Menu Discoverability In Ubuntu 11.10

Before I get started I want to provide a cast-iron caveat here: I am not a professional interface designer. While I have an interest in interaction design and usability, it is not my profession and most of my experience is from working on spare-time projects and developing interfaces for those projects. In other words…the views expressed here are not born from formal training.

OK, with that out of the way I just wanted to talk about menus a little. Recently we released Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 1 and there was the requisite review on OMG! Ubuntu! and the conversation in the reader comments rather unsurprisingly descended into a debate about the menus and window controls in Ubuntu 11.10.

Let me explain the source of the debate. Here is a screenshot of Firefox in Ubuntu 11.10:

As you can see there are no windows buttons up there in the top-left corner of the screen and the menus are not visible either. All you can see is the application title. If you hover over the application title the windows buttons and menus appear so you can use them.

Now, I can understand how this has caused some controversy; the screams of armchair usability pundits rattling off concerns of “this is a regression in discoverability of the menu and windows buttons” can be heard in the galleys of that OMG! Ubuntu article. Conceptually I see their point; if the menu is not visible, and it is not in the application window, how do people find it?

This is a misnomer though. Usability and interaction design is all about balancing the effectiveness and discoverability of an interface with the aesthetics of a beautiful, desirable product that we want to use. We don’t just want to build functional technology; we want to build desirable, pleasurable technology that fits into our lives.

If the argument is that we need to expose functionality for it to become discoverable we can do this but such exposed functionality is often not beautiful and desirable. As an example, this is Microsoft Word with all the toolbars switched on

Clearly having everything switched on does not create a beautiful and desirable interface, and I can understand the retort to this would be “sure, Jono, but menus and window controls are a basic and common function in an interface, so we should prioritize their discoverability and visibility“. I am not sure I would agree with this. While they are an important and useful function in Unity, the point I take issue with is that they need to be visible all the time for people to understand where they are and how they function.

My thesis as to why is pretty simple: people learn by exploration. Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down on a piece of paper the last three devices that you purchased. They might televisions, cell phones, kitchen appliances, games consoles, or whatever else. Every one of these devices comes with it’s own interface to operate it. Now, how many of those devices did you sit down and read the instructions for? I am willing to bet it was close to none.

You learned those devices by poking around, trying things out, clicking, pressing, pushing, and otherwise playing with and exploring it. Many of these devices will have had entirely new interfaces to you which you had not used before, yet you figured them out. Some elements of the interfaces will have been obvious (e.g. buttons protruded to indicate that they can be pressed) and some elements less-so.

This is why I think the menu and window controls decision makes sense. People like to explore, and it will take next to no time for Ubuntu users to discover that hovering over the text in the panel will display the menu and the window controls. The same can be said for discovering that if you hit the left side of the screen the Launcher appears. The point here is that when you have discovered that the menu is there, you don’t need it to be visible all the time.

Instead you can hide it and present a far less cluttered interface. Put it this way, let’s look at the two options:

Personally I think the latter looks far sleeker, less cluttered and pleasant to use. Having used Ubuntu 11.10 for a month or so, this small change has really been a nice touch and I am pleased that these small touches continue to refine the Ubuntu experience into a truly desirable and powerful product that is simple and effective for everyone.

  • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com Benjamin Kerensa

    Gnome2 had a very sleek uncluttered interface ;) the Unity Sidebar takes far more space then two gnome2 panels.

  • Myles Tonnies

    Great piece. I completely agree with the direction that Ubuntu is taking with the menus and windows buttons. This article explains it nicely. Thanks Jono.

  • http://twitter.com/0xfoo Alex

    Your logic is flawed. Just because one extreme is the largest eyesore both in aesthetics and usability does not make the opposite extreme the most desirable design choice. Although you argue that people will “poke around” and find functionality for themselves you are limiting your view to those customers that are completely reliant on the standard toolbar menu layout. You talk about how people don’t read the directions on new devices, but I also present the frustration they experience when a method for the customer to perform a task is not readily apparent in some intuitive way. Ultimately, by relying on an assumption that everybody that will ever use Ubuntu will know exactly how a window should be laid out you are alienating Ubuntu as an intuitive operating system for those people wishing to switch to it. Although you may argue that it makes sense from an artistic standpoint, from a human standpoint it relies too heavily upon an ingrained bias to reliably be used.

  • Jon

    Sure I can understand the desire to make the interface beautiful and desirable.  Is going to the opposite extreme from the MS example you show correct?  Just from my own experience showing other people how to use systems, non-techie people, if they can’t see it they seem to assume it doesn’t exist.  

    How does hiding the visual cues help people?  My girlfriend immediately dismissed Gnome3 because of this, too much is hidden. I had to show her how to use it before she had the confidence to do anything.  Maybe that is the important point here, removing visual cues can leave users who lack confidence not feeling like they know what they are doing, and then they may just dismiss things without giving them a proper chance.

  • http://sheller.posterous.com Št?pán Heller

    I’m not sure that my 55 yrs old mama likes to explore…

  • http://profiles.google.com/jbozman0 James Bozman

    My opinion on this has nothing to do with discoverability, but rather accessibility.  If one is using a touch-screen device, how does one access the menu or window controls?  Do the menu and window controls appear when the user touches the title bar?

  • dorian jaminais

    Hello,

    I can see your point here and I agree that menu should be hidden. Nevertheless, your comparison with the left launcher is a bit flawed. The main difference between both is that the launcher is visible before you open an application, so the user know where to look for. On the other hand the menu is never visible, you have no clue about where to search for it.

    I think it would be better if the menu gets displayed when the application is launching and, after a second, hide itself. It would be just like having the mouse always over the bar when the application is starting. That way, users would have the information of where the menu is hiding while we still have a pretty desktop.

    Dorian

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I mostly agree with what you wrote, it makes sense and it reminds me of how I learned Linux/Unix almost 20 years ago. I cd ‘ed to /usr/bin and I trued running every single executable that was there. If nothing happened I tried the man page.

    Unfortunately this isn’t true for common users. For people that see their computer as a tool that helps them do their work. Most of those people do not want and/or like to explore and a simple operation of moving a mouse pointer to the upper left corner to see if window buttons will magically pop up (because they used to be there) will be a nuisance for them. They’ll start wondering what else is hidden and how long they’ll need to find it.

    People are resilient and they adapt well to new situations, but that doesn’t stop them from whining. :)

    When Windows 95 introduced the START menu and corresponding button it was accompanied by a balloon pop-up. It said: “Click here to start.” There was this big button with a big letters saying START on it and people still needed encouragement to click it.

    Now they don’t have any buttons and nobody is telling them where should they mouse-over.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a nice false dichotomy you’ve got there.

  • Matt Mossholder

    I think the whole hidden/top menu thing is the pits.  Sure, it is “sleek”, but is it useful? Does it benefit users to hide this information, or is it just aesthetics? I would argue that it doesn’t provide a benefit. It is of particularly dubious benefit when you take into account touch interfaces.

  • Anonymous

    I see your point, but I would argue that finding the menu is actually pretty simple, and people will likely find it by accident if nothing else.

    If your premise is that we should not assume that people know how menus and windows work, then I agree that there are these users out there, but I don’t see how hiding the menu is going to make such basic computing interface components any more complex.

  • Anonymous

    Why not? I bet if you watch her on a computer she explores just like anyone else.

  • Anonymous

    Good point, James – I am not sure how it behaves in a touch environment. I assume you touch the window title and the menu appears.

  • http://profiles.google.com/shazzner Chris Hardee

    I think too many old habits die hard. I’m totally in line with this progression; it makes everything cleaner. I’d actually like to see some applications like Opera make use of their global menu buttons in the title bar or as an app-indicator. There really is no reason to have a seldom used menu button scream at you while you browse day to day. My one caveat to all of this is that it should be user-configurable somewhere, without having to wipe Unity.

  • Anonymous

    I think adding a visual cue for first-time users is useful, but I am not sure that constant visibility is a necessary visual cue once you have learned where the menu is.

  • Anonymous

    How so?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078510542 Jim McLeod

    Sleek is nice, but options are my preference. I run Linux on two different machines using two different user interfaces in order to understand what I need to add to my meager little programs. I’m resistant to change yet understand the need to keep pace with modern technology.

    I fought using a mouse when first introduced until the language I was using added it as an option. So I bought a mouse. Today those tabs and arrow keys have totally different meanings and the mouse is essential.

    It use to be that command lines, short-cut keys and directional keys were the only way to move around. Now I point with either a finger or mouse for focus.

    So… my rule is to give my programs a minimum of three different ways to do the same thing. I believe that ought to apply in OS interfaces also. So it goes…

    Jim

  • Anonymous

    Put it this way…if I know the menu is there, what benefit is there in showing it?

    When I walk into my house I don’t look at the light switch when I turn it on, I just know it is there and reach and use it. This is how we work with interfaces.

  • Anonymous

    You can adjust the icon size if you want more space. Use CCSM.

  • Anonymous

    You are presenting the Ubuntu way vs that Office screenshot as the only two possible alternatives.

    I would also like to point out that hitting the left edge of the screen to reveal the launcher is not discoverable. I have seen people restore every maximized window and then start moving all windows to the right. They do this because what is discoverable is that the launcher dodges windows. And so logically to make it come back, those windows must be moved out of the way again.

  • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

    Before OMG! gets blasted as doing “more harm than good” I’d like to point out that it was the ‘conversation’ in the comments that descended into the ‘unsurprising’ rattle rather than that which was written by me as “OMG! Ubuntu!” ;)

    As I expressed in my review, I personally have no issues with the change – but I’m a minimal, neat and tidy kind of guy anyway. 

    As i referenced in my article, the small test I did with family members not “familiar” with Ubuntu showed that once you’ve learnt where the buttons are once you don’t forget. 

    Touchscreen concerns are valid though – currently it’s like trying to play ‘whack a rat’ but with window controls in stead of rats, and a finger instead of a bat. The controls do appear once you “touch” the area” but the moving of buttons to the far left combined with their small sizes results in the Dash button being triggered inadvertently.

  • http://omgubuntu.co.uk/ Joey-Elijah Sneddon

    My 69 year old Auntie found them just fine :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jluckers Joshua Lückers

    Just tell new users where to find the menu via an introduction (maybe when installing or when the user logs in for the first time)? 

  • Anonymous

    Jono, you have missed the point entirely. It’s not about learning where the menus are (although, there is some merit to that argument – they aren’t discoverable). It’s about targetting – we moved to global menus because there are easier to target but then they were hidden, undoing ALL the benefit of that and then making them even harder to target that traditional menus. You might not be a usability guy, and neither am I, but MPT is, and he disagrees with you (https://lists.launchpad.net/ayatana/msg05037.html)

    This is another of Mark’s crazy designs – he should leave it to the usability experts.

  • Sam Bristow

    One advantage of showing the menu is that the user can identify the target for their mouse while they are still moving rather than move their mouse up to un-hide the menu bar then across to select the correct menu.

    For example, say I wanted to perform an action from a menu in Firefox. Firstly, until I am either familiar with what menus are available in this particular application or I move my mouse up to the top of my screen I can’t start to make a decision as to where would be the best place to look.

    Next, even if I’ve the decided that the thing I want is in the “Tools” menu, I have to take another guess as to roughly whereabouts that menu would be along the top of my screen as I can’t actually see it until my mouse gets there.

    This slows down the user and reduces the mental fluidity of the interface. There may be less “clutter” in the interface but it requires slightly more attention every time the use wants to use the menu system.

    Also, all we’ve gained in exchange for this nice visual cue is having the window title. A piece of information that is duplicated less than 20 pixels below… :-/

  • Anonymous

    I see where you guys are coming from with this change, and I’m not totally against it in principle (especially if some tweaks such as first showing the menubar and then fading it out in order to make it clear that it’s up there).

    However, these recent changes have made a lot of assumptions about how other apps make use of these bits of UI. For the typical app, like GEdit, you’re in good shape, and moving the menu bar up there is no problem (well, unless you have focus-follows-mouse, and then it’s a major problem).

    We were bit really hard in VMware Workstation by the changes made in Ubuntu 11.04. Our app is a bit more complicated than the typical GTK+ app, and ripping out the menubar caused several problems. We have some custom things going on in the menus, custom widgets, and they didn’t survive the move to the top of the screen. We also had some other items sitting on the menubar, which of course disappeared. Now we’ve worked around them, but it was hacky, and required digging into the patches made.

    I think one of the major problems here is a lack of standards. If there was a standard for saying “I pull out the menubars,” some way for an app to cleanly say “Don’t do that, you’ll break me,” and some way to be told “I’m taking your menubar, please change your UI as appropriate,” a lot of these problems could go away. As it is right now, we have to have some Ubuntu-specific checks, and as soon as another desktop environment or distro decides to make this same thing happen, we have to have specific checks for them as well.

    Things like moving the menu bar don’t survive the transition to window/app streaming environments. VMware’s Unity feature, where windows pop out of the guest OS in the VM and appear on the desktop, have no way of preserving the menubar right now. That’s something we’d love to fix, but as far as I know, we can’t cleanly do that. (Please let me know if I’m wrong!)

    So I guess I’d strongly encourage you guys to draft some proposals for standards and see about getting them included somewhere. Not some hacky environment variable, or something Ubuntu-specific. Rather, something that other environments could build upon, that we as developers could use to make sure our apps don’t break. Having to tell customers “It’s not us, it’s your Ubuntu install” doesn’t do anybody any good :( I’d like to tell people “Of course it will work! There are standards for this.”

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    Uhm…. just like anyone else? You mean with increased heart rate and anxiety?  Jono I’ve seen non-technical savvy people get very very frustrated and very very frightened at clicking around on the computer for fear of creating a problem they don’t have the knowledge to fix. 

    I’ve seen people react like that to traditional PCs, to Macs, to smartphones, to ipods, to kindles, to nooks. It takes a real leap of faith for those who self-describe themselves as non-technical to do the sort of exploring on something they’ve already purchased.  They’ll screw around with a store demo model without fear, but once they get it home, their behavior changes drastically because they are responsible for it after purchase with noone in the household to rely on if they make a mistake with the tech. 

    You don’t see this in behavior in the cellphone generation, but for the boomers and even for some in our generation, exploring technology can be something the grit their teeth and do not something they actually enjoy.

    Just make sure you are defining your target audience with care.  If you are trying to grab the attention of everyone younger than yourself, your theory is probably holds as a dominant culltural norm. For old people our age, its is a subcultural norm at best.

    This is why the nook is really winning as a device. The store demo units really help people feel comfortable exploring the device prior to purchase.  The kindle sort of hit a wall with technical-savvy early adopters because of its initial lack of brick and mortar demo units to help get more people comfortable with the device prior to purchase.  Amazon has addressed that and is now making kindles for sale in brick and mortar retailers that provide hands on demo units.

    And Google is doing some demoing now with its chromebooks in airports and whatnot. Have you seen the chromebook demos in airports in your travels? Very very smart move on Google’s part.

    So what is Canonical’s strategy for giving non-technically inclined people a chance to explore the new interface?  Canonical doesn’t really have any retail presence to rely on to demo Unity to potential consumers.  Is Canonical going to provide an html5 based on-demand virtual desktop experience to play around in in lieu of retail store demo units?

    -jef

  • Jason Tokarz

    Because if you can’t see the menu, unless you remember the exact position of each menu you have to spend time ‘fishing’ once the menu becomes visible.

  • Ethana2

    The benefit is that if a particular category of tool is desired, the user can move the mouse to the top edge of the screen directly above it instead of moving it up, taking a moment for their brain to load the menu, and then over to the desired category. Your light switch analogy is flawed because your switches maintain one or two general positions all the time. Every application has its own menu bar contents, and the location of each main menu entry is dependent on the string length of all menu entries to its left.

  • http://unknownventures.wordpress.com Lou G

    I’m a new user to Linux in general, and Ubuntu specifically, Mr. Bacon. This feature, and Unity as a whole, does not appeal to me as a new user. I have to question Canonical’s decision in perusing this but not in a ‘omg this sucks!’ kind of way; but in a ‘what’s the benefit for the new user’ kind of way.

    I can understand your point about sleek design, but I wonder if I’m looking at Ubuntu 11.04 or 11.10 as a new user, and I can’t find the menus and have to search around the desktop until AH-HA! i found them–is it really worth my productivity time? Where as say Linux Mint (from what I am hearing) or even Xubuntu does not offer these things.

    Why should I stay with the ‘main brand’ instead of shooting off and struggling to find my way. One thing I always was taught from friends was that ‘ubuntu is the best way to start out.’ I’m find this to be untrue now.

    I appreciate your time to read this, and I hope this sparks some discussion as well.

  • Jason Tokarz

    People like to explore while it’s novel but once the novelty wears of and you just want to get work done it becomes a distraction.

  • Ethana2

    Consider the following use case: proficient Photoshop on Mac user trying GIMP 2.7.3 in single window mode under Unity to see if they can make the switch yet.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fvzwieten Fred van Zwieten

    I like the efforts being made to maximize the work space. I would like to see it going even further. How about the toolbar(s) for example. They take up a considerable amount of screen real estate. The toolbar is of course for quick access to often used functions, but still, I would love to have a quick hide/show method for toolbars in a window, including a default (hide or show) for new windows.

  • http://gould.cx/ted/ Ted Gould

    We’ve tried to provide good ways to detect which environment you’re in so that application authors can have custom code if they want to support a variety of different environments.  For run time detection you can check for the “UBUNTU_MENUPROXY” environment variable as that would signal whether a menu proxy is being loaded.  You can also, if you are willing to have a Ubuntu binary, check to see if there is a default proxy using the functions provided.  Both of those can be for what environment you’re in and what is happening with your menus.

    As for creating a standard for the menu protocols we’d like nothing more for than that to be the case.  We’ve got great conversations going on with Qt, and are working to integrate with the toolkit upstream.  Also, our LibreOffice plugin is no part of their repository.  The discussions that we’ve had with the GTK maintainers have not been productive, so it seems that at this time those patches are likely to remain Ubuntu specific.  As an application developer it would be great if you could talk to the GTK maintainers and ask that they look at accepting these patches.  Perhaps that could make some progress there.

