[Usability] Re: New way of accessing software (WAS: Re: Big Panel menus (32x32))

Daniel Borgmann writes:

Sure, and I'm not against using the desktop at all. What I'm against is
forcing the user to have _all_ his files available on the desktop.
Because then the user is forced to either do the "micromanaging" or
simply place large folders on the desktop where he stuffs in everything.
And in this case, I'm wondering what the point is? If we reach a state
where a user doesn't have to care anymore WHERE he put some data but
only how to find it, why should we force him to have them all visible
from the desktop. Won't this lead to problems?

The point is to make any all files easily accessible from a user visible start point. The most obvious point is the desktop. By allowing access to all files from the desktop we are not forcing the user to micromanage their files. Users could always throw every file into a single folder on the desktop and use the hypothetical search folders feature to better categorize their files. (We could even include some default ones, like Music).

We can try to make dealing with clutter and lack of space more pleasant
(through indexing, quick access, etc) but it will not go away. The real advantage of computers IMO is, that it can do work for you.
Imagine you had a butler which you could ask to bring you all your CDs
from Fugazi or all your favorite CDs. It would be the job of this butler
to care about your stuff as long as he can understand your wishes and
deliver. You in turn can keep your workspace completely clutter free
because you can ask the butler whenever you need something special (and
just throw it behind you after you are done with it).

What you are doing is essentially moving the mess from a visual mess to a mental mess. If a user can visually find anything from a common start point (the desktop) it is much easier to manage and clean up. Its a lot harder when the user needs to do the mental work to access other folders. Compare the original macintosh with windows. The original mac provided access to all system and user files from a single start point (the desktop) and most mac users tend to have a better understanding of how to deal with the underlying system than the equivalent windows users where everything is hidden.
My opinion is that we should build on THIS metaphor and provide the user
a clean workspace with all important things (like the butler/Nautilus)
reachable from the panel. I even think that things like start-here/My
Computer or Trash belong on the panel, NOT on the desktop. Maybe put a
"welcome" document there instead, similar to how mail clients usually
contain a welcome mail at first. The user can read this, learn a bit
about the desktop and then delete and forget it.

So you want to move lots of useful stuff from a large empty space onto a crowded small panel?
Instead of forcing the user to work in an organized way, I suggest that
we focus on how the computer can serve the user. How the computer can
keep the files organized and let the user worry about the things he
wants to worry about. And think about how we can make the user
communicate his wishes easily to the computer. Rhythmbox already goes a
long way with regards to music files, why should the user have to put
the Music folder on his desktop? He doesn't have to keep them organized.

But not far enough a user should be able to open any folder that has music files and view those files in sane way (ie a rb like ui). There is no need for an application here. The music folder on the desktop that I described could be a "search folder" that automagically contains all music files. Taking this further into the star trek future, users could do a search for "all music by whoever" that presents the results in a rb like way.
He can stuff them all together and Sir Rhythmbox will help him find
exactly what he wants in this chaos. It should work in a similar way for
all other things IMO, keeping the workspace of the user clean and
allowing him to use all the available space for things he currently
works on. If he wants to place something on the desktop, he could still

Once again moving the clutter from a visual to mental state is not a good idea and actually makes managing stuff harder. This is also why I favor something like a nautilus tree folder view over using urls to denote hierarchy. The tree shows you visually whats going on, the url makes you think more and requires you to know what "/" means (ok that was a little off topic but I think its ok in the context of this discussion).

The alternative is something akin to the apple dock for folders. The biggest issue with this is that it takes up lots of screen realestate (sic?).

Is this different from just moving folders on the panel?

Not really but there are problems. For one I think our windows like window list is much better than the Mac Dock. So we are limited for space, and the top panel isn't really an appropriate place either. Another issue is that panel objects don't have labels (adding labels would require panels to take up more screen space which is unacceptable as well imo.). dave

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