Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Type Managers and KDE

Today was a fun day. The past week I have been putting together an article on Type Managers. The article was really meant for here as a blog entry, but it grew and grew and I ended up making a full article that I put on my website. After debating the name over and over I finally kept it the way it was. Just to see if it would get accepted I submitted it to Slashdot and hey cool it was accepted. :) Type Manager on Slashdot. Putting it up on Slashdot is a fun test of my website. I made a static html page and had Apache temporarily forward the php page to the html page. The server seemed to survive just fine. What makes this even more interesting is that I signed up for Google Analytics the other day so I eagerly await to see what amusing stats it gives me tomorrow. Over on Slashdot most people (like normally there) didn't care to discuss the idea, but liked to talk about how the name was a bad choice or that it was obvious. My feelings aren't hurt though sense they weren't my primary target and I got to test out some of my website stuff in the process. Now, done with the /. part of this post and on onto the real part. The reason I wrote the article was for you, the KDE developers.

Those on kdedevelopers.org might have noticed some similar polls the last few weeks asking about managers that they use. Such as How do you manager your music more then %60 use amarok and another 15% use Juk or iTunes. When I asked about photos similar results for digiKam. So people on /. can yell all they want about managing there files only on the filesystem, but that is your fringe user. I use KMail to manage e-mail, Juk for music, digiKam for photos, and akregator for rss feeds. When I used aKregator and iTunes for the first time I knew that I was seeing something special even if I couldn't put my finger on it then. Putting together the article on type managers was very interesting. For example *today* Konq meets most of the file manager spec that I put together, but you wouldn't know about half of the features because the interface is so cluttered. A number of us in the last six months have discussed separating Konq the file manager and Konq the all in one viewer/web browser. Putting together this article solidifies my belief that this is the right direction to take Konq (the file manager).

The article isn't just for Konq, KMail, amarok, and digiKam. There are many other Type Manager applications in KDE such as akregator and kdevelop. One of the original goals of the article was to make the list of features that a type manager should have. This way KDE applications that are type managers can see the list and understand what they are missing that would really benefit their users.

Juk has excellent meta editing and does a fantastic job of separating the file system from the user, and it has a good search interface, but it doesn't have the import export functionality like amarok has. Could this be why amarok is doing better? It is almost the opposite with amarok. amarok has good search, import and export, but not good abstraction or as good meta editing (in my personal opinion). I have said this before, but just to reiterate here I plan on integrating audiocd into Juk and amarok and once that is done i'll move KAudioCreator into extragear and perhaps retire it.

There are other Type Managers that KDE doesn't have at all. We don't have a movie manager that I know of. There are a number of movie tools such as dvd ripper, encoding, transcending, burners, and so on. You can probably think of a few more Type Managers that KDE doesn't have (add to the comments). So if you are looking to make a KDE application here might be a perfect idea to tackle.
One thing I noticed when looking around is that you don't want to call your Type Manager a manager on your website. Users don't want to manage music, they want to play with their files! That is why iTunes is a Music Jukebox and iPhoto is a photo organizer. The name of your Type Manager shouldn't include "Manager" in its name nor should you use the word manager when describing your application for end users on your website :)

Another feature that is very KDE specific has to do with the last feature I listed under Type Managers. That had to do with the interface that they provide. In OS X if you have iPhotos installed your desktop background applet will automatically let you select photos from your photo collection and in iPhotos when viewing a slideshow you can select a song to play from iTunes. This feature of Type Managers I think as a desktop KDE can really take advantage of to provide real value to us and our users.

End users like using Type Managers, they make their life easier through many different means that compliment each other. If KDE [type manager] applications integrate more Type Manager features I do believe that they will get more users.

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