the future of Nautilus
Hi everyone! I worked on a few different things during the Novell/SUSE HackWeek. One of these things was continuing my Nautilus redesign that I (Garrett LeSage) started last year, continued with others (Allan Day, Hylke Bons, Máirín Duffy, etc.) at the London UX meeting and at LGM2010… and then further talked about on the Internet. During the HackWeek this month, I worked collaboratively with others (Allan, Hylke, Lapo Calamandrei, Andy Fitzsimon, and more) using Inkscape, Google Wave, Dropbox, IRC, and IM and we brainstormed on ways to improve Nautilus — not just feature by feature, but how everything would work together. Our overall goals:
- All the functionality that you need. Nothing you don’t.
- Clean, simple, attractive
- Well-suited to small screens
- Makes many essential functions more discoverable than at present
Please note that this is a work in progress, and is not to be considered final. I am posting our design draft here to request feedback and discussion. To properly move designs forward in the community, we really need to discuss them in the open. We feel these concepts have matured enough to be seen outside of our cross-company collection of designers. The result of our discussions were summarized in another round of mockup explorations, as well as a document summary of key ideas we agreed upon. (This document needs to be moved to GNOME’s wiki at some point in the near future.)
Mockup notes: You can see the progression of the groups of the mockups. We also were playing around with ideas on how to integrate the two menus. (It was later determined that embedding the application menu in the titlebar caused two issues: First, people expect it to be a window manager menu. Second, it could only properly be done with client-side rendering with non-existing versions of the window manager and GTK+. Please disregard this placement in the mockups.)
Overall, this menu restructuring:
- gets rid of the complexity of Nautilus’ menu system
- provides the same general feature set
- prevents us from designing multiple levels deep
- makes Nautilus look much cleaner than it currently does by not having a menu bar
- wins us much-needed vertical space
- File management actions — now moving to an optional (but on-by-default) action bar at the bottom of the window.
- This is a discoverable version of the right-mouse-button contextual menu.
Open With ###
Open With >
Dropbox > (and other extensions go here)
Move to Trash
Create > (folders, documents, etc.)
Select Items Matching…
- Whatever else, when you’re not actually managing files
New Administrator Window
Connect to Server…
Close All Windows
‘Side-step’ breadcrumb menus
- Activated via click and hold on breadcrumb folders.
- Display sibling folders (at the same depth as the folder represented in the breadcrumb).
- ‘Root’ breadcrumb folder displays other possible roots:
Foo on share
Back and forward menus
- The back button shall display all history in the past only, and the forward button shows all the future history (relative to present location). Normally, this means the forward button will be disabled until stepping backwards in history.
[ < ] [ > ]
- This menu replaces the places sidebar and bookmarks.
- When the places sidebar is hidden, it should show up to the left of the Breadcrumbs as a menu, in the same place.
- It is to be determined if the places sidebar will exist in a toggled form, or if it shall be reduced to a only a places menu.
[ Places ⇩ ]
(All the places one would expect)
Originally would be the only sidebar, but as of recent mockups, sidebars may go away entirely. Places would then be implemented as a slab-menu.
- It acts similar to a normal menu.
- You can click and slide the mouse down during that click to select items, and when you let go, it gets activated. (The eject icons are special cases, but work similarly.)
[FIXME: more info about places]
Dynamic context menus show relevant actions for the selected item.
- Make contextual actions discoverable
- Super-easy! Removes the need for awkward right-mouse-button operations
- Excellent for users with a single mouse/track pad button
(See the bottom-left mockup in nautilus-streamlined for now.)
- Transient, display information only when needed
- There is no “status bar” by default”
- # of selected items are shown when files are selected
- Network loading is shown (with a spinner on the left and stop icon on the right)
- These minibars will be aligned to the right (unlike the streamlined mockup)
[FIXME: This was discussed in-length, in-person, at LGM2010. We still need a proper mockup.]
A quick and simple way to set up any type of share (eg: local, network, email, IM, Sparkle, Dropbox, Ubuntu One)
- Reduces menu clutter by locating all sharing mechanisms within a single dialog
- Makes sharing clear and simple
- Fast: recent shares are listed first
[FIXME: We have ideas, but this still needs a proper mockup]
- There are no custom widgets in the Nautilus mockups… just new, standard GNOME3 ones!
- Mockups like these should completely drive what it means to be GNOME3. We should not do one-offs in the software the mockups depict, but make widgets and set paradigms for the entire platform.
- We should mock up other significant software that incorporate these features.
- Let’s make sure all the core GNOME apps are new-style, and others will follow. We have to set the example.
Say goodbye to…
While we strive to keep the same featureset in future Nautilus, there are some things which are going away. Please note that almost all of these items in the list are being addressed elsewhere in the interface. We are removing:
- The items displayed in computer:/// are already present in the places side pane and will also be present in the breadcrumb dropdown when that is completed
- computer:/// isn’t as useful as Places or the dropdown because it is one step removed – it’s essentially hidden
- ‘Computer’ isn’t a good description of the contents of computer:/// anyway. ‘devices:///’ would be more appropriate.
- “filesystem” in the UI
- Nautilus should focus on serving real people’s needs. People do not need to manage system files in a file manager. However, that said…
- We’ll have a hidden gconf key to enable filesystem for über-geeks (or better, wanna-be-uber-geeks, uber geeks use the terminal… or ctrl+L), who are the ones who want this feature in the first place.
- It will also be possible to navigate the filesystem by hitting Control-L and typing locations, just as it is in current Nautilus.
- remote directories mounted in /opt/ (and other random places) will be exposed under network
- any location Nautilus can see is “bookmarkable”, and these bookmarks will show up in places
- Split pane (“extra pane”)
- Split panes would prevent many of the features being advocated here, including the single toolbar and actions toolbar.
- This design removes many of the reasons for split panes in the first place, however. For instance: Non-directory specific controls are kept to an absolute minimum.
- Split pane mode really calls for better window management.
- Everything in the sidebar other than Places: including Tree, History, Emblems and Notes.
- User specifiable backgrounds, emblems and custom icons.
- Spatial mode as a distinct UI. The Nautilus future design is the perfect combination of the spatial and browser UIs. Its minimalism should feel comfortable and familiar to spatial users.
- Spatial mode could still be retained as a preference, of course, as: ☑ Open folders in new windows
Many aspects of Nautilus’s UI are extremely old-fashioned and are barely used. The maintenance burden they represent outweighs their usefulness. Nautilus bugzilla is choked up by reports about backgrounds, custom icons and spatial mode. Many of these never get touched. Better to have a minimal UI that is complete and well-maintained than a plethora of half-finished features.
A number of us designers in the community are brainstorming and proposing changes to Nautilus. We’re going all the way and suggesting more than little fixes here and there (which is what Nautilus been doing for years.) We’re building a vision of what better file management could be. Read the results of our design discussions above, and check out the latest round of mockups. If you’re a designer, you can also grab the source SVG for editing in Inkscape. Also, please feel free to change the file contents in the mockup to something else. (: