Here I Go! Rebel openSUSE!

Well, I know it has been a long time for me to come up with what I think, is the start of a good future. I can only do mockups but I am sure that if there is a programmer brave enough out there to take this idea and turn it into a reality, be my guest.

I have taken a lot of things into account in order to create these mockups, and they are far from perfect. I believe they make sense and I am sure that many could be inspired by what you see. openSUSE needs direction and image. Ubuntu went first and they are being radical in their own way. Sure, many people are not happy with their inclusion of the netbook interface into the mainstream of their desktop version but the effects are ameliorating and people in their community are accepting the change. Is openSUSE ready for a change like that? a change in image and character?

It has been a long time since openSUSE stirred the waters of the Linux world and it is time that the Gecko makes a come back. Community leaders are in eager search for the best strategy and manifesto that will define the future of openSUSE as a community. However, words are blown easily by the wind, we need stronger impact. We need not only a change in focus but also a change in image. Here I offer my humble contribution to the distro that I love and care about.

Please enjoy and leave me some feedback. Also, if you are interested in coding these ideas, I will gladly help you with the conceptual work for it.

The first mockup shows a couple of ideas that I had already presented in my blog. One is Desktop Typing. The easiest, key-combo free implementation of Krunner or Gnome-do, or whatever other launcher out there. Simply click on an empty area of the desktop and type the name of the app or file that you want to launch. Another is the inclusion of the Go! menu. This menu is very similar in nature to the menus in smart phones such as iPhone, Android, or WebOS. If you notice the Go! menu comes out of a top panel which will enclose the System Tray icons and at the end of the top panel there is the Shut Down button. The Go! menu is configured to be hovered and then appear. (if you know how these work, then I will say no more). And the Third thing is the use of a top panel like the one on a Mac computer.

When any window is maximized, the top Title Bar and Window Operation Buttons disappear and merge onto the top panel. A simple way to include beautiful fullscreen windows into the system. Also, there could be a problem with Desktop Type once the maximized window is enabled, therefore users looking to launch with Desktop Type can click on the top panel and then type. Alternatively, they can hover the Go! menu and find their desired app.

Finally, users can make visual contact with their virtual desktops by hovering the bottom of the screen to make these arrows appear and go to a different virtual desktop. Additionally, there could be a window list much like Mac OSX's or Windows 7 but sitting comfortably on the right edge of the screen which accumulates in similar fashion to what AfterStep did borrowing from NeXTStep.

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Anonymous said...

If you want an almost exact clone of Mac OS X, get a Mac already. Even your "Go menu" is nothing but Mac OS X Leopard's Dock grid:

mth said...

About using the desktop:

In my observation there are two kinds of people: those who close a window immediately when they don't need it anymore and those who leave it open if they might need it again in the near future. I'm in the second category and as a result the only time I see my desktop is after logging in when KDE is busy restoring my session. So any kind of interaction with the desktop is useless to me.

You anticipated this by allowing the user to give focus to the desktop menu and type. It would be good in my opinion to give some kind of feedback that the desktop menu is ready to accept typing. Maybe it could change color, maybe it could show a text entry field.

About the desktop menu bar:

I had this option enabled at some time during the KDE3 era. However, I would run into a lot more bugs and other bad behavior compared to having menus per window. It seemed the feature was under-tested and therefore broke often.

Maybe it will be different if an entire distro switches, but deviating from the KDE defaults is a risk in itself. In other words, please try to get as many of your ideas accepted by KDE itself and put only the ones that are too revolutionary to get immediate acceptance into openSUSE customizations.

On desktop switching:

Which area of the screen would you hover over? Having a workspace control pop up when hovering over an app would be annoying, in my opinion, since the app might have an interactive element at that same location. It could work if you'd use something like the last 2 lines of the screen where it's very unlikely to conflict with apps.

I think something that pops up is harder to hit with the mouse than something that is always on the screen, since you lack feedback on exactly where the target for, say, desktop 3 is.

I also think that a flexible number of virtual desktops might be superior to a constant number like KDE currently has. Window Maker had that option long ago and GNOME will be getting it with the new GNOME Shell.

About the app launcher menu:

This simple menu looks nice in a mockup, but I'm not convinced it scales well to the number of apps installed on the average Linux/BSD system. Actually, iOS recently gained an option to group apps, so even on mobile devices the number of apps was getting too large to conveniently manage in a simple paged menu.

In my opinion a good menu has three ways of navigating apps: hierarchical (Games > Card Games > KPatience), search (matching on both app name and app description, like Kickoff does) and favorites (either automatic by counting times launched or manually by "add as favorite").

