Monthly Archives: September 2009

Today I made a (much needed) major rewrite of the “quick-open-tabbles” and “quick-link” dialog boxes. You can now arrange tabbles in many different ways (by name, by color, by color name, be recent usage, etc.) in order to find the tabbles you need more easily without typing anything. (Previously, the dialog was very oriented towards typing. Not so anymore.)

Here is a video of the new arrange feature:

The dialog boxes are also faster and more responsive now. Previously, when you typed a letter, you had a slight lag which could be annoying.

You can find all this in Tabbles 1.1.7,


What now? Well, the next major feature, as announced in previous posts, should be automatic tagging rules.

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It’s powered by Mantis. Why Mantis and not Bugzilla? Read below πŸ™‚

The background: Many people asked us to install Bugzilla. As nothing was happening, they eventually started threatening me (specially Maurizio). On Sunday I started trying to install Bugzilla on our *inexpensive* shared hosting.

Since then (for the last 2 days) I’ve been fighting with:

(I won!)

(I won!)
MySQL + our hosting
(I’ve lost, but I fought a lot)

MySQL on another hosting
(!!!) (I’ve lost here too…)

The issue is that Bugzilla requires the db tables (not the tabbles πŸ˜€ ) to be formatted using InnoDB, and not the old-school MyISAM.
There is a good reason for this: InnoDB supports row-locking, making the db more stable (although a bit slower). Because of this, our hosting doesn’t allow shared hostings to have their db formatted using InnoDB…of course I found this our at the very last second of the Bugzilla setup process.
But I didn’t give up yet: I asked around and someone pointed me to an italian hosting service that would offer a free hosting plan including InnoDB: while this all corresponds to reality, I later figured out that they won’t accept connection to the MySQL coming from the outside.

Then I downloaded Mantis and set it up and within some 3-4 minutes it was online and kicking! here you go. πŸ™‚


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As promised, a new arrange feature is available in Tabbles 1.1.7 beta1 (download it here).

Here is a video of the feature:

Arranging tabbles in different ways can be useful to quickly locate a tabble by eyeballing. For example, if you want to quickly locate the tabble you have opened ten minutes ago, you may want to sort tabbles by recent usage (i.e. with the “recently opened tabbles first” menu option).

If you used to like categories, the “group by color name” arrangement is for you.

The video cycles the available layouts (more layouts are coming).

I am planning to offer the same arrangements in the “quick-open tabble” dialog box as well.

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Hello world,

The issue
Many people have been asking things like “but does it tag the files by itself or do I have to do all the work by myself?”. So far we’ve been answering “no, because it wouldn’t be possible to understand what a file is about, without the user telling it to Tabbles…”.
This was true until a couple of hours ago.

The Man(uelo)
Maurizio has a very good friend named Emanuele. For some reason Maurizio found it funny to bend his friend’s name into the somewhat comical “Manuelo“. Apart from getting names and getting mocked for his legendary rebellious haircut, Manuelo is also a kickass developer and – most important – sometimes he has ideas. This time it wasn’t actually him who had the idea, it was a friend of him (whose identity has not been disclosed yet) but we suppose that it was indeed an elaboration of the two characters together. Thanks go to both!

The idea
The core of the idea is the following: we are all used to categorize our files into folders and subfolders. Example:
– 2009
— Customer Alfa
— Project Beta
—- Brochures
(I apologize for being a marketing guy, I can’t think of anything else than brochures, but I guess you got the point).
When the typical user starts using Tabbles, he/she is overwhelmed by his folders, by their complexity and by how hard and how long it takes to find a file or to get files grouped in a bit of an elastic way. I believe this is assumption is pretty realistic in most of the cases.
So, in the structure above, if a file is in that “Project Beta” folder, you may well assume that all the files in that folders are linked to the Project Beta, right?
You may also assume that all the files in that particular “Project Beta” folder (there might be more than one in your HD with that name) are also linked to the Customer Alpha and to the year 2009…correct? I believe you see already where I’m heading to πŸ™‚

The idea goes into Tabbles
What we’re implementing right now (it should take a day of work or so due to our file-system watcher technology) is a set of rules allowing the user to auto-tag a file based on where it is on the HD.

