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Design Request: a new Present Windows and Desktop Grid

kdeuserk
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First of all, thanks for another awesome mockup! Kudos!
AGuiFr wrote:Desktops and activities are no longer considered orthogonal.

I think we have different definitions of orthogonal. I would rather define orthogonal here as independent with a child-parent relationship (activities is the broader concept that does include virtual desktops).
AGuiFr wrote:A desktop belong to an activity, and is only a group of windows. This means that a desktop is deleted as soon as there is no window on it (just like Gnome-shell). All desktops in the same activity have the same wallpaper, and it is impossible to give them a name anymore (feature reserved for activities). To create a new desktop, drag it to the right desktop with the "+" sign. You can rearrange the order of desktops by drag-and-drop.

This is a concept I could live with, but I don't see this happen, as both luebking and gräßlin are not fond of that idea and they are the ones with the skill and experience to implement those effects. I think we should meet somewhere in between.
AGuiFr
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kdeuserk wrote:I think we have different definitions of orthogonal. I would rather define orthogonal here as independent with a child-parent relationship (activities is the broader concept that does include virtual desktops).

English is not my native language, so you may be right on the definition of orthogonal. However, currently, there is no child-parent relationship between activities and virtual desktops. A window belongs to an activity and a desktop, every activity has the same number of globally defined desktops and if you make a window from desktop1 appear on all activities, it will appear on the desktop1 of all activities. Activities are just an additional layer which was added independently of the existing concept of virtual desktops.
With my proposal, there is a hierarchy: the first desktop of Activity1 is not the first desktop of Activity2.

kdeuserk wrote:This is a concept I could live with, but I don't see this happen, as both luebking and gräßlin are not fond of that idea and they are the ones with the skill and experience to implement those effects. I think we should meet somewhere in between.

Well, I think they are both reasonable persons and if we come up with good arguments, they might be convinced. And actually, I think there are good arguments for that. Here is the reflection which led me to this proposal:

There is currently a confusion between desktops and activities. IMHO, a lot of it comes from the fact that there is an overlap between their features. Defining desktops as only a collection of windows and adding all the other features to activities would make things clearer.

Having a different number of desktops in different activities also makes sense: while working, I usually have a lot of windows opened, so I need desktops. At home, I usually only browse the internet, watch movies or play games, and I often use only one desktop. So a desktop should belong to an activity. Allowing a different number of desktops per activity while keeping the current features (number of desktops, number of rows, name for each desktop) would bring a lot of complexity to the configuration UI. Setting up an activity is already complex enough (with a name to give, an icon, etc...). A dynamic number of desktops would just make things much simpler configuration-wise.

Deleting a desktop when there is no more windows would also make it easier to understand that desktops are only about windows. For other features (such as different wallpaper), use activities. I think the dynamic behaviour of desktops would be more coherent and easier to grasp, but in the end, it is not essential, "+" and "-" buttons could be added on the right.

The most important thing IMHO is to reduce the number of dimensions. Currently, there are 2 dimensions for desktops (rows and columns), and a third one for activities (very abstract one, as the screen is only 2 dimensions). With my proposal, it is easier:
  • The vertical dimension for activities
  • The horizontal dimension for desktops (multi-screen are usually positioned side-by-side, another small thing which might help to get the difference between activity and desktop)
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Whoa! Gorgeous mockups @anditosan and @AGuiFr.

. Desktops and activities are no longer considered orthogonal. A desktop belong to an activity, and is only a group of windows. This means that a desktop is deleted as soon as there is no window on it (just like Gnome-shell).


I think Martin said already that 'dynamic' desktops are not an option in KWin, so we should abandon the idea on mockups too...

Regarding activities, why not putting them horizontally, on top, while keeping WS list on the left, vertically?
The activity list could be scrolled to the left, positioning the current selection directly above the virtual desktops list, which would be updated according to the selected activity.
We could also blur the wallpaper area to prevent readability issues with windows labels (i know, it's something from OsX mission control...shame on me :P ).
Sorry if i don't show any mockup, i'm terribly slow to draw/edit pics, even svg...