    For custom menu items it’s something that we’ve really wanted to support for a while, and keeps getting pushed back for other priorities.  No good reason, just lack of time.

  • https://launchpad.net/~cscarney ~cscarney

    Considering that “explore” in this context consists of moving the mouse pointer around the screen, I think even technophobes will probably feel safe doing it.

  • Anonymous

    To be entirely clear – the article on OMG! Ubuntu! was awesome, Joey! I will clarify that it was in the comments where the discussion occurred.

  • Jon

    fair point, once you know what your doing its not needed really.  I was looking at it from the point of view of it being desirable and try to attract new users, either new to ubuntu or linux in general.

    How would you handle new users though?  What kind of visual clue could you provide to the user?  Some kind of presentation, a coloured hinting on the area?  The only problem is that without a hint/clue it relies on the user exploring and I’m not sure how many people would explore.  But then maybe the sort of person who is likely to used ubuntu is the type to explore, chances are they have left the windows/mac world looking for something different.  So are already exploring.

    Although I’ve not used ubuntu recently and never used unity I do applaud the effort to move the UI forward. I feel that Unity alongside Gnome3 are at least trying something new, maybe not entirely new but at least new to the linux desktop.  The linux desktop certainly looks a lot more desirable and professional now than when I first started using linux.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand how my analogy doesn’t apply – a lightswitch has two states…off and on…and the menu has two states…shown and hidden. When it is shown you can then interact with it.

  • Anonymous

    When you say “productivity time” in finding the menu, that is probably all of five seconds. At most 20 seconds. I am sure your productivity will survive the hit. :-)

  • Anonymous

    When did I say they were the only two possible alternatives?

    I agree that having the Launcher on auto-hide is less discoverable than it being in plain sight and always visible, but I think the tradeoff for discovering it, which will not take long is useful for the long term benefits of more screen space.

  • http://www.florian-diesch.de/ Florian Diesch

    I’m using focus-follows-mouse which means the global menu is just not usable for me if I have more than one visible window.

    For me it’s fine to switch it off by setting $UBUNTU_MENUPROXY or removing some packages. But I think it would be nice to have an easier way for less experienced users (and one that works even for apps like Firefox without needing to remove packages).

  • Anonymous

    Agree, but (there’s always “but”…) with default configuration on laptop’s screen those to panels where taking a lot of precious vertical pixels. If your monitor has only 800 of those, it’s a big deal (just for the record, vanilla Gnome3′s theming also creates a lot of lost, unused space). Autohide wasn’t working flawlessly, so I usually ended up with removing one of panels altogether. This caused clutter. Unity, with all it’s drawbacks, works much better with relatively small screen of portable computer and you can always autohide – this option works way better than hiding panel in Gnome 2. I could find workarounds, for sure. But I’m a tinkerer, most people aren’t, so good user experience should come “out-of-the-box”.

  • Anonymous

    When did you present any other alternatives? If you think there are more realistic alternatives, but that the Unity design is better than those, why didn’t you present one of those instead of using Office as a straw-man?

  • Anonymous

    My Office example was there to make the point that the argument that “things need to be visible makes sense”. Sure there are plenty of other examples, but I think I got my point across. :-)

  • Mark Williams

    “Personally I think the latter looks far sleeker, less cluttered and pleasant to use.” And personally I don’t. So we disagree. Fine. Why not just have a choice? Then we’ll both be happy. Put a configuration option in that lets us all choose: 1) Global menus, hidden until mouse-over 2) Global menus, always visible 3) Old-fashioned 20th Century window menus. They’re just so retro.

  • George

    “people learn by exploration”I don’t like this statement within the context of a discussion on usability because it isn’t backed up by any empirical evidence. It’s anecdotal opinion masquerading as expert opinion.

  • George

    I’m unconvinced by your argument that custom toolbar arrangements is in any way analogous to mandatory window button arrangements.

  • Anonymous

    From the beginning of the article:

    “Before I get started I want to provide a cast-iron caveat here: I am not a professional interface designer. While I have an interest in interaction design and usability, it is not my profession and most of my experience is from working on spare-time projects and developing interfaces for those projects. In other words…the views expressed here are not born from formal training”.

  • http://mw88.myopenid.com/ mw88

    I really like where Unity is going.

    You can’t please everyone with one approach but maby this would be a good point for a future tweak-setting: “Always show menu” This way the users who like to see the menu can enable it…

    I wouldn’t enable this setting because I like the clean look of this implementation.

  • George

    Unfortunately, the entire idea of a global menu bar is at odds with focus-follows-mouse policies, period.

  • George

    The problem with the “.. once users have learned …” argument is that it is valid for every possible design decision. It should not be used as the basis for anything.

  • George

    I can’t agree that you get to hand-wave away criticism for something you blogged about simply because you’re not qualified to blog about it  – even if you admitted so up front.

  • George

    I think the general consensus here is that the “find by accident” method might not be the best approach?

  • http://www.florian-diesch.de/ Florian Diesch

    There are some possible workarounds one could implement but I too don’t think there is a real solution.

    Other than that I’m quite happy with Unity, even with the window controls in 11.10

  • Aras Balali Moghaddam

    I agree with Sam Bristow’s comment below. The reason that edges of the screen are a great location for menu is that you can just push your mouse toward the menu and it will stop there at the edge without user having to slow down their cursor, and the menu can appear without any clicking.  As Sam pointed out by hiding the menu, there is now two target acquisition steps involved. Making this interaction less effective from usability point of view. I suggest that by default the system could show the current application menu. However perhaps there should be an option for customizing the behaviors of the menu bar, so that people can choose what information is displayed in that area by default before user moves their mouse cursor to the top edge if they are seeking and even more tidy desktop interface. Although there is a potential that people may make this area more useful for themselves by displaying custom information, I am concerned that the current selection of default information (“Homepage | Ubuntu – Mozilla Firefox”) is very redundant. Looking at that screen shot there are 4 ways user can know they are on Ubuntu website: 1. Its clear from the content and the banner of the website. 2. It is apparent by looking at address bar (often the most reliable source). 3. It is shown as the title of the tab that is open in Firefox. And if you hover over the title on the tab you get the full title. 4. It is shown instead of the application menu on the top edge of the screen. I think that is a bit much. Again I like to emphasize that for mouse interaction with menus and from a usability perspective, showing the menus by default present and advantage over hiding them. It would be embarrassing if someone did a Fitt’s law study to show that new design is “significantly” slower than the previous one.

  • Anonymous

    Right…so you accuse me trying to masquerade assumptions as expert opinion and when I clarify that I provided “I am not an expert caveat” I am accused of handwaving criticism?

    Erm, OK.

  • Anonymous

    Can you cite your Gtk discussions please.

  • Anon

    Just want to add, that anything using (or worse, requiring) mouse-over interaction breaks on a touch-only interface.  I run Ubuntu on a HP TX2Z (convertible multi-touch tablet), and spend a fair bit of time using Android on a 4″ phone and 10″ tablet, and hover effects (most often found in web-site navigation areas) cause me tons of problems.

  • http://profiles.google.com/falktx Filipe Lopes

    just click in the right place and… oops… window closed!

  • http://twitter.com/sect2k Mitja Pagon

    If you don’t understand why your analogy is flawed, then it doesn’t surprise me you can’t see why the decision to hide the menus, purely for ‘slickness’ factor is wrong.

    The fact you need to write a 700+ word rationale for it should be self explanatory.

    I think this is one decision you (as in Canonical) should just accept you got wrong, remedy the situation and move on, the party line is getting a bit worn out.

  • http://twitter.com/sect2k Mitja Pagon

    There is no point bringing rationale into this debate, it doesn’t work, tried it before, failed miserably.

  • simon@syd

    My computer just seems too slow to promptly display the menu – there is so much of a pause… which I hate. Other than this, I agree with the article. In practice, I’ve been going into the store, downloading LXDE, and making this the session of my choice (I at first used ubuntu 2D). This is either because my computer is too slow or because the execution of the idea is done in a faulty way.

    My computer is to slow, by the way, and LXDE is great, but so is the new ubuntu, with its new login manager and late software etc.

  • http://profiles.google.com/falktx Filipe Lopes

    Yes, please!

    But everyone seems to think no choice/options is a good thing these days… :(

  • Klap-in

    The intention is ok, but the achievement reached at this state are not so optimal in my experiences…:

    I recognize the behavior described here above by Sam Bristow. But also: ==multi-window & menus== Another complication I meet is using programs like empathy, which have more windows. Each window has its own menu, so first you should select (by clicking) the right window before you can access its menu. Is there a way that proposed to all multi-window programs to supply only one global menu in stead of one for each window?

    ==maximized windows & dualscreen == Another issue that clutter my workflow is using maximize programs on dual screen. When working in a window of a prog on screen #2 and i like to access the menu of a maximized prog on screen #1 i should click first on the maximized prog before the menu will appear (because hovering a hidden menu in not-active windows is not possible of course).

    I hoped that there will done some refinements to improve this kind of issues. Or maybe make it more static by a combination of titlebar and menu.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get what the fuss is all about? :-)

    No one cares about the font? Don’t you guys think it’s too huge by default? :D

    Thanks for this beautiful product. Keep it up! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    Now that is definitely an interesting approach to address issue of discoverabilitty. It doesn’t address all the concerns raised by the professional UI designer quoted elsewhere in these comments, but it might be a solution to providing just enough hinting to make sure users know the menu is there.

