The HUD: Call For Testers

Today we announced the HUD that is landing in Unity. This is an awesome new feature. See Mark’s blog post, the coverage on PC Pro, and the interview with John Lea on OMG! Ubuntu!. Here is a video of the feature in action:

Can’t see it? See it here.

I wanted to point you folks at Nicholas’s blog post about how to test the HUD. You will need to be running Ubuntu 12.04 (which is still in development) to test.

We would like to encourage everyone to test so we can get this rock-solid for 12.04!

  • Bruno Girin

    Brilliant! I just needed an excuse to upgrade to Precise. That’s my week-end taken care of then :-)

  • Anonymous

     Woo! Just remember to file those bugs you find. :-)

  • Wiern Seamon

    Yeah today you announce it. But for how long have you known it without sharing? You give us a weekly dose of community talk and yet you serve us surprises in an way which is not convenient. I just read Sebastian Bacher recommend GNOME to give a half year warning before introducing controversial stuff. When will Canonical live up to those standards? I might be wrong after all and have misunderstood what Ubuntus community effort is all about. Can you explain to me how the Ubuntu community fits with last two massive code dumps with copyright assignment? (Ubuntu TV and now the HUD)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment, Wiern.

    I agree that it would be nice if we could develop everything out in the open as the ideas and designs flourish, but not all companies are able to do this. Every major Open Source company will sometimes announce technology and code-drops; sure it is sub-optimal from a pure community transparency perspective, but I think the values these companies bring in bring Free Software to everyone is worthwhile.

    In terms of the HUD – yes, it was announced today, but it is now out in the open with plenty of time for testing. Also, it won’t be landing into Ubuntu until it has past our acceptance criteria for quality. As such, it should not add any inconvenience to either Ubuntu users or those testing and providing bug reports about 12.04.

    As for copyright assignment, we have had this conversation plenty of times in our community and I am not sure there is much point in re-hashing it here. HAve you written code that you want to contribute to these projects but don’t want to sign the copyright assignment form?

  • Wiern Seamon

    Im not complaining about the HUD or the TV software. For the first time Im just feeling a lack of excitement. And quite frankly; It really scares me. I feel less confident about the community part right now.

    Im in no position to contribute code. What Im talking about is the call for testing. I’ve enjoyed testing early released code before. Hunting bugs is fun, seeing software grow and live is fun. The end result not so much.


  • Anonymous

     Sorry to hear you feel this way, Wiern.

    Why do you feel scared about this? Is this because you are just not as excited about Ubuntu any more?

  • Bernd

    Would like to test it, but after the latest updates my X-Server don’t start anymore. No useful error message, no crash file in /var/crash. The same problem after reinstalling the system. This is the second time that I have problems with the X-Server (not starting) with Ubuntu 12.04. :-(

  • Anonymous

     Yikes, that sucks! Did you file a bug with the problem you are experiencing, Bernd?

    Sorry to hear you are having X issues…I haven not seen anything like this so far in 12.04, but I will pass this feedback on.

  • Bernd

     I don’t know against which package I should file the bug. There is no useful message and no crash protocol. Could also be the graphics driver 

  • Wiern Seamon

    Im as excited about free software as ever. This is written from another distribution but normally I would have installed the development version of Ubuntu at this point. These half-year iterations are like roller coaster rides. From stable-X to stable-Y but it takes you on a fun and bumpy ride in between. This time I feel like the fun part of the ride is gone. Code dumps at PPAs are great for many things but one downside is the lack of fun.

    Precise is mere 5min effort away from being installed on my laptop.Right now it probably wont happen because I feel alienated for the first time.

  • Anonymous

     Thanks for sharing more of your perspective, Wiern.

    I am just trying to understand why you feel the way you do. What fun part is not happening any more?

    How are PPAs and drops of new features making participating less fun?

    Thanks in advance.

  • RAOF

    In the case where you’ve got an X-related problem, but are unsure where it should go, filing a bug against xorg with “ubuntu-bug xorg” is the right thing to do. Obviously, you need to run this on the broken machine – you should be able to do this from the command line.

    It should attach enough information to the bug to start working out where the problem is.

  • Bernd

    Yes, I reported the bug the last time via command line. This works fine 😉 Today I saw that the installer installed the nvidia-173 driver which causes the problems. I removed this driver and installed the nouveau-firmware and now it looks fine. So I’m able to test the HUD now 😉

  • Anonymous


  • Wiern Seamon

    Well it is a bit hard to describe :) My best way of explaining it is by the roller coaster going from stable to stable. Stable is the beginning and the end. Dull. All the fun is to experience the process of software development during the ride.