AGuiFr
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spleen wrote:I think Martin said already that 'dynamic' desktops are not an option in KWin, so we should abandon the idea on mockups too...

Yes, he did say so, as the way KWin handles virtual desktops does not allow this behaviour. I think this is also valid for having a different number of desktops per activity. But he said that in October 2014. Meanwhile, this discussion on activities started. We will have to wait for it to reach a conclusion, but I wouldn't be surprised if they recommended a hierarchical relationship between activities and desktops. So it is likely that KWin internals have to be modified anyway. Note that my mockup works without these two features.
spleen wrote:Regarding activities, why not putting them horizontally, on top, while keeping WS list on the left, vertically?
The activity list could be scrolled to the left, positioning the current selection directly above the virtual desktops list, which would be updated according to the selected activity.

Here is why the different elements are laid out this way:
The main use-case for the effect should be to enable switching between windows of the current desktop. Then, it should enable switching between desktops and running activities. Finally, it should enable organising windows between desktops and activities.
The space at the top is what you read first, so this should be reserved for the first requirement: the windows. Then, I wanted to preserve consistency with the activity manager, which displays activities as a vertical list in a panel on the left of the screen. In my opinion, consistency between different elements of a desktop environment improves a lot the first impression. I have put the desktops horizontally so that activity and desktop have each their own dimension (easier for keyboard shortcuts and for mental representation). Having them at the bottom of the screen also reinforces the idea of hierarchy between activities and desktops, while leaving most of the space for windows.
If I understand well, you suggest to adopt something similar to the PS3's menu (see this picture). Could you explain why do you think this is a better solution than what was proposed by anditosan or me?
spleen wrote:We could also blur the wallpaper area to prevent readability issues with windows labels (i know, it's something from OsX mission control...shame on me :P ).
Sorry if i don't show any mockup, i'm terribly slow to draw/edit pics, even svg...

Nothing wrong with borrowing a good idea, wherever it comes from. At worst, you will get a lawsuit for software patent infringement ;). I think blurring the background is indeed a good idea.
This is actually my first mockup, made in less than 30 minutes from two screenshots of the current activity manager and present windows effect. This is actually very simple, you should try it !
kdeuserk
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AGuiFr, what do you think about some of the points I mentioned? Personally I think your mockup is going in the right direction. Though I am not sure about the visual representation of activities. Your concept of representing activities is like the current activity switcher, which is not really space efficient. Present windows should have as much space as possible and I am wondering if we can make this somehow more space efficient.
Do we really need the wallpaper for representing an activity? Or do you think we could actually try to represent them horizontally as kind of tabs with controls (for stopping etc.)?
Maybe the wallpaper can give this "tabs" colors, so we have an additional factor of quickly recognizing an activity?
I could live well with an implementation like in your mockup, I am just trying to throw some thoughts in.
I really think we need to melt all those effects, so I really like where the discussion is going.
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In the way Activities and VDs are currently set up, I agree with AGuiFr’s reasoning and would also vote for having dynamic desktops …or at least hack around them as the WorkFlow plasmoid Activity switcher did.

But, I do think we should first redefine Activities and Virtual Desktops to be easier undertandable (see separate thread already mentioned in this one) and usable. It may be we’ll end up with the status quo, but hopefully we’ll figure out something better ☺

That being said, I like the mockups in this thread very much, but it would be a terrible pity if someone started working on an implementation of something that might change in the near future. I still find these mockups very useful to understand better how it could actually look like in practice, what is being planned in that separate thread.

I would suggest that you wonderful people, making these mockups, follow that thread and try to put on ink or in pixels how the new concepts proposals could look like in practice. I think having visual feedback could be very valuable when discussing ground-breaking concepts.

