Improving single-click
Open, WishlistPublic

Description

Why we use single-click

There are a lot of good reasons for defaulting to single-click:

  • New user friendliness: double-click must be learned
  • Accessibility for children, the elderly, people with shaky hands, laptop users, and those with poor mouse skills
  • Consistency with mobile and the web, where there is no double-click
  • Predictability: no question regarding what needs to be single-clicked and what needs to be double-clicked (we've all known people who double-click everything)

Problems with single-click

Nevertheless, single-click has one big Achilles Heel: selecting items. Right now, there are three flawed methods:

Click the selection marker in the corner that appears on mouse hover

  • Requires precision mousing skills
  • Easy to destroy your selection with a mis-click
  • Unusable on touch since there is no concept of hover, and the click target is too small anyway
  • Inconsistent UI; Dolphin and Folder View display a green emblem in the corner, while Gwenview displays a square button along with other contextual hover buttons
  • Selection marker doesn't even appear in KDirOperator views used by open/save dialogs and many app sidebars (https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=185793)

Ctrl+click on individual items

  • Not discoverable; even some experts and longtime users don't know about it, as revealed in VDG chat this morning
  • No good for touch; ctrl key is unavailable for tablets and phones, and awkwardly far away for convertible laptops

Click-and-drag to make a rubber-band selection

  • Can only be easily used to select a line or box of items; must combine with ctrl+click in a multi-step operation to select arbitrary items
  • Impossible on touch, where empty areas of a scrollable view will scroll the view if you touch-and-drag

Difficulty selecting items extends to difficulty doing things to items that do not involve opening them (i.e. renaming, deleting, copying and pasting, etc). With double-click, a common workflow is: click item to select itchoose action with main menu or a keyboard shortcut. But with single-click, selecting items is difficult, so using a keyboard shortcut or main menu to act on a selected item is more rare. Instead, the typical UX is to right-click on the item and choose an action from the context menu. But this is problematic because there is no right-click on touch, and anyway, a lot of people don't right-click very much using their desktops and laptops. With laptops in particular, right-clicking is often awkward, difficult, and non-discoverable.

Proposed solution

I'd like to propose a new UI that will address the selection problem: a dedicated "selection mode" wherein single-clicking on items will select them. This is a very common and user-friendly pattern on mobile. Here is an example taken from a GNOME Photos mockup I saw a while back:

And here's how it worked with a very old version of iOS:

Adopting such a thing would be really nice for us too, as it would not only improve the selection situation for single-click, but also allow seamless touch support. The whole item plus its background in the grid becomes a click target, so it's very very fast to select a bunch of icons this way--much faster than using the selection marker, and even a bit faster than ctrl+clicking on icons. We could also allow click-and-drag to do rubber-band selection for bulk selection.

This mode would be activated by clicking on a visible button marked Select items or by using a keyboard accelerator--perhaps the ctrl key, or even the spacebar.

Next, we can add a contextual action bar full of items that can act on the selected items--or even when there's no selection. Basically the idea is to replicate the features available via the right-click context menu, but without the need to right-click. Here are some rough mockups for how it might look in Dolphin (thanks @broulik!):

All of this probably relies on first unifying the icon/folder views: T9226: Unify icon/folder views

ngraham created this task.Oct 18 2018, 4:05 PM
ngraham triaged this task as Wishlist priority.

I personally like single click so much that it's basically annoying me when I hear someone double-clicking with a mouse loudly nearby :)

One of the problems with single click, though, is that GTK apps still use double click, and when you use an app that relies on the GTK file dialog, you have to switch your mind to the double click perspective. This can be confusing to beginners who can't tell the framework by app's appearance.

Is it possible in theory to force GTK to conform to single click, too?

You forgot the middle/wheel click as a forth option for selection. One of the drawbacks, if you middle click on a folder in dolphin it although opens the folder in a new tab. If you middle click on a file it gets selected.

You forgot the middle/wheel click as a forth option for selection. One of the drawbacks, if you middle click on a folder in dolphin it although opens the folder in a new tab. If you middle click on a file it gets selected.

