Long absent drag-and-drop feature from Nautilus

On both Windows and macOS, it is possible to run a program against a bunch of files by dragging and dropping them onto a program icon. I want to say CDE did this too, but that was so long ago my memory is unreliable.

There were, as I recall, multiple requests for this in Bugzilla years ago.

This is not something that is accommodated by dragging files to the activities overview and then to an app from there.

The use case is that the user has some repeated task that has been automated with a simple shell script. The shell script is in some convenient place to be a drop target. The files are wherever they are. Instead of opening a terminal and doing a lot of typing, the files can just be dragged onto the shell script icon, which then receives the file paths as arguments.

Adding the shell script to an “Open With” menu is not an option either. For one thing, how do you even do that? For another thing, the user might have a lot of such scripts and the menu could get too long.

This isn’t just something for developers or advanced users. The author of the shell script could be different from the user of the shell script. This was the case in my last job, where, on Windows, I had created just such a script to help my users with their data processing.

If you search, you can find complaints about where this doesn’t work on Windows. Old Windows batch files (.bat) are drop targets, but newer PowerShell files (.ps1) are not. There are various hacks described to make dropping files work for PowerShell too. There used to be a hack with .desktop files to make it work for Nautilus; I don’t know if that hack still works.

Even if you want drag and drop, I think we can still discuss an experience like opening files with another app (“Open With”). That way, we have an alternative that might be viable, even if it’s not your ideal.

Here is an alternative proposal (this inspired by the development of the new “New Document” feature):

  • The user places all scripts in a “Scripts” folder (as for Templates).
  • An entry “Open With Script” is added in the context menu and opens a dialog box or a submenu. This dialog box or submenu has a search entry for convenience.
  • Maybe also be able to use recent scripts and associate file extensions with scripts.

Another tip: name your topics with the general feature you want, e.g. “Open files/folders with scripts”. This might get more attention from other users and gives more flexibility on the options that can be offered (e.g. drag and drop and the alternative I offer in this case).

I really do not understand the resistance to the way things have worked for 30 years.

I don’t know if there is any resistance to using drag and drop for this feature. But I think it’s better to provide alternatives (or other options to be exact) that can be complementary to drag and drop or really alternatives in case dnd is not accepted. Does this clear up any confusion because I used the word “alternative”?

I don’t mean just this or all the other drag-and-drop shortcomings. I’ll leave it at that so I don’t write a polemic.

Please definitely don’t write a polemic on this subject. Your first comment starting the topic is good and relevant and avoids bad arguments. But saying stuff along the lines of “some other system did this 30 years ago therefore we should do it now” is not a good argument for anything. What matters is how it can benefit GNOME users now, not ones 30 years in the past…

I use various features when I use Windows and Mac too, but I don’t expect GNOME to copy all of them. Just the ones that are good and appropriate for GNOME users. From the last 30 years also includes 30 years ago so either way if you take that angle then you have to make the case there is no better way to do this that someone came up with in the last 30 years. Which is pretty impossible IMO. And that is among other reasons why that angle is unconvincing. Hopefully that explains it.

Insults are really not the way to get your point across, either. Keep the discussion to the benefits of the feature, please.

A benefit is:

A concrete example about file conversion (quoting @Gregory_Merchan from Drag-and-Drop Behaviour (#147) · Issues · Teams / Design / os-mockups · GitLab):

I’ll use myself as an example, but I use Windows at work. Every month there’s a report generated which has to be reformatted to be processed by another system. Someone else downloads the report and feeds it to the other system. I open the folder containing the report and my folder containing useful scripts. I drop the report on the right script and a moment later the reformatted report is ready in the original folder. I email the guy who downloaded the original report and he carries on with his job.

I think there is also the case of batch converting images (where it could be a script launching a specific app action that displays the conversion options).

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