Emblems and Tagging in GNOME

This page will provide a summary of my progress in my SummerOfCode2006 project to integrate Nautilus and Leaftag for a powerful, intuitive and well-integrated method of using tags in GNOME.

Comments are welcome here, or via e-mail: jtbarrett@gmail.com

An abridged version of my application follows, and the complete project description portion of my application is avaliable in PDF format.

Joel Juliano has created some nice GUI mockups, which I have attached to this page 1, 2, 3.


Emblems have the potential to be very commonly used and powerful tools in the GNOME desktop. However, a number of limitations have kept them from the widespread use they could be enjoying. I propose to improve GNOME's implementation of emblems in three important ways:

  • Unify emblem rendering in GNOME. Ensure that emblems are always drawn in the same way and are presented to the user in a way that is clear and efficient.
  • Make emblems a simple yet powerful way of attaching metadata to objects. Make this metadata as useful as possible by ensuring that is always easily accessible through the Deskbar, Beagle, Nautilus and the Terminal.
  • Introduce new interface elements to permit the easy creation, management and application of emblems and tags.


As the number of files the average user works with grows it becomes necessary to have better tools to manage them all. Emblems are a good start as they allow users to quickly distinguish important files. Unfortunately, the rendering inconsistencies of the current implementation break the spatial paradigm of the GNOME desktop.

Taking this to the next level and permitting users to search and browse files by the emblems that they have tagged them with adds a great deal of power. Features such as this are often review- makers, especially given that no modern operating system has a solution as robust as the one proposed here.

Use Scenarios

  1. A user could quickly apply a `To Backup' tag (which would have an associated emblem) to any file that they would like to later back up. Then once they were ready to do the backup, one quick query could locate all items tagged with this emblem. Each file could then be backed up and the tags removed.
  2. A number of different tags could be applied to photographs. Then by opening up a sidebar the user could choose the tag they wanted to view and see all the relevant shots without having to specifically recall the name of the tag they used.
  3. Thanks to a solid command line interface to our tagging engine, power users will be able to quickly write shell scripts that modify and search for emblem-tagged files on the system.


  1. Improved metadata associated with emblems, implemented via Leaftag
    1. Files tagged with emblems accessible through Beagle, the Deskbar and the Terminal.
    2. Appropriate and clean interface for applying and managing tags (transparently integrated with emblems)
  2. An improved emblem implementation in Nautilus, including:
    1. An addition to the context menu to apply emblems.
    2. A redesigned emblems tab in the properties window with solid interface for adding new custom emblems.
  3. Modifications to Backgrounds and Emblems to be consistent with the new emblems tab.
    1. A sidebar showing all tags currently in use by the user, clicking each will show the files on the system with the chosen tag applied.
  4. Appropriate extensions to properly draw emblems in the GTK+ File Chooser and the GNOME panel.

Outreach/SummerOfCode/2006/EmblemTags (last edited 2013-12-03 23:41:25 by WilliamJonMcCann)