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Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

By Bruce Byfield on December 10, 2007 (4:00:00 PM)

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Nemo is the latest effort to provide a new paradigm for file managers. Its approach, at least in its first early development release, is to combine file management with calendar views. Questions remain, however, about whether the concept will scale, and whether it is an improvement on traditional file managers, or simply different.

Like Beagle and Tracker, Nemo starts with the idea that the hierarchical folder structure is difficult for new users. Ole Laursen, one of the founders of iola, the company that has released Nemo under the GNU Lesser General Public License, writes in his blog, "A lot of novices find it difficult to understand the hierarchical folder structure, and it's not particularly easy to navigate or keep in order for most computer literates either. People have trouble remembering what folder they put things in -- and they would rather not put things into folders if they can avoid it." The goal of Nemo, like other alternatives, is to find a simpler solution.

The 0.1 alpha version of Nemo is available in a tar file of the source, an Ubuntu repository (which you should add to /etc/apt/sources.list, then run apt-get update to use), or as a Debian package. If you use the source or the Debian package, be aware that they have no dependency resolution, and require the installation of both Mono and the unstable version of Tracker beforehand; the developers plan to let users work with any file indexer in later versions, but this release works only with Tracker.

The first time you run Nemo, it does an initial scan of your home directory. This process can take 20 or 30 minutes if you have gigabytes of files. Moreover, if you have a small, separate /tmp partition, the process is even slower, since it repeatedly swamps the partition.

In this first release, other functionality, such as deleting or renaming files, is not yet implemented; only search capability is available. You can search for files by name, MIME type, or saved search pattern. Results are displayed in a calendar according to the last time the file was saved. Like most calendars, Nemo's has separate views for day, week, month, and year that you change via arrow buttons.

This design has several advantages. It does not depend on users understanding abstract concepts such as a directory tree, and it's simple enough that most users should have little trouble discovering how to use Nemo. Even more importantly, it has the advantage of separating results into small chunks, making them easy for you to scan.

However, whether Nemo solves the problem of displaying a large number of results is another matter. Nemo does tackle this problem better than most alternative file managers, since you can change to a smaller unit of time to reduce the number of results. However, once you reach the day view, your only alternative is to click to expand the view if the results are too numerous to display in the space allotted, which obscures the results for other days and lessens the effectiveness of the calendar view in general. This constraint makes it suitable mainly for people who aren't constantly opening and closing dozens of files in a day.

And even if the problem of scaling can be solved, experienced users might question whether Nemo is a replacement for the familiar directory tree. You could argue that trying to save users from learning about directory trees is like suggesting that word processor users not learn about styles and use only manual formatting: You can do both, but only at the expense of encouraging sloppy habits.

If you learn to organize your files in folders, perhaps you do not need tools like Nemo or Beagle. Anyway, is the concept of directory hierarchies so arcane that new users -- surely an increasingly small number of people -- cannot pick it up in five minutes? Perhaps, too, it is too much a part of computer culture to discard.

Old-timers might also wonder if Nemo, for all its graphical sophistication, is any improvement on the command ls -c -l.

Like any attempt to rethink what we take for granted, Nemo is worthwhile simply as a challenge to re-examine convention. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of what poor use most existing file managers make of time attributes. Perhaps in later releases, Nemo will reclaim other file attributes for the desktop users who have forgotten -- or never known -- that they exist. If so, then it will serve a useful purpose. But for now, despite its effort at innovation, Nemo seems more likely to find a niche as a supplement to a directory-tree-oriented file manager than as an independent alternative.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on December 10, 2007 04:14 PM

Hm... Interesting idea.

It is perfect for work - to separate files modified/created recently from other files. I do this already by sorting files by last modification time, but that not flexible enough.

Even for home, with week/month granularity that might help in many cases. Mostly I work at home on weekends - so weekly granularity is starting point. For older files, monthly or annual granularity will be better.

That's definitely not a replacement for traditional file management - bash or Konqueror/Dolphin - but that would be definitely good and welcome addition.

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Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.52.47.177] on December 10, 2007 05:52 PM
Yes, those wacky new users that just can't wrap their minds around a "hierarchical folder structure" - cause after all, all those new computer users have NEVER used a file cabinet before right?

This is just another useless solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist.

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Re: Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.89.37.65] on December 10, 2007 08:11 PM

> useless solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist.

Now that you mention that, I instantly recalled why people started using computers in first place - and nobody uses file cabinets anymore.

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Re(1): Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.140.47.108] on December 10, 2007 11:55 PM
<quote>and nobody uses file cabinets anymore.</quote>

You should get out more often. Or maybe you should get a job. Then you might notice that people DO use file cabinets.


And as for the article, even if God himself promoted their file manager, no sane person would use it. Things in life are hierarchical, because

that's how our brain can understand and make sense inside this chaos we live in. If someone wants to use a computer he should at least learn

the basics. If someone wants to make sure he is not getting ripped off when he receives his change he should learn that 1+1 = 2.

Next subject please

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Re(2): Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.137.20.14] on December 13, 2007 02:45 AM
>>> If someone wants to use a computer he should at least learn the basics.



pffff... people does NOT want to learn to use computers, most of them just want to do their JOB,

and the computer is merely a means, and sometimes an obstacule, to achieve their goal.



And also, come on, I know lots of people who just throw their files their home folder altoghether.

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Re(3): Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.162.31.191] on December 17, 2007 09:50 PM
>>> pffff... people does NOT want to learn to use computers, most of them just want to do their JOB,

>>> and the computer is merely a means, and sometimes an obstacule, to achieve their goal.



If your tool to do the job is a computer (for example: modern secretary) and you refuse to learn how to use the tool then you should change profession. ("you" is not directed at you as a person)


Go to any profession and have a look. If the handyman/repairman, office-clerk, police-officer, hockey player, etc etc does not want to learn how to do their JOB with the most common tools used in that profession... they would be considered a nut case and possibly get fired or put in a "left-over" department.

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Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.60.245.59] on December 11, 2007 01:19 PM
Nothing can beat Krusader in terms of file management, it is just unparalleled, and has time sorting, simply by clicking on the coulomb to sort by date/modification date.
Maybe I just know how to put things where they belong and not scatter files like paint as an abstract(crazy) artist ;)
What ever may suit your fancy, I just believe Krusader does it all and more, it has never let me down and I basically now rely on its functionality.
This is more confusing in terms of a time travel padigram.

Simply put, it definitely is not for me.

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Nemo file manager organizes around a calendar

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.108.99.91] on December 15, 2007 07:07 AM
How about a "history" feature? Some operating systems display in the menu a list of "most recently used applications" and some applications provide a list of "most recently accessed files". So if the the operating system provides a most-recently application that provides a list of most-recently opened files, that should make it easier to track what was done and when.

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