Netbook: Search and Launch

June 8, 2009

The last week I started playing with SAL: the “Search and Launch” containment for the netbook project. It was really nice as I played with Runners and could finally understand some bits that were still inside a black box for me. It’s sooo easy to use Runners on your applications!

So, the main idea behind this containment is that instead of using a regular menu like Kickoff you would be able to just search for what you’re looking for. The regular desktop already uses this feature inside KRunner but just advanced users and a few beginners know about it and how to use it properly (besides the fact that it’s trivial to use) – it’s hidden and is only triggered by a shortcut or by the menu entry “Run Command” that is not so visible.

Right now, as you can see in the screenshot below (sorry, no videos as I need to recompile some stuff to make recordMyDesktop work again) I put an edit line widget to type the queries but later this will be inside the panel. The user just types whatever he wants to do: it can be the name of an application, category (web browser), contact, calculation, unit conversion, etc.. (we’re thinking of a way to teach the user everything he is able to query – but suggestions are welcome).

Search and Launch Containment

Search and Launch Containment

There is also the “Favourites Strip”. When you mouse hover one of the results you’re able to add it to the Favourite Strip clicking on the “star icon”. Add as much favourites as you want and you can scroll between them in a “carousel” like widget. Maybe in the future we can make it more beautiful with Kinetic and add some bling :) Right now I want something that really works and we can add blings later (using Kinetic – and yes we may use animated layouts too \o/ hehe). Ah, and I really wished that we already had anchor layouts while developing SAL. It would be so easy and I would not have a lot of problems that I had to layout the widgets =/.

Now I need to make it persistent (so we are able to restore the favourites) and also remove the edit line widget and put in the panel as it was planed first.

Cheers,

28 Responses to “Netbook: Search and Launch”

  1. great great great work…fantastic…

    giuseppe

  2. Looks very promising! I’ve been looking for a permanent krunner-plasmoid for the desktop for some time. Adding favorites would be highly welcome. :-)

  3. Wait, and no menu at all?

    Did you try looking at Raptor and Lancelot? They use KRunner for searching as well

  4. @LXj: yes, but I wanted something simpler than lancelot and Raptor :) What they have in common is already in the libraries (kdelibs) :)
    Cheers,

  5. I think this concept can be extend to make a KDE Launcher…This can be better than Kickoff, Lancelot, Raptor, etc.. to launch applications

    giuseppe

  6. Here are my thoughts on this.

    First of all, you have favourites strip between search line and results. This is bad IMHO, results should be near the search line (because you interact with them together)

    But what I don’t like most is that you decided not to put any menu interface here at all. Some users (I am one of them) are very comfortable with typing the name of the application. Others are more comfortable with browsing through categories. Add to that the fact that this project can be well suited to using on touch screens, where typing is a bit more painful and pointing and clicking is more natural thing to do.

    Also, menu interface’s purpose is not only to *find* applications but to *explore* what do you have installed. What will you search if you don’t know what do you have?

    One more thing — Lancelot makes a good use of horizontal space. It’s also multi-purpose, which is a good thing considering limited screen estate. I wouldn’t consider it too difficult to use either.

    All you have here basically — is a KRunner dialog stretched out to full screen.

  7. @LXj: Sure there are people that prefer menus instead of this concept. That’s why they can use Lancelot or Kickoff, that can be easily added to the “Newspaper Containment” or even can add another containment (activity) with their preferred applets. So, the whole thing is not limited to this but this containment that exclusively have this task will not work like other menus. :)
    Cheers,

  8. I agree with what LXj said, Lancelot would be nicer ;)

  9. Dread Knight: yes, Lancelot is great! The point is that this is going to be much simpler and everybody that likes Lancelot/Kickoff can still use them in the other containment :). Maybe later we’ll just end using Lancelot but for now I want something simpler. Also, the edit line will not be there..it’s just for now…remember that this is under heavy development ;)

    Cheers,

  10. Hi altogether,

    the concept is good, and if you have moved the edit line to the panel you can even use it if apps are covering the desktop. But how do you want to solve this for the “favorite” plasmoid? This will, due to its very nature, be covered most times by an app.

