I've been doing some thinking recently on how everyone searches for an app. So far I have identified the five primary methods that are listed below. Please drop by the forums and let everyone know how you do it. We'd love to hear from you and will use the comments to better tailor this site to meet your needs. Stories about what you have had a hard time finding on Linux App Finder would be great.
In the descriptions below I'll explain what I came up with and also state how Linux App Finder either supports it or some ways that are being considered.
App Finding Methods
- Browsing lists
- Specific tasks
- Specific features
- Alternatives to a known application
Browsing lists is a great way to find an app when you have a vague idea of what you are looking for, need a program that fits easily into a category, or you just want to see what's out there. This method also encompasses the others, but with less efficiency. Linux App Finder is currently built around categories that start from All Applications and get progressively refined with each additional selection. It's an essential function, but one that needs support.
The second method is searching for keywords, and it is for this purpose that both the Google search box and Linux App Finder's built in search both exist. The Google search does a good job in finding any words that appear on the page and can also be used for more advanced queries. It's primary flaw is that the Google index will not always have the latest content.
The built-in search field that appears on each category page runs real-time queries, but it is also limited. The primary limitation is that is only searches using a single word or phrase. Its keys strengths are accuracy and real-time results that can look through only the program's name or its name, description, and a few associated keywords.
The next three tasks are where the current features of Linux App Finder are no longer sufficient. Searches based on specific tasks or features will sometimes find what you are looking for, but not always. And depending upon the number of results found, it may be hard to filter out the apps you are really interested in.
Looking for alternatives to a known application is of particular importance to the GNU/Linux user because most new users started with another OS (mostly Windows). If you spend much time reading a Linux forum, site, or magazine it doesn't take long to see an example of this. Browsing similar categories can provide a good starting point, but you may also be distracted by apps that have a different focus or are not real feature equivalent alternatives.
At this point you might be wondering how these deficiencies will be addressed, so I'll get to the point. While there is no specific timeline on implementing these features, there are some plans. I consider alternative applications to be the most useful of what isn't covered, so I'll likely start there first. The new section, that I'm tentatively calling "Switching From Windows", will feature a category listing of its own, but will contain Windows apps instead of Linux ones.
In some cases the app might reference itself because it is supported on both Windows and Linux, but the most useful cases will be programs that are Windows only. When you select the app's link it will take you to a Wiki with information about features and alternatives. I plan to add content for the initial Windows programs that are listed, but registered visitors will be able to add their own opinions and additional equivalent apps. It will also be possible to add a new Windows app to the category listings.