– 2009………………..-> tabble “2009
— Customer Alfa……….-> tabble “Customer Alfa
— Project Beta……….-> tabble “Project Beta
—- Brochures…………-> tabble “Brochures

And subfolder will inherit the tagging rule of their parent folders: in the example above, a file called myfile.pdf inside that “Brochure” subfolder, would be automatically tagged with all the tabbles coming from the folders (rules) above, in a waterfall style:
– 2009
— Customer Alfa
— Project Beta
—- Brochures
…….|_ myfile.pdf -> tabbles2009“, “Customer Alfa“, “Project Beta“, “Brochures

...because tabbles are not folders
Now, some of your might be thinking: “ok, what’s the deal here?”. Well, the deal is that tabbles are not folders. Tabbles are both a tag and a virtual folder, depending on what you’re doing in that moment. Let me elaborate. Let’s say that on your HDs (or on a USB stick or on network drive!) you have:
Customer Alfa
Project Beta
—- Brochures
…….|_ myfile.pdf
Customer Alfa
Project Beta
—- Part 1
—– Brochures
………|_ myfile_2.pdf
Customer Alfa
Project X
—– Brochures
………|_ myfile_3.pdf

– the file myfile.pdf will be tagged with the tabbles2009” “Customer Alfa” “Project Beta” “Brochures“.
– the file myfile_2.pdf will be tagged with the tabbles2008” “Customer Alfa” “Project Beta” “Brochures“. (I omitted “part 1” to show that you don’t need to tag everything)
– the file myfile_3.pdf will be tagged with the tabbles2009” “Customer Alfa” “Project X” “John” “Brochures“.
The benefit
This means that:
-if you Combine the tabblesCustomer Alfa” and “Brochures“, you will get the files myfile.pdf, myfile_2.pdf and myfile_3.pdf.
-if you Combine the tabblesCustomer Alfa“, “Brochures” and “2009“you will get only the files myfile.pdf and myfile_3.pdf.
Yeah! πŸ˜€
Cool, isn’t it? πŸ™‚
This is what we call Horizontal browsing: it allows you to browse an sort files independently on their physical location…which in return is what a virtual file system is about.
Well, the only thing I can comment is: why in the world we didn’t think of this before? :-O
And then I should add: thank you Manuelo, your electric haircut made our day! πŸ˜€
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A new version of Tabbles (1.1.6) is available. You can download it at our web site.

Here are the changes:

  • Due to popular request, a tabble alignment feature was added. You can choose two alignment modes: auto-alignment, where tabbles are aligned automatically after each drag; and manual alignment, where tabbles are aligned when you press ALT+q.

    Auto-alignment is enabled by default. You can find the new alignment functions in the “misc” menu.

  • You can now delete tabble colors even if they are being used by some tabbles. This way it is much easier to reduce the number of colors. (And, due to the recent changes, you are likely to have many more colors than you want.)
  • The “quick-open tabble” dialog was slightly modified. Now, in the left panel, tabbles are sorted alphabetically and grouped by first letter. (Previously they were grouped by color.)


We have also planned the next major feature: we are going to make it possible to auto-arrange tabbles in many ways:

  • spatial (the current arrangement – tabbles stay where you put them);
  • alphabetical (tabbles are sorted alphabetically);
  • recently opened tabbles first,
  • recently linked tabbles first,
  • frequently opened tabbles first,
  • tabbles with more files first;
  • group by color,
  • group by color name (similar to category view).

The last arrangement will layout tabbles as they used to be in the old “category view” (present in previous versions of Tabbles), but in a less invasive way. So, if you used to like category mode and dislike the current spatial arrangement, stay tuned!

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Here is a new video of the upcoming auto-alignment feature:

In the previous video, I was executing the auto-alignment manually. In this video, auto-alignment happens automatically, each time I drag a tabble or a group of tabbles.

You have the option whether to execute auto-alignment manually or automatically after each drag.

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As promised, an auto-alignment function is ready.

Here is a video of the feature:

We are currently testing the feature and will release it as soon as possible.

