Marc Cramdal's blog

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thoughts about Plasma : the ALI


    I'm a bit involved on the and it is really interesting to speak and work with people who want to make something really great !

Disclaimer: this blog is not any official decision from KDE developers, it's only my personal thoughts about a new application launcher.

   The idea
    I just wanted to blog about the ALI. First, what is the ALI, it's just a little acronym for Application Launcher Interface, the future remplacement for KMenu. KMenu is currently the way we are used to launch applications. It's the way you use to browse your applications, to see which ones are on your computer. It's the way new KDE users use to discover these applications. But... it's a bit cluttered.
    Here is my idea (one of the many ideas on kde-artists :-)) to replace this old KMenu. It comes from the idea that it should be the more clear and light as possible. Maybe it looks like KMenu but I think it's more powerfull. First, the mockup :
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    This kind of plasmoid is showing on the top of the screen, over your windows, as you press some key, or click some button, or make a mouse gesture, or say "ALI" ... whatever you want (but I think some keyboard shortcut is cool). As you release the key, it disappears with some blending effect for instance. In the first column, you see the main categories. In the second one, the subcategories. In the last one, the applications. If there are not subcategories, the applications go obviously in the second column.
    First, it's bigger. It's easier to see. Maybe you have to move your mouse a bit further, but the entries are bigger and you won't have to be so precise as currently in KMenu, which imo takes more time than moving the mouse a bit further.
    Then, you can't start some applications at the same time. Currently, you open KMenu, browse a bit through it, start an application. If you want to start a second application, you have to reopen it. In this new ALI, you will have to keep the key pressed and you can start as many applications as you want.
    Another (great ?) feature I wish we could have in it: in the second column, you see Mail Client. If you put your mouse over it, it open the next column. But if you double-click, it starts the default mail client (here KMail).
    Last but not least, at the bottom right, you have Konqi. It shows you a little panel with some information. Here he says that KMail is your default mail client. But he could give you the number of time you launch the selected application, the location of the application binary (hey, do you have a quick way to find the application binary name in KMenu; I just found that I had to edit KMenu to look at this, annoying, no ? ;-))
    Finally, just note how the selected menu items are connected between each other (like in late BeOS beta Dano). Amaury call this "visual coherence". Indeed, you see your way in the menu and it helps the menu clarity.

    About filtering in the ALI
    I don't think it is required since you will have a search tool on the desktop using Tenor framework. In this search tool, you could just type app:mail and it will shows up all the mail-related applications, maybe in the style of the following mockup:

    (thanks Amaury for the mockup)

    About ALI
    I think it's important to note that this ALI is an Application launcher. So I don't think that we have to put in it some things like your contacts, your current appointements etc. Plasma will include some other plasmoids/menus more task oriented for this. ALI just is about launching Applications ;-)

    So it is my proposal for the new ALI :-). If you have ideas (especially innovative ones), feel free to go on kde-artists and explain it !