Wednesday, March 22, 2006

KDE4: Backstage

The system tray is a limitedand valued realestate. Besides that it is extremely limited, smal icons make it hard to aim and actions can only be added in a menu, usualy right click menu, which is a problem all by itself.
But the problem is there are a lot of apps that use it as a mini taskbar. Like amarok, kontact, kopete, ... to many to name. And then there's superkaramba with widgets to control programs like amarok and other widgets to display feeds.
There's an opportunity here, what to do if programs want to remain running without a window open? Minimize them to the desktop as a widget. Of course this is not new, it's a concept used in CDE and probably others, they just create a icon on the desktop. But this is something different, so bear with me.

I call this concept Backstage, it would be a part of plasma and a there would be a framework to create Backstage widgets as easy as creating a system tray icon.

As example: the backstage widget for amarok

  • When sitting idle on the desktop and amarok is not playing the widget would look like the big amarok icon without the buttons.
  • If you move the mouse over the widget the actions swirl around the icon and stop where they are in the image.
  • When a track is playing the artist and title would rotate around it and the progress is visible by the percentage of the icon that is in grayscale.
  • Clicking on the action buttons does the expected thing, clicking somewhere else on the widget restores the amarok main window.
Practically I would implement this with animated SVG's for the graphics, Python for the behavior and DCOP for the communication with the parent application.

Off course the system tray doesn't need to dissapear completely but at least KDE4 apps that run in the background should have a backstage widget and let the user decide.


Rinse said...

Your idea reminds me of old window managers, like Afterstep.
In stead of minimizing applications to the task bar, they created a large icon on your desktop. The phrase 'Iconify' comes from that behavior.

alfborge said...

So, to access this functionality:
1. Minimize the program you're using.
2. Locate the backstage icon.
3. Do what you need to do.
4. Locate the icon for the app you just minimized.
5. Continue working.

I don't see how this is better than the systray approach. To do the same here:
1. Locate the systray icon.
2. Do what you need to do.
3. Continue working.

Of course, I might misunderstand your idea completely.

sAra said...

uhh it seems like an interesting idea since I am one of those people that hate the system tray. Maybe you don't need to make it so it sits only on the desktop, but maybe alitle like katapult where I can type alt-space then amarok and I get backstage and I can use it from there or maybe I can have a bunch of icons like that on backstage where I can be working on my paper and I feel like going to the next song and I can type alt+space back and it gets autocomplete to backstage so then I can pull dow to pick the 'icon' I want to use. Anyway sound like a cool idea that i would love to see realized in KDE 4 you should post this idea in kde-look dot org so that more people can see it.

Anonymous said...

Only problem, I don't see my desktop very often... :)
On the other hand the tray is always visible and easy to access.
Just my 2 cents, the idea is otherwise good.

Jure Repinc said...

Looks like a nice idea. Maybe in addition to a keyboard shortcut there could be n single icon in the kicker (or its KDE4 replacement). Maybe a separate kicker plugin an alternate System tray. So people who like current system tray would continue to use it. Then we would have a single large button plugin (similar to K button) which would be labled something like Backstage (I like the name) and coule replace entire current system tray and be easier to see and click. And then when user clicks this large button it would open an overlay over entire screen with large program icons and related small action icons like you showed on picture.

Anonymous said...

I like it...

Nick said...

Or... since KDE4 is meant to have support for (or some kind of implementation of) dashboard widgets a la Mac OS X. Why not make this one of those. This would make the workflow as follows:

1. Press 'Dashboard' button to show widgets.
2. Use the widget.
3. Press 'Dashboard' button to hide widgets.

Of course anyone who wanted the widget on their desktop permanently should have that option too. What do you think?

jestermorris said...

I think I like the idea, but I feel that I too don't ever see my desktop. If you could make it so that Alt+Enter or something would bring up backstage and give you access to loads of settings and such, I'd be all for it.