[Nautilus-list] Millicent666 lusability study results

Dear Nautilistes,
I am but a simple user interested in Nautilus and in Gnome, and having given Ximian Gnome 1.4 and Nautilus 1.0 -1.0.2 a testdrive I have a couple of comments about the design of the interface which I wish to make.

It is clear from using Nautilus and reading threads here going back a few months that a lot of thought has gone into making the selection of a secondary file handler easy to do within the file navigation process. This used to be one of the really ugly spots in Gnome -what happens if the default filetype handler is not the one the user wants to use at the moment ?(for example wanting to use and editor like Gimp instead of the default EE viewer). It's also a very ugly spot in Windows9x. But I think I know a way that is even easier for users than even the excellent system you have devised.

Allow the user to drag the icon from the Nautilus filemanager to the desktop icon for the application they want to use. In short enable desktop icons to act also as launchers the way it is done for example in the <A HREF="http://dfm.online.de";>DFM</A> filemanager.

if you haven't seen it give DFM a try. I'm not saying convert to it or overlook its gaping holes, or anything like that --just use it to *manually* feed files to applications for a day or so. Then go back to anything else and try to use the non-default handlers.

This approach --which may be part of the XDND protocol I think-- simplifies the use of varying applications for any given filetype to the point of requiring almost no conscious thought from the user at all compared to the usual step-through process of requesting an alternate action with the right mouse button and selecting from a list of known (known to the Nautilus config file) secondary handlers or browsing for it. Conscious users are unhappy users.

What you have done so far for this issue beats anything else I can recall seeing before --as far as "procedural" or "step-by-step" or "descriptive" approaches go-- but I think the direct action of launching an application with a file by simple drag and drop still beats that by a comfortable margin.

Which way would a kid pick? I am positive the drag-and-drop approach being more tactile and experimental would be easier for a kid as well as an adult to become adapted to and proficient with.

Windows users are not trained to view their desktop in this way, (although Explorer is good at embedding its d'n'd filemanager type operations into other programs). Even though Windows users don't use their desktop in this way I think it represents a major simplification that most would appreciate as an advance in usability.

I am very used to running things from the bash prompt, and I avoid some GUI methods for doing basic things because the CLI way can be faster for me. But the use of "active" icons in DFM I find to be a very close visual translation of the 'applicationname -filename' syntax of the CLI with the same speed. Because it is fast and extremely simple I find it pretty habit forming. Obviously commandlines in a terminal offer the ability to throw in extra flags and options, if one knows them, extemporaneously in a way GUIs can't, but the freedom in DFM to drag file icons to application icons at will is reminiscent of the CLI (in a way most GUI filemanagers are not) That's the real hook: having flexibility without thinking through otr going through discrete steps.

I'm aware that launchers in the Gnome panels work this way. I consider that a substitute for active desktop icons, a distant second place really. I may be "unrepresentative" in the way i arrange and use desktop icons for apps, but i don't think so. I tend to have a bunch of icons for the applications on my system which I use from the desktop. I think most people are the same way (since it is common for installer programs in Windows to add shortcut icons for any new programs to the desktop pretty much automatically) Therefore my programs are already represented once by desktop icons. Adding launchers in panels is redundant. They will be smaller and harder to hit with dropped files (not necessarily, but it tends to work out that way) and as one accumulates launcher icons in panels- and accumulates panels too to accomodate them- that is screen area lost to the placement of program windows. Even people who have slapped me down with the obvious "but there are launchers in the panel!
" argument have offered/admitted to me that panel launchers are hard to hit.

Maybe Nautilus is committed to reserving the desktop rootwindow for nouns --files, folders, devices. I could get used to that I guess, but I think it is very common for people of many OS backgrounds to populate their desks with verbs as well. If there are going to be verbs, or program icons, on the Nautilus desktop, why not make them as flexible and capable as they *can* be? I try to limit the amount of desk environment "furniture" that shows on the desktop and I think that getting the greatest range of action from the least amount of visible furniture makes a DE powerful and elegant. On the other hand if a desk environment has to sprawl and multiply special cases (as in: use this icon to launch the program, but use this other icon to launch the program with a file) then it is declining from those ideals in proportion to its ballooning girth.

Another thread back in late March dwelt on the requested addition of a "shelf" in Nautilus. I haven't seen what the requested thing looks like but ...Why not use the desktop itself for this? Isn't it supposed to be the workspace where stuff gets shuffled around and set aside temporarily so it's not out of sight nor out of mind? I think that the metaphor started out that way --Mac users seem to still use the desktop like this-- then SOMicrosoftwindowsETHING HORRIBillfsckinggatesLE happened to fracture the consistency of the metaphor of a desktop. About this and about Nautilus in general I have a non-specific plea. This is something to do with feeling that is hard to express.
Windows explorer and GMC ,as they acumulated complexity with multiple panes and such, began to develop a feeling of being closed in and closed off from the rest of the desktop that surrounded them. Something closed in and separate. GMC was more like this I guess because it was pretty damn confused graphically speaking. But Windows Explorer also began to *look* heavy --not just run slow-- as it accumulated navigational arrows and other iconic entries in the toolbar. Please be wary of heavy dimensional triple decker chrome entablatures of icons and menus at the top of Nautilus. Please be wary about heavy dark lines separating the main pane of Nautilus and the sidebar and also of "neato" 3d modelled thumb scrollers. Thank you for the flat chrome and flat color icons in the Tahoe theme, and please never give up on 2d themes. The eye should slide over the interface -only the content should stop it cold.
The more the Nautilus window interacts with the main features of the desktop that surrounds it, ie the desktop icons, the more Nautilus and Gnome will feel unified as one piece of work. That feeling of ONEness or integration and its lack is something that I've heard people complain about with Gnome at this point.

These were the results and conclusions of the Millicent666 luserability studies.
Thank You for Your time.

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