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Tenor, The Context Link Engine - page 5

Traditional File Managers--Good, Not-So-Good, and Best-of-Breed

  • April 13, 2005
  • By Kurt Pfeifle

Tenor will be unlike other "search tools" that currently exist. It is not a mere filename- and extension-indexing mechanism, married to a "locate"-like database, nor does it simply search the text of meta data or text inside of documents. Tenor does much more and reaches beyond anything else that has ever attempted to help users handle large amounts of personal files and data, finding the proverbial "needle in the haystack" piece of info by using stored contextual attributes. The recalled contextual info lends itself even to "Context Ranking" algorithms. (Google, are you listening?)

Recently Scott was invited to present his groundbraking concept to the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. One of their workgroups has been asking similar questions regarding the sheer mass of digital information to be handled by users. The group, working and researching on the Microsoft OS platform, is concentrating its efforts primarily onto the semantic desktop which draws its inspiration from W3C's RDF definitions.

Scott told me this about their resulting discussions: "It was interesting--I mean, we focused on the differences in our research, but it was encouraging to see how similar their solutions to similar problems were to the design of Tenor. There were quite a few jokes afterwards about the whole lab switching over to KDE (from Windows) once we get this working."

Scott's contextual linkage engine, itself nearly invisible to the user, will drive the "Content Browser" that goes one step beyond a traditional file manager. Content browsing will of course not replace Konqueror's functions, nor will Konqueror go away. Rather, it's legacy file manager skillset will be complemented by the content browser methodology. With the content browser, you will be able to find and use information spread out across your system using the same semantics you use when thinking about or describing that information in day-to-day life. It will also allow you to find and build relationships within your information set.

The effects of Tenor will also be visible everywhere--on the desktop itself, in groupware applications, and in content creation applications. Contextual navigation will make itself even felt when having to deal with the dreaded topic of "configuration" for individual applications as well as the complete desktop environment system. But perhaps it is in the Content Browser that its capabilities will be the most obvious.

Tenor scratches an itch that is present on all workstation OS platforms. Maybe the itch aches more on KDE, since KDE is more flexible, more versatile, and more configurable than any other environment. But the itch exists on mearly every platform.

The APPEAL Desktop Project, a newly formed workgroup inside the KDE community, explores ways to take the next generation of KDE onto a new level. Tenor has been identified by APPEAL as one of the strategically important technologies emerging inside KDE and is therefore taking an active role in supporting its further development. Aaron J. Seigo, KDE core developer and one of APPEAL's members, recently haiku-ed the central ideas behind APPEAL into three items:

"Breathtaking beauty
clarity in interface and
creativity."

With Tenor, creativity is certainly there. And in a not too distant future it will hopefully help me find the "attomic information" needles inside my 1,635,315 file-hard disk haystack.

Kurt Pfeifle has been involved with the KDE project since version 2.2, mainly with KDEPrint. A contributor to the APPEAL Desktop Project and Linuxprinting.org, Kurt is the author of several printing and CUPS-related documentents and HOWTOs and the main author of the printing chapters of "The Official Samba HOWTO Collection". In his spare time, Kurt doesn't like to herd cats and loves to go paragliding (and daydream about it).

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