Why I love (and hate) Panorama

I’ve been trying to get back to living my life in a task-centric manner, and Firefox Panorama, without necessarily being designed for those goals, is perfect for it. Someone else put the words in my mouth: when you’re trying to do task-centric computing, what you need is not just a place to dump tasks (a task organizer) but also a good task switcher. Virtual desktops (in either Linux or OSX) can be used to dump tasks, but they lack effective visual task switchers. Once you get used to Tab Candy, in contrast, it is an effective way to give you an overview of the tasks you’re handling and move between them in a quick, fairly non-distracting manner.

Unfortunately, it also drives me nuts, because it isn’t comprehensive. I’m very rarely using new desktop apps these days, but I’m still stuck with a lot of old ones (particularly until there is a competent, secure, self-hosted web-based word processor) and not being able to interact with them through panorama is driving me insane; it means switching back and forth between two different mental models on a regular basis, and that is painful. I’ve literally found myself trying to drag application windows into my Panorama desktop. That’s just not good, and I really hope someone uses the Panorama idea for a complete desktop soon.

(Note that despite the original name of tab candy, I don’t think ‘tabs’ is really the important thing here- the important thing is grouping data/applications together, and then having a good high-level overview of the groups when switching between them. That clicking on a collection-task brings up a ffox window with a bunch of tabs, rather than a desktop with a bunch of windows, is (I think) an implementation detail; I’d be happy with a similar organization for ‘traditional’ desktops without tabs as a starting place.)