Two possible improvements in ubuntu destkop: automatic contacts enabled by default and deterministic drag and drop in nautilus

Vincenzo Ciancia vincenzo_ml at
Sat Feb 3 17:54:54 UTC 2007

Hi all,

I am here because I would like to discuss two issues I originally
reported as bugs in lauchpad, but that deserve more attention in my
opinion (and are not bugs in any case).

1. Automatic contacts enabled by default in evolution

Many e-mail programs automatically collect e-mail addresses. This is
especially useful because they are completed when sending an e-mail. In
evolution you can do this with the auto-contacts plugin, which is
enabled as a plugin, but whose behavior is not enabled by default in
preferences. Of course, none of the two choices is going to make
everybody happy. What I propose is to use a different address book or a
different category than the default one for automatic contacts and
enabling it by default in preferences. Rationale is that an user who
does not need auto-contacts will notice them, and disable, and in any
case they won't be in the way since they are marked by a category, while
not having them enabled by default currently makes evolution look like
it lacks this feature, while especially newbies and  elder people make
heavy use of this feature - for example, my mother does not use the
address-book at all consciously, but only auto-completion.

2. Deterministic drag and drop in nautilus

Nautilus is an innovative and usable file manager, but I notice that it
has something in common with the one in microsoft operating systems:
drop is not deterministic, but the action chosen (copy/move) depends on
the target in a not-so-obvious way: it does not choose based on owner of
the directory or physical location, but it seems to make the choice
based on wether the target is or not in an user's home directory. This
has bugs if the home directory is a symlink to a directory in another
partition. In any case, I find that not knowing what action will be
taken is rather confusing for newbies. I see that there is the icon
indicating what action is going to be performed, but in my opinion it is
not sufficient. My mother is 69, and after years from having learned how
to use a computer she is still not completely aware of the filesystem
hierarchy, so I didn't succeed in teaching her the concept of
sub-location. She can use the PC without difficulties for her everyday
tasks, but she only makes use of a couple of desktop folders (documents
and pictures). However, using KDE, she is comfortable with the default
popup menu.

If we had desktop profiles in gnome, perhaps the easiest way would be to
create an entire "newbie profile" and a gconf key letting the popup menu
be the default. Since this is not the case, and I understand that many
people would tag a default popup menu as "in the way", I propose that,
instead of a not-so-easily learnable symbol which looks like a
box-corner in case of move, and like a box-corner with a "+" inside in
case of copy, translatable words should be displayed saying "copy here"
or "move here" while dragging, without interfering with normal flow of
interaction. Maybe, also a second row saying "press alt to show
available operations" could be displayed, or simply the popup menu could
be popped up with a delay.

I would rather prefer a deterministic behavior (e.g. always move, always
copy or always popup) because I think that user interfaces should not
change their behavior depending on the context, or at least change it in
a clear and "observable" way (this is the reason behind disabling menus
instead of just hiding them).

Thank you all for your great work in ubuntu and for reading my
comments :)


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