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Gnome-Shell’s Message Tray latest designs

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Matthias Clasen says:

One of the prominent features of gnome-shell from the beginning was the message tray. To address some of the interaction drawbacks of the existing implementation / design, a few changes have been proposed“.

Message tray Goals

  • permit the user to stay focused on the primary task
  • provide awareness of new notifications
  • remind for unseen messages
  • direct attention to high priority messages and alerts
  • unobtrusive display
  • provide a uniform interface for messages, notifications, and alerts
  • allow the user to control the information display
  • provide a lightweight interface to background operations


The current planning status of message tray is this

The design requirements include: 

  • Items in the message tray will be considerably larger, 48x48px.
  • Message tray isn’t an overlay, but modal in a way. It pushes the view up.
  • To reveal message tray:

– mouse: a strong intent of leaving the bottom edge is performed. This is either a continuos downward movement pas the edge of a screen. Or keeping the mouse cursor on the edge for 2 seconds.
– touch: an upward swipe from the edge of a device is performed
– keyboard: Super+M toggles the visibility of the message tray.

  • To close a message tray, clicking or tapping anywhere else but the message tray or the associated open overlays makes the message tray slide away.
  • If the number of items grows beyond available space, the icons are scaled down in a similar fashion to the dash in the overview.

And some bugs are tracked down:

  • Don’t show the message tray background when a banner pops up
  • Trigger the tray with downward pressure, not the hot corner
  • Restyle the message tray
  • Don’t time out banners when the user is inactive
  • Separate expanded notifications from the screen edge, queue new notifications beneath them
  • online/away/offline/away/online is too much
  • don’t pop up under the pointer
  • don’t lose messages

All Gnome-Shell’s related modules seem to be well documented.  So there is a design guideline for making a notification extension

Of course notification tray isn’t all about music, it also includes (under planning):

  • Music Player
  • Text Chat
  • Voice or Video call
  • Microblogging client
  • Email client
  • Software updates
  • Power management
  • Downloads
  • Calendar
  • Weather
  • Contacts
  • IRC Chat

Was the calendar a mistake?  We already have a calendar on top panel, but here is the answer :)

Jeremy Perry the designer of this says:  “The goal is to provide quick access to a mini calendar and view of immediate upcoming events. Users can also use the mini calendar to navigate to other days and see specific events for that day. Tasks needs more discussion, they are included because they are often tied to the calendar.

And Dominik Kalinowski is wondering: “Why this project duplicates the functions of the clock from the top bar? Having the same options in two places is confusing“.

Well I have to agree, it seems a bit confusing.. Anyway..

Ana Risteska uploaded to her blog a nice addition in chat box,  it adds a status icon (Online, Away, etc) next to the avatar.

Ana says: “The subject focuses on preventing the appearance of log messages on presence changes (online, offline, away, busy) and presenting these states with an appropriate icon (presence indicator placed right next to the avatar) instead“.

That’s all for now, but I am sure we’ll have some more news in the next days!

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  • Traista Eugen

    This looks great! Can’t wait for Gnome 3.6

  • jon_downfromthetrees

    Growl is a third-party notification tool that’s been very popular in the OS X world for a number of years.  It includes some features that Gnome might want to look at.  For example,  users can select which apps/services will be allowed to generate notices.  So, if you don’t want to know when mail arrives, you can turn that notice off.  The location of the notice display is also user configurable. Users can also select from several different designs for the actual notification balloon.

    As they look in the examples here, I, at least, would want to reduce the size of those notices.  I’d also like to have the ability to set a limit on a notice’s persistence, i.e., how long they remain on screen.  

    • alex285

      This is partial working. You can set if the application has a visible tray-icon or not.  For the rest I guess someone will write an extension.  I hope G developers to make a clear API to help people to develop extensions.

      • jon_downfromthetrees

        A clear API that they stay with.  API’s that are tossed out with each new release are as bad as none at all.

        • alex285

          Obviously you are right. On the other hand new features are added in every release that contributors most likely want to use them, so  they will re-write their extensions anyway.  A clear API will help you to update your extension, if you know what functions are deprecated and what are the new equivalents. 
          After all, extensions are about 500 lines of JS coding, not big deal to change it. A stable API in here I think is a dream :)

  • Timo

    Hm, good thing that they are rethinking the concept of notifications that make getting notified about new messages a pain in the a (aka “not being notified unless looking right at it anyways).
    Bad thing that there are plans to “move the content instead of covering it” – that would suck slightly more than putting notifications on an autohide-panel.
    I think the best solution would be to have a type of notification that relates to “conversations” and those need to get a whole different kind of attention than “removable media” or “currently playing music”.

    And if they are integrating evolution even more, there should DEFINATELY be an effort to redo that dinosaur: A) split into seperate applications that each do their one thing well B) UI that is not derived from outlook2000 C) Basic Features: Conversation View, Grouped Inbox, D) Startuptime and Performance. 

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  • Ancurio

    Are they using libnotify for all this?
    If yes, how do the multiple actions in a notification fit with its API?
    AFAIK it only allows one atm.

    • alex285

      Yes its libnotify and notification daemon.  But I don’t know how it works. 

      • sindhus

        Ok grep’ed the code and yes, looks like gnome-shell uses libnotify. You can use ‘notify-send ‘ from bash to check it :)

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