the next step on the desktop: Improving Activities UI

Aaron J. Seigo aseigo at
Tue Feb 1 18:03:59 CET 2011

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, Sebastian Kügler wrote:
> 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, yet.

yes, seems like a good target for 4.7...

> - 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

it gets complicated by being allowed to have a window in more than one 
activity. a nice "activity sorter" should be possible with a kwin effect that 
shows all the activities as target drop boxes with windows in them and an 'All 
activities' area at the top of the screen. then drag and drop could be used to 
sort windows. (goes nicely with your overview effect mentioned later).

for single windows, a button in the title bar could perhaps trigger that 
effect (and show the plain ol' menu in the non-composited case?) with just the 
one window letting you move it around easily.

where this gets trickier is when a window can be in more than one activity. if 
we had just "all activities" or "that one activity" then it becomes a lot more 
straightforward to manage.

what are our use cases for windows belonging simultaneously to multiple 
activities? are they worth enough to complicate the UI for?

if we do keep it, then one option might be to have a key combo to hold, or 
mouse button?, during drag to differentiate between "move that window from 
where it is to somewhere new" and "also put that window over in that other 

> - 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

in addition to overview, we need to make it quicker to switch between 
activities; which is why i'd like a button on the panel for it.

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

the part that i don't have any good answer for yet is how to trigger such a 
thing. if we wanted to "bet big" on it, we could add a new button to the 
window title bar so it's a single click; problem there being that title bars 
are often not that big and very abstract so any such button that was 
recognizable (e.g. the activities icon) would end up looking a bit alien.

just not sure yet :)

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

this reminds me of some of the early ideas worked out in Randa; i think it is 
very much worth trying out as a KWin effect and see how it goes.

Aaron J. Seigo
humru othro a kohnu se
GPG Fingerprint: 8B8B 2209 0C6F 7C47 B1EA  EE75 D6B7 2EB1 A7F1 DB43

KDE core developer sponsored by Qt Development Frameworks
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