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mark grouped windows as such or not?

Published Nov 14 2012 via RSS

In the default tasks widget (the one that shows your currently open windows) if there is more than one window grouped together it shows an arrow and the number of windows in that group. This results in a panel looking something like this:

Tasks widget with group status information
Tasks widget with group status information
Great, so I can see I have two konsoles and three kontact windows open. However, today I challenged myself to defend why that information is there. Is it actually useful? Does it matter if there are 2 or 3 windows in the group? Is it important to be able to visually identify it as a group?

With or without this additional information, the number of clicks to get to a window in a group is the same. Click once on the group, and then again in the resulting popup. If compositing is active, you can also just hover the group and then click on a window thumbnail.

I could not think of a single time when the extra visual information of the arrow and number ever provided value to me, and I struggled to come up with a use case where it might. So I patched out the group status information just to see what it looks like and to see if it would negatively impact how it works. It took all of probably two minutes to do and I've been using the tasks widget since without grouping status information, as can be seen in the shot below:

Tasks widget without group status information
Tasks widget without group status information
There is more room now for window titles which is nice, and there is less information being presented resulting in a more elegant look.

Visual simplicity, however, should usually not trump utility, however, so I'm trying to come up with uses for the group status information. Just because I can't think of one off the top of my head does not mean that a use case does not exist. So I thought I would ask you! Do you find this group status information useful? If so, why? If not, would you prefer it not to be there? Leave your answer in the comments section below!

Even if you don't have input to share, you at least get a glimpse into the sort of banal questions we get to ponder when working on Plasma. Not everything is about exciting shiny new toys after all. :)

Update: Decided to try another possibility: show grouping by painting the icon twice, once full color and a second time faded. Keeps the visibility of "this is a group" without taking up more space and with less visual noise. Not convinced by this, but was something that occurred to me as a possibility. :)

Using a visual "stacking" of the icon to denote a group.
p.s. Please ignore the misalignment of the system tray in the screenshots. It's a known bug in the QML UI that is new for 4.10. It will be fixed before release.

p.p.s. Please also ignore that the task icons are a different size than the other icons on the panel. I'm considering possible improvements for that too as all icons being the same consistent size, at least when there is just one row in the tasks widget, would be rather spiffy.

p.p.p.s. I am not interested in suggestions to replace the tasks plasmoid with some other plasmoid in the default layout. That is a separate discussion, and I'd like to focus on this one specific issue here.

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