    Jono, any chance you can get a Unity UI designer to weigh on the pros/cons of this idea?

    -jef

  • Anonymous

    The reason I don’t understand is because I don’t believe it is flawed. I have seen any justifiable reason presented as to why it doesn’t make sense other than “it is different and different feels weird”.

    As for we (Canonical) accepting we have got it wrong..who is to say you are right?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting idea – I will mention it to the team and see if we can get someone to offer input.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is post-hoc rationalizing.

    Unity has backed themselves into a corner (pun intended) by shoving everything into the top left of the screen * Dash button * Window Controls * Menu

    The only way to make that appear uncluttered is to hide the menu bar most of the time. The alternative is pixel vomit smeared over the top left hand corner of the screen.

    The whole thing seems remarkably less cluttered (and especially functional because I have a large screen) when I move controls back to the right and put menus back on the windows. Of course then it starts to look more like GNOME Shell…

  • Jan Schmidt

    I have 2 words to refute the global-menus concept: “sloppy focus”. You can pry it out of my cold dead hands, and it’s fundamentally incompatible with putting the application menus at the top of the screen – because you frequently have to cross another application window (and therefore switch focus) to get there.

    That and I hate the ‘up to the menu, then across to the menu you wanted’ motion that hiding the menu engenders. You can’t aim for the menu you want any more, unless you have such precise spatial memory that you know exactly where it’s going to appear.

    I also don’t buy the argument that you have to be a professional UX designer to have an opinion here. To paraphrase the famous quote: I may not know art, but I know what I hate.

    I don’t know what crack this new generation of UX designers are smoking (both Unity and gnome-shell). Based on current evidence, I don’t trust them to design my computing experience for me.

  • https://launchpad.net/~david4dev david4dev

    There is a simple design solution to the sloppy focus problem – only put menus in the panel when windows are maximised. This solves several other problems, including usability on large screens and knowing which application a menu belongs to. It also retains the space saving and Fitt’s law benefits in maximised windows.

    Unfortunately I don’t think they will implement this, even as an option. I did post it as a solution to a brainstorm (http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/27688/ ) but all the Unity ideas have been locked.

    Ubuntu really needs a better way for the community to propose suggestions and give feedback to the design team.

  • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

    Let’s take this analogy further. Sure, a single light switch has off and on. But what if you had a row of ten light switches? There are 10 things you can click on in your screenshot of Firefox. I think the main argument against the autohiding behavior is that you can’t see any of them until you get up there and “feel” them.

    Let’s say you’re in a dark room. You’d have some sort of indicator showing where the ten switches are, be it a light illuminating the whole switch panel, or a single LED by each switch. You’d be able to see them before you need to use them.

    The way Unity handles the menu is like having the lights off. Sure, you can feel around, then figure out which thing you want to use. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could see the switches first? Say I want to go to the bookmarks menu. Instead of just being able to click on it, I have to first poke around up there, then find it, then use it.

    Now, I know, “having” to throw your mouse at the top of the screen isn’t the end of the world. But it does make the functions of the menu, things that are traditionally visible at all times, less discoverable.

    Of course, I think we should really scrap the menubar altogether; having so many options tucked away (most of which are disabled much of the time) just seems slightly silly. I love the idea behind the way Chrome handles its menu, but even then, it’s far too cluttered. Most of the options in there could have better locations.

    It seems to me that the menubar concept is something that’s been around out of necessity, but it’s a dying thing–at least system-wide. Mobile systems have done away with them; you don’t see a “File Edit Help” menu on iOS or Android. Ubuntu’s hiding them. Mac OS X still has them, but they’re not necessary in most OS X apps. Chrome doesn’t have it (they provide one on OS X and Ubuntu for consistency with the platform, but everything you can do from it is just a repeat of what’s in their wrench menu). And of course, elementary is moving to a simpler consistent AppMenu approach.

  • http://twitter.com/sect2k Mitja Pagon

    If you don’t believe it’s flawed you will surly never understand why ;)

    In short it puts form over function, introduces several usability issues and provides no obvious benefits bar ‘slickness’, aka Bad Design.

    Who is to say I’m right? Well your own MPT for one, Thorsten Wilms isn’t the biggest fan judging from his ayatana postings, common sense, cognitive psychology + HCI research, your own usability studies (20% of participants in one such study couldn’t find the menus,  70% of those who did, got it somewhat wrong, resulting in less then optimal experience), … should I go on?

    And who is to say you are right?

    I honesty I don’t care anymore, I’ve tried to argue this many times, never got anywhere, lost all hope. If only there was on option to turn this behavior off and have an always on menu, well a man can dream.

  • Anonymous

    The discussion is interesting, but is there Any chance user input will make a difference?  

  • Anonymous

    For simple word processing, it is not a big deal. But when I’m using GIMP, for example, I often find myself wasting time looking for the right tool. With so many tools and options, a menu is definitely necessary, but I’m often hesitating when finding a tool because I simply don’t memorize the location of the dozen menus that GIMP has. Instead of finding the menu as I move towards it, I have to move my mouse up, then figure out which menu I want, and then move my mouse.

    To me, keeping the title hidden while showing the menu would be better, since I almost never need to know the title of a window while I’m using it.

  • Ben

    What if you don’t know it’s there?  My fiancee was using my PC a few weeks ago and after an hour of using firefox she still had no idea how to get to the menus.  With all of Ubuntu’s focus towards new users, this is a step backwards.

  • Ben

    I think this looks like a decent solution to the complaints we’ve been seeing here.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6108272/unity/index.html

  • Anonymous

    I don’t mind the hidden menus or window controls. I like the fact that it gives me the feeling that I have a bigger screen.

    Windows™ now hides many useful things and you don’t listen to their users fighting like crazy for it. The FOSS community simply enjoys to fight each other.

  • John Glass

    Only use Linux in a VM now because of this crap

  • Anonymous

    Wow, you must love menus! ;-)

  • https://launchpad.net/~mpt mpt

    In the April usability test, eight of ten people discovered the hidden menus. But seven of them discovered the menus by hovering over the maximized window controls, which in 11.04 were visible all the time. In 11.10, even those window controls will be hidden by default. So I look forward to seeing whether in 11.10,  the fraction of people who learn how to access menus is even smaller, or even slower, or both.

    But I don’t think that’s even the primary issue. You write as if learnability (or more specifically, discoverability) and aesthetics are the only two aspects of usability. They are important, but so is efficiency.

    In the same usability test, whenever one of those seven people needed to use the menus a second time, they didn’t aim directly for the relevant menu. They again moused over the window controls to reveal the menus, and then scooted along to the right. This was, of course, grossly inefficient — especially compared with the speed that a top-of-screen menu bar exists to provide in the first place. In 11.10 the window controls will be hidden too, but the basic efficiency problem will remain: at the moment you’re aiming for the target, you can’t see it.

    Every so often, some Ubuntu contributor asks why most of the Unity designers use Mac OS X. The reason, of course, is that those designers are experienced with Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, and other applications that don’t work (or if they do work in Wine, work much less pleasantly) on Ubuntu. And it is precisely those kinds of applications, with their deep feature sets, that use menus most heavily. Anyone who points to Web browsers or mobile OSes as harbingers of a menu-less world is, I think, misguided about what kinds of things people will still use non-mobile OSes for in ten years. It is a small irony that hiding menus by default makes it even less likely that anything like those applications will ever work well on Ubuntu.

  • https://launchpad.net/~mpt mpt

    In the April usability test, eight of ten people discovered the hidden menus. But seven of them discovered the menus by hovering over the maximized window controls, which in 11.04 were visible all the time. In 11.10, even those window controls will be hidden by default. So I look forward to seeing whether in 11.10,  the fraction of people who learn how to access menus is even smaller, or even slower, or both.

    But I don’t think that’s even the primary issue. You write as if learnability (or more specifically, discoverability) and aesthetics are the only two aspects of usability. They are important, but so is efficiency.

    In the same usability test, whenever one of those seven people needed to use the menus a second time, they didn’t aim directly for the relevant menu. They again moused over the window controls to reveal the menus, and then scooted along to the right. This was, of course, grossly inefficient — especially compared with the speed that a top-of-screen menu bar exists to provide in the first place. In 11.10 the window controls will be hidden too, but the basic efficiency problem will remain: at the moment you’re aiming for the target, you can’t see it.

    Every so often, some Ubuntu contributor asks why most of the Unity designers use Mac OS X. The reason, of course, is that those designers are experienced with Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, and other applications that don’t work (or if they do work in Wine, work much less pleasantly) on Ubuntu. And it is precisely those kinds of applications, with their deep feature sets, that use menus most heavily. Anyone who points to Web browsers or mobile OSes as harbingers of a menu-less world is, I think, misguided about what kinds of things people will still use non-mobile OSes for in ten years. It is a small irony that hiding menus by default makes it even less likely that anything like those applications will ever work well on Ubuntu.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. By hiding menus, we are using the application in a different manner then the author expected. This can hardly lead to higher efficiency.

