More Thoughts on Desktop Neo

I published Desktop Neo two weeks ago. I would like to thank everyone who shared their feedback with me and participated in the discussions about the future of desktop computing. There are a few questions that came up a lot, so I am going to provide some additional thoughts here.

Why do you want to use mobile interface metaphors on the desktop?
If you are used to tablets and smartphones, ideas like full-height apps, gestures, voice input and folder-less file management will feel familiar. But on the desktop, these concepts can be expanded on. They don't have to be used to simplify the desktop, they can be used to make it more efficient and productive. Panels make it faster than ever to organize and switch between apps. Tagging scales easily between casual and power users. Gestures can provide the power of keyboard shortcuts for everyone. By streamlining the interface and focusing on what really matters, we can empower all users to do more than before.

What's up with the 6-finger-gestures?
For maximizing and minimizing panels, I proposed a 6-finger-gesture where you use two hands to drag outwards / inwards on the touchpad. Apparently, nobody likes it. In hindsight, I have to agree that the gesture is probably too clumsy. After all, you would have to move both hands from the keyboard to the touchpad to perform the gesture. My reasoning was that two-handed gestures could work very well if the keyboard and the touchpad were combined into one surface, but I obviously didn't expand on that in the concept. Also note that both maximizing and minimizing can also be done by just using the 3-finger resize gesture.

How are panels different from a tiling window manager?
The panels in Desktop Neo follow ideas that are similar to tiling window managers. There are two main differences. First, panels always use the full height of the screen, which makes organizing them much easier. This improved usability far outweighs the few use cases where flexible-height windows really make sense. Second, panels in Neo are designed to be used by everyone, using simple interface patterns and convenient input methods. With panels, the ideas of tiling window managers could finally be applied beyond a niche market.

Wouldn't this be more suitable for a tablet OS?
Desktop Neo was designed for professional users that need to be efficient and get work done. I believe that right now, the desktop is the best and obvious choice for them. That said, the concepts behind Neo were designed to scale across devices. Panels could work very well on a productivity-aligned tablet device. Tagging could built upon existing mobile file management solutions and exist as an option for power users. Gaze, touch and voice could be used to make the transition of input methods between devices and use cases much smoother. Neo explores the future of productive computing, and that likely means more than just the desktop.

It has been overwhelming to read so many different thoughts about something I have worked on for over a year. And it's totally fine if you don’t agree with my ideas. Many of them probably wouldn’t work in a real environment. But as long as we start to discuss the future of desktop computing, we are making progress. After all, Desktop Neo barely scratches the surface of the problems and possibilities that exist in this space.

February 3, 2016 – You should share this on Twitter or Facebook.