Filesystem places and sidebar needs modernisation
It would be good to have a plan for how to move our filesystem places forward.
This is the default Files view today:
In many respects, this looks like a reasonable approach for a file browser. You've got predefined folders for common types of content. You've got some useful categories, like recent and starred.
But there are issues with it:
- Most of the default locations are local when, for many users, a lot of content is in the cloud.
- It assumes a model where people manually organise their files in predefined places, and these then pop up in content applications. To the user who solely uses Spotify for all their music, the presence of a predefined music folder, which is supposed to be for all their music files, is a bit of an oddity.
- There are issues with the organisation of the predefined folders themselves. Do I have to keep all my images in Pictures? Where do I put my photos - in Pictures, or can I create a Photos folder? What if I want multiple top level folders for documents? In some cases, there's an awkward fit between the user's needs and the predefined folders. There's also a general inflexibility here. It's hard for users to make their files their own.
- Sometimes apps create their own directories inside home, but these look like any other folder. It can be hard to figure out that a folder belongs to a particular app. Sometimes they create folders inside the predefined XDG folders, which undermines the sense that these folders are under the user's control.
- For many users, some of the predefined folders are historical anchronisms (Desktop and Templates, specifically).
To address this situation, I'd be interested in doing something like this:
- There's a mechanism for cloud drives to add themselves to the top of the places list
- Cloud drives are prioritised at the top of the places list
- Home has been renamed to This Device
To be clear, I'm not saying that the XDG folders should cease to exist - we'll need a way to facilitate apps and functions that make use of them.
This is obviously speculative and is mostly intended as a way to start a conversation. However, I do think that we should be moving in a direction that is similar to this because, while Nautilus's UI has modernised a fair bit in recent years, our actual filesystem arrangement hasn't, and it's starting to look quite anachronistic.
Another thing that would be interesting to explore here would be "app folders" - ie. ensuring that, if an app creates a folder in ~/, it looks distinct and is branded to match the app. For example, Builder's "Projects" directory should probably be called "Builder", and feature the Builder logo. Maybe this could even be a Flatpak filesystem permission.