The following blog post is mainly targeted at plasma-devel subsribers and I expect possible discussion to take place there. I just published it here, because I needed an easy way to host images and then I thought I could also post the entire text here for a broader audience to see. 😉
While my task within KDE is mainly to translate K3b, I see myself as a usability geek as well. So while cycling through parks in my hometown and enjoying the spring weather, I thought about improving the netbook experience. And while I continued to think about it Plasma applets I already know exist and how they could be incorporated and refined. I also remembered using classic Mac OS which featured a pointer-based GUI that was targeted at screens that have roughly the same proportions as today’s netbooks.
I have to add that I don’t know how in what shape Plasma Netbook in current trunk is, so my suggestions may even already be obsolete. I also lack any talent to code, so obviously I’m hoping for an actual programmer to pick up my ideas.
So, enough introduction talk. Let’s get started.
First, here is a screenshot of Plasma Netbook from SC 4.4 showing the "Search and Launch" page:
Plasma Netbook how it looks today
Page One displays various Plasma applets in an aligned way. So overall I think this screenshot is pretty self explanatory. One aspect is worth pointing out: How task switching currently works. You click on the Running Apps "button" and get an Exposé view of all open windows.
This IMHO has some drawbacks. A.) it requires compositing (not available to everyone) and B.) totally breaks down if many windows are open.
Well, classic Mac OS had a simple drop-down list of running apps. Hardly fancy, but worked really well, so this is what I came up with:
Plasma Netbook mockup: No active app
I moved clock and tray to the far right where IMO it’s expected by many users anyway. "Show all windows" triggers the Exposé effect, so no functionality is lost. The menu could also be assigned to a keyboard shortcut.
When an application runs, the top bar changes:
Plasma Netbook mockup: App active
On the left side is still the app switcher, but now also featuring the options to hide or quit the app (Quit and Show All maybe should switch positions). The button title switches to the app name to indicate what’s running.
The pages bar is changed to the app’s menu bar. Plasma Netbook works in a similar fashion already, but by simply launching apps in full screen and hiding the window decoration. My proposal should look better esp. if smoothly transitioned from pages bar to menu bar (eg. using a slide effect).
A similar menu bar is already implemented by Bespin’s XBar applet. Another approach seems to be in development.
On the far left side, window control buttons move clock and tray. I figured that in this case it’s more important to keep users’ muscle memory for window operations intact rather than tray interaction.
The window controls are what we are all used to:
Minimize/Hide — Unmaximize — Close.
It can be argued that netbook users should run their application always in full screen anyway, but this would effectively kill the usage of multi-window apps. I also saw several people connect bigger screens at home to their netbooks. An unmaximized window can more easily be moved to the other screen. That feature is also already developed.
Any comments (praise, insults, volunteering coders) should be send to plasma-devel.
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