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 20:22 | Comments (0)


Visualizing Disk Space

A few months ago, Steffen Gerlach's scanner introduced the useful technique of visualizing disk space and file size within folders concentrically (the app runs delightfully well under Wine). Now there's Filelight, a KDE based tool which uses the same concentric rings layout (unfortunately not yet available for Debian testing/stable). And there's kdirstat, which uses the terminally nifty treemap layout technique to show file & folder sizes. A technique for quickly and clearly visualizing exactly what's eating up all of your disk space is suprisingly missing from most standard OS interfaces and file browsers. But in this age of massive music, movie and porno file-sharing and hoarding, it becomes all the more important to have a tool like this. Say goodbye to du -ks * | sort -n!

Posted by matt at 21:24 | Comments (0)


A UI my mom could use

Segusoland is a new file browser that has what I think are some truly revolutionary ideas behind it. The program presents several lists to the user, of files, programs, actions, times, and devices, and then narrows all the lists as you select items from each, until you are left with the command you want to run. Check out the screenshots & tutorial.

While I would have no problem leaving my dad or any other moderately experienced computer user with nautilus, velocity, or gmc, my mom still has problems with her (stripped down) MacOS 8 Finder. It is too complicated for her. I have been worried for a while that I would not be able to find her a simple enough replacement when her current computer dies; but I would be able to give her a linux box with segusoland and not have to worry about it.

Posted by matt at 15:13 | Comments (1)


A Better Threader

Microsoft Research is cheerleading for a threading technique which sorts messages vertically by time, and horizontally by thread (Screenshot) (PDF). There's lots of hullabaloo about how good a job this will do for email, but where it really stands to improve things is in instant messaging interfaces. Similar techniques are present in Lurker, and probably in other places too.

Posted by matt at 01:21 | Comments (0)


User Interfaces

I'm ringing in the new User Interface category with two of my previous posts to nooface.com.

Billowing or Fisheye text interfaces have been around since at least 1999. The idea is similar to the OSX Dock's technique of enlarging icons near the pointer. Here's an implementation in CSS/Javascript, one in Flash, and a third in Java.(original post)

The folks over at freedesktop.org are working on bringing true translucent windows to X Windows. XDirectFB also is working on transparency in X. Until I was forced to use OSX, I thought this was soley eye-candy, but it turns out to be suprisingly useful. Check out the screenshots.(original post)

Posted by matt at 01:40 | Comments (0)