  • Anonymous

     Oh I see. I think a great place where you might be able to enjoy the more rugged software development experience is to help with testing and reporting bugs and maybe doing manual testing throughout the cycle.

    Would this be interesting to you?

  • stevepdp

    Always innovating :-)

    I’ve discovered only one bug so far. The HUD in it’s current state doesn’t support the LibreOffice suite of applications. Or at least on my experience that seems to be the case. Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth. See 921248 for the bug report, I would appreciate any feedback on it.

    The HUD is going to make support calls much more pleasant. Navigating menus over the phone will be a thing of the past.

  • Anonymous

    Jono, i don’t want to sound like a troll, i enjoy the ubuntu comunity for a long time and try to get involved in the news and changes on it. But i think it just doesn’t make much sense. People are using the mouse for 2 decades and they are doing fine, why would they want to switch back to keyboard only ? The MS ribbon approach is a much… much better solution. Our memory works better for images not for text or names. I don’t understand the basic logic behind unity and now HUD.

  • Jef Spaleta

    what? I thought the CLA Canonical chose recent no longer required assignment. Did Canonical change its mind on the CLA again and re-include an assignment clause?


  • Jef Spaleta

    So with your previous blog post about documentation in mind…. Can you point me to the most useful documentation for the HUD dbus api aimed at application developers? 

  • Anonymous

    The HUD is just a way of viewing the data exposed by dbusmenu. I am not sure off-hand where the API for this is, but it is not an API that a traditional application would use – any GTK/Qt app has their menus exposed automatically via dbusmenu on Ubuntu anyway.

  • Anonymous

     Thanks for the reply, Benjamin.

    This is not about replacing the mouse. This is simply about providing a quick way of accessing commands that are available in an application – I compare it to keyboard shortcuts in a way…when you know them, they really speed up the productivity of an application…but the problem with keyboard shortcuts is that you need to be able to remember what they are.

    With the HUD you just hit ALT and type and you can find the functionality in the app.

  • Anonymous

    do you have the global menu working in your libreoffice? HUD with LibreOffice is working for me, but I know getting global menu and LO was a struggle

  • Peter Bomars

    So last year, Ubuntu took away my menus and ability to simply switch between open windows, completely destroying my workflow.

    This year they are taking away all menus, further hindering workflow.

    Next year, are you going to take away my keyboard and I’ll have to recite koans in properly-pronounced Sanskrit to do anything?

    Jono, I don’t want to learn Sanskrit.

  • Anonymous

     I think you are being a little overly-dramatic, Peter.

    Ubuntu didn’t take away your menus – just move your mouse to the bar at the top and you will see them…they work exactly the same.

    As for switching between open windows…you can use Alt-Tab, use the Workspace Switcher, or click on Launcher icons to access them.

    I am not saying the workflow is perfect, but to suggest we are removing functionality is a little over-blown.

  • stevepdp

    Ted Gould mentioned on the bug report that the package lo-menubar was required. 

    With that installed, LibreOffice is now supported in the global menu and HUD :-)

  • Chris Roberts

    This looks like an interesting development and I look forward to it.  My one concern is that most people outside of the tech world don’t look at the screen whilst they type, they are too busy looking at the keyboard, so this sort of technology is lost on them.

  • Anonymous

    Well this is an interesting bit of code.  Trying to test it out myself.  I am not a HUGE fan of Unity but I do like that they are trying something different.  Different is what got me into Linux in the first place.  Bitching about this is like trying to stop innovation as far as I am concerned and whining about changes like this is just plain stupid in my opinion.  After all, if it wasn’t for Gnome and KDE we’d all still be running FVWM or god forbid twm.

  • Anonymous

    I just happened to be trying it at the moment! in 11.10 no less. I really like the idea, although I don’t like being in a composited desktop (OpenGL development, I can’t afford the small frame drops it causes). But so far, it’s pretty convenient. My bad reports about it: 1) It might take a few taps of the alt key to open. 2) It’s a bit inaccurate, trying to invoke “new tab > shell” in Konsole, insisted on showing me all “help” entries. I ended up using “new she” instead. 3) Lacks a browsing capability (For example, if I press alt, open the HUD, type exactly one character, I can see the menu’s root. But if I click on any of the entries, no actual action is performed.) 4) It opens on the top-left corner. It’s a nitpick, but I’d prefer if it was placed at the top left of the involved window. I stress it’s nitpicking, my use case is non-standard (I use a big window+3 smaller side windows layout, so I can always see IM and a terminal or VLC, that’s the same reason I couldn’t get into the global menu)

    I assume 2/3 will be fixed soon. 1 is a bit of a mystery, the amount of times I need to tap alt might vary even in the same application. I guess it will also be finetuned sometime. I won’t bet on 4 being fixed, but count one vote for it.

