Thursday, March 29, 2007

KDE4: Overlay-ed actions on icons

This is my first post on ... Hello Planet.

What follows is an attractive idea for KDE4 which kind of fits into aseigo's Plasma, which some seem to concider "vaporware".

Hidden in the right click, "context sensitive" menu are supposed to be the most used actions for a certain mime-type, making the life of the user easier by making him click less. Why then does the right click menu on most mime-types seem so overwhelming? There are cool and useful features hidden in those menu's that I never realised where there, didn't see them through the dense forest of features.

What would be good is that very common actions are even better to discover and use, not even requiring the user to click the right mouse button. The idea is to have the most common actions represented by small icons that get overlay-ed on the larger icon of the file or directory your mouse hovers over. It would allow us to open a foto in one of the available apps, say gwenview or krita, mail them to someone, change the resolution or apply as desktop background, all in one click on a certain place on the icon. It could look something like this idea I proposed earlier but for every item in a filebrowser, eroding the distinction between icons, widgets and other things you might find on the desktop.

Have you ever tried to explain a common action of a modern computer, like changing the desktop background image, to a novice user. Ever got the impression they didn't even find that simple feature because they never used the right mouse button? Guess children or novice computer users wouldn't mind the reduced complexity with this, being presented the option without needing to search. And I guess a lot of "advanced" computer wizz'es would mind a more organic feeling file-browsing experience, and for the critics there is always the option to turn it off.

Hope I can discuss and maybe even implement this at aKademy. So feedback is welcome, either in the comments or live, 2 months from now in Glasgow.



Thomas said...

Quite the same proposal was already presented on the website more than half a year ago. Still, I think it's one of the best ideas presented! In this proposal on, the buttons also faded in on mouse over, but they were all in the four corners of the file, surrounded by a quarter of a circle (logically, as they were in the corners) (hope you know what I mean). It was visually very appealing and thus this quarter of a circle clearly defined the click area. There was no text underneath the icons, the text could be shown in the center of the file icon though while hovering an edge.

If you don't understand what I mean, please just mail me ;-).

In any case, PLEASE implement that feature - it would be great!!

Mircea said...

This somehow remembers me of MS Office 2007, with its "context-toolbars" (don't know the official name) appearing when you select a text in a document.

I find it quite nice.

Ebbo said...

Hi, I like your idea.
I have to additions:

1. why not get rid of right click and show the hover on mouse over

2. us a circle like in your first idea, there submenus might be a circle around with new icons

Ebbo said...

Here a link to KDE-look with a pciture of what i meant

Daniel said...

You are right about "Ideas are common property"

The "on-hover" actions were plugged by the same Aaron about 1.5 years ago, again, in connection with the Plasma.

He even had a mock-up screenshot too.

However, reminding us all, and dolphin devs in particular doesn't seem to hurt. :)

Spockfish said...


It seems so simple, but I'm just sitting here and wondering why nobody else came up with this idea...

Keep up the good work. And I'm one of the guys that doesn't think Plasma is fapourware...

regards, Harry

Anonymous said...

This a great idea. I though about something like that myself. Example:

I have a image/video/audio.
I want view/see/listen it.
I have it's filetype associated with a program, but I want to open/edit/etc it with another.
So right click, open with and then choose a program.
Doing it one doesn't matter, but having to do it all the time...

So this overlay thing is a good solution.
The configure its actions, so in this case (for a image) I would put on the overlay a viewer, another viewer, an editor, a cataloguer, an metadata editor...

This faster, easier, more productive, instead of using right click menus and submenus.

I hope you can achieve that objective, good luck :)

Bernhard said...

WOW... that's the only thing which comes to my mind when I think about this great idea.... i really hope that you'll/someone else will be able to implement this great feature in kde4. but it should only be available when the icons are so big... when the icons are smaller there should be a sidebar, enabled by default with all the actions inside... or maybe when you hover the icon there could also appear a menu where you can select.. like the actual file information of kde3 when you hover a file, but with interactive actions (as you mentioned in your post)

btw: is there any place where i can see the actual status of plasma (not the source code), or where do I start reading the source code (QT4 + C++ Novice) ^^

thomas said...

Wow, if this would be done right, it would rock!
It looks really cool!

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. I don't think this is a good idea, for several reasons.

- It requires massive icons (or some sort of "squishing" algorithm that pushes surrounding icons out of the way when you hover over something)

- I would find it very annoying to have this pop up on hover all the time.

- You need to make a decision on what to show. I have about 5 apps that are capable of opening an image, but you can't fit all their icons onto that overlay.

- There will be a lot of accidental selections. You hover, then you want to click on another icon, but you dont go far enough and accidentally click an action on the current icon instead. Lots of potential for mis-clicks.

Anonymous said...

