23 Mar 2004 blah   » (Apprentice)

GNOME is very close to a new release so the final polish is going on at the moment. It makes reading the GNOME Planet very interesting. In fact so much has happened this week that I'm still trying to form (or inform) my opinions.

One thing I've been playing within during the release cycle is the new navigation system in Nautilus the GNOME file manager. When you click into a new directory you get a new window. I really am struggling to like it at the moment. I find it very confusing as you've no sense of where you are within the machines hierachy which makes it difficult to organise your files. If you have a deep hierachy you land up with a collection of windows which are not stacked in any particular order (not sure if this is the window managers fault). The fact that the left hand pane has gone means that you're also lacking additional context information. If you want the old way back there's no easily discoverable menu item to turn it back on - I think changing the default behaviour on a minor release without an easy way to get back is a particular sin to being user friendly.

You can use shift+click so that it replaces the contents of your current window with the contents of the new directory. I think there's a bug in this because the window doesn't keep it's placement or size (it's actually a new window) - you can see this clearly if you shift+click into a number of directories.

OS X which I use a lot has some similar ideas but they are more flexible as you can switch the view on the fly with one click. I'm sure that this is aimed at making GNOME easier for average users but I think usability experts sometimes confuse simple to use and simplistic. Just because the user may not be an expert I think we can assume that the 'tree view' is a pretty well understood concept.

The upside of the nautilus change is that it is now very, very fast. I'm still trying to be open-minded on whether the gain is worth the pain!

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