For example, document icons are no longer a hint of the type of file, but rather a small picture of the file itself. The icon for a Word document, for example, is a tiny iteration of the first page of the file. Folders, too, show glimpses of what’s inside. Such images can be rather small, but they offer a visual cue that [assists] in the searching process, Allchin said.
The K Desktop Environment‘s Konqueror has supported icon thumbnails for numerous document types and folder content hints for several years. Apparently, the KDE developers have a time machine that allowed them to travel to 20xx so they could steal these “innovations” from Longhorn!
- File thumbnails
- MP3 audio*
- JPEG (PNG and many other image types are also supported)
- KPresenter document (the KOffice slideware component)
- KSpread document (the KOffice spreadsheet)
- KWord document (the KOffice word processor)
- MPEG-4 Video
- AVI (DivX)
*Konqueror can also preview audio files, playing the file when the mouse cursor is held over the icon for one second or so. It isn’t a must-have feature, but it is kind of cool.
- Folder content hints; these are not custom icons — Konqueror automatically badges the folder with the icon of the majority filetype.
While I am happy to point out that KDE beat Microsoft to the market with these features by several years, they aren’t as useful as one would hope. Seeing a thumbnail of a text document really isn’t much use when it is between 100-200 pixels. I do like image thumbnail icons (which pretty much every environment’s file manager has provided for a while) because they are visually distinct and it is useful with some PDFs. As for folder content hints, they break when a folder contains several different types of files.
Remember: those dirty open source communist hippies just copy Microsoft’s super fabulous products and it’s never the other way around. Ballmer told me so.