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Desktop Data Manager: Promising, but not there yet

By Bruce Byfield on January 05, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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Being mainly a GNOME user on the desktop, I have been waiting for two main utilities I can find in KDE: a font installer comparable to the one in the KDE Control Center, and a multiple item clipboard comparable to Klipper. I'm still waiting for the font installer, but Desktop Data Manager (DDM) may eventually be a Klipper replacement. In fact, DDM is more than that, since it also includes a screen capture program and provisions for other plugins, but a lack of stability and one or two key features makes it very much a work in progress.

Written by Lukas Einkemmer, DDM is currently at version 0.85. However, this version number is too liberal for the actual state of the software. Such a relatively high version number implies basic functionality, but in my testing, images inserted from DDM into OpenOffice.org consistently crashed when I clicked on them later for editing. At times, too, running DDM seemed to freeze the entire desktop, particularly when the maximum number of items were contained in the clipboard -- no matter how high or low that maximum is set.

In addition, the Debian package neither resolved its Mono dependencies nor -- once I satisfied the dependencies manually -- installed a workable version of the software on a Debian testing system. I eventually installed the package on Ubuntu 6.10-1, which includes Mono as a standard part of GNOME 2.16.1, but, if my experience is any indication, you may want to think twice about DDM on earlier versions of the desktop.

The multiple clipboard is an applet whose icon sits in the Notification Area of the GNOME panel. DDM collects both text and graphics when you perform copy or cut functions, and displays them when you click the icon. Unlike the standard GNOME clipboard, DDM also retains its contents between sessions, unless you specifically clear it. To insert a clipboard item, you select it from the DDM icon, then use a program's normal paste function. Insertion is slow but reliable for text, which keeps its formatting when pasted, even though the formatting is not displayed by DDM.

In other words, DDM closely resembles Klipper in design and actions. Its main advantage is that it displays thumbnails of graphics in the clipboard. However, Klipper is more versatile in configuration options for default behaviors and actions, as well as for keyboard shortcuts.

Because of the instability of graphics inserted from the clipboard, the screen capture program is currently the more useful of the DDM plugins. Available from either the Accessories menu or the right-click menu of the Notification Area icon, DDM Screenshot allows you to take a shot of a region, a window, or the entire desktop. The utility gives a preview, and includes an option for copying the shot automatically to the clipboard. Unlike the GIMP's screen capture utility, DDM Screenshot also has the virtue of staying open until specifically closed. In general, it compares well with existing screenshot programs, apart from suffering from trails of phantom frames when minimizing as a shot is taken, and a lack of options for including the mouse or window decorations.

In addition to the current instability and incompleteness problems, my main reservation about DDM is its reliance on Mono -- not because of any prejudice about C#, but because installing Mono means taking on a relatively high amount of overhead for the advantage of running minor applications like DDM or Tomboy. Still, taken on its own merits, DDM seems a promising application, even if it's not quite ready for serious use. For now, DDM won't become a permanent part of my desktop, but I'll try it again once it reaches its 1.0 release.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge, Linux.com, and IT Manager's Journal.

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

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on Desktop Data Manager: Promising, but not there yet

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Ah Yes, The Clipboard.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 05, 2007 11:45 PM
It's funny but, the Linux desktop clipboard has been a MAJOR problem for years.
First, people wanted a clipboard that worked like Windows rather than the "funky" X11 behavior. Get use to it was the response for a long time.
Then, people wanted a clipboard that worked across applications. You ask too much was the response.
Then, people wanted a clipboard that could handle more than just plain text, like graphics, files formatting. You don't really need it, text is ample functionality was the response.
Then people wanted multiple instance clipboards so that they could copy/paste multiple items or have a history. Not even Windows has that by default, you're just being silly, was the response.

Here we are in 2007 and Gnome, 'The Preferred Desktop' as I'm told, still lacks a working multiple instance clipboard! But, why? KDE has had one in the form of Klipper for several years and it's open source so, even if the Gnome people don't like everything about it, they can use it as a starting point and modify it as they like. So, why doesn't Gnome have a decent clipboard after all these years? Because Klipper wasn't-invented-here and the always arrogant Gnome folks would rather do without for years and years and years than reuse good code from KDE.

Why is Gnome 'The Preferred Desktop', again? Why does Bruce suffer Gnome despite his KDE envy?

It's 2007 and we are talking about a clipboard that still doesn't live up to expectations! How lame is that? I'm not complaining though. I'm grateful for the fact that we aren't still discussing the Save File dialog, that only took years.