    Most likely the answer is to press the shortcut to show the dashboard. Two problems here: You need to know the shortcut, which brings us back to the situation of krunner, for which you have argued, the this is seldom used, because only power user are aware of the shortcut. I agree in this point.

    The second problem is not yours, but perhaps this is a good place to mention it anyway.
    If I have cluttered my desktop with all the cool plasmoids out there it really distracts me from working. Since there is a way to show the dashboard I would appreciate to only have this plasmoids live on this dash board (OK, this is the way MacOS is doing things). This would lead to two domains plasmoids can live in: the desktop (which is technically at the moment the dashboard I guess) and the dashboard. The desktop plasmoids would be shown whenever they are not covered, and the dashboard ones only if the dashboard is commanded.

    I really appreciate the work you are doing, and this is just the attempt of a little input.

    Cheers, Wolfgang

  11. @Wolfgang: Hey! Thanks for the input!

    To solve most of the problems you stated we can do some stuff that is already enabled in Plasma trunk (kde 4.3): we can associate the SAL containment with a virtual desktop, so if you use the activity bar to change to SAL it will automatically hide all the windows (as it’s in another virtual desktop). The second problem can be solved in the same way we did with 4.3: let the user associate a specific containment with the dashboard. This way you can “unclutter” your desktop ;)

    Cheers!

  12. @MoRpHeUz So if someone wants a menu, he will have to clutter the newspaper activity? And waste the precious panel space which will be occupied by “Applications” link?

    Why exactly you don’t want the application menu to be present by default?

  13. @LXj: no, he can create another activity for that. He can even put the menu on the panel if he wishes as the panel is a containment also. By default the application menu will not be presented because newbie users don’t find it easy. It was a research I did with ~ 10 non geek users. They use that but doesn’t find it useful and often they say “ah, it’s hard to find stuff here” – even with a big search box at the top like kickoff.

    As I said, Lancelot is great and if you want you’re able to customize plasma-mid as you wish, but by default we are not aiming users that would like to have plasma-desktop on their netbook. We are aiming at _really_ newbie users. Besides that, some features that we plan (like being able to add contacts and other stuff to the favourite strip and use of animated layouts for the final version of this containment) are not available on Lancelot. Some of them neither makes sense being there ;).

    Please, calm down and wait a little bit: this is at a very early stage of development and the UI is still not finished. Right now it may look like KRunner stretched to full screen but in the end it’ll not look like this :) Take it easy ;)

    Cheers,

  14. Nice effort and great project!

    Just a couple general suggestions since this project is supposed to be netbook specific (and other such Linux project already dropped the balls on these):
    -Netbooks (which deserve this name and aren’t actually sub-notebooks) don’t have a touchscreen and only a small touchpad. So common interaction would be easier with the keyboard, ideally with on screen indicators for which keys to use for what.
    -Netbooks usually have widescreens, so vertical space is precious while horizontal space is relatively abundant. So “always on” elements (like network/battery status, taskbar, clock, menu etc.) of the user interface should be on the left or right, rather than the bottom or top.

    Looking forward to seeing what you are able to come up with. =)

  15. Wow! That’s really amazing – don’t make it netbook specific :) I’d love to have that feature on any computer.

  16. I propose a context called Dictionnary:
    A mix of
    Dictionnary plasmoid
    Spellcheck
    Translatoid
    Wikipedia page

  17. Would anyone else like a shared Favourites set? If ‘launcher favourites’ were in a shared DataEngine, they could be shared between launchers or even between computers.

    I like the use of the starring technique to set Favourites.

  18. It is amusing!!!

    The only thing i don’t really like is the way to switch between activities, i think that since the target is a touchscreen some gesture can be enabled, e.g. you draw a square to go to newspaper view, a circle to go to SAL, a triangle to view running apps, in this way the space taken by the panel can be assigned to the application (which is IMO uber-cool in a little-screen device)
    I think that it is also not difficult for the user to remember.

    anyway tank you for the fantastic work ^_^

    cheers

    Pier

  19. [...] VIA | MoRpHeUz’s Blog [...]