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Let’s talk about the ALT+c dialog box (aka quick-open tabbles) (see the above picture). This is one of the most important features in tabbles, one which increases your productivity a lot.

A user complained (hi nefycee!) of the new appearance of this dialog box. Now that categories are gone, in the left panel you only see a list of colors (until you type something). So he does not know what color to pick to reach the tabble he has in mind. Isn’t this the same problem I described with categories (i.e. having to click an intermediate concept before clicking the concept you want), just made worse?

This would be true, if that were the way the quick-open dialog box is meant to be used. But it is not so. The dialog is meant to be used as follows:

  • type the first letter (or the first few letters) of the tabble you have in mind. (Then the auto-completion list comes up). then
  • press down-arrow until you highlight the tabble you desire; then
  • press ENTER to add the tabble to the list of tabbles-to-be-combined.
  • Repeat the above procedure to select another tabble, or press ENTER to open the combination you have composed.

(click the picture above for an example of auto-completion in action.)


I see some possible objections to this way of working:

1. What if I don’t like typing? I mean, what if I can’t be bothered to type one letter? Well, if you have recently used the tabble you are looking for, you can find it in the recent list (the list to the right in the picture). So you don’t need to type a letter in this case.

What if I don’t like typing and I haven’t used the tabble I am looking for in a long time? But this, by definition, happens rarely. It’s ok if you rarely have to type one letter.

(I am also considering grouping tabbles by first letter when you haven’t typed any letter; so you can click the first letter. But I am not sure this is needed and I am afraid it could be misleading, leading the user to think the preffered way to use the dialog box is to click around.)

2. What if I don’t know the name of the tabble I am looking for, so I don’t know what letter to type? Well, but this means you don’t have any specific tabble in mind, that is, you are just browsing. But then you shouldn’t be using this dialog in the first place. πŸ™‚ This is called the “quick-open” dialog, after all. You use it when you want to open a tabble (or a combination) that you already have in mind.


So I don’t see meaningful objections, once you understand how the quick-open dialog is meant to be used. (If you disagree, please let me know.)

But a question remains: why was nefycee under the impression that the dialog was meant to be used in a different way from what I described above? Probably because the fact that you see the colors (until you type anything) is misleading. This is true, and I think it should be changed, but I haven’t had time yet. I think it would be better if, when you haven’t typed any letter, you saw a flat list of tabbles, ordered by name (maybe grouped by first letter?).

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Last night (well, five hours ago :P) I said that today I would have added an auto-align feature and a snap-to-grid feature. I still want to do it (if Andrea and Irma approve it), but I realized there’s a complication.

We are planning to make tabbles scale automatically according to the number of files they contain. (Think of an ordinary tag cloud, where some tags are bigger because they are more important.) So tabbles will all have different sizes. That would make the alignment features almost (if not completely) useless.

Why do I want to make tabbles resize automatically? Because this could be useful when browsing someone else’s tabbles. When you don’t know what tabbles are present in a database, and want to learn it, it is very important that the most important tabbles are more evident. So auto-scaling is an important feature, especially because we are about to create a collaborate feature with which users in a LAN will be able to share their tabbles (and files).

So we have two conflicting features, and it is not yet clear to me how to solve the conflict.

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Judge for yourself if my Tabbles desktop is pretty πŸ™‚

(click picture to enlarge)

Of course I have many more tabbles, but I have hidden them from the ground floor. (I open the hidden tabbles with ALT+c). In general, I only use the ground floor for tabbles that I want to click for first; later I use the “suggested tabbles” panel, from the first floor, to refine the search. This is an important querying technique that I think you should master; it is quicker than keeping many tabbles on the ground floor and searching them with your eyes.


In other news, I am receiving the first complaints about removing categories. (Fortunately, nothing that can’t be fixed in a better way, and without reinventing folders, which is what categories were).

I am replying in detail tomorrow. First thing I do tomorrow, I will program an auto-align feature and a snap-to-grid feature.

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Download Area

Tabbles 4.1.7

(~ 9MB) Compatible with: Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10. For LAN mode, it requires Sql Server Express 2008 or above, or LocalDB

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