To kick off the next wave, let me introduce a proposal for the successor to the Welcome screen: Tap. (Yes, the idea called LibreOffice Home is dead.)
It’s actually a file manager, inspired by Google Docs, Shotwell, iTunes, and other software. Why?
1) To close the gap between the file manager and the office suite
When you open an office suite, you either want to edit an existing file or create a new one. To do the former, you need to go to your file manager, navigate through a maze of files and folders to get to your file, then wait a few seconds while your office suite loads. (Alternatively, you can launch the suite first, then use the “Open…” dialog, but that’s a very similar experience.) To create a file, you need to launch the suite, create a blank document, immediately save it (choose where it goes and name it), and then you can edit it. Neither experience is very fluent or comfortable, because there’s a pretty big disconnect between the file manager and the office suite.
And here’s where Tap comes in. First of all, because Tap offers only select formats, it’s much easier to find a specific file. Nothing irrelevant gets in your way and there’s no complex hierarchy. Second of all, Tap loads the office suite in the background, so files open very quickly and there’s no splash screen disturbing your workflow. Creating a new file takes one or two clicks, and the user is first prompted to name it and then to edit it, much like when you create folders.
2) Sync and sharing
With the increasing popularity of mobile and web office suites, it’s becoming more of a need to sync and share files over a variety of platforms and devices. Most generic managers weren’t built with this functionality in mind, so developers of online and mobile office suites need to add this functionality to these managers. Unfortunately, generic managers tend to vary from OS to OS, meaning that if a service wants to integrate syncing and collaboration features with common file managers, it needs to develop a separate solution for all the various managers out there (Nautilus, Dolphin, Mac OS X Finder, the various Explorers, …).
With Tap, developers of both web and mobile office suites can focus on integrating sync and collaboration features with a single, cross-platform file manager that’s built with this kind of integration in mind, rather than the notorious variety of generic file managers there are.
Instead of folders, Tap works with collections. Collections are basically a best-of-both-worlds combination of tags and folders: they’re tags with a hierarchy (you can place a file in several collections, and you can have subcollections). If you have your files organized into folders, your folders can be effortlessly converted into collections, and so can your tags.
4) Unified experience
If Tap is ever developed, it shouldn’t be tied to LibO. All office suites should be able to take advantage of Tap, and it’d be great if Tap could actually be a standalone file manager, integrated with formats and applications of the user’s choice.
P.S. SVG of mockup here: http://rapidshare.com/files/451088143/tap.svg