Working together, I think, we can rock everyone’s socks off with the future of activity/desktop/window/task/workflow management! /☺/ \☺\


It's time to prod some serious buttock! ;)
AGuiFr
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kdeuserk wrote:AGuiFr, what do you think about some of the points I mentioned? Personally I think your mockup is going in the right direction. Though I am not sure about the visual representation of activities. Your concept of representing activities is like the current activity switcher, which is not really space efficient. Present windows should have as much space as possible and I am wondering if we can make this somehow more space efficient.

Space efficiency is indeed one of the weak points. I actually directly used a screenshot of the activity switcher, so kept the same size. I made the desktops slightly smaller, again for reflecting hierarchy, but big enough to be able to see the windows placement. I think consistency is important, so either we stay close to the existing activity manager, or we also design a new activity manager close to this effect.
kdeuserk wrote:Do we really need the wallpaper for representing an activity? Or do you think we could actually try to represent them horizontally as kind of tabs with controls (for stopping etc.)?
Maybe the wallpaper can give this "tabs" colors, so we have an additional factor of quickly recognizing an activity?

In my mockup, there are no controls for the activities, you can only switch between two started activities. Also, only started activities would be in the left panel, and if only a single activity is started, the left panel is hidden. If activity controls are to be included, you have to include stopped activities as well. As far as I am concerned, I think it is better if this effect and the activity manager are kept separate things (while visually close), as the use cases are different :
  • This effect is for visualising opened windows, switching between them and organising them in desktops/activities.
  • The activity manager is for, well, managing activities... starting a new activity, stopping it, creating/deleting. Starting a new activity might open applications, etc...

I think having activities in one direction and desktops in the other is an important aspect (shortcuts are easier to remember that way). If we consider it is better to display them horizontally, then they should also be displayed that way in the activity manager (meaning we also need the approval of the activity manager maintainer).

I cannot really picture how what you suggest would look like : horizontal tabs, on top of the screen, with a background color reminding of its background ? A mockup would help, try it ! ;) It is easy to do and does not need to be polished. One important requirement in my opinion is that people who do not use activities (have only one running) should not be bothered by them. In my case, the panel is simply hidden, and the effect looks like it is only about windows and desktops.

Another way to leave more room to the windows would be to partially collapse the left panel by default. If you hover on it, or drag a window to it, it would expend. It might be a way to keep consistency and hierarchy (activities bigger than desktops) while increasing the space for windows.
kdeuserk wrote:I could live well with an implementation like in your mockup, I am just trying to throw some thoughts in.
I really think we need to melt all those effects, so I really like where the discussion is going.

There are indeed good ideas in every mockups. To make a synthesis of all of them, I think we should first agree on what this effect is supposed to do :
  • Present windows from the current desktop: everyone agrees on this
  • Present windows from all desktops? I think this is not useful. The search feature can be used to search for a window if you don't know on which desktop you have put it.
  • Move a window to another desktop: agreed
  • Move a window to another running activities? If yes, should this effect be merged or not with the activity manager?
  • Reopen recently closed applications?
  • Start a new application?
  • Advance window management: show on a window on all desktops/all activities


hook wrote:I do think we should first redefine Activities and Virtual Desktops to be easier undertandable (see separate thread already mentioned in this one) and usable. It may be we’ll end up with the status quo, but hopefully we’ll figure out something better ☺

That being said, I like the mockups in this thread very much, but it would be a terrible pity if someone started working on an implementation of something that might change in the near future.

I totally agree with you on that point. Before even agreeing on the features of the effect, there should be a consensus about what is a virtual desktop, and what is an activity.
I have actually put quite a lot of thought into activities as I tried to explain the concept to new Plasma users. I already wrote about activities/virtual desktops in the comments section of Björn Balazs' blog Why do(n’t) you use Activities? (commented as AGui). For the thread about concepts, Björn wanted to stay theoretical at the beginning. As I lack theoretical knowledge, I didn't want to interfere with the UX experts by "spreading out my ignorance" ;)
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please be also aware, that in the standard settings there is only one VD and one activity. In the past there were 4 VDs but to give the users the option to also use activities the standard settings in kde is 1 VD and 1 Acivity.

