so while working on plasma today i decided to see what a pet idea of mine might look like. i was building the start of what might become the desktop and panel areas on top of qgraphicsview when i decided to create an icon item that supports a mouse over interface. i looked at some mockups ken wimer did last year after we had discussed this concept in berlin and started hacking.
here's how it works: when you pass the mouse over an icon (as oppose to whip the mouse over the icon) the icon blurs slightly as an overlay fades in smoothly (takes <.2s, though it's instantly interactive). this results in a self-documenting, single mouse button interface being displayed. selected icons show their status by keeping a "clip-board" version of the overlay showing. dragging an icon hides the interface, but keeps the overlay to make it obvious which icon you're working with. on moving the mouse off the icon the overlay fades away. it's all anti-aliased, translucent, flicker-free, organics goodness. focus is obvious, selection is obvious, action options are obvious. note that it also solves the "single click is great, but sucks for selection" problem.
right now the "interface" is text only. next will be to provide action icons so that it's not just three lines of text (2 lines of text, one line of actions; on selected icons i might put them on the top "folded" tab as well). it should also be trivial to add things like tagging via icons or overlay/outline colouring.
to really appreciate it, it has to be experienced since interaction and non-static feedback is such a big part of it. i was going to make a screencast until i discovered how crappy screencast creation tools on linux are =/ so a static crappy screenshot it is =P
if this works out, people shouldn't really notice all the tricks and come away feeling pretty unchallenged but content. i have yet to do actual user testing (though i have showed it to a few people locally), that'll follow in the coming weeks as it comes together a bit more. we'll see how it goes. maybe it becomes one more experiment gone nowhere. the challenges i see are that it is different from what people are used to and it does require larger icons, though that's not really a bad thing (esp when zooming enters the picture)
even if the mouse-over icon interface idea doesn't go far, it has provided a testing ground for several of the graphical features that plasma items will need common access to.
these will join other items in group items which, via qgraphicsview's zooming support, allowing for some zooming interface concepts to be worked in. zack's working on getting qsvg rendering to a qgraphicsview, which will help close some of the remaining open issues.
i've run into a few bugs in qgrahpicsview, have done no optimization work yet (waaaay too early for that =) and there's still lots of work to be done such as a global animation tick, further interaction work and tons of more features =)
unfortunately, qgraphicsview isn't widely available yet so i'm kind of stuck working on this privately at the moment. but it certainly seems to be the right tool for this job, even in the beta state the copy i have is in. as soon as qgraphicsview enters the world at large i'll be committing this stuff ...
will be interesting to see how far zack and i get on things by the end of zack's visit (another week or so). post-zack i'll go back to working on kconfig for a bit to get that wrapped up for kdelibs.
btw, "zatoichi - the blind swordsman" is an amazing movie. even in spite of the semi-random scenes that make the occasional appearance art-movie-style, this movie has it all: a great story, awesome swordsmanship, good cinematography and some rather interesting ideas on life and whatnot. maybe not the best date flick, but goes well with nachos.