  • Anonymous

    Yes. By hiding menus, we are using the application in a different manner then the author expected. This can hardly lead to higher efficiency.

  • http://profiles.google.com/naicik Sebastian Kacprzak

    I do wonder if this can be workarounded by some kind of menu search functionality. Idea is kind of old and it basicly let you type what you want, and apropriate menu entry(that have word that you typed in name or description) is highlighted. Mac implemented something like this http://mactoids.com/help-menu-search-in-mac-os-x-leopard/ although IMO it would be better in unity to have it always visible directly in panel.

  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

    I have to say, Jef, I’m with you on this one. Exploration is fine for people that are comfortable with computers and technology, but there is still a vast swathe of people who aren’t. For those people, they believe that every wrong click is a potential explosion and computer dying (not least in part due to it sometimes being true under Windows – thanks for that Microsoft!). They want to be shown what to do. They won’t go clicking around in menus to find what they want. Having a menu not be there will actually be frightening for them. 

    My mother-in-law is a prime example of this kind of behaviour, but she is by no means the only person I’ve seen like this. 

  • Guesto

    I agree with your post. Maybe it could be useful to show during the installation how to activate them, when screenshots of the most interesting funcition of Ubntu are showed.

  • Billio

    There is no analogy here, you are just being specious.

    In the Unity interface there is a tension between what looks good and what users find useful when using a system. Some people will trade looks for functionality, some will not. If you like the hidden menu approach fine, but just recognise that other people like the displayed menu better. Neither is a winner.

    If you want to provide a better system accommodate both types of user, so just worry about how to do that.

    One solution would be to have an always visible Menu button which on mouse over displayed the menu vertically. From a mouse movement point of view this is quite ergonomic as all moves are eye scans are in the vertical plan.

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea of the hidden menu, but I’ve just tried using GIMP (I haven’t been doing graphics for a year now) again and my first impression is that it’s very irritating. I’m not looking forward to Libre Office integration because I use the menus a lot there.

    But.. I did notice that if you hold down the left Alt key (at least in 11.04) you can actually see where you’re going with the mouse to target the correct menu. 

    It sounds like a hack, but it might be workable.

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea of the hidden menu, but I’ve just tried using GIMP (I haven’t been doing graphics for a year now) again and my first impression is that it’s very irritating. I’m not looking forward to Libre Office integration because I use the menus a lot there.

    But.. I did notice that if you hold down the left Alt key (at least in 11.04) you can actually see where you’re going with the mouse to target the correct menu. 

    It sounds like a hack, but it might be workable.

  • Fireshipjohn

    If you walk into a new house and all the light switches are invisible….?

  • http://twitter.com/sect2k Mitja Pagon

    Why is it that the only interaction designer from Canonical, that actually  knows what he is talking about, is not being heard?

    Why is it, that every time someone present some factual reasons against hidden menus, the debate stops?

    Who actually made the design decision to hide the menus?

  • Richard Lainchbury

    When you have limited vertical screen real estate, not having it taken up with layers of menus that are rarely used is useful.

  • aSheepie

    Yes – I think there’s a flaw in the “people learn by exploration” thesis – it badly needs the word “certain” inserting. People like us will learn this way, but a lot of new/more basic users will just get frustrated (I’ve supported users for years and know they can be a bunch of lazy buggers, hehe). I love Ubuntu, I’ve used it for years and I was really excited to see what Unity would give me, but the menus were a real disappointment and frustration.  When I go to click on an option I move the mouse straight there, but now I have to wait for the menu to appear before I know exactly where to click – that slows me down. It’s even worse with those menus that are at the top of the screen – as I have a large screen I have to trawl my mouse all the way up to the top to get to them, rather than just to the top of my current window. For a netbook, I think Unity would be great, and I want to reload my netbook with Ubuntu, but for a desktop it’s very frustrating.

  • Flup

    Listen to your community Canonical! Nobody likes this

  • Flup

    Listen to your community Canonical! Nobody likes this

  • http://johndrinkwater.name/ johndrinkwater

    How do you know the light switch is there?

  • emmanuel

    the concept of hover completely disappears with touch screens. IMO for that reason this concept is doomed because I believe touch screens are the future.

  • hkb

    I vote for the minimal menu.

  • Boardinary

    With this logic, we should hide the indicators too.  Why do I need to see every indicator all of the time?  I can just discover it by mousing over them.  It will be a much cleaner interface and I would much more “pleasant” to use.

    I bet people use the window menu of applications as often or more often than the indicators themselves so this improvement should be in line with the philosophy.

  • :(

    Well. Before canonical went this direction ubuntu was pretty much supported in the call center I worked part time. Now agents will not go near it with a pitchfork. We have average handling times to worry about and have a hard enough time getting users to look at the corner of the screen let alone the middle. The concept of having something completely hidden like it is now is stupid, simple as. At least do something like elementary is doing with their menu. Then agents can say click on the gear. The comparison that you made with office is badly thought out, yes enabling everything is bad but disabling core components is also bad. Closing a window is a core component that we simply don´t have the time to walk users through over the phone. I have no problem with it personally atm but the users who will be told that ubuntu is not supported anymore will. If canonical keep digging their head in the sand with regards to this subject then I think that our center will not be alone in dropping unofficial support.

  • :(

    And how do you know the location of the lightswitch. Would it annoy you when first moving in if in order to switch off the light you needed to hover your hand over the surface area of the walls in the room in order for it to become visible?

  • Craig Maloney

    There are several problems with the menus as they stand now:

    1) Empathy changes menu context depending on which window you last had highlighted. If you have chat highlighted, it will show you chat window options. If you have the main window highlighted, it shows a completely different set. The same is true with The GIMP.

    2) Focus follows mouse is completely broken with the menu at the top. If you so much as mouse over an errant pixel, you can’t use the menu for the application you want to use.

    3) Mousing up to the top to see the menu is not terribly discover-able, but that’s pretty much been drilled to death. My personal preference is to have it show all of the time like a Mac.

    I’m not opposed to having the menu at the top, but if we’re going this route there needs to be consistency. Empathy and The GIMP need patches to make the menu consistent. 

    Unfortunately, while trying to reinvent the Macintosh interface, we’re neglecting that Apple has very strict guidelines for user interfaces. They can get away with it because they control everything about what goes in to making a Macintosh. Ubuntu either needs to get very strict about what gets packaged and how well it conforms, or they need to rethink this strategy. Anything less will give a sub-optimal experience.

  • Craig Maloney

    8 out of 10 could find the menu? Shouldn’t that be 10 out of 10? I’m sure if you gave the same exam on a Windows machine, they’d have little problem finding it.

  • Anonymous

    Jono, you are missing quite a few things, that are wrong with the global menu bar as it is currently designed.

    1. The top-left corner now acts as a hotspot for both the menu and the dock. A twitch gamer with a real mouse, will likely aim correctly, ordinary people using a touchpad won’t.

    2. People aren’t looking for menu’s, they are looking for a specific action. For example, a word. They are looking with their eyes, not their mouse. 

    AND THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL

    1.  Unity also uses the global menu-bar for non maximized applications. This means that a maximized window (which has no chrome in unity) is now visually attached to whatever window has focus. 

    You may think that forcing new users to invest in the understand of a formal concept, such as application focus, is worth it. But let’s look at some examples, of how ever, even with understanding, this can be dangerously confusing.

  • Anonymous

    THE EXAMPLE:

    I have Inkscape open, maximized. On top of that i see the Gimp filter dialogue. I move my mouse to the top, to the file-menu. I click save.

    Which file did I actually save?

    Guess 1: Gimp’s image, because if Inkscape would have focus I wouldn’t be able to see the Gimp, right?

    Guess 2: Inkscape! Because it is visually attached to inkscape. There’s not a even a clear divider line there.

    Guess 3: Gimp. It’s not about the divider line, it’s about which application has focus. 

    Guess 4: Inkscape. The gimp filter window is a model window that’s always on top. It doesn’t actually have focus!

    Guess 5: No, it’s not. Let’s move the mouse out of here, and read the application title.

    Guess 6: Oh, focus-follows-mouse .. is turned on. So I have to maximize a window if I want to use its menu!

    I understand why you feel, from your position, you want to defend some of these design mistakes. But you are starting at ground zero. It’s just the tip of the ice-berg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicholas.shiell Nicholas Shiell

    I’m no professional UI designer either, I get the improved aesthetics of hiding the control buttons thinking because: the visible buttons push the title to the right, out of alignment.

    I do understand that non techs are gonna freak out, when they are missingMaybe we need to help people to remember where the buttons are? E.g: — A GUI walk through animation bundled with the OS like the shudder “tour windows XP” feature- Show the menu and buttons when a window maximises first time for 3ish seconds before fading out gracefully- Another strategy for showing where the buttons areThis is similar to when the supermarket moves the frozen peas around I get annoyed, because there is change!!Allot of people are comming from Windows backgrounds and aren’t used to Unity AT ALL As I said I’m a dev not a UI expert, your thoughts guys?

  • David

    That’s a moot point. The same amount of vertical space is taken up regardless of the menu being visible or not.

  • David

    LOVE IT!

