[Discussion] File Manager improvements

  • If you’ve watched the latest UBports Q/A, you might already know that we’re looking to improve the File Manager.

    Yesterday @Flohack and I briefly discussed this, and we agreed that it’s unclear how a File Manager is supposed to work in the “brave new world” of containers and app confinement.

    While we all know how a File Manager should work on a desktop, this is not a trivial question for a mobile environment.

    We have decided to run a short (informal) survey[1], in order to understand your real usage of the app. This is open to everyone willing to help, and I want to thank in advance all the people who are going to contribute. 🙂

    1. Why do you think it’s important to have a File Manager on your phone? (Or why not?)

    2. Which are the most important features for you?

    3. Which are the common tasks you try to accomplish?[2]

    4. How the current version of File Manager fails to meet your expectations?


    Note #1
    This is not about bug reports, we are interested in your typical app usage. Please do not reply:

    • add { missing feature | support for x | etc. }
    • can't open { file format }.

    We’re going to address those issues once we have the whole picture clear. 🙂

    Note #2
    I.e. "Why do you use those features?" A few examples:

    • Accessing remote files through Samba.
    • Cleaning up internal storage because memory is low.

  • 1- Not all users are coders or linux geeks, so the file manager will help us the normal people to navigate and move files and check things easily without the need of terminal.

    2- Features, open move delete cut copy paste edit.

    3- Mostly check files i downloaded before, move files from phone to sd card, delete the files i don't need.

    4- It lacks features that will help in doing things smoothly example:
    a- no select all feature so you need to move 1 by 1 file from phone to sd card or vise versa.
    b- it duplicates file when you open them, example if the picture or document on sd card and you open them, it will copy file to the phone.
    c- there is no cut option so when you move something you need to go back and delete it.

    I am sure that's a tip of a big iceberg so brace yourself for more.

  • @sverzegnassi 1. I want the phone to be as a PC, so the Terminal and the File Manager are very important apps.
    2. In the File Manager I want to copy, move or rename files and directories. When I choose a file I want that an app opens it.
    3. I know that this is against the content hub an the confinement.
    4. If you have files type pdf, image, music ... in the SD card, a copy of the file appears in Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, or Videos. Many times when I want to open a file the File Manager says that he doesn't know what app to use.

    1. FM is invaluable for organising files on my M10 tablet.

    2. Moving, renaming files. Unzipping archives

    3.organising and finding files

    1. The need to unlock full access to view or move files on the SD card.

  • So first of all glad that you got to this core app, that is no where near what it should be, and second I was thinking on this a lot since I got my phone and put (with the help of mdt tool) UBports on it and now lets get to your list of questions:

    1. File manager is an important app on any OS so in mobile OS's also. Users need a good file manager because they need to move or copy things (folders or files). In an open source OS file manager can and must be a powerful tool (I think there should be some "geek"/"developer" options like show hidden files or read root folders or something but not limited to this) and if this is possible those features must have a warning on activation something like becoming a developer on android where you need to do something strange like tap a number of times on android version to become a "developer" and have access to more "geeky" features.
    2. Not necessary in this order but: copy, move, paste, delete, open known file types with default app for that file type(not to put user to decide each and every time this should be accomplished using a settings menu or asking user upon first use and by letting the user to change those settings later using a setting menu) select multiple, select all. Last two for copy, cut and delete purposes. I know some of them are missing from the current OS but I guess we all want a functional file manager so in a nut shell all basic functions are important.
    3. Moving (copy and delete the originals as far as now) files and delete files are the most I used until now.
    4. No move option, no select multiple/all option.

    Hope this thoughts on file manager help you. And thank you again for working on this!