Hi, nice idea. I'm looking forward to KDE 4. :-)

PS: I also like the used widget style. What is it? Is it already available for KDE 3.5?

Jure Repinc said...

It would be great to make file/folder actions more easy do discover and quicker to activate (without less clicks) so I like the direction where this idea is heading. Just a couple of my ideas about this:

1. I wonder how to implement this so that it doesn't get in the way and that it doesn't take too long before the overlay shows up. For example it shouldn't interfere with file/folder selection process. Maybe the time to show this should be configurable and maybe the overlay should only show when you press a special keyboard or mouse key combination. But this again means more work before you activate an action.

2. I think that in the example image there is too much actions (3) that basically do the same thing (open the file). There should only be one action which opens the file and at most there should be two (edit in addition to open).

3. Same actions for all items (or at least for items of the same type) should always be in the same corner. So that when user gets used to one location of a certain action he can always expect that the same action would be at the same place.

4. I guess there should be a configuration options (somewhere in the same place as the current file type configuration dialog) where a user could easily setup actions to his liking. For example by dragging and dropping actions from a list on the left to a sample representation of the overlay on the right.

5. Maybe one of the actions that are always there should be "More actions..." which when clicked on (or hovered over) would open the same menu you would get by right click.

Well I think this is it for now from me. I hope these ideas get worked on and reviewed by usability people as it would be very nice to have this feature.

Anonymous said...

thank you, I love it. Hope you can implement it...

Anonymous said...

Very nice. My only real concern is the positioning of the icons. I would rather they not interfere (or interfere less) with the icon and filename. In a perfect KDE4, their placement could be customized (along X edge, scattered like in the preview, etc.)

Louis said...

I like this idea, but the mockup seems a bit noisy. Maybe some other combination of fonts/colors/transparency?

Ben said...

great idea, though i could see it becoming an annoyance for some.

i saw your backstage idea you linked as well, and had a comment about that. Through the plasma framework, could not these widgets theoretically go anywhere? they could be used for the systray, and you could even make the systray kind of like the osx dock, where they magnify when you mouse over it. but instead of seeing plain enlarged versions, these extra options come rolling out. or you could make a panel that is katapult-like (shortcut activated) and appears in front of everything with these widgets on it...

again, fantastic idea. anticipation for kde4 is what led me away from gnome, so i can get familiar with the now, to be impressed even more with the later!

Nick said...

Great idea, but I think it would only work with large icons and it might get a little annoying if it is activated on mouseover.

How about having a click-and-hold sort of thing. That way when a user clicks and holds on an icon, the icon grows in size to a suitable level (with the neighbors nicely sliding out of the way) and the action icons are overlaid. Simply release the click over the appropriate icon for the functionality. This would be a lot less intrusive, while still keeping the functionality. Just a thought. Any improvements?

Anonymous said...

Not all people use GIANT icons, so forget about that. The Information Box that dolphin have will be something like that (well, it actually already replace that).

Tim said...


Its an interesting idea but PLEASE DONT DO THIS - it is a classic example of user interface clutter - by all means make the context menus simpler but dont simply shift the problem into (far more visible) icon space....


superstoned said...

for those asking, the used widgetstyle is polyester (find it on, it's for KDE 3).

About the mockup, IMHO it's not the best mockup I've seen with this feature, but I think it's a great idea. I'd only have 4 spaces, though, with open/view, edit, information (properties) and whatever third is appropriate (add to playlist, send by mail, whatever). With only 4 spaces, the overlay is still usable with a bit smaller icons. Of course with very small icons it shouldn't appear.

The overlay should only appear after a period of hovering, so you can still select or just click a file.

Anonymous said...

The idea is not bad but from my point of view isn't KDE made for things like that! At least not with it's "one-klick-to-open" configuration.
you will never (easily) be able to select a file like in the screenshot. You can only select it by pressing the "CTRL"-Key or by selecting the file throug the arrow-keys.

I think that this feature makes only sens if you change KDE (default) to double-klick.
(I sea the same problem with the Metainformations in Dolphin)

All that I have is a... Thought!!! said...

I did a small modification to dolphin on the same idea. This uses the area between the rows and uses only Icons. Dolphin already shows text next to the icons on the sidebar. So, I think icons should be OK without text in the bubble. This can be done with mouse hover itself as it won't get into the way of mouse.
Original Dolphin window:
KDE 4.0 Dolphin screenshot
Modified Dolphin window for context icons:
Dolphin modified Mockup
I hope this gives some ideas.
PS: I am a bad GIMP user. Please don't mind the colours and shapes.

Anonymous said...

It's really a good idea, but I would make it of the form of a ring outside and a circle inside (hope you know what I mean). Then, the inner circle would be a button to open what you open now by using right-click.

Keep up the good work and please, please implement this!