May 16, 2011

GDesk on the Nokia 5800: more details

GDesk is a work in progress. This is painfully obvious when you begin trying to configure or edit the existing UI.

Toggling the "edit" mode happens via the Design menu item. Once you toggle the edit mode, you are now able to modify the content and placement of the various icons on the interface.

What you can do though is severely limited. The first, and most glaring problem is the lack of an undo option. This puts you in a strangely tentative mode while editing. To add to it, there is no easy way to manage the z-index. So if you have overlapping elements, it seems like what ends up on top is something you have no control over. A couple of slips of the stylus and the only option is to Discard Changes and start right over. Saving frequently is probably the only approach to successfully making big changes.

That said, there is still a lot you can do. You can set up icons and links, change their sizes and use many of the active elements supplied by GDesk.

Editing is not the only thing that is half-baked. After using the interface for a while, it feels like I am ready to get back to the original UI. There are several reasons for that.

  • First and most importantly, this is not a complete replacement of the UI. All applications still look exactly the same as under the original UI. This is merely an alternate home screen.
  • While on the subjects of home screens, GDesk does not really replace it. Instead, it is full screen program, configured to jump in everytime you go to the home screen.
  • Most elements on the UI are not configurable. It does seem to have a title-bar but no way to edit it's properties.
  • GDesk is limited in terms of how much you can talk to the underlying phone, and how much the phone can talk to you. Notification is the key gap here. Each notification capability needs to be programmed separately, and right now the only notifications programmed are the SMS and battery. This means you cannot see if you have missed calls, emails or other alerts.
  • The other capability I missed was the ability to choose the profile directly. This meant 5 or 6 taps to switch to and from silent; instead of the usual 2.

Overall GDesk is more a way to get some good eye candy and not really a replacement UI. But again, this was little more than a beta, and something Nokia never thought to run with.

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