Annulus Mockup 1.3 -
Various people seem to be generally creating ideas similar to this idea. I personally prefer to think of mine as more than just a shortcut, more than just a launcher panel, essentially more of a whole separate shell for the working of a desktop environment. The fleshing out of this idea is an attempt to make a formal description of what I want in hopes that someday, when the taskbar idea has finally been depreciated, this is one of the possibilities for replacing the flat, and under developed ability of a good, functional GUI.
This idea is one I have been working on for some time, and I recently realized, the best application for an annulus is not simply a single kicker menu replacement, but instead a full system or “suite” if you will. A entire revamp of the KDE GUI or possibly a whole new DE in and of itself. The file handling, and major working of KDE, and Gnome, and other DEs is currently all well and good, but the menu system for most of them is the same underdeveloped 25 year old Xerox taskbar that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs stole and used for the first mice. When nearly every mouse on the planet now has 2 buttons and a wheel, and most have more, why should linux continue to use the same thing when better options are available? Certainly this concept isn’t unique, for instance check out the base X DE or Enlightenment which both have done away with a traditional taskbar. However, the usability and intuitive design of a menu is far superior to the workings of mouse pop-ups and basic launchers and terminals. Enlightenment does do one thing far better than most DEs, it allows the full separation of the usual parts of the taskbar into user customizable “launchers”. However, this is at the expense of any kind of intuitive design making the DE far more confusing and unintuitive to use than any other.
Because of XGL and Aero, I realized a 2d “wheel” as the base of a menu replacement was not the way to go. Not now, and especially not for the future, we need something which has the potential to become truly 3d. Unlike most object dock and kicker replacements, the base of mine is a full menu system, not just a shortcut bar. And not just a more customizable kicker. It is like a kicker, just totally revamped and split into unique rings, rather than all confined to the same unyielding bar. It allows for nested menus, shortcut bars, folder displays, and can act as a truly full featured replacement for the current kicker.
The idea is to maximize ease of use, an intuitive design, and beauty. To me, current nested menus are fairly easy to navigate, and are intuitive to use, however, they take a ton of mouse navigation and I want to cut it down. I want a menu system that doesn’t look so flat, and gives a much higher degree of customization. I think it needs to be a ring, sort of like an object bar, but an annulus or a ring that holds folders containing your programs. Think about what taking full advantage of the 3d space that an XGL backing would give in terms of ability for this. Now, in addition to just this, normal 2d icons would no longer be the limit, so I think we need to start allowing 3d icons to represent programs, or at least spheres to contain them along the ring. You can start to picture it looking at Gentoo sphere icons.
The actual menu functionality would be a smaller ring on the horizontally inside of another ring. Being docked on the right would mean this is to the left, and a smaller ring. You could have groupings like nested folders like “applications”, “games”, “system” now in the kmenu. Each grouping would open a new ring on the inside of the current one. At this point you may be wondering why this is less mouse navigation than a current menu from a kicker. Frankly have you recently actually looked at how much menu movement there is, especially with many values within menus? You could be moving the mouse the length of the screen each selection, as opposed to a very small movement directly to the left or right. Using a mouse wheel, arrow keys, or otherwise dragging, even “spinning” a wheel would still be considerably less movement.
The main ring, or the menu replacement would be the base of this idea, but the current kicker brings in a lot of other information into it. In addition to the main ring would be an available running programs ring, shortcut rings for favorite apps, you could even set folders to display as a ring on the desktop to quickly launch commonly used files.
You also need to have ability to see computer components, like hard drive, cdrom, network shares, etc. This could easily be another ring, a hardware one. The nice thing about this, is you could make them customizable like folders too, if you wanted to... Also, it would be best if you could choose whether you want this behavior for each ring. Maybe you want your running application ring separately, docked one on side of this, or on another side of the screen.
Ring backing would have same options we now have with “docks” and “launchers” for distinguishing them from other rings and making them customizable - images as backgrounds, color choice, different opacity levels, even fully customizable size and spacing between icons. The full behavior would have to be looked at closely, because of a varying number of icons within rings. Would you prefer them spacing apart and looking bare on a large ring or showing wholly smaller rings, just large enough for the number of icons you actually have on a ring.
I would think the customization options should be something like these, but obviously the menu should allow you to set your own button combinations and configuration.
1) Custom dock location(menu options, placement similar to current kicker (dock 0% -100% across the screen - top, left, right, or bottom)
2) Turn the ring(right click + drag, mouse wheel)
3) Resize the ring (ctrl + mouse wheel, ctrl + a number for saved presets)
4) Reorganizing the icons on the ring(drag and drop, and menu)
5) Grouping icons(ctrl + right click an app icon into a group, menu)
6) Auto-hide(menu option)
I have spent a lot of time designing out the specifics of my vision, but various people have come up with similar but usually a more limited ideas:
1) “The Wheel” - http://www.kde-look.org/content/show.php?content=36983
2) Mark Watkins with “Zoomy Dock” and “Zoomy Space Dock” - http://widgets.yahoo.com/gallery/?author=6436
3) The “Quick Launch Wheel” - http://widgets.yahoo.com/gallery/view.php?widget=38947
---- Update 1.1
1) Added screenshot of a red colored hardware Annulus, to go along with the expounded ideas of separate rings for separate purposes.
---- Update 1.2
1. Nested/menu style mockup added.
2. Text label mockup added.
Both of these mockups use no background image, and same sized bubbles instead of wrapping to smaller, just to see possible other effects. The bubbles are also much larger for those who wanted to see bigger icons, showing my idea's scalability from larger to tiny icons.
---- Update 1.3
1. Expounded the idea into more of a “suite” or DE revamp than a single “launcher” or “dock”.
2. Added a similar ideas section at the bottom of this document, to follow other, similar ideas and perhaps their progression.