  • 1-2-3-4) The answer will cover all the four points.
    I would leave outside my post the need of the File Manager app by hackers, coders, testers, developers, computer enthusiasts, ... this is an actually important point but I won't cover it here. So, speaking about standard users:
    In a perfect containerized ecosystem there is no need for a File Manager. Each app should be perfectly capable to handle their data in a fast and transparent way, the user should not even know about single file operations at the bottom of the hierarchy pyramid of abstraction provided by a perfectly isolated system. For example, when downloading a file, he shouldn't care about where physically is stored the file, but he just cares about accessing it with others apps. Anyway, a perfectly isolated system would be the heaven, and we are on the Earth. Even a perfectly isolated system would deal sometimes with external data which cannot parse (a old backup USB key filled with tons of mess) and apps would not always provide all the functionality to accomplish everything a user wants to do with the data, or an app could not be containerized at all !! For example current apps for desktop running on ut are not containerized, Libertine can provide some containerizationish, but not complete at all. Another example is the gallery app which still can't move photo from and to the SD card ( yet 😉 ). To fill these holes, here the file manager comes. It put the user a level below the abstraction stage he should be when he uses a containerized system, where it can manually do what the apps miss to do, bypassing and working below all the container and limitation infrastructure. (this not in the meaning of security threat: the goal is to do what apps miss to do, not what the container framework prevents to do. Security is a very long topic, and I won't consider security implications now). Basically he can behave in the same way he would do in a non containerized system, like classic desktop/server ones. For this reason, the file manager app should ignore limits due to containerization and being just a normal file manager, like every FM else. Surely, thought the convergent goal of ut, it should have an UI working on both desktop and phones, but this is speaking about how it should look like, not how it should work like.
    What I said here also apply to the terminal app.
    I hope I explained how I see the topic cleary, but as I am not a native speaker, I would answer if someone miss some meanings.

  • Thanks for the topic.
    I don't know if it's related to file manager or to the sistem, but contextual menus are very poor, especially for M10 convergence. As any user said before there isn't for example a way to zip files, or send through mail, open with etc etc.

  • @ebetonro
    To multiple selection maybe a system like a cross in top left icon like in kde dolphin could be usefull for touch system?

  • I like consistancy, so in UT whene I have a list view, I like to swipe right for quick delete and swipe left for other quick action.
    From there build the features you want in the order you want as long as you keep this nice consistancy list view desing of the UT.

  • I think a good file manager is very important, and the functionality i think should be the typical functionality as there are already examples of above. Moving, copying and open are the most common functions i use.

    I think the way it should be implemented should be different from most (all?) other file manager, though. I think the framework of the file manager should provide a list of one or more file(s) to a plugin script so that it is easy to add functionality for individual users. Also clearing the list should probably also be a feature of the file manager core.

    This means for instance that i think it would be nice if i could navigate around in one or more directories to select files, and then select a plugin such as copy, move, zip, open etc to do the work on the file list.

  • You allready made some great points for file manager.

    • open with
    • consitency: to swipe right for quick delete and swipe left for other quick action
    • zip/unzip
    • send to mail

    I miss a split view, something like in Dolphin, so you can have two folders opened at the same time and move or copy files easily between those folders.

    1. Why do you think it’s important to have a File Manager on your phone? (Or why not?)
      It's important because we have personal files and we need a way to manage them.

    2. Which are the most important features for you?
      Apart from the typical tasks involved in files (moving, renaming, opening, and so on) already mentioned, search would be an important feature for me. Also: integration with network.

    3. Which are the common tasks you try to accomplish?
      Moving, renaming, deleting, opening, and searching.

    4. How the current version of File Manager fails to meet your expectations?
      No tabs or abiity to have more than one folder open, no search.

    1. Why do you think it’s important to have a File Manager on your phone? (Or why not?)
      I have found scenarios where I cannot accomplish a task with the existing system and therefore need to use a file manager. For example:
    • a download needs to be relocated so the correct app can see it. Currently downloading a pdf is a good example of this. The document viewer doesn't open it if I chose that as the action for the download. Instead I must save to Downloads and later move to Documents.

    • sometimes I discover there is a problem with space and need to quickly delete some music.

    • When samba was working, I used it to access documents on the home share. It worked very nicely.

