Since the news of Do and Docky’s mutual decision to split to better serve users of both apps, a lot of readers have been left confused, worried and annoyed.
To clear things up, get some background on the decision to split and get some juicy insights on the future of Docky, I spoke to Docky developer and all-round nice guy Jason Smith.
Jason talks about the reasons behind the “split”, discusses docklets and themes, why Docky will be in Gnome Do for a bit longer yet, Gnome-Shell’s impact and even hints at a release date for the new standalone Docky!
Well this has something of an interesting history to it, or at least I think it is interesting.
Docky actually started as its own standalone application to begin with (surprise!). At the time it was called MonoDock and never saw a real public release. I made it for one of my CS courses and decided to continue with the concept. The original concept was that Do would export an interface over DBus to allow for remote frontends in other applications. This however never really had time to materialize and so Docky was made a plug-in in the mean time.
What this split is about is going back and righting a lot of the things that got done wrong. Myself and the whole team are working really hard to move toward that original, if not somewhat difficult, goal.
There is one final note I need to make: Docky is under very rapid development, and we need to get a release out the door as soon as possible to start getting user testing on it. This may mean that the very first release of Docky v2.0 may not fully be integrated yet. Those running the GNOME Do PPA do not need to fear this process as Docky v1.0 will not be ripped out from under them until this integration is complete.
There was talk of Gnome Do becoming part of Gnome. Did this have any bearing on the decision for Do and Docky to separate?
Only in passing. I do not believe at current any of the GNOME Do/Docky developers are interested in pushing GNOME Do into GNOME proper. It has been mentioned that this split makes it easier to get Do into GNOME, but that was more of an afterthought.
Docky/Do is one marriage a lot of people are totally smitten with and as such are quite worried about losing the tight integration between Docky and Gnome Do that currently exists. Needing to run two apps instead of one is bound to annoy some users.
What reassurance can you give to any worried Do-Docky fans?
They were in essence two applications being run in the same thread to begin with. If you look at memory usage of GNOME Do with Docky and GNOME Do without Docky it is almost double (this will vary from system to system depending on library size). With this split, the memory footprint overall will remain about the same, but we don’t have to worry about all sorts of weird GTK interactions we were getting before.
Also, if you only use half the feature set (only GNOME Do, or only Docky) you don’t need to run the other half. It’s a win-win I think.
Features such as being able to control banshee from the Dock icon – will these be maintained and supported in Docky?
Yes. Though in a different manner.
Previously this was implemented via GNOME Do plug-ins, this will change to allow for *better* integration with Docky. I wont give away all the fun things yet though! This is alpha work people are looking at now. Can’t let you know all the fun plans we have!
And the Docklets; will they be staying, too?
Will they be keeping their current features (such as clock themes, being able to click on the clock docklet to see a calendar, etc)?
Yes, though the dock painters, the things that provide the calendar/weather details, are not implemented yet since they have to be overhauled.
In Docky v1.0, anyone who coded one can tell you it was insanity. Even simple stuff like figuring out how big your painting area was became a pain. We want to make it easier. You’ll still need knowledge of Cairo to do cool stuff, but hopefully the sizing voodoo magic we had before will go away.
Are there plans to include more docklets or plugins with Docky further along the line?
We have some fun ideas. Gotta get that Network Manager docklet!
Personally, I would love to see some new faces working on these as soon as possible! I’ll be putting together a hacking howto to match our first release.
One of the newer features i noticed in these early builds of Docky are the inclusion of four Docky ‘themes’. Do you plan to make add a “framework” for installing extra themes? Will you be including extra themes in later releases?
We do have plans to make theming possible for users. In fact users can already install custom themes if they want. There is no blessed way to do it yet, but its as easy as making a folder in ~/.local/share/docky/themes. Then sticking in a properly sized background.svg and menu.svg. Of course in the future there will be a nice DND way to do it with a tar.gz. No promise on it working if you rename foo.png to foo.svg.
If you could click your fingers and implement one feature into Docky with no hassle what would it be?
Drag and drop between docks. I have been wrestling with this in my head for about a week now and its just not going to be easy. It’s actually a very subtle problem to handle properly without artifacting in any way.
Gnome-Shell. It’s somewhat of an elephant in the room and seems to be universally not-liked by those who’ve tried it.
Where do you see Docky fitting in with regards to Gnome-Shell?
Hmmm, well this is a hard question to answer really. Docky v2.0 will be designed to work with GNOME Shell but I doubt we will target it exclusively. I think GNOME Shell is at a crucial point right now and that it can either make or break a lot of applications like Docky by decisions it makes. I know this is vague but I don’t want to start a FUD-fest around shell until they have a chance to do things right.
Do you feel it enhances or encroaches on any features of Docky?
I feel it has little to do with Docky but it makes Docky nicer to have. I use both standard GNOME 2.26 setups and (occasionally) a GNOME Shell setup as well as my Docky setup. After doing this it become clear to me that while I can live without docky in GNOME 2.26, in GNOME Shell I feel rather lost without it.
When will Docky see its first stand alone release?
Docky as a concept is less than a year old. In fact the very first release of MonoDock, which was internal and only shown to other dev team members happened on Nov 13, 2008.
Now I can’t say anything for sure about this date, but it has personal significance to me…
Big thanks to Jason for taking the time to answer my questions.
Scrolling through the blueprints on the Docky launchpad page also gives up some insight in the sheer awesomeness that Docky will morph into now it’s pandering to it’s own destiny. I’ve summarised them below, but take a look at the official Docky blueprint page for information.
- Right click once to see dock item menus
“When the user moves the mouse to another item in the dock the right click menu moves on to that item and transforms into its right click menu. This gives the user an option to scan through multiple windows open for multiple applications with just one right click.”
- Drag And Drop Documents/Files onto icons to open up with them
- A feature similar to AWN’s “gridview”
- Shadows on icons