Moving desktop widgets without the handle

Moving a widget in Plasma Desktop 5.3 in press-and-hold mode
Getting a move on (notice the mouse pointer)

In Plasma Desktop 5.3 (released today), the desktop configuration dialog offers a new experimental tweak: A mode in which widgets can be dragged around by pressing and holding anywhere on the widget. When enabled, the widget handle is also no longer shown just on hover, but only after a press and hold.

The goal of this mode is to make widget handling feel more natural and spatial, and faster. Instead of having to aim for a widget to reveal the handle, and then go after the handle in a second step, you can just grab on to it anywhere. Easy.

The immediate challenge with this setup is discoverability. To address this problem, unlocking widgets in this mode displays a notification bubble introducing the interaction pattern (which can be easily dismissed forever with the action button):

Press-and-hold notification bubble on widget unlock
"It looks like you're moving a widget"

Press-and-hold widget handling is not yet the default in 5.3 (you can enable it on the Tweaks config page of both the Desktop and Folder View containments). Beta feedback has been positive so far, but changes to the interaction vocab of our shell components shan't be done lightly—using press-and-hold for widget handling means withholding the verb from widgets themselves, which is something we have to negotiate with widget authors. We think the joy felt when using this pattern and its widespread adoption in other home screen UIs bode well for it, however. Let us know how you feel!


Do you think we will do away with manual right-click-to-lock-and-unlock paradigm at some point of time in near feature? The default behavior would be that everything remains locked and press-and-hold would act as an unlocking mechanism.

By Sudhir Khanger at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 17:01

I hit on the same thought and I'd say it's on the table. Press-and-hold makes it hard to move things accidentally, which is the main reason for locking things. The simplification potential there is really really tempting. During the dev cycle I had it ignore the lock state on my system for some time, and enjoyed how it felt.

On the code level, the concept of locking the shell has to remain - e.g. for kiosk systems. There's also unsolved questions regarding the panel editing mode, of course. But yeah, this is a discussion that can be had.

By eike hein at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 17:51

Dragging a plasmoid to move it sounds like a good idea, but not showing the handle on hover sounds like a real discoverability problem. The config and close buttons are essential for any plasmoid. I'd imagine that the best solution here could be to either abandon the handle altogether and have the config and close buttons be overlayed on hover at all times (much like in that information bubble in the second screenshot...), and have resizing and rotating work like for shapes in LibreOffice Draw, or show the handle at all times until the desktop is locked (but this doesn't help with the config, you want to be able to access that even when it's locked...).

By GreatEmerald at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 17:30

Yeah, the discoverability challenge is tough. Sudhir's sibling post on lock/unlock is part of the reason of why I wanted to try going for stealthy handles, though: The handle reveal on hover can be really annoying (it makes the desktop feel pretty noisy), and this makes it shut up until press-and-hold establishes explicit user intent to manage widgets in a way just hovering doesn't. This lowers the cost (noise being the cost) of being unlocked.

Handle reveal on press-and-hold also opens the door to thinking about alternative handle designs (e.g. imagine a pie menu centered on the cursor, as just a spur-of-the-moment example) because it makes the handle modal and removes the need for it to co-exist with the widget content.

People are also increasingly trained to try long-pressing things. In the reddit feedback thread, someone mentioned they had actually repeatedly observed users trying this intuitively before it was implemented.

By eike hein at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 17:56

>someone mentioned they had actually repeatedly observed users trying this intuitively before it was >implemented.

Depends on the device.

Long pressing is second nature on tablets, not so much on the mouse.

Long pressing will however lead to not pressing long enough which will cause its own outcomes.

The handle reveal on hover is only an annoyance if you dont lock your widgets.
Most users Ive observed lock their desktop once its setup.
Not sure this annoyance is enough to justify the use of long press.
(But to be honest I think its use has to be an all-in proposition. If you are planning to use long press then you have to incorporate it everywhere. Im not saying thats a bad thing btw, just that long press is more of an overarching concept and not a specific use case.)

By Kushi Purac at Wed, 04/29/2015 - 00:53