  • mpt_fanboy

    I don’t get why you’re so consistently ignored at Canonical, when really they should just STFU and do exactly what you tell them.

    You should be Ubuntu’s benevolent dictator for life: you’re the one who consistently speaks for the users, you’re the one with a Steve Jobs like eye for detail, you’re the one who can see technology trends are really going (and not just jumping on the latest bandwagon).

    sigh

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N3GFIPIKTZYEHUMIVWOS7HBC74 Michael

    Hell, just give me an option to turn it off and on.   This is why I use Linux.

  • Anonymous

    Software developers should just stick to developing for their target audiences, instead of for themselves. The conflict of interest that exists when developers start defending their own choices only helps in hindering positive development; Jono has quite clearly shown here that he would give his eye teeth to rationalise what, quite frankly, is not a good design decision rather terribly. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of behaviour, either.

    A friend once said to me, “Kill your babies” — your ‘babies’, the ideas that you really really love and think are abso-frickin-lutely amazing, are probably the ones that people will hate the most.

  • andrew

    I can’t help but cringe when I see stuff like:

    http://patches.ubuntu.com/g/gtk+2.0/

    That helps achieve these features.  Seriously, a 6mb patch ?  Scary stuff.

  • https://launchpad.net/~littlejawa LittleJawa

    I can confirm that one : I’m playing with a tablet-format PC, and I thought (naive as I am) that Unity would be very neat to use their. In fact: not at all. Not only because of the menus that you never see before you’ve clicked it (generally the wrong one), but also because of the scrollbars that you never can reach (too slim), with their “grip” appearing only when you manager to click them… And I’m not talking about the virtual keyboard that’s kept BEHIND the dash…

  • https://launchpad.net/~littlejawa LittleJawa

    Sure, but how do you discover it (which is the whole point of your post)? Clicking around is not the same as moving the mouse around. You’re more likely to do a mistake by clicking everywhere randomly aren’t you? And given the number of pixels in the upper menu bar, clicking it by mistake with a touch device is close to impossible. The menu is just not discoverable with a touch screen. You need to know it is there.

    Anyway, touchscreens may not be the point in Unity. I’ve found a bug in the accessibility options in Natty, where the “secondary click by long press on main click” just did not work… Doesn’t happen in Maveric nor Oneiric, but in Natty only, and nobody found it, or cared to report it. And still, have you ever tried to use Ubuntu with only the main button of your mouse ?

    I guess what it means is just that touch devices are not in the scope for Ubuntu, are they ?

  • Alci

    I used dconf-editor to get it 9 pixels instead of 11 (look for org/gnome/desktop/interface font-name). Much neater on my laptop.

  • Alci

    Well… I do :-)

  • Alci

    Agents should say : “press Alt key”, and menu appears !

  • Alci

    I like the hidden menu and global-menu. But I must admit you’ve got a point here : guessing which window has focus and telling what menu you interact with is a nightmare. Currently I end up clicking on the window that I want the menu for before going to the (hidden) menu bar… Of course I wouldn’t use “focus follow window” (but I never did in 25 years of computing).

  • JG

    10.10 Unity fixes some of the most egregious flaws from 10.04, but the fundamental problem is that discovery, relevance, and  multitasking are not facilitated by this model. The Unity UI is trending toward being a UI useful for the embedded touch screen use case, and accommodations for the productivity desktop user use case are being grafted on as an after-thought. The coolest feature of Unity is the way that maximize really maximizes your workspace – but I don’t really want that on a high resolution productivity oriented display.  Menus as traditionally implemented are an intuitive yet awkward UI component, but the SuSE slab UI was a much more usable solution to this problem than simply eliminating the hierarchical metaphor altogether. The basic concept of you must search for everything is not helpful to the user. It’s nice to bring up the “Office”, “Graphics”, or “Games” menus to see just what sort of cool applications you have available that you might not have thought would be there. Also, the sidebar has very low information density which makes it a waste of real-estate for most users. Furthermore, when using a maximized application file menu or button bar UI it is way too easy to accidentally stray into the sidebar area causing the sidebar to obscure the display. Under-use of the right click menu is terrible. Context menus are one of the most powerful UI tools to be developed and Unity really kills this useful feature. Also, notifications are far more useful if you can click on them to get to the most relevant information/application rather than having to hunt down some program launcher or obscured window. On the plus side getting to UI and system configuration stuff is much better in 10.10. :-)

  • http://sarahhayes.is-a-geek.net/ SarahKH

    “As you can see there are no window buttons visible”

    So X has crashed again.

    “And this is what Office looks like with everything on”

    Impressive.  Office 2007 running flawlessly in Ubuntu that’s doing a very good impression of XP… how’d you make that Tonka toy called Unity do that?

    Look, it’s really simple.  Instead of calling it Unity, just call it “Ubuntu Tomytonic edition.. for the kiddies” and then put Gnome back.  Seriously.

  • Wangker

    Do not know what you are doing inside that company for Ubuntu 11.10. If you are not user interface related, then the company messed up the job responsibility and let somebody like you to do what your are not hired for. If you are, then as what you said, you are not professional, so that company is doing poor HR work.

    You mentioned “usability” while hide the menu and make users lost and boasted “learning by exploration”.  I am not a pre-school kid to start with a blank paper every day and to explore all possibilities that I can draw on it. I do not like to be treated as kids. I have a work or task to do, and most of the time, it is a formed routine.

    May be you are good to design the interface for a kids edition or relax edition for people who have time and mood to seek fun.

    By the way, making people lost and do not know what to do is not known as “usability” in my world. Exploration should start with some hints or a map or an entry, and shall be built upon some base that is well known and accepted by common people or common sense in this world, which means using what you already known to explore what you do not know. I think that is a saner way, and a professional (or the essential ?)  way.

  • Wangker

    Again, it also about efficiency, confidence and fearlessness. You shall know Huffman coding, which give the shortest and easiest codes for the most used cases, while those longer ones for the less or seldom used cases.

    For a daily or very frequently used function, like a global menu, a reduce or increase of one or two mouse click will have huge impact, not mentioning the guessing where the menu or button will be or appear if you move mouse cursor to or over some place.   That is usability.

    When I use the OS, I know where the menus are located and how I can access them to perform the tasks, without guessing, without fear or uncertainty. Only for those functions that I do not use or care, I can explore them for testing or review or just for fun if I have time.

    When people are lost in the darkness, they will seek for light to regain comfort. When people lost in the computer software, they will either give up or restore/retreat to where they feel familiar or comfortable which give the sense of control and secure (without being hurt or doing harm).

    That is human and psychology.

  • Wangker

    What is more, you backed yourself by giving “Microsoft Word with all the toolbars switched on”. What a good excuse.  Will you do that? If you do not do that, why you think people will do that? Are they stupid or inferior to you?

    If you do not think people will do that, why you use it as a reason to design the new interface to avoid that?

    Following your way, you should start Ubuntu 11.11 by giving  a totally blank screen, and only show some mysterious menu or button when user click somewhere or press some key. That will be fun? or you think you can learn more because you have to explore more to get what you need?

    Sounds cool or innovate to you?

  • Wangker

    If you think you are doing something good to users, let users judge your work.

    But at least please give users the control or option to config the system the way they like or prefer. After all it is them to use the system, not by your mercy, but by their need if they are not forced to.

    The anti-virus software still gives user an option to quarantine the suspect.

    User shall be able to keep the freedom of set up different domains or zones for different tasks or purposes.

    The software should make that possible or easier, not enforcing its own hard limits on users, depriving user’s choices or freedom.

  • Wangker

    pleasant to use? is simple and effective?  for everyone?

    What you claim disappearing/hiding several buttons and menus “lools sleeker” and “far sleeker”? The layout and color are the same, the the title is duplicated and thus enhanced. Is that more empty space with less content/control sleeker?

  • Paul

    Form over function. Sorry, I’m really getting sick and tired of having to hover to discover menus and scrollbars. It slows me down and makes me less productive.

    By all means offer it as an option – but if you are going to assume I like to constantly “explore” I’ll join the queue of those looking for another Linux distibution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.ibbotson Thomas Ibbotson

    Just be incredibly careful if you do use CCSM. I lost my window manager completely by trying to turn on the cube. Took me over an hour to fix it, while my friend who had never come across Ubuntu before (hence why I thought I’d show them the ‘cool’ cube feature) just sat there and slowly decided never to use Ubuntu. It’s still not right, I have windows popping up underneath the panel so I can’t grab hold of their title bar.

