Task Based Desktop

All my interactions with non-technical users point towards the same thing, and quite boldly – task based desktop. Most of them are not worried about the application being used nor about what is involved in invoking it. In fact, I know some people who consider it to be a lot of effort to not only start an application, but even to remember doing so. They use the computer to carry out certain tasks – writing letters, reports, emails, chat, …, and that is what the interface should let them do.

Of course this is still all talk in the air, but here are some on-the-fly thoughts I had:

  • The interface should show tasks and actions, instead of applications. Perhaps the interface should be application agnostic?
  • It should show the more recent tasks instead of recent documents.
  • The desktop should offer easy and intuitive ways of working with these tasks, like scheduling them or tracking them.
  • The desktop can perhaps play a the role of a hub for communication (asynchronous?) between applications. The current use of desktop as a folder is under-using a potential broker of information.

Of course this approach will have its own cons, but I it is worth considering while thinking of next-generation desktop environments. I have been successful in simulating some of the above points, and those users have given a positive feedback. However, it will be great if a desktop environment has this inbuilt. What do you think?

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Jonathan said:

    I agree that things will likely move towards more task-based interaction. In some places, I would also like to see the desktop become more “Contact” oriented. It would be nice to have an interface where I can email, chat, and view someone’s public calendar all from the desktop. That actually sounds a lot like Google, heh. That’s one reason why I think Gnome’s adoption of Empathy and Telepathy will hopefully make for interesting innovations in Gnome over the next few releases, where it will hopefully be more integrated with Evolution, etc.

  2. Stormy said:

    Do you use Linux and GNOME? If so, you should try GNOME Do. From https://wiki.ubuntu.com/GnomeDo:
    “GNOME Do (Do) is an intelligent launcher tool that makes performing common tasks on your computer simple and efficient. Do not only allows you to search for items in your desktop environment (e.g. applications, contacts, bookmarks, files, music), it also allows you to specify actions to perform on search results (e.g. run, open, email, chat, play). Want to send an email to mom? Simply type “email mom.” Want to listen to some music? Simply type “play beatles.” Do provides instantaneous, action-oriented desktop search results that adapt to reflect your habits and preferences.”

  3. Web Features In RIAs | iface thoughts said:

    […] wish? Better communication between desktop applications. And I think the desktop can play a bigger role in […]

  4. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Jonathan, I agree with you that the desktop can work like a dashboard showing different pieces of information.

    Stormy, I currently use XFCE, migrated from KDE recently. GNOME Do is useful, however it is only at the invocation level. I think the task-oriented concept can be woven into the desktop environment itself. Task as an atomic element in there?

  5. Chui said:

    Have a play with Django’s admin features. They have integrated most of your ideas into their framework. Through logging, they integrate most recent tasks, most recent resources… etc into the side panel on their UI.

    Is this what you were thinking of, except for the desktop?

  6. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Chui, the side panel in the Django admin is probably only a tip of the glacier of what we can do in this. I am using Django for my current project and that task list sure helps.

    However, I think it is not only the list or the invocation. The desktops should be entirely task based. For example, some task can involve more than one applications, each handling a sub-task, for which the applications will need to communicate with each other.

  7. Chui said:

    Interesting, perhaps you can elaborate on this further if you have the time.

  8. Ubiquity Makes It Task Based | iface thoughts said:

    […] glad about is that this probably highlights the need for a task-based interface, which I have been trying with desktops. Ubiquity is not about using applications, it is about doing tasks. However, this abstraction will […]

  9. Michael Rudolph said:

    Hi Abhijit,

    I like your ideas very much. Well, basically they are what I proposed to the plasma team on KDE, so sure I like them 🙂

    To bad you left KDE, we could definitely use more people with your kind of understanding.

    If you are interested anyway, you can read about it on our wiki.

  10. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Michael, thanks for the comment. I haven’t given up on KDE, it still sits on my laptop and I do try it whenever something changes. However I got a feeling that the new versions are geared more for flashy effects than reason. So I will still contribute with what I can, but I thought it was a bit more than what I needed for my work and ideas.

  11. Canonical Invests In Usability And Appeal | iface thoughts said:

    […] I have been fiddling with this task-based desktop idea. People use computers to do tasks, and our application-oriented interface and usage introduces […]

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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