Thursday, July 31, 2008

URL Navigator Improvements

One core feature of Dolphin is the URL navigator, which allows to navigate quickly through the file hierarchy:

To edit URLs in a traditional way a click on the empty space right beside "Documents"...

... allows to edit the URL manually with the keyboard:

A drop down menu for fast access on bookmarks is available:

Most readers of this blog are already familiar with the URL navigator, so why do I explain something obvious? Well, we currently try to do some improvements for KDE 4.2 and I'd like to get some feedback for our plans. It is clear that the feedback to this blog might not represent the main target user group of Dolphin. However if something is fundamentally wrong, then I'm sure this can be noticed quite fast :-)

Before sharing our plans, I must explain one very important point of the URL navigator: For me the main feature of the URL navigator is the hiding of parent URLs. For example if a bookmark called "My Documents" is created which is represented by the URL "file:///home/peter/Documents", then the navigation bar looks like this:

This is something I don't intend to change, as for purists still the editable mode of the URL navigator shows the original URL in its full glory.

However there have been some requests about a missing "G
o Up" button. I usually responded that a "Go Up" button can easily be added to the toolbar already and there is no need for adding a "Go Up" button to the URL navigator. But I've to admit that depending on the used bookmarks sometimes a "Go Up" is more efficient than selecting a bookmark and going down the hierarchy again. For example my bookmarks look like this:

I've other user accounts I use for development ("/home/kde42dev") and sometimes there is a need to access files from there. I don't like to add this accounts to the bookmarks, as this usecase is quite rare. So currently I have to select the "Root" bookmark, select the "home" directory and select "kde42dev". It would be great if I could access the parent directory without the need of choosing a bookmark and going down the hierarchy again.

So Aurélien Gâteau (= Gwenview maintainer) and I had a discussion about this. We agreed that a kind of "show parent paths" button would be useful, like this mockup shows:

But after trying this approach I just did not feel comfortable. It's a little bit mysterious what the "show parent paths" button really does. If it shows the whole path as breadcrumb then this would conflict with the intention of the URL navigator to hide parent URLs. Also coming up with a good icon is not easy - for this mockup I just used a mirrored arrow, which is not acceptable from my point of view.

So I tried just to add a "Go Up" button:

and for me this solved two issues:
  1. There is no need to explain what this button does, as people have been used this kind of button since years in file managers.
  2. If the URL navigator is in the editable mode and no "Go Up" button is in the toolbar, then this button allows to go up the hierarchy.
The only drawbacks I see currently are that a little bit less space is available for the breadcrumbs and that some visual clutter is added.

So this is the point where I'm not sure how to proceed: Is the "Go Up" button a good solution or do we solve a problem that never existed? Is a kind of "show parent paths" a better approach? If this is the case: What icon should be used? Are there other ideas we are not aware of?

So I'd kindly ask to give us some feedback :-) Please note that I won't reply to any comments to this topic, as I don't want to influence the upcoming feedback.

PS: Some graphic gurus might have noticed that the home-icon is not vertically centered correctly. This has been fixed for KDE 4.1.1.