23 August 2006

Categories vs Folders

I recently found this write up of the Blam! developer(s) on why having file system like folders is user unfriendly compared to have a category system which at a time only shows a flat list of all feeds of a selected category.

Liferea is not the only aggregator with folder-like organization, but it is true many aggregators rely on flat category-based organization. And there are some not even supporting categories.

To be honest in the beginning when adding folder support I just followed the email client interface, not thinking about better alternatives. But after some time working with folders I found it to have some advantages:

Like seen in the above screenshot when the user is allowed to select a folder the aggregator can present a merged item list. Imagine all 10 feeds of the folder posting 1 post per day. With a category based approach you are forced to click each feed once - as long as there is no merged mode presented, which would have to be exposed by some menu or toolbar option.

The same when marking every of those 15 post feeds as read. In Liferea select the folder and mark the folder as read. No extra menu option for marking the whole category as read.

Also there is no need to expand the folder. If you know about the contained feeds anyway and can identify them by their favicon you can have a pretty small view of a handful of collapsed folders (maybe labeled by category type) which you click one after another to read their new content.

Of course there are also the disadvantages some of which the Blam! developers already identified:
  • One has to explicitely collapse folders or scroll to access of the rest of the feed list. Maybe Liferea needs an auto-collapse preference.
  • Folders realized with GTK tree views eat up vertical space. Each indention level eats about 16 pixels.
  • When using folders as categories one cannot have one feed in two categories.


Sean said...

My bigger issue with trees is the horizontal space lost. I'm really annoyed that the GtkTreeView doesn't let one choose the level of indent. Nothing Liferea can do here, but annoying none the less.

On the Liferea front, it would be really nice if the format of the displayed name was configurable (i.e. %i %n (%c) %t (icon, name, unread count, time updated). This would let someone change the order to be:
%i %c - %n (%t), which is what I would ideally like. I tend to know by icon and screen placement what the feed is, but the count is really the most relevant (and changeable) piece of information at any given time for me.

Btw, keep up the blogging, I really enjoy it.

Lars Lindner said...

To change the indention level spacing one would propably have to modify the GTK+ theme setting. But this is not really practical.

For the feed list rendering formatting: I think exposing such a feature to the user would be to complex and hard to support. Also it wouldn't be that easy to implement. So nothing really for a "simple" feed reader ;-)

I'm glad that you like reading the posts!