I also be excited what will happen with the VD and Activities. And we have to waite until we can make some mockups. we will see.
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hook wrote:In the way Activities and VDs are currently set up, I agree with AGuiFr’s reasoning and would also vote for having dynamic desktops …or at least hack around them as the WorkFlow plasmoid Activity switcher did.

But, I do think we should first redefine Activities and Virtual Desktops to be easier undertandable (see separate thread already mentioned in this one) and usable. It may be we’ll end up with the status quo, but hopefully we’ll figure out something better ☺

That being said, I like the mockups in this thread very much, but it would be a terrible pity if someone started working on an implementation of something that might change in the near future. I still find these mockups very useful to understand better how it could actually look like in practice, what is being planned in that separate thread.

I would suggest that you wonderful people, making these mockups, follow that thread and try to put on ink or in pixels how the new concepts proposals could look like in practice. I think having visual feedback could be very valuable when discussing ground-breaking concepts.

Working together, I think, we can rock everyone’s socks off with the future of activity/desktop/window/task/workflow management! /☺/ \☺\


Already working on that ;)
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I honestly think we are "overthinking" this idea. It started as a method to present windows, now we have to juggle ideas about color, placement, users, likes or dislikes, horizontal vs vertical, etc. If we are still deciding what Activities is all about, then let's pause and solve the other problem first. Then we can come back to this desktop grid idea and work on it. Honestly, I feel that as we present an idea, it just gets sprinkled with details that are very unnecessary. Eventually the design becomes bloated and unviable. So let's keep it simple.

Let's have our discussion be driven by design because after all, the more you push for design the more you could get development to follow along. But if we say, "don't push the design because the technology is not there" then let's give up right now because if we are designers satisfying development, then development will not be pushed forward. I really mean that.

Again, for now, let's work on Activities. It sounds like many of you have a lot to say/show about that, so let's move to that thread.
KoMa111
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AGuiFr wrote:Here is my proposal :

Image

The main purpose of this concept is to quickly see the opened windows, and organise them in desktops and activities. Desktops and activities are no longer considered orthogonal. A desktop belong to an activity, and is only a group of windows. This means that a desktop is deleted as soon as there is no window on it (just like Gnome-shell). All desktops in the same activity have the same wallpaper, and it is impossible to give them a name anymore (feature reserved for activities). To create a new desktop, drag it to the right desktop with the "+" sign. You can rearrange the order of desktops by drag-and-drop.

The search fields search a window in any desktop of the current activity. Hovering a window highlights it in the thumbnails.

If more than one activity is started, the left panel appears, showing only running activities. Only switching between running activities is possible inside the effect. For more advance management (start, stop, rename, create, delete), a link to the existing activities manager is provided at the bottom right. You can move a window to another activity by drag and drop on the left panel. You can also move a whole desktop to another activity by drag and drop.

You can switch between desktops using the shortcut Meta + Left/Right, and between running activities with Meta + Up/Down. If only one activity is running, the left panel doesn't appear to not bother users who don't use them.

Comments are welcome !


Wonderful idea!
Some thoughts:
1. Instead of darkening the windows and showing their title in the middle, show the title below the window, accompanied by an icon. Like what Windows 10 does.
2. Add a close button to the windows, which appears on mouse hover.
3. The active window should have a blue border highlight
4. Show the actual activity name in the top left, aligned with the search bar, which is in the top right.
5. Customization options: activity sidebar location, background effect (blur/dim/both/none), sidebar background (transparent/semi-tarnsparent/...)
Anyway, fabulous mockup. If you are planning to make it real, best wishes!

 
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