    • Which are the most important features for you?
      Bookmarks for fast navigation
      Swipe up from bottom for quick access to other volumes

    • Which are the common tasks you try to accomplish?
      Fix file locations so the correct app can see them (usually move from Downloads to ./Videos or ./Music, for example.
      Delete when space is tight.
      Access samba shares to use media that wouldn't fit on the device (I have a large collection on the home server, I can copy a little at a time and delete later).

    • How the current version of File Manager fails to meet your expectations?
      It's actually very good. I have no complaints, other than Samba no longer works.

  • Nice to see so many replies, thank you all for your help!
    I'll try to keep this very brief. 🙂

    I see that moving files is somehow more important than other operations. We'll try to respect this evidence.

    There will be improvements for the user interface, we want to be consistent with Suru specs as much as possible.
    However there could be some exceptions, since a File Manager allows an high number of advanced features.
    Our keyword here is probably "predictability" rather than "consistency".
    In any case, we'll wave back to the forum once we have our first mockups. 😃
    We want to keep things as transparent as possible

    I’m glad you mentioned "checking downloaded files" or "delete [files] when space is tight". We were expecting similar replies, and we’ve got a confirmation of how relevant is making such actions easier to perform.

    SD card access: we'll probably allow it. According to the consensus we had at the App Devs meeting, there's no reason to prevent this.

    Tabs: many of your replies concern this. This is for sure on our To-Do list. Implementation is still TBD.

    Search: Yes, it's on the list. 😉

    Scripts: This is an interesting option for the future, however it’s a feature that needs to be wisely designed. I think we’ll keep it in consideration for a mid term.

  • @Emanuele-Sorce

    Leaving the security questions apart[1] , you've greatly summarized the reason of our research. 🙂
    File Manager escapes any abstraction provided by the system, but other apps don't. We end up with an unconfined app that actually seems even more "caged" than others.

    I’m planning two different strategies in order to solve this:

    1. extend ContentHub capabilities (e.g. mimetype support, and being more transparent with default apps);
    2. add some basic tool in the FM itself (a simple image viewer and a text editor, mainly).

    Anyway, it's great to read you're going to improve SD card management, this would be a big change 😃


    [1] It’s all about enforcing consistent policies. We just had some early discussion on this topic for now, but I’m sure others will follow

  • @TLF I see you mentioned Document Viewer. I proposed a patch for this issue more than an year ago. I've pinged Canonical people several times, nobody cared to release an update in the Ubuntu Store - this is something somehow sad.

    As former DocViewer developer, I'm really sorry to read this and I want to apologize.
    I'll try to win my resistance, and plan to release a few small fixes in order to solve those issues that appeared over time.

  • I think the main reason to use a file manager is convenience so the more options, the better.

    A file manager must have:

    • Basic functions like copy, paste, and cut just not for single files but for bulk.
    • The ability to edit files directly.
    • The ability to move files locally and to remote places.
    • The ability to select an application by default to access each type of file
    • File search

  • +I need a way to start an app after choosing a content and not choose a content after starting an app. honestly when I work I hate the in-app gallery/library/playlist (though I find them useful when I explore my files when relaxing), also because my work is basically editing various typology of files organized by task and not by typology.
    in a confined OS like UBport, in its future snap architecture, I really need a trusted app to easily choose and give an access/edit permission to an app non-owner of a specific file.

    • all the stuffs, already said by others, regarding search-cut-paste-copy-link-rename-(un)zip files

    1. UTs philosophy is to be open so a file manager with which you can access the phone fully (not just files by content category like gallery/music) is important.

    2. Copy/Delete files. Renaming files. Get information about files

    3. Getting an overview wether files are on phone or SD card. Some use cases like getting information about image files might be better done in gallery. But since the gallery is really lacking atm I have to do this in the file manager. There is no way to see the size or resolution or an info about a picture in the gallery for example.

    4. select all missing. Some UI stuff, like the "Places" header hiding the path input

  • One thing that I miss is to get information about the size of a folder with all the things in it. I can see the size of the single files, but not the folders size. If I want to know this I have to open the terminal app

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