Opening the launcher menu on hover sounds like a good idea. Maybe it makes sense to have it as the rightmost entry in the desktop menu bar then, so you can very easily hit it by moving the mouse to the top right of the screen.

On the window list:

It looks out of place visually in the mockups, in my opinion.

Is an icon good enough to identify a window? An icon is usually specific to an application, not to a window. So it would only make sense if you group windows from a single application into one button, I think.

Is there a way to force an app button to stay in the window menu even if that app is not currently running? In the Mac's dock that option is available. In KDE it is not, but instead you can put an app launch button on a panel. I have Dolphin and Konqueror on my panel because I launch those two so frequently that I don't want to go into the menu to select them.

mth said...
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mth said...
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mth said...

About the deleted posts: Blogger generated a "request URI too long" error, so I retried posting but apparently the posts did succeed and the error occurred after the post was added. I deleted the double posts.

Andy said...

About what Kamikazov said about being "Mac OSX" he is right. This looks a lot like it, except it is not like it. Moreover, KDE has a tradition of being like other desktops, in fact KDE 4 UI seems very Windows like. I do not think that being somewhat like another UI is a problem. KDE has done it before and everyone seems happy.

toddrme2178 said...

Some comments (I'm not as familiar with the underlying technology in Gnome, so I will restrict my comments mostly to KDE):

The typing on the desktop to trigger the runner should be possible in KDE in principle. You might suggest this to KDE developers.

There have already been suggestions for an icon-based application launcher for KDE. This may be developed in the context of the KDE-edu project. Lancelot launcher already supports activating on hover, and the layout of the launcher is similar to the mockups of the icon-based application launcher for KDE.

That being said, I do not like the idea of it coming out of the system tray. The system tray is a totally different UI element from the application launcher and totally unrelated in the sorts of tasks it is meant to accomplish. Conflating the two will only be confusing to users, I expect.

There is also the issue of what happens when you have too many system tray icons. You now have a conflict between showing a popup with the additional icons and showing a popup with the applications.

Further, one of the big benefits of KDE is that you can use different types of application launchers, or even several different application launchers. Combining the system tray and application launcher will make this impossible.

That being said, it would be possible in principle to make a new widget that combines the system tray and application launcher, but I don't think it is a good idea. Implementing an icon-based application launcher similar to the existing default KDE one, with hover as an option, should not be too hard, though.

There is already work going on for a global menubar for KDE. I do not know if it is in KDE 4.6 or not, though.

KDE already has a widget that lets you put window controls in the panel.

Having the titlebar disappear in maximized windows is already possible in KDE 4.5.

Your "window list" is really just a panel with a task manager with no labels. There are already several KDE widgets that allow this.

Your popup desktop navigator would be easy to do in plasma, it is just a panel with next/previous desktop buttons and very simple pager. I was actually planning on making some buttons and a pager like that for plasma myself, it should be very, very easy.

So much of what you are suggesting is either already possible in KDE, should be soon, or should be relatively easy to implement.

The question, though, is whether this is a better implementation that what we already have. I don't really see the advantage of any of your suggestions. Yes, it is different, but different is not a good thing if it is worse than the existing implementations. So what is your reason for these changes (the ones that aren't already implemented or in-progress)?

As for windows, I disagree completely that KDE is like windows. I would say it is much less like windows than Gnome is. Plasma in particular bears very little resemblance from a functional standpoint to anything else on the market.

Anonymous said...

And what is new about all that? I think you should try out the plethora of plasmoids.

Anonymous said...

The first thing I do any time I update a distro is to move the window menu bar to the bottom of the screen because I want it far away from the program menu bars. The second thing I do is load that menu with shortcuts to everything I typically want to access so that I can do it with a single click.
Based on that, I don't see much in your suggestions that I think is "correct".

Andy said...

That is understandable given that your distribution of choice has failed to see your preferences from the start.

Also, if you noticed, I included an idea called Dektop Typing in which you can click on a desktop area and start typing to launch your favorite application. Probably an icon does it for you, but that also makes your desktop crowded, when in the end most people just want to launch an application, not just see it present all the time, in an icon form.

If you don't find these ideas useful to you, that's understandable as well. Probably this would be something that you could not benefit from as you currently do not benefit from set ups that your current distribution gives you.

tivasyk said...

overdose of apple marketing detected.

author — no insult intended, as initiative is the forebearer of innovation, but… please o please get yourself a decent book on ui design basics and start from square one.

Andy said...

What would you do if you were to "fix" what you saw?