[Bug 40872] Re: Desktop icons are allowed to overlap horribly

Miles Lane miles.lane at gmaIl.com
Mon Aug 7 11:22:24 UTC 2006

I proposed a approach to simplifying and solving the desktop icon layout
issue about two or three years ago in the gnome.org bugzilla database,
but my proposal was ignored.  My belief is that Nautilus should perform
icon title truncation like that which is done by Windows.  So, for
example "One Two Three Four -- Here's a long icon title" might appear as
"One Two Three --...".  Then, on a MouseOver event, the title would be
rerendered in its complete form as highlighted text in a textbox.
Moving the mouse pointer off of the textbox dismisses the textbox.
There might need to be some maximum width for the textbox, where
get wrapped.  I'm not sure how that should be handled, but I wonder how
windows does it.  I am all for desktop differentiation from Windows, but
only when there is real usability benefit.  Otherwise, meeting user
expectations with desktop consistency far outweighs the benefits of
tweaking UI.

The benefits I see to this implementation are:

Layout of desktop icons becomes vastly simpler, because the icon layout
becomes a grid with the exception of those pesky (to me) enlarged or
shrunken icons that Nautilus supports.  Still, not having to contend
with variable height icon labels would greatly increase the consitency
of icon layout, which would (I think) lead to fewer UI layout bugs -- a
byproduct of K.I.S.S..  Personally, I would do away with enlarged and
shrunken icons, but everytime I mention this I get shouted down with
reasons that simply make no sense to me.

On to your comment about allowing users to put icons where they want to.
I disagree that this should be an option.  Sure, allow users to place an
icon in a region, but having icons or icon labels overlap is harnful to
the usability of the desktop.  I am not saying that there should be a
mandatory "snap to grid" layout.  I am just saying that when the grid is
disabled, newly added icons should never overlap another icon unless all
the desktop is filled with icons (something that I have seen my wife do
with her Apple OS/X desktop for some insane reason).

In addition to the problem of icons positioned by users is the issue of
icons that are put of the desktop as a result of persistent network
connections, hotplug events for firewire, PCMCIA and USB devices.  When
devices, drives and drive partitions are detected during the setup of
the desktop, oftentimes the associated icons are overlapped when the
user icons are added.  This is just plain wrong.  To resolve this
particular problem, I suggest Nautilus render user icons first, so that
other mechanisms (hotplug, etc) add the icons around the user-defined
icons (documents, program links, etc).

One last observation, Windows has one more feature that I find quite
appealing.  When the desktop is set to automatically place icons in a
grid, I can click on an icon and drag it around the sequence of icons.
The icons (as I am sure you know) are arranged from top-left to bottom-
left in columns that stack from left to right.  So, dragging an icon
from the middle of the leftmost column to the middle of a second column
causes all the icons between the icon's initial and new position to
shift up in the stack.  This enables very straightforward position of
icons in heirarchy of  frequency of use.  At least, this is how I
utilise it.  So, I would very much like to see Nautilus support this as
an optional layout method.

Comments, questions and concerns?


Desktop icons are allowed to overlap horribly

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