[Usability] Re: desktop/workspaces terminology issue

On Thu, Oct 18, 2001 at 09:51:44PM -0400, Havoc Pennington wrote:
> I think "desktop" is an awful name for the things displayed in a
> pager, as in "switch to desktop 4 with Alt+F4."  "desktop" means
> "desktop environment" or it means the background of your screen where
> icons are displayed. There's only one desktop where you can save
> files. Icons are always the same on that one desktop. etc.
> So we already have two overloaded meanings for desktop; we shouldn't
> add a third.
> I suggest using "workspaces" for the window manager feature where you
> have different windows on different workspaces.
> Note that window managers distinguish "viewports" and "desktops."  I
> don't think we should have both; we should pick one, and call it
> "workspaces." The distinction between a viewport and a desktop barely
> makes sense to me, and I've written a window manager.  Basically the
> viewport/desktop split is just an artifact of WM authors not being
> able to decide how to implement workspaces.

The distinction Havoc is drawing is pretty much the same one, with the
same definitions, that we've drawn in the GDP Style Guide. This caused
me great headaches writing the documentation for the Tasklist applet,
because the user interface uses different terminology than the window
managers use. Here's what we've settled on:


workspace: A defined area in which you can work. You can create
different workspaces, with different processes, but you can only work
on one at any time.

Then, when a workspace can be subdivided: 

viewport: A viewport is a subdivision of a workspace.

desktop: The visible screen area where windows, icons, and panels

John Fleck
jfleck inkstain net (h), http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/
"Any man left on the Rio Grande is the King of the World as far as I know."
 - Becker and Fagen, 1973

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