Some thoughts on AWN’s launcher/task-switcher

Today I tried to put some of my thoughts together about Avant Window Navigator’s launcher/task-switcher, I ended up with these text, which is also posted in awn’s forum. They are mainly usability related consideration, no technical issue involved.

In the text, “iconify” = “minimize/close to system tray”.

Current Situation

In the launcher section, if an icon is clicked and the application is started, the icon functions as a task-switcher and has the possibility to be denoted with an arrow underneath. If the running application can be iconified (e.g. pidgin, xchat), as it is doing so, the arrow will disappear and the icon’s function will change from a task-switcher back to a launcher.

Now, if we want to restore the application from the system tray, we can not click on the correspondent icon in the launcher section on the dock, cause it will (in most cases) launch another instance of this application (which will also have its own icon and occupy a place in the task-switcher section). What we can do is to click the icon on the system tray, then the application will get restored and its icon in the launcher section will again function as a task-switcher.

Problems

  1. If an launched application can be iconified, its correspondent icon in the launcher section will function differently (as a launcher or a switcher) depending on whether it is iconified. And its icon can not consistently provide the user with the running status of it.

  2. If an launched application is not or can not be iconified, its correspondent icon in the launcher section will no longer provide a way to launch any other instance of this application.

Suggestions

  1. The task-switcher section’s behaviours stays the same, functioning as the task-list/task-bar of gnome-panel. When an application (which does not have a correspondent icon in the launcher section) iconified, its icon should disappear to “spare some place”, which, might be one of the reasons to design the “iconify” feature.

    Moreover, as the icons in this section always denote running applications, there is no need for the arrows underneath.

  2. For any icon in the launcher section, even if the started application is iconified, no place will be spared as the icon is always there. Therefore in my opinion, it should not lose the function as a task-switcher, showing the running status with the arrow and being able to restore the application (after all, it is an UI element much larger and easier to click than the icon on the tray).

  3. The launcher icon should still have the ability to launch (another instance of) the application after one instance of which has been started. Maybe by middle click or right click menu, this feature could be implemented. If more than one instance of the application exists, they should, or at least has the possibility to, be grouped together (e.g. in a pop-up menu of the launcher icon)

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