Should mousing over (but not clicking) audio files on the desktop cause them to play invisibly?

A. Walton awalton at
Thu Apr 2 23:32:12 BST 2009

On Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 4:59 PM, Scott Ritchie <scott at> wrote:
> So, by default Gnome has a feature that I've seen confuse at least a few
> users - if you leave the mouse over top an audio file it will
> automatically start playing the file, even if it's already open or you
> have other music playing at the same time.
> Upstream, however, seems reluctant to change it:
> I'm convinced this goes way against user expectations.  From the bug
> comments:
>> 1) What value do audio previews serve?  Most users will "test" a file by
>> opening it.
>> 2) If we do decide to continue with the preview, we need to make it very clear
>> that an audio preview is playing and how to stop it (eg with a tooltip)
>> 3) There is potential for harm here (playing music without being asked to
>> during class/meeting, etc).  This is especially true with audio files on the
>> desktop.
>> 4) We should never play an audio file with preview if it's already playing
>> somewhere else.  A common case of this is when I right click a file, tell it to
>> open (or even queue) in my media player but leave my mouse nearby.  The file
>> will start playing, and also start previewing, leading to a very confusing
>> double-sound.
>> I've seen this affect several people now, and I'm quite convinced that the icon
>> change is absolutely not enough.  It's a small, hard to notice icon, it doesn't
>> appear as soon as the audio starts, and most importantly it's not clear whether
>> it means "I will start playing sound in a second" or "click here to play
>> sound".  Many users would expect the latter, since they're about to open an
>> audio file and clicking is what normally makes it play sound.
>> At the very least, we should notify the user with some text somewhere, such as
>> by using libnotify.
> So, would it be appropriate to disable this in Jaunty?

I don't think so.

The impression that I get is that the problem comes from the fact that
it's happening on the desktop, and not subfolders. It's appropriate in
subfolders; you're looking at files, you're purposely landing the
mouse on those files, the icon changes and the audio preview starts.

The desktop however, the mouse just lands where it lands. If there
happens to be some audio underneath it, the audio preview might start
before you manage to move the mouse again. This has happened to me a
few times and every time it spooks me. Futhermore, the desktop often
has a different background or texture, so it might take longer to
notice the audio-preview icon there.

If you don't like the audio preview feature at all, just disable it
and it won't bother you again (until the next reinstall...) That's the
point that Andre expressed in the bug. But the audio preview feature
shouldn't be disruptive in the general case and IMO having it on the
desktop is rather disruptive.

Cosimo Cecchi wrote a patch that refactored the audio preview feature
a bit. Once that lands, it should be fairly easy to disable on the

-A. Walton

> Thanks,
> Scott Ritchie
> --
> ubuntu-desktop mailing list
> ubuntu-desktop at

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