  20. @MoRpHeUz I am calm :) I am also surprised that search box/command line is considered less geeky than menu. Maybe it’s hard to find stuff in the menu because sometimes the grouping of items into categories is counter-intuitive?

    As for lacking features in Lancelot — I would be more happy if you added them to Lancelot :)

    Don’t get me wrong, pure KRunner search interface would be great for me. I am actually more concerned about “new” users. Some of them can be not so accustomed to using keyboard, for example. Especially those tiny uncomfortable keyboards maybe a pain to use even for me

    Also KRunner suddenly becomes less good for me when I switch to non-English locale.

  21. @LXj:Maybe you’re surprised because you’re thinking of it as a command line. Instead of typing like “firefox” the newbie user just types “web browser”. But as I said: this is all going to be experimented again.

    Regarding Lancelot, as I said before, some of the planned features simply doesn’t match Lancelot and instead of cluttering Lancelot and making it’s users unhappy, we have this. If in the end it makes sense to add to Lancelot this features, we’ll do that :). That’s why this project is in playground: we must be able to test new stuff without compromising too much.

    Marco already created some patches for KRunner and we’ll have some “special queries” ready. So you’ll be able to access some categories directly without the need of typing too much. SAL will not be KRunner full screen. It’s this way right now because that’s what you can do in ~ 3 days of work during your vacations hehe ;)

    KRunner in non-English locale issues should be addressed too. For some languages like portuguese it works well but not sure for russion for example….If you wanna help us on this matter, you’re more than welcome :)

    Cheers,

  22. one cool thing about this, is that could be a place where can born new ideas that in the future will see in kde4.

    i really hope that, and good ideas.

  23. @Morpheuz: This looks great, but I have a question. You keep referring to “netbooks”, but IIRC, this concept was originally aimed at MIDs as well. Do you have any idea of the eventual resource usage? (e.g. will it run on my N810? (provided TI gives us the PowerVR 3D driver)) I have tried a full Kubuntu install with plasma-desktop, and obviously, that made my poor tablet cry, but after that video Aaron posted of plasma running on a phone, I had hopes.

  24. @Jeffrey:Hi :) Yes, sometime ago (and even on techbase’s link) we talked about MIDs in general. Thinking more about the subject we realized that MIDs in general (like n810) and netbooks have different needs. Netbooks are more like desktops and if we tried to make something to work on netbooks and also on MIDs we would loose some power.

    So we decided to do something different for netbooks. Anyway, this netbook stuff will be much more lighter than plasma-desktop to run on n810 but probably it’ll not have the best usability…

  25. @Morpheuz: okay, thanks for clearing that up. I must say that I’m a bit disappointed, but netbooks are definitely more in need of something like this, especially with the crazy setups OEMs seem to like preinstalling. (blech) If they started using a system like this, that would be great. I’m wondering, though… does this project preclude an official version of plasma for MIDs later, or have you just changed focus for now?

  26. @Jeffery:Nothing stops us to go ahead and think about a MID version for plasma. But maybe we lack resources to keep both projects going on at the same time. But let’s see: it would be awesome to still have a MID version to run on mobile phones and also on MIDs ;)

  27. Just a thought – if you widen your paradigm a bid to MIDs as well as Netbooks (virtually the same interface could work for both), then you would want to make sure there are alternate was to get to any “Hover”-triggered actions (such as a right-click menu) – there isn’t really a good “Hover” functionality capable on a touchscreen, but a right-click->Add/Remove to/from Favorites would work very nicely.

    -James

  28. @James: you are right. That was one of the main points to create different stuff for MIDs and for netbooks. But I try to keep this in mind for most of the stuff..but sometimes it’s really difficult :) For MIDs we have some ideas that may work very well like overlays all around…

    Cheers,

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