Shell's Tiled View

Nov 22 2010

Not so long after Florian cleaned up the overview-relayout branch to accommodate the visual tweaks initiated by Allan, here we are again to move the target a bit (engineers love me).

Initially shell exposed two views. A tiled view for an overview of your workspaces (something we can’t expect majority will want to manage). A linear view that presents application windows for easier switching (and dropping documents on). Exposing the mode switch to the user wasn’t good design and even if we presented the tiled view only when rearranging windows or selections of windows across workspaces, it felt like too much of an odd case.

Well luckily Jon came up with what I believe is an elegant solution that works around the limitations of the linear view. In addition it also helps to gradually introduce the workspace concept to curious users who would have otherwise not bothered.

Here’s a very crude motion mockup of how the sidebar behaves:

  • The workspace sidebar is hidden by default, ignored by the majority of users. It would slide out on cursor proximity and or when a drag is initiated on a window or a launcher.

  • This interface relies on animation - it would be hard to grasp if things just popped from one frame to another. Things need to scale and slide to aid the spatial relation between workspaces and windows.

  • The IOS like rectangle navigation we had in the linear view only gave you an idea of the number of workspaces and the position. The thumbnails make it much easier to identify a workspace to switch to or drop a window/launcher to.

  • The interface would work just as good horizontally, but it’s more common to scroll documents vertically and we already use the bottom of the screen for messages

Now while I think the workspace thumbnailing addresses the most useful part of the tiled view, we still rely on the user to do workspace “management”. So the next step is to make the Shell do the heavy lifting. Stay tuned.