bitCommander - a project aiming to develop a miller columns file manager for Windows

A while ago I wrote about two file managers for Windows that implemented Miller columns (see the photo below). However, one of them was being discontinued (UltraExplorer) while the other one was just to buggy to be used daily (WinBrowser).

I was just reminded over the comments that a Miller column based browser was posted as a project on Kickstarter. Currently just a couple of days from the end of the donating period and still not meeting a goal of $7500. Fingers crossed.

More info on their web site: http://bit-commander.com/


Why OS X Mavericks changed the direction of scrolling?

I admit I was left puzzled after upgrading from Snow Leopard to Maverick. The first thing I noticed was that dragging two fingers towards me was not resulting in the scrolling (I also learned that this was added in Lion already). At first I thought that something went wrong with the installation and things were not working as they supposed to. I attached my mouse but scrolling the scroll wheel towards me was not working either?!? I could not scroll anymore!

Then I accidentally scrolled it in the opposite way (away from me) and it worked! After a few tries I realised that Apple has changed the direction of scrolling. But the question is not why! Rather, the question is why now.

If we take probably the oldest "scrolling screen" invented - the scrolling pergament as seen on the photo below, scrolling the upper stick away from us results in the scroll moving down. Scrolling the bottom stick towards us results in the scroll moving up.

(Photo courtesy: http://i620.photobucket.com/albums/tt284/malena_malena/a-scroll.jpg)

The touch screen interfaces (used on smart phones and tablets) use this concept. If we imagine that the sticks of the pergament are on bearings and fixed, dragging the paper down moves the pergament towards the top. The same way as dragging the finger down on the touch screens makes the e.g. web page move to the top.

The scrolling on Mavericks works the same way. It's weird at first but I love it even though I have a hard time to scroll even after a day of use. Nevertheless, some concerns remain such as:

  • Users using Windows and Mac (separate machines) would find it hard to switch between different scrolling directions.
  • After a few decades of "unnatural" scrolling, would most users really want to switch to more "natural" way of doing it.

This move raises some questions as well.

  • Why was scrolling so far been "unnatural"? I have searched the web with no success. One possible reason I see is that the earlier way of scrolling (mouses with no scroll wheel) was to hold the scrollbar handle and move it downwards to go towards the bottom of the document. Introducing the scroll wheel kept the behaviour and scrolling it "downwards" (or towards us) moved the documents towards the end. The trackpads kept the same movement -- early trackpads that supported such movements had a dedicated space on the right side of it resembling scrollbars. And I suppose the multi-touch Apple's scrollbar kept the behaviour.
  • Why this sudden change? One possible reason is to keep the behaviour the same on touch screens and on desktop computers. But was this change really necessary? The trackpad/mouse interaction is to a certain extent different than the finger interaction on touch screens. Moving objects around is for example the same: point, click/hold, and move. While scrolling for me is not the same. I cannot map the "dragging the scroll wheel down moves the page of the document up" concept in my head. I cannot associate dragging two fingers over a trackpad with "holding the page document" as it happens with the touch screens. But maybe I'm just to used to the old model of doing things.  

Anyway, for the time being I'm sticking with this (for me at least) new concept. As scrolling has always fascinated me I have to experiment how it goes.

Edit 28. 10. 2013: Even my wife decided to stick with the new direction of scrolling. Her response to whether she wants the old behaviour or not was that she'll get used to it. Even if she uses Windows at work. I'm curious.

Showing URLs in the browser's left bottom corner - why is it good?

I have come across debates on the web against the URLs showing up in the browser's left bottom corner if one hovers the mouse over a link. I advocate against hiding the URLs (except in some occasions such as in this guy's giving a presentation) for security reasons. See the below example:

This is an email with an invoice from supposedly NetSuite. But hovering over the link in the email the URL in the left corner reveals that it is not from netsuite.com but rather from saav.fr.

Maybe it looks ugly, maybe a lot of people don't care, maybe a lot of them don't want it. But don't take it away from power users please (as MS took away the status bar in Windows Explorer). I often want to see where the link I'm trying to click on will take me.

I also want to keep the browser's address bar! Am I a lonesome cowboy with such view?

Interface with too many steps

I came across this very interesting web site Tiny Eyes about the newborns' vision. It lets you upload a photo and see how a new born, 4 weeks old child, 8 weeks, 3 months, 6 months old child and an adult see the world around at different distances.

However, I found it a bit over complicated. To see the same image for each of the available ages, I had to upload the same image again and again and select the desired age. I ended up uploading the same image 6 times for one distance only. I'm not sure about the decisions behind the interface but the only reasoning I thought of is that maybe showing more than one image at once is computationally too intensive and would take too much time. If this is not so, it would be better to:

  • upload an image once and show all available ages and distances side by side.

OR

  • upload an image and select the desired ages/distances by checkboxes so one, more or all ages/distances could be selected.


Placing a devastating function by a commonly used one - ejecting devices

I found myself nearly formatting my thumb drive. If less careful and more in a hurry, I would just click all those "yes" and "OK" buttons. In the context menu of Windows Explorer (Windows 8), Format and Eject are grouped and even placed together. This is not the way to group functions together. Here are the reasons why:

  • Ejecting is a common process while Formatting is used rarely (at least I use it rarely)
  • Formatting can have a devastating consequences (deleted files)
  • The only consequence of Ejecting if an ejected media

There are other ways to eject external storage in Windows (e.g. down by the clock in the right bottom corner as in Figure below) which do not have other functions beside. However, it is more intuitive for me to click on the actual thumb drive in Explorer as in Figure above.

Now compare this to Finder in OS X

The button to eject an external hard drive is actually by the hard drive itself. And this is IMHO way more intuitive than some arbitrary position from which it is possible to eject several devices.