Re: Suggestion for file type detection approach

Christophe Fergeau <teuf gnome org> writes:

> I'm thinking about my parents, sisters, neightbours, for whom a
> computer isn't a really fun toy, but a tool which constantly annoy
> them while they are trying to get work done.

Hey, thats exactly how I think of filetype detection by content, its
this annoying little tool that always gets in the way when I will get
work done =:)

> I'm more interested in making a desktop these kind of people can use
> without needing help

I agree on that. But I think Gnome should become a useable desktop for
everyone, not just for the imaginary clueless. After all there are no
clueless users, but a whole number of users with different levels of
knowledge of there computers and some will even evolve from being
completly clueless to you typicall computer geek.

> than arguing about "file name matching being better than content
> sniffing because it's easier to fix problems with file name matching
> because everyone should know by heart that excel files have a .xls
> extension, pictures have a .jpg extension, ..."

As already said, if file-suffix gets wrong on renaming the file the
user will get a warning message and an option to undo it in both MacOS
and Windows. The user does something and gets an apropriate response.
Easy to avoid, easy to detect.

However with guessing on content the thing gets wrong without the user
doing anything wrong, the computer is going goofy, leaving the user
with no way to fix it, with no warning on what went wrong, nothing.
And well, if my mom hates some things about computers, its exactly
such automatic "guess around and know better than the user" behaviour.

After all file-type guessing on content is helpfull, but only if the
suffix is already wrong. Then filetype-guessing can present a last
resort that might save the user a lot of throuble. But having filetype
guessing on content being the default behaviour does really no good, I
have been run in a whole more miss detection, than my mom ever ran in
incorrect file-suffixes. And as already said, the last one is easily
fixable, even by my mom if I explain it to her, the former one makes
the whole system unusable. Something that is real anoying about some
software is 'knowing it better than the user' behaviour, this is
exactly what makes mom and dad not like computers.

I would suggest to get rid of content-guessing at default and
replacing it with good old file-suffix behaviour as all other OSs do
it. Having in addition a file-contentent guessing if the filename
doesn't provide any hint or if the application wasn't able to open the
file could be a very nice addition, but really only then. Programms
that think they are more clever than the user are the problem, not the

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