  • Jamie

    Lying and deceit, that seems to be the Ubuntu way, from calling dark purple ‘Light” to showing a ridiculous number of toolbars open it’s just plain wrong. I’ve been working with Windows for over 15 years and have NEVER seen even half that many toolbars on at the same time, AND YOU KNOW IT! You are just pathetic, and the fact that Linux is following in your ADD afflicted footsteps is truly sad. Jamie Dimmel, Los Angeles, CA, USA

  • Upfront

    I believe your very argument disproves itself.  One, you show us Windows at an extreme and most of us can see it just wrong. Then Ubuntu at the other stream, by your very argument, should also be wrong.  Simply because it at the other extreme it does not make it correct. Instead it proves that it’s also wrong. Second, you try to convince the reader of another extreme.  No one reads a manual, wrong!  If I do not feel I even know the basics of an appliance I will briefly look at the manual to acquaint myself with the new device.  Once I know the basics I will the explore if I’m to lazy to read all of it. In the other hand If I feel I know the basic, then you are correct I will not look at the manual. Only if I feel confident I know the basics. However, at each instance I need to know the basics, It’s that simple. Someone new at Ubuntu if he/she can’t even see the “Menu” (which is the most basic need of a noob and the target of the current Ubuntu) will get scared/frustrated, you name it.   In other words, “Menu” is the very basic which most people in a modern world will need to start their quest to become more acquainted with the new unknown OS. By having the “Menu” visible they will/should feel confident enough to venture into Ubuntu. Other more complex ideas they will Google it, visit the forums, or ask a friend.  Not much different than any of us would with an appliance. I would specifically look into a manual, of a new Appliance, to learn a more complex function.  Sorry,  but I feel your argument is flawed. Furthermore, your argument only proves that two extreme cancel each other out and that hiding the menu is just as bad as the Windows example you presented us with.

  • Gloucester Shrubhill

    Why must there be any hit at all? Change is good, when the change is good.

  • Dave

    That’s pretty cool.  Good work there.

  • Grepnick

    First of all, that version of Word is no longer relevant. Second, people do not like to explore when it comes to computers. They prefer familiarity with subtle changes over  time. Unity killed Ubuntu.

  • Dave

    Well, I realize I’m a little late to this party, but I’ll offer up my 2 cents anyway.  First off, I’m a HUGE Ubuntu fan.  I love, love, LOVE it!  I’m in the process of trying to get everyone I know using Ubuntu.  Secondly, I’m also a huge Unity fan.  Yes, I LOVE Unity too.

    Okay, that being said, I have to agree with what others are saying about the hidden menus.  In the examples you show, the Firefox window is always maximized.  When you’re using maximized windows, the hidden menus aren’t that bad.  The problem is when you’re not using maximized windows.  When a windows isn’t maximized, the whole “sleek” idea just goes away.  There’s nothing “sleek” about seeing Chromium Web Browser in the top bar and then seeing the tab title at the top of the window box and then again on the tab itself.  Let’s not even talk about running multiple windows or even just two windows snapped side by side.

    Let me ask this, why are the buttons always visible at the upper left-hand corner of a non-maximized window?  If consistency was a goal, shouldn’t they always be in the top bar and hidden, just like the menus?  I must admit that even I get thrown off by that at times.

    To me, a simple solution would be to auto-hide the menus of maximized windows only.  When a window is maximized, the top bar kind of takes the place of the window’s frame so having the menus hidden isn’t a confusing because that bar is where you’d expect the menu items to be anyway.  However, when a window isn’t maximized, you don’t naturally expect the menu items to be up top so having the application name and menus always visible is much easier to follow when you’re really trying to get some work done. I know Ubuntu might not want to go that direction because it’s too OSX like, but I think it really is the best of both worlds.

    Anyway, I hope you guys keep up the good work.  We love Ubuntu and we want to see it succeed.  I know we can get these little issues resolved.  Thanks for everything you do! 

  • Kikl

    My proposal:

    Global menu for non-maximized windows!? Get rid of it! It is non-intuitive and has no apparent advantages. Display the menu in the non-maximized window-corners.

    Global menu for maximized windows!? I like your solution. Once you know how it works, it if fine. Finding out that the global menu is hidden by default is the technical problem. 

    Solution? 

    Use Zeitgeist!? Don’t hide the global menu on  fresh install. This way the user easily gets to know where it is. Once the global menu has been used say 40-times, hide the global menu. The user will automatically search with the mouse for the global menu and it will automatically appear where it used to be.

  • Wangker

    one more mouse click, and longer trip of the mouse cursor for every single similar action. It may not slow you down but does to me.

  • Wangker

    That menu is not the same or comparable menu. It takes many more steps or clicks to find the program you need to access. It lacks customization too. The worst, it does not gives you an option to config it or switch it off if you do not like that feature.

    Do not tell me to switch the dist first.

  • Wangker

    Show us you really do, please.

  • https://launchpad.net/~otto Otto

    Please take a look how the hiding menu is done in Scribes (http://scribes.sourceforge.net/smart.html).

    It has all the small details done right:

    • the is a icon for a “trigger area” that makes the feature discoverable => the menu bar in Unity could have some kind of arrow etc to hint that you can interact with the window title bar

    • if you take the mouse to the trigger area, the menu pops up and stays until you click the menu, other place in application or some completely different application. The menu does not go away by accident if you have poor mouse skills etc. => in Unity, the menu should have at least a 3 second delay until it hides again even if the mouse exits the hover-on area

    • you can hover the trigger area even when the window/program in question does not have focus => make sure that in Unity the window title area hover works even if the actual focus is in some other program’s window

    • there are no actions under the trigger area, so in touch screen environment you can’t accidentally pop-up the menu and do an action at the same time => make sure that if you in Unity click/hover the right corner of a window, there would not be any actions beneath (create a kind of safe click area)

  • Anonymous

    i would add a small lock to that design. That way you can toggle the default, always visible or this design (discoverable).

    is very nice at first, but gets really annoying, when lets say you are browsing the web on a browser like firefox and you need to use the toolbar, but dont want the menu shifting in and out every second you move the mouse…

  • Anonymous

    really great idea.

    if this gets discussed on launchpad would love a link!

  • Anonymous

    well i personally like these menus, but i must say that my Dad is one of those users that cant find the windows controls now.

    he just opens firefox and does not minimize or close it anymore. Instead when hes done he just shutdowns ubuntu with firefox still open.. :p

    probably making it more discoverable would be better like on this comment:

    http://www.jonobacon.org/2011/09/06/menu-discoverability-in-ubuntu-11-10/#comment-303683105

    “I can see your point here and I agree that menu should be hidden. Nevertheless, your comparison with the left launcher is a bit flawed. The main difference between both is that the launcher is visible before you open an application, so the user know where to look for. On the other hand the menu is never visible, you have no clue about where to search for it.

    I think it would be better if the menu gets displayed when the application is launching and, after a second, hide itself. It would be just like having the mouse always over the bar when the application is starting. That way, users would have the information of where the menu is hiding while we still have a pretty desktop.

    Dorian “

  • Anonymous

    because you actually told em to see if they can “find” the window controls, you were actually letting em know they were hidden!

    my 61 year old Dad , only opens firefox now and doesnt use the controls anymore…. everytime i check his computer firefox wants to restore the last session because he didnt close it properly using either the window controls or menu (since he doesnt know where they are obviously), he just force shutdowns the computer :p

    i think we need some sort of discover-ability, like this mentioned here:

    http://www.jonobacon.org/2011/09/06/menu-discoverability-in-ubuntu-11-10/#comment-303683105

  • Anonymous

    because you actually told em to see if they can “find” the window controls, you were actually letting em know they were hidden!

    my 61 year old Dad , only opens firefox now and doesnt use the controls anymore…. everytime i check his computer firefox wants to restore the last session because he didnt close it properly using either the window controls or menu (since he doesnt know where they are obviously), he just force shutdowns the computer :p

    i think we need some sort of discover-ability, like this mentioned here:

    http://www.jonobacon.org/2011/09/06/menu-discoverability-in-ubuntu-11-10/#comment-303683105

  • Anonymous

    same experience here!

  • Anonymous

    One more time……

    Please Jono,

    Listen to the users…Many of us will never use Unity…too complicated, to slow, not configurable enough, needs powerful computers…. You know the point, I already posted the argument on your blog and Mark’s blog last month…..and many of us did the same. Most of the comments beneath…are repeating these arguments

    You can do everything with Unity and take your pleasure there. I am fully for research and experimenting with new interfaces…I work in R&D (energy to be precise) But please…PLEASE…ask Mark to engage Canonical to help Lubuntu to mature seriously.

    Leave us a serious alternative (not half measures)…..That would be kind from you, Mark and Canonical

  • Kieran Fleming

    Try this on a dual monitor setup: Set up 2 maximised windows – 1 on each monitor Click in the window on the left monitor to give it focus Now try to close the window on the right

    The close button is hidden until you click in the application window as the menu bar on top can’t receive focus on behalf of the app. 

    For this and the other reasons in this thread just bring the buttons back – it really doesn’t look that bad with them being shown!

  • Shane Fisher

    Mr. Bacon, I have used Ubuntu 11.04 and I like the ability to chose whether to use Unity or not at log-in. I am fairly new to Linux, almost a year now, and I find it fairly easy to use. This just an objective point of view from a new user to Linux.

  • http://twitter.com/JairJy Jair Jaramillo

    Its funny how people hates the Ribbon when before that we have dozens of toolbars on Office.

    The Ribbon offers a nice interface, very minimalist, intuitive and easy to discover and use. You Linux guys should learn from it.

  • Aaa

    you are so stupid…

  • Troy Gilbert

    Is there a way to move the menu on the left side of the screen to the bottom of the screen?

  • Troy Gilbert

    Is there a way to move the menu on the left side of the screen to the bottom of the screen?

