Re: RFP: File chooser user interface

On Fri, 19 Sep 2003 15:22:27 +0100
Thomas Leonard <tal00r ecs soton ac uk> wrote:

> On Fri, Sep 19, 2003 at 03:36:23PM +0200, Magnus Bergman wrote:
> > On Thu, 18 Sep 2003 17:26:24 +0100
> > Thomas Leonard <tal00r ecs soton ac uk> wrote:
> [...]
> > > - Users will want to open a file using the fastest, most
> > > convenient
> > >   method.
> > 
> > Yes, I believe so too. But more importantly users want to use a
> > method they can trust. If they don't feel certain that a method
> > *always* works they will fall back to a method they feel they can
> > trust. Then you can be sure that each and every application supports
> > it users will probably start using it then they find out about it.
> Yes. Actually, the only time I use GTK's open dialog at present is
> for applications that don't support DnD, since I know I can always
> drag to it. However, such applications are becoming very rare now.
> There are just too many users that expect DnD to work.

Alright, I believe you if you say so. I didn't think the progress had
reached so far. Great!

> > > - GTK's file chooser is unlikely to make a better file finder than
> > > a
> > >   dedicated filer.
> > 
> > I agree that this is a *much* better solution than making the FOSA
> > dialog a light weight filer. But then a user opens a file I think
> > the most common case is to choose one of a few files in the current
> > directory. Only something really simple is needed for this.
> Sounds reasonable, although we don't really have a concept of the
> 'current directory' in our desktop. One possible use might be to
> switch between editing several files in the same directory (which is
> related to my 'Open in filemanager' suggestion earlier).

I was referring to the applications current directory (from users point
of view, not technically speaking). And I think the user only changes
this the first time she performs a file operation inside that
application. Preceding file operations (opening and saving new files)
are usually done in that same directory.

> Of course, GTK shouldn't depend on any particular file manager, but
> there should be a way to open the user's preferred one (and web
> browser for that matter). This probably needs to be sorted out at
>, however.

I don't even think GTK should be dependant on the concept of a desktop
environment (like the presence of a file manager). Such things should be
extensions (and provided by the desktop environment). However, I agree
that it should work the way you describe, in the eyes of the end user.
A Standard at would be very good. GTK just don't have to
know about it.

> > Conclusion: Either you use a simple FOSA dialog. Or you use a *real*
> > filer. I don't like the confused designs that aims for something in
> > between (like we can see in some other popular desktop
> > environments).
> Yes.
> > > Using an Open box seems slow, because you've got to indicate the
> > > program AND the file to load, whereas with clicking in a file
> > > manager, you only specify the file.
> > 
> > I agree with your point. But you've got to indicate two things
> > either way. It is not the case that users only want to do one thing
> > with each file type. I know people who says that this is the single
> > biggest problem with windows and I think that says a lot. So, you
> > have to indicate the file AND how (with which program) to open it.
> Yes, but this is a rare case. If we encourage Open dialogs, then the
> model is this:
> - To open a file in the default editor, use your file manager to
> locate
>   it.
> - To open it in anything else, use an Open dialog to locate it.

I don't think it's a rare case at all. Besides, (or is
it in Gnome alone?) already suggests a better solution (at least in my
opinion). Users might often want different applications to view and edit
a certain type of file, at least users who use the computer to actually
get some work done. Well, perhaps that's a rare minority. :-)

I also have quite a few ideas about how to take this further. A general
a ways to define 'actions' (or predicates or verbs if you like) for
objects (including but not limited to files) and work toward support for
a natural language based interface. (But I won't go in to it now since
it's off topic.)

> With DnD, the rare case is still very similar to the normal case, just
> DnD(or select from a menu) from the same window you normally use to
> open the file. Locating the file is the same whatever you do.

Yes, this works perfectly (as long as you have a mouse and can feel
confident that all applications support it).

> An Open dialog gives the user a completely different interface to
> normal when they want to specify the program (unless they want to
> *change* the default, in which case it's back to the filer again, so
> you've already got a choose-application interface there...).

My point is that the user just *has to* choose both file and
application, it can't be simplified much further. But, each file type
could have a default application. And it would make very much to let the
user change the default. I guess most users want a viewer as default for
most file types. But a user who often works with a certain file type
would probably prefer an editor. (And as far as I'm concerned it works
this way already.)

> > > However, to pick a figure, Archive (file compressor/extracter and
> > > the most popular program I've written that loads files) has 4600
> > > downloads for the latest stable release, and noone's
> > > complained/noticed that it doesn't have an Open dialog yet...
> > > 
> > > Someone did ask about an Open box in our text editor, but that's
> > > still only one request in five years, and I'd expect more if
> > > 'most' people opened files that way (although the editor itself is
> > > not very widely used).
> > 
> > Perhaps "most people" did what I did; I looked at the program but
> > decided not to use it since it's too different from my personal
> > taste.
> Perhaps. As I say, Edit isn't that well used (well, even I use
> Vim[1]). Though, we do get requests for syntax highlighting,
> intelligent indent, plugins, etc, so I still think more people would
> complain about having an Open box if they cared.

These requests might very well come from the minority of
drag-and-droppers out there then. ;-)

Actually I think your ideas and designs are very good and that the help
the progress to move in the right direction. It's just that it takes
some time and effort to convince people (me included) that their
personal taste is *wrong*.

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