the next step on the desktop: Improving Activities UI

Sebastian Kügler sebas at
Tue Feb 1 13:45:14 CET 2011

Activities are indeed one of the big things. I think we've got the basics 
right in 4.6, but it's not an obvious thing to integrate into your workflow, 

On Monday, January 31, 2011 20:55:56 Aaron J. Seigo wrote:
>   On Monday, January 31, 2011, Ivan Cukic wrote:
> > > * have all activities avaiable in kactivitmanagerd, even if they are
> > > "stopped" in plasma-desktop
> >
> > ? Activities that are stopped are still in kamd.
> hm.. but they don't show up in window titlebar context menus when they are 
> stopped; so a "bug" in kwin, then? it should be possible imho to send
> windows  to any defined activity. we could put the stopped activities at
> the bottom of the menu after a separator to help keep the running ones
> more prominent and easier to find?

After using it for a bit, I think the activities context menu is quite 
useless, because hard to handle. While getting used to an activity-based 
workflow, I've tried to identify some things that would make them more useful 
and more obvious how it works:

- easily assigning a window to an Activity
  The context menu is tricky to handle, requires a bunch of clicks and very 
  exact navigation. With a crappy touchpad, it's almost unusable, and not 
  obvious at all. Moreover, moving a window from one to another Activity 
  requires us to do it twice. Multiply that per WIndow, and you easily get an 
  overhead that makes using Activities not worth it anymore

- Having an overview mode per Activity
  Touches the above, it's kind of hard to see what belongs to an Activity and 
  to move things in between Activities. I regularly open a webbrowser to 
  procrastinate, but hardly every remember changing Activity first. Then, 
  while "consciously procrastinating", I've got to find my webbrowser back in 
  one of the useful Activities

Possible solutions:

- More advanced Activity selector per Window. Maybe some kind of Activitybar 
  with checkboxes integrated into the windeco, or as window overlay?

- Overview mode per Activity, maybe some variation of Present Windows with 
  special layout (columns per Activity?)?

- Making KWin's taskswitcher more Activity-aware, for example by grouping 
  windows in the Boxswitch, by having some "chapter" visualization in 
  Coverswitch, or columns / grid in Present Windows

Not sure how complete it would feel, but I think the above could fill in the 
missing link and make it more obvious how Activities work, by giving more 
visual hints.

That would IMO be one piece of the puzzle. It could easily go on some kind of 
start screen, so you log into KDE and get some big buttons "Procrastinate", 
"Work-Work", "KDE", much like the application shortcuts on the "classic 
desktop of the 90s", but on a much higher level.
sebas | | GPG Key ID: 9119 0EF9
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