Nautilus Goes Spatial

This post on FootNotes/Gnomedesktop.org outlines the Nautilus project's decision to implement an object-oriented or spatial file browser. This means it will be more like the Mac OS Finder, and less like Windows Explorer. Diving into Gnome 2.6 has more details about what this means. I could not be happier about this; the Mac OS Finder was incredibly flexible, powerful, and easy to use. The "navigation" metaphor (think your-hard-drive-is-a-website) implemented in Windows Explorer (and unfortunately parrotted in most Linux file browsers, until now) is more constrained, artificial, and less functional. Three cheers for Nautilus!

Most of the reaction to this, both on the forum at FootNotes, and among people I've mentioned it to in person, is to the tune of "But the Navigation model is better!" Unfortunately, most of the people I've talked to haven't used the OO/Spatial model for more than a few minutes, nor have they used either model to reorganize large hierarchies containing large numbers of files, since they are mostly command line savvy users. I have several times been locked into a system with no (usable) command line (classic MacOS, Windows95) with a large hierarchy to reorganize, and I find the OO/Spatial model vastly easier to use - there is less clicking, less arranging of windows, less navigating back to directories you were just looking at, less selecting of particular views. I encourage everyone to at least try the OO/Spatial mode for a complex reorganization -- you might like it.

The really good things here are: Nautilus will be the first file browser (to my knowledge) since the Finder to allow 1) the user to choose whether open a folder and spawn a new window or not, on a folder by folder basis, 2) to jump to some other folder in the parent hierarchy with one click, and 3) to remember icon and window placement across invocations of the browser. And it will be the first ever to give the user a choice between the Navigational and OO/Spatial modes. So for everyone out there who is convinced that OO/Spatial file managers are evil, you can tell Nautilus to use Navigation and forget about it. A program is offering users more choices, and more flexibility. This is a good thing.

Posted by matt at 09.03.04 20:22