More on User Interfaces


Tue 08 March 2005 By nuxeo

In a comment to yesterdays rant on the
userunfriendliness of Linux Ruslan was nice enough to
link to a page on why the default mode of Nautilus is one that
opens one window for each folder, something they call spatial mode.
It's named after the concept of spatial navigation, which is a
good concept.

But as usual, because you name something after a good conept
doesn't make it good. Spatial navigation is the idea that we
find things in much after where they are located. I'm one of
those people who easily can end up with the whole desk covered
in paper. Inches deep. Still, I can usually find the papers I
want, because I know where on the desk I saw them last, so I
only lift half an inch of paper and there I find it. It's all
spatial.

So, the idea of a spatial file manager then, according to the
Nautilus guys (who in turn got it from John
Siracusa
) is that each folder has a separate window, and
that this window stays in the same place if you close it and
re-open it. But of course, that's all completely backwards.
What I need to find is the place to click to open the folder.
Sure, it's nice if it opens in the same location, but it's
unimportant.Spatial location is used to FIND things, and if
the location of the open window is the spatial information
then the window have to be open for it to give out that
information. Of course, a typical unix installation have
thousands of folders. Am I supposed to have thousands
of windows open?

However, in the explorer-type of file manager (which Nautilus
calls "browser"), I have a tree hierarcy to the left, always
displayed. And guess what: The folders and files do not move
around. They are always sorted in the same alphabetical
fashion. The spatial information is there, everytime I open a
browser window. I can have ten browser windows open if I want,
and they all contain the same spatial information. It's easy
and fast to find the directory I want, because it is in the
same place it was yesterday.

The spatial mode of nautilus is only useful if you have a
very limited set of folders that you always have open. I don't
think may people work like that anymore.

Of course, the whole idea of file-systems is an outdated
concept from the 60s anyway. But until somebody writes a
modern operating system we are stuck with it. ;-)

(Post originally written by Lennart Regebro on the old Nuxeo blogs.)


Category: Product & Development