GtkPlacesSidebar is a new widget in Gtk+ 3.9, which enables more consistent look and behavior between file chooser and file manager.

This may be a good oportunity for revisiting the structure and layout of the sidebar, with the needs of both Files and GtkFileChooser in mind.

The ideas below have taken inspiration from existing designs, and the proposed changes get the sidebar a little closer to them:

Proposed Changes

1. Increase row height

  • Feels lighter and more elegant
  • Bigger target area
  • On DND over Bookmarks section, top and bottom quarters of each row area are used for adding bookmark (new behavior in 3.9), leaving only half of the row as a drop target for copying/moving to existing bookmarks, which is a very small drop area.


  • More scrolling
    • This is mitigated by 2. and 4..

2. Remove “Places” section heading

  • The heading eats vertical space.
  • "Places" is just a filler word.
  • The top section doesn’t have the need to separate itself from the section above.
  • Give “Recent” an even more privileged position

Alternative 2b. Remove all section headings

  • Would save even more vertical space.
  • Use whitespace or separators to preserve a visible separation between sections?

3. Remove indentation

  • Without the “Places” heading, the indentation on the top section is weird
  • Icons already serve as indentation for text, because headings don’t have icons
  • More horizontal space for labels - less ellipsization

4. Remove built-in XDG User Dirs from top section

  • 5 unremovable rows eating vertical space and pushing Devices and Bookmarks sections down: 685255

  • They are not necessarily often used
    • Some will become even less frequently used as other apps (Photos, Videos, Music) offer a preferable way to access their content.
  • By default, they are subfolders of Home, so they are just an extra double-click away.
  • It should be possible to add them to the sidebar as Bookmarks
    • They are already in the default set of bookmarks (generated by xdg-user-dirs-gtk).
      • Probably only Documents and Downloads belong in default bookmarks. Documents folder often contains files not handled by the Documents app.
  • Treating them as special bookmarks adds complexity and confusion: 696318 701469 703598

  • For gtk+ 2 applications, on the file chooser, they are treated as regular, removable bookmarks .
    • And that was still the case in gtk+ 3.8.
  • Fewer elements in the top section means that application specific shortctus (a file chooser feature) are easier to notice.

How it looks

Proof of concept on the left, nautilus 3.8 on the right.



In spite of the increased vertical padding, it ended up shorter thanks to the cuts.

The screenshot also shows a theming experiment, blending the sidebar with the toolbar. Not sure about it.

The headings feels a bit heavy. Should they be given the the same color as the icons?

Wilder ideas

  • Swap positions of Devices and Bookmarks sections?
    • This way, the XDG user dirs will still be near the top.
    • Long Bookmarks lists could push Devices out of view, which is a problem because plugged-in devices won't be immediately visible.
  • Allow to hide unwanted entries from Devices section (small system partitions used by other operative systems, recovery and boot partitions)
    • Or don't show them in the first place?
  • Merge Devices and Network section


Design/Playground/PlacesSidebar (last edited 2013-07-08 19:38:22 by AntónioFernandes)