Heh, I didn't even know about that! Drawbacks would be:

  • Not discoverable
  • Inconsistent behavior between file and folder behavior
  • Not possible on touch
  • Difficult to impossible to do with a laptop touchpad (depending on the hardware and software)

Windows explorer has also a feature like this I think already since the XP era.

When take a look at the ribbon toolbar we have actions like:

  • Add to favorites / quick access
  • Copy
  • Paste
  • Move
  • Copy path
  • Add link
  • Move to ...
  • Copy to ...
  • Delete
  • Rename

  • Open
  • Edit
  • Properties

Windows explorer has also a feature like this I think already since the XP era.

The toolbar in Windows 7 explorer is what inspired my Dolphin mockup :) I didn't want people adding random buttons like "Create New Folder" and "Show Hidden Files" in the toolbar but instead have a secondary contextual toolbar for the current view.

clel added a subscriber: clel.Dec 15 2018, 2:47 PM

Is this issue just for the selection "problem" of single click or also about other problems, (like some meta issue)? Because I'd recommend either being just about selection and then rename the title accordingly or to have it as a meta issue and then maybe only link the corresponding issues.

Reason: Selection does not seem to be the only problem of single click:

One of the problems with single click, though, is that GTK apps still use double click, and when you use an app that relies on the GTK file dialog, you have to switch your mind to the double click perspective. This can be confusing to beginners who can't tell the framework by app's appearance.

Is it possible in theory to force GTK to conform to single click, too?

There might be other inconsistencies as well that should be considered.


Regarding the selection problem:

My suggestion is:

  • Change the plus and minus signs that show on hover to a (empty) checkbox like on Windows to be more intuitive including making the whole icon adding to a selection after entering the selection mode
  • Do not use another button to enter selection mode as this feels worse having to travel longer distances with the mouse
  • For touch devices that don't have hover and also where a tiny checkbox is hard to hit I suggest long press (does libinput / whatever give an information whether a click comes from a touchscreen? - then this can only be used for touch inputs)

Consistency with mobile and the web, where there is no double-click

Just to be precise: There is double click on the web like on Google drive which uses it probably to simulate the normal file browser experience. Also there is double click on some mobile devices at least if you consider Windows tablets a mobile device (I agree that their solution is not nice with a touch screen).

ndavis added a subscriber: ndavis.Dec 15 2018, 3:15 PM
ndavis added a comment.EditedDec 15 2018, 3:19 PM

You forgot the middle/wheel click as a forth option for selection. One of the drawbacks, if you middle click on a folder in dolphin it although opens the folder in a new tab. If you middle click on a file it gets selected.

Another less obvious drawback is that it's not uncommon for cheap mice to have problems with clicking the mouse wheel after a while. For example, my current mouse, my previous mouse and the mouse I had before that all developed an issue where sometimes the mouse wheel would double middle click or not click at all. If that was the only good way to select items in single click mode, it would be hard to use with cheap mice after a while.

This comment was removed by raddison.

Here's the thing. Windows has double by default but people who have higher-than-average IQ switch to single. Plasma has single by default but people who have lower-than-average IQ ask someone else to switch it to double for them. Stop the nonsense. Make it double by default but don't make it hard on me to switch it back to single.

I'm not going to bombard you with links, but I'd like to know the source for this, which seems to be a bit strong. Or maybe my IQ is simply low enough.

This comment was removed by raddison.
This comment was removed by raddison.

@raddison

Are you okay? Is there someone I can call?

This comment was removed by raddison.
This comment was removed by raddison.
raddison added a comment.EditedJan 8 2019, 1:37 PM

I'm sorry but I had misunderstood the purpose of the task. This task is about improving single click. Has nothing to do with double click. @ngraham My apologies.

Your apology is accepted. In the future please read things more closely and avoid posting enormous rants. They aren't helpful and make people less likely to listen to your point of view, not more.

Also, Phabricator is really intended for developer-to-developer communication. It becomes difficult for developers to communicate when users show up offering their opinions, especially in the form of huge rants that insult people. That's what https://bugs.kde.org is for (without the insulting rants, preferably).

As you are a user and have never submitted any patches for anything, please refrain from posting in Phabricator tickets. I would recommend sticking to https://bugs.kde.org and forums/reddit/etc.

See https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved#Getting_in_touch_and_working_together

I'll be politically correct.