Applets? [was Re: Planning for GNOME 3.0]

[ Resend from a typo in the To: ]

On Sun, 2009-04-19 at 23:26 +0200, Luca Ferretti wrote:
> 2009/4/19 Emmanuele Bassi <ebassi gmail com>:
> > On Sun, 2009-04-19 at 14:34 +0200, Sebastian Pölsterl wrote:
> >
> >> I think it would be a big mistake to omit applets in the new gnome desktop
> >> evolution.
> >
> > why?
> >
> <cut>
> Emmanuele, do you[1] or do not have a plan for "pluggable
> applications" (formerly know as applets) for GNOME 3.0?
> I think that applets developers are legitimate to be worried about
> their own efforts, the only reference in gnome-shell stuff is "Design
> an applet/add-on system" in Open Design Question. And 1 year could be
> a short time for porting.

If there were thousands of interesting applets with complex user
interfaces then a year might be a short time for porting. But that isn't
the case - there are just a tiny handful of useful applets.

The main open question for gnome-shell is not how to implement them.
It's the user interface question. And when we look at the user interface
question I think the label "applet" is a bit deceptive. We have all sort
of different things that are applets, and their only commonality is that
they go on the panel. The better approach is to start from the tasks and

Let me try to characterize the list of things in my "Add to Panel..."
I'll start off with the small set of applets that I think are worth
thinking about when designing

Information Display
We have a few applets that display information to the user; the set of
conceivable applets that do this is almost indefinitely extensible (look
at available Google gadgets), but not within the scope of a 24-pixel
panel. (Note that you have to click on 2 out of the three listed here to
actually get the information.)

System Monitor
Weather Monitor

Specialized UI Enhancements
We also have a number of applets that add controls to the panel. Some of
these are more useful than others, but they are generally genuinely
useful to some set of people.

Character Palette
Dictionary Lookup
Pilot Applet
Sticky Notes
Time Tracker
Tomboy Notes

And moving on to everything else:

We have quite a few applets that either I don't know what they do or I'm
embarrassed to know what they do. I have no trouble with this stuff
existing, but it shouldn't be mixed in with useful stuff on a default
install, and it's outside the scope of design.

Brightness applet
CPU Frequency Scaling Monitor
Command Line
Dwell Click
Force Quit
Inhibit Applet
Pointer Capture

These are similar to "Crack" except that their operation could easily be
explained to non-geeks. (if not their existence)


Parts of the Core UI
Quite a few of the available "applets" just make up things that we
expect always to be there. The user doesn't want to remove or add them.
(Obviously not everything here is part of the default panel, because of
design indecision.)

Keyboard Accessibility Status
Keyboard Indicator
Main Menu
Menu Bar
Notification Area
Show Desktop
User Switcher
Workspace Switcher
Window List
Window Selector

Desktop design copouts
Then there are applets that are about making it marginally faster to do
things that should be obvious and fast to do without an applet to do
them. If these are useful, we've misdesigned.

Connect to a Server...
Disk Mounter
Lock Screen
Log Out...
Run Application...
Search for Files...

So, a large part of what we have just drops out - it's not relevant. 
An additional portion is best handled by something like Firefox
extensions - it's great for advanced users if there is a big ecosystem
of them out there. But they aren't something you design for and the
programming API is probably just giving them free access to the
Javascript internals of gnome-shell. This applies to the "Crack" the
"Toys" and maybe even the "Specialized UI Enhancements".

And then some portion remains, and that is where design question lies.
Do we want an optional sidebar? Do we want some approach where an extra
layer of widgets/gadgets flies in when triggered? Could customizable
displays be integrated into our existing Overlay mode in some fashion? 

The last thing I'll mention here is that I don't think we should be
overly concerned with porting and applet parity. If there was no system
monitor applet in GNOME 3.0, life would go on. What we should be
concerned about is creating the ecosystem where it's easy and fun to do
interesting things. And when we do there will inevitably be 23 competing
system monitor applets whether we like it or not.

- Owen

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