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.)

Big thanks to DanRabbit for his elementary icon set and his Marlin mockup: they’ve really helped with the mockup.

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.

3) Collections
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


4 thoughts on “Tap

  1. I’ve liked most of your ideas so far, but this as an welcome screen is a bit hard for a new users. Way too much noise, the opening needs to be more clean. An advanced search shouldn’t be the first thing you see (unless you are an advanced user who selected that option in preferences). A clean layout with the different kinds of new documents available and recent files and most used files (preferably delivered by backends like zeitgeist) is what it needs. Is that recent documents that are listed in the screen? If yes, it should say so somewhere. Collections sounds like a great idea but a smoother introduction to them than pushing them on the new user in the opening screen might be needed.

    Just some friendly feedback. I hope I didn’t sound too harsh. Keep up your good work!

    1. Thanks for the feedback.
      I realize that a full-featured file browser presents a lot more than the current Welcome screen, and that this change can be a lot to take in.
      Don’t look at it as a revised welcome screen, see it as a new file browser, just for certain file types (like Banshee or Shotwell, in a way). For creating a file with LibO quickly, you should use shortcuts to various LibO modules. (Mac OS X needs to get these shortcuts.)

      In any case, I revised the mockup a bit (see above), and it should hopefully be a bit less frustrating.

  2. I was wondering whether there you would be able to weed out your files. what I mean by this is if you where to have a lot of files of all types, could you select the menus on the right side. to just view only writer files, in my USB, with the collection of Project.

    I use Picasa photo mangier. I want to tag everything but I feel that they do tagging wrong. you can only view one tag at a time. If I wanted to view pictures of me and my mom, at our family Christmas get together, from 2006 I cant weed out just those pictures. Taging things are grate but if I can only view one tag at a time what is the point of tagging things.

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