Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: WebDAV and Usability Testing

Posted by Andrew Grumet on
Hi Bruce!

<blockquote>what is the state of the feature's development, and as we
will start playing with it, how might we best go about
forming intelligent and helpful commentaries?

Regarding the state of feature development, I can't speak to the universe of people involved, but for my part I've spent about a week now working with Sloan on the user side and coordinating with Dave Bauer on the development side .  Sloan's getting ready to deploy this on SloanSpace.

When Sloan started looking at this on the OACS 5.1/.LRN 2.1 branch, we found it to be in pretty good shape from the mechanics POV.  The basic drag-and-drop file transfers are working as expected.  Once the user has set up a "network place" corresponding to a file-storage folder, they may drag files and folders into a Windows Explorer or Mac Finder window.  The dragged files/folders are uploaded into OACS/.LRN at which point they will also appear in the Web browser view.  Dragging in a new version of a file will create a new revision in file-storage, verifiable by looking at the "properties" view of the file.

Files may be launched from a WebDav view.  If the application associated with a particular file supports WebDav, something magical happens.  For example, if I double-click SomeFile.doc from the WebDav view on Windows XP and I have Microsoft Word installed on my machine, the file will open in Microsoft Word.  If I edit the file and hit Ctrl-S to save it, assuming I have sufficient rights, the file will be saved back to OpenACS as a new revision.

This won't work for every file type.  For example, plaintext files (.txt extension) do not open in Notepad, but rather in the Web browser.  Presumably Notepad doesn't support WebDav.

Other operations that are supported in the WebDav view: renaming folders and files, deleting folders and files.

Sloan recently added the ability to restrict to SSL, to prevent sending passwords in the clear.  This is committed to OpenACS CVS on the 5.1 branch.  This has been tested and works with Windows XP.  Unfortunately, Mac OSX Finder doesn't yet support WebDAV+SSL out of the box, so institutions needing Mac support will either have to jump through some hoops or live with sending their passwords in the clear.

Our efforts now are focussed on how to expose this feature to users in as friendly and unconfusing a way as possible.  Should we ask users to set up a network place for every folder, or try to offer them a "master network place" from which they can navigate to all their folders using standard file browsing, e.g. Windows Explorer and Mac Finder?  Is there a way to bypass the Network Place wizard and go right to a WebDav view from a hyperlink?  What wording should we use to describe the WebDav feature, "drag and drop"?  Where on the page is the best place to link to the feature, and what exactly should we link to?