3D – A gimmick in search of a killer app. - mjcpk web design and development

Archive for May, 2009

3D – A gimmick in search of a killer app.

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I got a new computer a year and a half ago and it came with a fast multi-core processor and a fancy 3D graphics card. I was excited by the prospect of some serious 3D goodness and I wasn’t disappointed. Compiz did all sorts of whizzy and imoressive things. However, after my excitement had died down and I settled in to do some real work I ended up turning off Compiz because it offered not real productivity gains and was chewing up resources just looking pretty.

3D Filesystem

Not being a gamer I have no real use for my fancy 3D card other than my occasional renderings using Blender. So for me, and many other users, 3D is a gimmick in search of a practical use. It needs a killer app or apps that make use of the 3D to do something other than make things look pretty.

What about a 3D file manager? With a conventional 2D file manager it is often difficult to get an good impression of file system usage and the layout of directories. Using a 3D representation it would be easy to get an overview of the file system whilst also being able to inspect things more closely.

My suggestion, and I’m sure there are other equally valid choices, would be to see the file system as a city (or even a country) where directories could be at first displayed as districts, then sub-districts, housing estates, blocks of flats and down to individual flats and houses. This would enable the user to fly around the file system and to see, at a glance, how space is distributed. Bigger directories would be relatively bigger houses, buildings or districts. It would also be possible to see sub-directories within a number of directories at the same time as you could be looking at a number of buildings within a sub-district and see the flats within them.

Using could coding it would be easy to see it a directory contains many small files or just a one or a few big ones, for example. There are also a number of ways that the view could be displayed depending on the depth of the file system. Deep file systems could start at a country or even world map and go down to individual rooms withing flats or houses if necessary. The trick is to use the 3D experience to make it intuitive for a user to navigate and to get information that he or she wouldn’t be able to easily get from a 2D representation.

There must be many ways where 3D can be used to make information more readily accessible in a way that works well fo0r our brains. We just need to think outside of the box and stop thinking of 3D as something to make things pretty. Afterall we live in a 3D world and interact with things daily based on their position within three dimensions so it can be that hard to think of ways of using that to display data meaningfully.

All safely filed away

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

12 years ago I trained as a music studio engineer and worked exclusively on a Mac. That was the only time I have ever used a Mac and I imagine they’re very different these days. This post really isn’t about Macs but it is about something I remember liking on the Macs I used.

file manager mockup

There was a simple feature, that may well still exist on Macs today, and that was the ability to colour folders on the desktop or in the file manager. I was thinking about this recently and it got me on to a whole load of little additions I would like to see in a file manager.

Files are most often arranged in trees using directories and sub-directories for organisation but I often find it annoying when either things have to be deeply nested within the file tree so that they are in their relevant sub-directory or they end up mixed up all together in one big directory. Neither is very helpful and neither are the usual display options. The ability to order things by type, date and position in the alphabet are ok but inflexible.

What I would like is the ability to define groups within a directory and assign files to a group. Groups could have a colour assigned to them so that it is easy to see which group a file or directory is in. You could then order files by group and see files/directories at a glance without having to navigate into different directories to see all the files.

As an addition to this I would like to divide a file manager window up into group areas so that I could easily drag and drop files into groups ( this would also work for cut, copy and paste). If I could then order files within the group by time, date or name that would be really useful.

Whilst we’re adding information to files (the group name) then we may as well add other metadata too that can be displayed in the file manager as necessary. It would often be handy to be able to add descriptions, notes or a revision number to a file. Maybe a warning feature would be useful whereby a warning dialogue box would pop up if a file or directory was accessed.

I’m sure that there are many more ideas that could be incorporated too. The easier it is to handle and understand large amounts of data the better in my book and it would certainly stop me have files dotted around my drive in a disorganised mess like I do now. If these features exist in any form in any current file managers it would be nice to know and if not it would be nice if someone tried to add them.