  • Guwrt77

    I use Ubuntu since 5 years now and this last release (11.10) is far not the best one with this Unity project. I was rather disapointed when I come in contact with this interface that differ radically from Gnome. Unfortunatelly, I can compare this change to the migration of Windows XP toward Vista (even Win 7) and I am aiming specially the UI only. Yes I know that XP was elementary but It is still used by many companies in the world because the system is simple to use and companies doesn’t want to pay for a new OS and formation when they have a system that is doing the job.

    Linux is Linux…. Linux is not Windows. Linux is not OSX. So why trying to be like thoses! Linux was supposed to be simple for ALL !

    Before 11.04, the ui was simple to use and new users were happy to use a very good system.

    M. Bacon, I read this thread to the end and I was quite surprised with your posts. At the end of this thread, my first impression was that you doesn’t to seem very interested about the community. Your opinion about Unity was rather clear and we have to follow Canonical. For the rest, I feel that you don’t care about the community.

    Actually, I use 10.04 LTS and I am very happy. You can be sure that I will use 10.04 until the end of the support and after, I will see.

    I actually test 11.10 on Virtual Box and I confirm that I have hard time to get use to this new UNITY ui. Hope things will be better in the futur.

    Andre

  • aoeu

    Sorry, this is not a good idea. I’ve been using Ubuntu since Warty Warthog, but the latest version, 11.10, is unusable. I can’t find anything, and I’m reasonably tech savvy. All the menus are gone and there are giant buttons cluttering up the desktop.

    I tried reinstalling GNOME panel, but it only brought back “Applications” and “Places”. This highly bizarre and unconventional user interface is going to make it more difficult for Windows users to move to Ubuntu.

    The latter browser example that you gave is not usable except to someone who already knows where things are. I think Google is making terrible interface decisions with Chrome (like the example you provided), and everyone is copying them.

    I’m really unhappy about it because my favorite piece of software (Ubuntu) is completely messed up now. I’ve already spent an hour trying to figure it out. The most basic part of the OS (menu) is missing.

    Please don’t try to innovate with the interface unless it’s an option that is easily turned off. It’s going to make it difficult for people to use the software.

  • aoeu

    I haven’t installed a new version of Ubuntu in a while and just learned what Unity is. I really dislike where Ubuntu is going. Ubuntu is losing track of itself. Don’t try to innovate with the interface. It’s just making a barrier to adoption and over-simplifying the OS like Google is doing with the browser.

  • aoeu

    I couldn’t figure out how to find things by just exploring around, and I’ve been using Ubuntu since Warty Warthog. Unity is awful (see my other comment). When I installed gnome-panel, it only shows “applications” and “places”. Right-clicking on it doesn’t do anything.

  • Alex G.

    I am new to Linux, switching from Windows XP.  I initially tried regular Ubuntu, at the time it was 11.04.  I am also very seldom use Windows 7 or Macs so far, so the new Unity interface was foreign to me, but I was getting the hang of it, where things were stored on my computer (no C:/D:/etc drives), and was trying to like Ubuntu with Unity.  I am highly computer literate, mind you, and set my computer to dual boot from either Windows XP or Ubuntu.

    I was getting frustrated with many new things, but then I found out I was staring at programs a lot.  Mind you, I like to use the menus a lot and like to use the KEYBOARD to access the menus.  Old habits die hard, huh?  Well I found myself staring at some many applications because I was lost in space wondering what to do next.  Then I was like, “oh, there’s a menu.”  Great.  So I discovered I had to use my MOUSE more often to get to the menus.  Maybe holding down ALT showed the menu items, maybe they didn’t, I don’t know.  Anyway, I went googling and searching through help to see if there was an option to make the menus always visible.  I’d be fine with a global menu bar, but a global menu bar with HIDDEN ITEMS?  What the freakin’ hell?

    I also found out that the “classic interface” for the old gnome (which I wasn’t familiar with before anyway) was disabled with the newest release 11.10.  Now I’m thinking, OMFG, what the hell is wrong with these people?

    I went back to Windows XP briefly, did some reasearch, and switched to Linux Mint.  I’ve been a happy camper using Linux Mint ever since.

    You folks at Canonical who designed the latest release really fubared it and should be ashamed of yourselves.  HOW HARD IS IT TO MAKE AN OPTION TO KEEP MENU ITEMS VISIBLE?  I’LL ADAPT TO THE GLOBAL MENU, FINE, BUT HIDDEN MENU ITEMS IS ABSOLUTELY INTEROLABLE AND NON-NEGOTIABLE.

    Thank the lord for other developers for branched-distros such as Linux Mint.

  • Alex G.

    Firefox has simplified their OS and made it more intuitive WITHOUT SACRIFICING FUNCTIONALITY in the latest versions 4.x-7.x.  (Firefox allows you to disable integration into the Unity toolbar, thank the lord.)  So some people get it right.  I can’t speak for Google Chrome, I have used it very little and not recently.  But there is a right way to simplify the interface without sacrificing functionality (Firefox) and there is a wrong way (Unity — by disabling visible menu categories — completely wrong).  Sorry but I don’t own a smart phone, and iPad or tablet, and won’t in the foreseeable future.

  • Anonymous
  • Whysean

    I really want to use linux. I hate the current version of MS Windows with its new floaty Icon bar. So I just installed Ubuntu 11.10.

    Oh goody, it has a floaty icon bar too…

    Well, I persited past that. I figured out how to download a program from the “software center”. Now that it is downloaded I have spent over an hour trying to figure out where I run it from. There is no “Applications menu” anymore, it did not appear on the floating icons at the left of the screen, and it does not show up in a ‘Dash Home” search.

    Now I am doing random searches on the net to see if anything tells me how to access an application once you install it.

    Soon enough productivity time will have been wasted that I will just install Microsoft XP.

  • Alex G.

    There are better versions of Linux for those people (like me) who prefer a more Windows-XP like environment and one less like a Mac or Windows 7.  Try Linux Mint, for one.

  • Michael

     I did not have time to explore all comments about the hidden menu but it interesting.  I just did a load of 11.10 on an old HP/Compaq machine.  The menu do not exist at all no matter what I do.

  • Seth Jackson

    Mystery Meat Navigation has long been the hallmark of terrible interface design, and so you bake it into your OS?

    Please fix this. It’s absurd.

    Thanks

  • http://www.brandonholtsclaw.com/ Brandon Holtsclaw

    Actually Jono I dont think this has been put though the ringer enough at all, I have one simple use case, one … 

    My 70+ year old Stepfather made the switch to Ubuntu many years ago now, when his aging windows xp machine needed the 3rd reload in a month I convinced him to try out this new beta copy of a OS I’d been contributing to called Dapper Drake, after the LULZ of the name and at the time a threat never to work on his PC again he gave in and tried it, loved it, and has NEVER looked back. I’ve witnessed him in public purporting the greatness of Ubuntu to countless others and coming from a man of his age its alot different then coming from some “kid” like me who hacks on it in his spare time.What am I getting at here ? Well after 2 weeks of using Unity 11.10 he had me take him to the local Apple Store and bought a Mac, and I started to talk him out of it but his retort was very very VERY well thought out, and Unity + things like this were his main reason for the switch. The final straw “the broke the camels back” was he could not minimise apps anymore in unity and that all their menus were gone. Now you and me both know thats wrong but when he used the system for 2 weeks and never found he could even minimise the app there is something VERY wrong, and he has been using Ubuntu the better part of 6 years now so not a “newbie” either.  So his old desktop along with the 23inch lcd monitor is to become the new house fileserver for backups, and his new 27inch iMac took its place just last week. And honestly I cant blame him.

    How many others out there are like him? What about those of us that dont use a little netbook for Daily use and like me have 4x 23inch monitors on our “desktop” ( a docked macbook pro ) ? I would not even consider unity on this system, I have alot of screen realestate for a reason ( as did he for his use case ) make use of it and dont hide crap I dont tell the OS to hide, or AT VERY LEASTE MAKE IT CONFIGUREABLE VIA A SIMPLE CONTROL PANEL APP AND OFF BY DEFAULT until it has had the YEARS of usability tests that Gnome 2.x OSX and Windows all have had.When 20% of your users get it wrong thats is a failure … when 5% of the internet still used IE 6 we had to code webpages that made sure things still functioned for them, excluding 20% is by no way shape or form a small number AT ALL, and in fact 10 users is WAY WAY to small of a sample anyhow as 3 or 4 times that number should be the percentage for error, a minimal Drupal 7 usability test recently conducted by Google would not even consider to begin without a sample group of 500+.

    I’m as big of a Ubuntu fanboy as anyone but this is one of the many that is wrong as of late, how long before we see people leaving Ubuntu for the same reasons Jame Whittaker left Google just this month [ http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jw_on_tech/archive/2012/03/13/why-i-left-google.aspx ]

  • http://barrkel.blogspot.com/ barrkel

    The discoverability of invisible text is low to none. Rather, it’s user sadism.

    (PS: there’s something wrong with the font you’ve chosen for your main body text. It’s almost unreadable – thin and scratchy – on my (Windows) system.)

  • Anonymous

    I. Hate. This. So. Much. Why can’t I make it work the way I want?  Why is it so hard to put a checkbox somewhere so I can make menus always visible?