    Either way, this is very promising. I like it a lot. I only wish it was also ported to Unity-2D sometime soon. I also like that it allows clicking (despite outcry of the contrary everywhere). By the way, this is probably not the place to ask, but I’d like to hack around with HUD a bit. hud-cli does most of the work, but…well, if anyone can point me to how to invoke the menu entry (through DBUS or some python lib), I might get something fun to play with (and will upload sources).

  • Stephen Crowsen

    Here we have a video with lots of “running one application at a time”. What happens if I want to run several applications all at the same time? Well, that is the whole point of a windows environment! Say I want to run Pidgin, Libreoffice, and Firefox all at the same time? Right now, using the Gnome Classic desktop, I have 5 applications running, and I can see and check each one at the click of a mouse button! I have two instant messengers, Opera browser, Chrome browser, and the Update manager, and …oh …  excuse me … thanks, I was just checking the Update Manager and it has finished doing all its updates, so I just closed it. See: I did that by simply clicking on the “Update Manager” thingy along the bottom of the desktop, and I did it without having to close the Chrome browser (which is how I’m accessing this website).  Why not put out a video showing how easy it is to do something like this with Unity? And why should I have to type in “Libreoffice” when I used to be able to click on an icon along the top bar of the desktop? To me, a “professional” desktop has the applications I WANT to be able to start with one click on a bar along the top of the desktop, and the programs / applications that are CURRENTLY RUNNING are along the bottom. To me, icons along the side of the desktop are just wasting valuable space, which should be reserved for IMPORTANT applications like the browser.

  • Stephen Crowsen

    I got RSI in my thumb from doing ALT-TABs and took years to heal. This is a very bad habit and should be discouraged.  If multitasking in Unity was sooooo simple why don’t they show it in the videos?  I think Peter is 100% right!

  • Anonymous

    Jono, sometime ago i read an article written by Bruce Tognazzini (ex apple engineer) discusing which one was best for IOS, a good searching feature or a great browsing system. It´s just what i see in unity. If you think it might help take a look:

  • Chris

    I wonder if you could bind capslock to Alt+Tab for some relief?

  • Stephen Crowsen

    No, I just don’t do ALT+TAB unless I absolutely have to. As I said, it took years to heal. I don’t have to use Unity, I can use Gnome Classic. In fact, I do use Gnome Classic.  Has anyone checked Unity’s liability insurance? 

  • Francois

    Installed, and already an improvement idea posted in Launchpad : why should this appear at the top left corner ? It’s called a HUD, right ? It should appear as a layer ABOVE my work, right ? No need to move my eyes off my work, press the key, type, select, and it disappears. Instead, currently, on my huuuuuge screen, I press the key, move my eyes at the corner, type, select, move back my eyes on the application. It’s a HUTD application instead “Head Up There Display” 😉 

    I understand why the menu is moved to the top bar (more room for content), but this option, it’s a layer ! It can appear above the application as well.

    Maybe it’s too much of a difference with where the menu / dash are, but it could at least be an option (HUD top left corner or HUD centered on the application)

  • Franzbeckenbauer

    Hilarious. You made my day. Every time i need a good laugh, all i have to do is look at the latest “awesome feature” in Unity and i’m set. I used to look at the OS X-GUI whenever i felt like this, but you guys are taking the whole thing to a new dimension.

    Thank you ! Keep up the good work !


  • Aa


  • Jeff Spaghetti

    So true

  • Hans Heintze

    GNU GPL article 16 16. Limitation of Liability.


  • Stephen Crowsen

    As I read that, it says to me this clause only applies if the user modifies Unity, and since a fair proportion of Ubuntu’s claimed 20 million users can’t modify it, Ubuntu could still be liable for any injuries caused by their encouragement of bad keyboard practices.  But even if that the courts (wherever) will accept this clause as an RSI “cop out” clause, that doesn’t excuse Ubuntu for giving users a desktop environment that encourages bad keyboard practices. I just can’t understand what merit Unity has that it’s even consider equal to Gnome 2, Unity is plainly inferior. In fact I think it is one of the worst windows environments I’ve ever come across.