Design of the Thunar Progress Dialog
Monday, September 14 2009, 03:21 - Permalink
Today, I merged the shared progress dialog into Thunar. I can be seen on vimeo. This evening I started thinking about the waste of space in it. For each copy/move/link/delete/trash operation we have: one icon and two lines of text, followed by another line with a progress bar (with text) and a cancel button. That's not too much and it looks kinda clean. Thunar has always hidden too detailed information from the user, like the size of the files, how many megabytes have already been transfered/deleted or what the MB/s rate is. But still, three lines of widgets for each operation is a waste of space. And the more space we waste for each operation, the earlier we have to add something like scrollbars around the widgets, as can be seen in the video.So I've made a few mockups to test alternatives. But first, let's have a look at how other file managers do it.
Nautilus / Finder
The progress dialog used in Nautilus is almost a 1:1 copy of the OS X Finder progress dialog. It too follows a three-line design with the first line either showing how many files are being transfered (e.g.
Copying 2 files to "Desktop") or what files is transfered at the moment (this is what you can see in the screenshot below, which I am shameless linking here from Bob Peers' weblog). The second line contains the progress bar and a cancel button without any text and the third line shows some stats, again shown in the screenshot.
Now, the problems of this dialog are quite obvious (although not everything can be seen in the screenshot). If you're transfering more than one file, it will be almost impossible to figure out which of the progress views corresponds to this operation unless you know exactly how many files you're transfering and/or how large these are in total. Another problem is that the dialog grows and grows with each operation added to it until it finally grows beyond the height of the screen. Last but not least the progress bar and button heights are different, making the dialog look slightly unpolished.
I have to admit, this is a poor comparison. I couldn't find a screenshot of Dolphin's progress dialog on the net and I'm too lazy to install KDE in a virtual machine. Suffice it to say that I'm not a big fan of KDE GUIs in general. I think the KDE folks have a lot of great ideas but as nice as plasma and all that 4.x goodness may be, most of the windows and dialogs are too busy and cluttered for my taste.
The original design can be seen on vimeo.
The first attempt of an improvement is the equivalent to Nautilus and Finder omitting the statistics by replacing them with a simple
<time> remaining text on the progress bar. Like the Nautilus dialog it doesn't display the name of the current file when an operation includes multiple files. This is not shown in the screenshot, because that one is just a hard-coded mockup. All in all, this design makes it even more unlikely to find a job with multiple files again at a later point due to the left out stats.
The second mockup appends the number of files involved to the title (e.g.
(1 of 2)) and because of that, it can always display the name of the file being transfered at the moment. The downside is that this of course requires the user to read more text.
Ideas and Opinions?
I'm not 100% sure which way to go here. I kinda lean towards the second mockup but since Thunar is designed to have no redundant options/elements in the GUI, I'm wondering whether the
(1 of 2) isn't too much already.
What do you think? Any opinions or ideas for improvements? Sketches and descriptions are very welcome!