Chandler and the New Desktop

Technology Review (via WSJ) writes about Mitch “Chandler” Kapor’s “new, more intuitive computer interface puts all the information we need to manage our digital lives at our fingertips, no matter what form it’s in”:

the software promises to put all related e-mail messages, spreadsheets, appointment records, addresses, blog entries, word-processing documents, digital photos, and what-have-you in one place at one time: no more opening program after program looking for the items related to a specific topic. It takes the core functions of Microsoft Outlook, the Palm Desktop, and other personal information management programs and integrates them with the rest of your PC and the Internet. All the information you need to complete a given task or project is grouped on-screen, organized around the one function — e-mail — Mr. Kapor sees as the central conduit of our electronic lives.

Because Chandler presents information in its logical context — displaying all related items together — and not in the separate folders and application windows of the traditional desktop computer system, you can think of it as a new way into your computer.

At stake is a new, more intuitive way of handling information that could be as revolutionary as the replacement of the text-based, command-line interfaces of the earliest personal computers with graphical computer desktops.

The “to-do” screen, for example, could be a context, with e-mail mixed in with related task items. So if you’re planning a party, Chandler might put a calendar with key dates on it (when to pick up a cake, say), the invitation form, RSVPs, a task list, and even a budget on-screen at once. When a guest’s e-mail request for veggie hors d’oeuvres arrives, arranging for them would automatically be added to your to-do list. Contexts will mean Chandler can reorganize the screen every time the user shifts between projects, as if she were replacing her desk with a new one. That’s a far cry from today’s software, which forces people to dig through applications and file folders to find things, and to print them out if they want to see everything in one place.

Driving some of Chandler’s flexibility will be a technology with a checkered past: software agents. These are small pieces of code typically designed to perform individual tasks, such as beeping when an e-mail message arrives.

Definitely something to watch. What makes it even more attractive is that Chandler is open-source.


Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.