We have recently added an ability to browse applications by category to the GNOME Shell. However, we still need to hash out the design for making both a flat list of frequently used applications/search results and the categorized applications listing available. The purpose of this page is to:
  1. Review scenarios in which the user might want to use the application browsing.
  2. Lay out a simple plan for enabling both viewing modes.
  3. Seek improvements or alternate ideas from the design community.

Scenarios for Application Browsing Usage

  1. The user wants to launch an application they use frequently.
  2. The user wants to launch an application they know the name of and have installed on the system, but use less frequently. They will likely search by name in this case.
  3. The user wants to see what applications are available for performing a certain task, e.g. image editing. In this case, they are either likely to search using a keyword or view applications in the relevant categories.
  4. The user wants to see what applications are available on their system in order to familiarize themselves with the system or to learn something new.
  5. The user wants to see which applications are available for installation and are popular with other users.
  6. The user wants to launch an application they've used before and open a particular document or set of documents in it. Alternatively, they want to return to a particular state for the application, such as a certain set of browser tabs opened or a particular music playlist selected. Most such cases should be handled by applications themselves, but it's possible for us to provide some solutions by using the information available from the GtkRecentManager, Zeitgeist, or from applications themselves exporting their features.

Simple Plan for Having Two Viewing Modes

Here is how the default overlay view looks. The applications listed are the applications that the user uses the most, ordered by the frequency of use, as well as the applications that the user has pinned to the top. It is possible to pin an application by clicking on a star/pin icon in the details view shown on the right in the expanded mode.

The flat applications view lists all applications used by the user ordered by the frequency of use, and then lists all other applications installed on the system. So it is a continuation of the list of 5-7 applications displayed in the default view. Entering a search criteria displays a flat list of matching results, which are also ordered in the same way. Paging controls are used if multiple pages are required to display the full results list. Applications that are not installed, but match the user's search should also be displayed after the installed applications, but should be visually distinct.

The screen has an imaginary grid, dividing it into four columns for the regular screen, and five columns for the wide screen. Two columns are dedicated to the applications listing on the regular screen, and three columns are dedicated to it on the wide screen.

There is a viewing mode selector that allows flat-list or category-based viewing of applications. The viewing mode that was selected last is remembered and is switched to when the user clicks "More..." to get to the expanded view. When the user switches between the two modes, the application that was selected in one mode is selected in the other mode, thereby showing its place in the results list. This means that the user can quickly learn which category an application belongs to when switching from a flat view list to the category-based list, and also see all other applications that belong to the same category.

The category-based view lists all applications by category. The full left column is dedicated to listing the categories, leaving one column for listing the applications on the regular screen, and two columns for listing the applications on the wide screen. The search results are displayed by highlighting the categories that have matching results, displaying just the applications within a category that match, and moving the selection to the first matching application in the top-most category that has a match. Results for not installed applications can be shown within corresponding categories too, but the categories that only have such results need to be highlighted differently.

Open Design Questions about the Simple Plan

  1. What animation should be used for switching from the default view to the expanded view that has categories and from switching to the flat-list view to the category-based view and back? Originally, when we only had the flat list view, the expanded view revealed the rest of the list shown in the default view, so we were able to have a smooth sliding animation as shown in this video or as can still be seen when expanding the recent documents view.

  2. How should the icons for selecting the viewing mode look?

Alternative Design Ideas

The simple plan above is meant to be one complete design, so it doesn't pose too many questions. Thinking further afield, here are other design ideas that were brought up.

  1. "All" or "Most Used" can be shown as one of the categories, which removes the need for viewing mode selectors and two viewing modes. However that means that one column of results is always dedicated to the categories list.
  2. Drop down placed to the right of the search box can be used to list the categories, including the "Most Used" one. This means that we don't need to dedicate a full column to categories listing. However, viewing different categories would require too much mouse activity. Another option is to use tabs, but how should they be positioned?
  3. The list of most used applications can always be kept in the left column, even in the expanded view mode. This will allow to drag applications that you want to pin there to this list while browsing. That will also help with the animation problem. However, unless this list shares the vertical space of the first column with the categories listing (e.g. it can slide to the bottom and the categories can appear on top), this reduces the number of columns available for displaying results.
  4. Have a viewing mode with a grid view that just has application icons.

Projects/GnomeShell/Design/Iterations/ApplicationBrowsing (last edited 2015-01-10 10:42:49 by OliverPropst)