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Welcome Contour

This is a follow up of another good news that recently appeared on PlanetKDE.

Friday a new project within KDE was announced: Plasma Active. We explained that wasn't a single project, but more an umbrella of many components, all of them are a piece that we think necessary to reach our goad of a creating a desirable user experience encompassing a spectrum of devices (and remember the date 09.10.11, just saying)

Today we are happy to announce another project that will be a pretty important piece of the puzzle: Contour

The problem

If we want to build a desiderable experience on devices, we have to look around on existing offerings to look not only for what we like, but also for what we don't like.

What is the common factor of today's tablet and handheld operating systems?

The center of how they work, are applications, so called apps (why trying to give a new word to a concept at least 40 years old still escapes me btw).

All the tasks that you can accomplish with the device are delegated to a single application (that maybe isn't enough to do exactly what you want). That's really a model not much different compared to the desktop one.

Now, having a different entity, with specialized logic and specialized ui to accomplish a particular task is a good thing, but the current problem is the lack of integration among them, especially on the mobile world

On the desktop side, in KDE we are doing pretty good integration wise, can we do as good in the mobile front?

And with integration I don't mean (only) look and feel. This is important as well as there are also valid use cases to break it in some particular situations.


This new project is born from the collaboration between several KDE people, the Plasma and Nepomuk project, Basyskom and Open-slx, you can see a first concept video of the new shell here:

OGG version

Right now I just want to present this user interaction prototype, then we'll talk more about the actual details behind it, both UI-wise and what is the technology making it possible.

What I'm talking about is all the applications being deeply integrated in the workspace, for certain things there should be rally a central place, from which both workspace and applications could tap:

  • What I'm doing right now with my device? (yes, activities again!)
  • What kind of resources are now open? (can be files, contacts, urls, whatever)
  • What kind of resources are relevant to this activity? (so that i can get very quickly just to them, without having to worry about complex menus and submenus)
  • Somewhat related example on the above point: I don't want 3 apps and the workspace having 4 different concepts and storage for "Bookmarks" for instance.
  • What kind of resources could be relevant to this activity? or what actions could be important? (could be publish this photo, answer this email, feed the fish, whatever :)

Now, In the last years of development in KDE, we have almost all the needed technology to do all of the mentioned points, just think about Activities, taking a more definite shape in 4.6, resource and ontology storage in Nepomuk, central PIM data storage in Akonadi...

It's just somewhat harder to do on a desktop since here there are quite a lot of legacy constraints and a long "genetic memory" of the last 30 years that makes really hard for new paradigms to emerge, however I'm sure we'll gradually get into it there as well :)

Mobile systems are still a white canvas where we still can experiment something new, and provided we have most of the technology for it, we'll be able to have this resource centric, activity based system in a pretty good shape in a really short time.

Plasma Active

So how does it relate to Plasma Active and the current tablet user interface?

Contour is an experimental user interface based on Plasma, that does an heavy usage of Nepomuk and won't be intended for everyday usage at first, but...

As the rest of KDE and Plasma as well, Contour is designed to be highly modular, so as soon as a part of it gets "ready", the main Plasma Tablet user interface will immediately adopt it (and eventual other Active workspaces that will surface later).

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