine steward holding a tray with wine glasses and a bottle with the windows logo as its label

or glasses of wine being used to hold up a tray on which are bottles whose labels are the icons of the various popular windows programs? quake, quicken etc…

“Wine on linux/bsd/Solaris/MacOSX serves windows applications to you”

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