2009-12-11 7 Comments
Recent discussion on the Gnome-shell list made me think about file handling in general once again.
I think it would be beneficial to Gnome (or KDE or …) to have a long term plan regarding where some fundamental things should be heading. Here’s some food for thought, knowing that everything I bring up here comes with a long tail of questions:
Uniform file handling liberated from hierarchical file systems
Every new/separate piece of interface the user has to deal with means more to learn and more to remember (several instead of one mental model). This speaks against a separation between accessing files and managing files (a design decision for Nautilus that I wasn’t aware of, previously). It also speaks against having various interfaces for documents, images, audio and video files, each designed independent of the other.
The problems of having to deal with huge numbers of items and no sane way to put each item into only one category (folder) affects not only media files, but also documents.
Meta-data (tags, categories, relations) is the answer regarding organizing and accessing files. This should be handled in a uniform way for all kinds of files (maybe with exceptions for some system files).
But there’s a problem as long as users have to deal with hierarchical file systems. Meta-data on top means there will be situations users have to understand and deal with 2 systems where on could suffice. The question where files are actually stored should be part of the meta-data in some way.
More people should get to enjoy the benefits of versioning. You shouldn’t have to drop to the CLI or install GUI tools. Versioning should be just there as open invitation and comfortable helper.
(Heck, a whole system installation could be a clone from a distribution repo, I guess.)
EDIT: KDE’s Dolphin will have version control support, although not quite in the open, direct way I’m envisioning.
We not only deal with more files of an increased number of types, but also have more means of transfer and more places they end up on. Time for tracking which file in which version went where or to whom right from your desktop. The same mechanism could also help with managing archives on removable media.
To link or embed?
Should images in a presentation be linked or embedded? Both have their pros and cons. How about neither? As long as all parts are on the local system, use references to files. References that do not rely on a path or filename and thus do not break. If the main document is copied to a different system, make sure all the required files follow.