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Re:Ah Yes, The Clipboard.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 12:41 AM
"Major problem" the clipboard?
Guy, there's something wrong with that. Major problems are others, like the poor support from hardware manufacturers.
Gnome has many advantages over KDE, and KDE over Gnome, it will not be a clipboard that makes the difference.
IMHO you completely missed the spirit of the author of the article.

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Why Oh Why?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 01:09 AM
Why, after all these years, are we even discussing clipboards if it is not a major problem?

When last did anything to do with a clipboard in Windows, generate an article or thread or comment? It's 2007 and this article and thread are about clipboards!?!?!?!?

You're right, the lack of hardware support IS a major problem too. But, it's another problem. Plus, why should users, ISVs, hardware vendors et al pay any attention to the Linux desktop when 'the preferred destop' can't even get the clipboard under control? Be serious!

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Re:Why Oh Why?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 02:12 AM
I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree. Just because there is no clipboard-article for windows doesn't mean anything. Should I conclude from this, that because there are not many "how-to-secure-my-windows" articles for linux, that linux is security-wise inferior? Do I have to continue?

Innovation happens also in places, which have been thought working and "finished" and suddenly something pops up. Look at yakuake as an example. Ok - DDM does not look like a huge innovation, but I have yet to see the ability this program offers on windows.

Don't get me wrong - clipboard on Linux used (or still has?) to have many issues and was lacking compared to windows. But your conclusion from this is way off

Cheers

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what about glipper?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 05, 2007 11:58 PM
<a href="http://glipper.sourceforge.net/" title="sourceforge.net">http://glipper.sourceforge.net/</a sourceforge.net>

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What About It???

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 01:42 AM
Have you used this product or did you simply do a FreshMeat search. From the Glipper website:

Please note, glipper is currently under development, beware of bugs and expect much more from future releases. We do not yet have a stable release, and there are currently a couple of known issues with glipper, until our next release you may have to use an older version to get things working smoothly.

But before you go saying anything like; 'it'll get better after awhile', read further:

Glipper is designed to manage text, we currently have no plans to manage any other type of data.

So, you're inferring that people should use a clipboard that lacks basic functionality that already exists in many clipboards and is EXPECTED by almost any user but, will never be implemented. <SARCASM>Oh, yea. I want that on my desktop.</SRACASM>

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Re:What About It???

Posted by: Administrator on January 06, 2007 07:16 AM
You need to fix your closing sarcasm tag.

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Something is wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 12:15 AM
"At times, too, running DDM seemed to freeze the entire desktop, particularly when the maximum number of items were contained in the clipboard -- no matter how high or low that maximum is set."

This sucks. I think that it should be IMPOSSIBLE for one application to freeze the entire desktop because its malfunctioning. This is not acceptable behaviour. Someone needs to fix it so it becomes impossible for one app to freeze the whole desktop.

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Re:Something is wrong

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 08, 2007 06:21 PM
Hear, hear! I FULLY agree with you. KDE is lightyears ahead of Gnome. When I recently blogged in the last KDE/Gnome wars that KDE apps are better, all Gnome zealots argued this was not the case. Not the war has subsided, they start blogging again that Gnome (in essence) sucks. If it sucks, discard it, use a REAL desktop and still use your Dia, AviDemux, Gimp, etc. under KDE. I've been doing so for as long as I can remember.

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or you could just learn to use the tools you have

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 01:11 AM
I've been a long time X windows user, and honestly, I much prefer the way it handles the clipboard to the alternatives.

Select text with the mouse, middle click to paste. I can't live without that feature. I use it subconciously all the time. It annoys me to have to use Ctrl-C to copy and Ctrl-V to paste. As for the hardships of installing fonts.... I don't get it.

Make a directory called<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.fonts in your home directory, cp font.ttf ~/.fonts/ done. it's installed. Yeah, it's really that easy.

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You Never Will

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 01:32 AM
cp font.ttf ~/.fonts/
Yea. That's intuitive. I'll have no problem getting Mary in accounting to handle that. Dad (he's 72) won't find it difficult either. But, let me guess, your one of those 1337i575 (if you decipher that, you definitely are) that think that people should have a license to operate a computer.

Select text with the mouse, middle click to paste.
I use and enjoy this a lot myself. I, like you, am also frustrated by the lack of this in standard Windows installations. But, this technique is no panacea. What happens when you lose the selection? That's where Ctrl-C/V and Klipper shines. Also, the select/paste method doesn't work so well with things like graphics and files.

The fact that you "don't get it" suggests that you never will. It doesn't take much thought, imagination or understanding to see the need or at least the demand for the functionality that the author described. Are you on the Gnome development team by chance?

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Re:You Never Will

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 06, 2007 01:55 AM
How is this any different than copying a TTF file to the Fonts folder in the windows control panel?

I'm guessing that Dad wouldn't be able to figure that out on windows or linux, unless he's got some IT background already. I doubt Mary in accounting would get it either. I don't think people need a license to operate a computer, but I do think they should learn at least a little bit about how to use the tools they have. You'd expect your local mechanic to know how to operate the lift to get your care up for service, why can't you expect your computer using employees to know how to use their tools? A better question is why is Mary in accounting installing fonts that the systems administrators didn't install for her? Where is the need for the latest font in an accounting job? As for Dad, hey, when you set up his machine (since he's gonna have trouble installing fonts, I'm assuming that you installed the OS for him) why not make a symlink to the<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.fonts dir and tell him to just copy them in the file browser as he would any other file?

Graphics, I can see a need for copying and pasting capabilities between applications, but that problem can't be adequately addressed until all the applications you want to do this with have a somewhat standard way to handle images. You'll need to convince the Abiword developers and the Open Office developers to do things the same way. Make sure that the Gimp and any other app that might use images follows suit. (You can actually drag and drop images from most apps into the gimp and it will open them)

As for copying and pasting files, that should be part of the VFS, and in the case of gnome apps and nautilus, already works most of the time. I agree that theres some work to be done, but this seems to be a solution in search of a problem on many levels.

And no, I am not on the Gnome development team.

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Re:You Never Will

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 07, 2007 06:32 PM
Yea. That's intuitive. I'll have no problem getting Mary in accounting to handle that. Dad (he's 72) won't find it difficult either. But, let me guess, your one of those 1337i575 (if you decipher that, you definitely are) that think that people should have a license to operate a computer.
Click on Desktop -> Preferences -> Fonts -> Details -> Go to font folder, a window will open, now drag and drop the fonts in, you are done. If you don't want to click too much, open your Nautilus and select "fonts:" as URI (Ctrl-O or Ctrl-L dont' recall), drag and drop the fonts, you are done...

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Thumbnails

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 08, 2007 05:16 PM
In other words, DDM closely resembles Klipper in design and actions. Its main advantage is that it displays thumbnails of graphics in the clipboard.

Klipper also displays thumbnails of graphics in the clipboard.

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Re:I must agree!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 09, 2007 05:47 AM
Well, I appreciate the politeness in your answer, and I hope I can do the same for mine.

I am a gnome user myself, and don't have major problems with it. I like the appearance, the easy of use, and the cohesion it shows all over.

I am also wondering what will happen with all new mono-based applications, as the author stated, but at the moment I am very satisfied with my desktop option.

Does it mean I should "fire" on KDE? Not at all. It is a desktop where I don't feel comfortable, but it doesn't mean it should not be number 1 for someone else. I like some apps like K3b, and can't stand others such as Konkeror, but once more, those are my preferences.

I just hope both desktops can make common interfaces ("a la freedesktop.org") so that using apps from other desktops is easier and smoother than now, and in any case, there is plenty of room for improvements in both cases.

Cheers!

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I must agree!

Posted by: Administrator on January 06, 2007 12:37 AM
I keep seing story after story written by Gnome users lamenting features and configurability present in KDE that are not present or not quite up to par in Gnome. Well maybe they should be using KDE?

I normally do not discuss this subect because I don't like to see infighting in the GNU/Linux community. I am however growing increasingly irritated by the apparent arrogance of the Gnome crowd. Every poll shows that most Linux users prefer KDE and yet all of the major distributors except 2 or 3 who default to Gnome.

You mentioned the file save dialog. In Gnome it remains frustrating and un-intuitive. Epiphany is about one step up from useless. In spite of what the Gnome folks obviously think, we KDE users do like choices and lots of options and configurability. We resent it when the KISS ideology is thrust upon us.

None of this comes from a point of ignorance. I have at times forced myself to use Gnome for extended periods in an attempt to see why it is the "preferred desktop". Sorry Gonome folks... I just don't get it. As an aside, I think that the deal between Ron, Miguel and Microsoft has made the use of Mono downright dangerous and the infestation of Mono into GTK/Gnome can't be a good thing at this point.

IMHO, Gnome falls well short of KDE when it comes to usability and even appearance. This gap will only widen with the release of KDE 4.

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