Ubuntu

Linux rules the universe by behaving exactly how the user wants

Although the Head Up Display (HUD) will remain the default, Canonical will be bringing back the local menus as an option. Jack Wallen responds to this announcement.

 

HUD
 

Canonical recently announced that local menus will be returning in the upcoming 14.04 release.

And the crowd goes wild!

Not so fast. I have to shake my head at this. I'll preface that head-shaking by first admitting that I'm a fan of the Head Up Display (HUD). I find it an efficient and elegant solution to the old application menu system. What is the HUD? The HUD is a global replacement for application menus that allows you to quickly search through an application menu system for what you’re looking for. Watch the video below to see a demonstration of how it's used:

When Canonical introduced this new menu system, a vast majority of the open-source community tossed their arms up in the air and cried foul. They wanted the standard, local menu system back.

Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I don’t get it. This is the same community that prides itself on keyboard shortcuts, macros, working with text editors that make zero use of the mouse or standard menu systems. This is the same community that demands an efficient, clean interface. How much more efficient and clean can you get than Unity’s HUD?

You can’t... unless you’ve developed a Neuromancer-Snowcrash-Matrix interface between your brain and the operating system. But that has yet to come to fruition -- "yet' being the operative word.

One of the biggest differences between open-source and proprietary software is that the public actually does have a voice. If we were talking about Windows or Apple, it would be a different story. Canonical heard the voices and reacted with the upcoming release. The local menus will be an available option, but not the default. So, with this release, you can have your cake and eat it too. If you don’t like the HUD, enable local menus (in the Appearance pane of the Unity Control Center).

But I still don’t get this need to cling to the past. The computer interface has evolved to meet two things:

  • Modern aesthetics
  • Demand for high efficiency

Ubuntu Unity, as it is, has done an outstanding job of meeting those two needs. Yet, there's a continued pull backward toward the old metaphor.

One of the aspects of Linux that I'm proud about is that it's always been a leader in innovation. If you look at the cutting and bleeding edges of nearly every envelope attached to technology, you’ll find Linux and open source there.

Canonical (and Ubuntu) has taken a lot of flack for pushing boundaries that no other platform has dared push. This flack mostly comes from within the Linux community. Personally, I love being able to work from my keyboard alone (Figure A). Yes, it took me a while to get used to -- all the while, my hand was instinctively reaching for the mouse. But once I managed to retrain my thinking and process, I found the HUD to be one of the most efficient tools I’ve ever used.

Figure A

 

Figure A
 

Opening the TechRepublic web site from the HUD.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m bashing the whole of the Linux community. Everyone should be able to use their PCs in the way that best suits their needs. That’s where Linux has always ruled the operating system universe -- its ability to look and behave exactly as the user wants. And this move of Ubuntu’s proves just that. Anyone who jumped the Ubuntu ship because of the HUD can hop back on and have their interface just the way they want it.

What platform do you think offers the ideal application menu interface? The Microsoft Office Ribbon? The old-school local menus? The HUD? Which do you prefer and why?

 

 

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

32 comments
haneul
haneul

Here is how I view this, based on having worked with computers and their users for a long time. All opinions are my own, of course, though I've been influenced by others who are much smarter than I am.

1. Typing vs. GUIs: For very many people, having to type anything on a keyboard is hugely frustrating, slow and error-prone, and thus it is an Obstacle to Getting The Job Done, at least for them. This is part of the reason that GUI environments have been such a success: even though any GUI is imperfect, for these users, almost anything is better than having to use a keyboard.

2. Menus: For a similarly large number of people, menus are an intuitive and easy-to-learn way to organize their activities on a computer. Menus exist in both GUI and non-GUI environments, and they have been received well in both.

3. Shortcuts: What often occurs is that after the user learns the menu system, the next request is for shortcuts to their favorite activities. Shortcuts are Good Things. They will be with us for a Long Time, in some form or other.

4. Keyboarding as a shortcut for the GUI: For some people, possibly we might call them power users, the so-called friendly features of a GUI--mousing, click and highlight, drag and drop--become obstacles to working efficiently. For these users, the keyboard is vastly quicker, more precise and more powerful than using a GUI.

So in a sense, we come full circle. I agree with the person who said that in this context, the customer is always right. The right user interface is the one that works best for that particular person.

And I would add that one reason I like Linux is that for me, it offers a much more richer set of UI options than its competitors. In my opinion, that's true precisely because Linux is open-source, flexible and configurable.

ornstead
ornstead

I think blindly embracing/duplicating what Microsoft does is the road to failure, and that calling it "pushing boundaries" or "innovation" doesn't automatically make it better.

Microsoft has consistently shown it has no idea what the users want. They consistently alienate their users by forcing entire new interfaces down their throats.

Users want the interface to not be a problem - they don't want it getting in the way of what they are trying to do. And having to re-learn a whole new interface every year or 2 definitely gets in the way. Let them keep using the interface they know and prefer. 

Menus work fine. So do mice.


Memorizing commands you can't easily look up is not new and innovative - it was default 20-30 years ago, as was mouseless-operation. Don't go back to that.

janitorman
janitorman

From what I can see in the video, you have to MEMORIZE a bunch of commands, MS-DOS style, and type them in. I have enough trouble with that in command line as it is. Is that command "stop" or is it "end" or ....

And in a GUI environment, how you type them in while typing in the middle of a document, I have no clue. Makes no sense. One step backward, seems to me.

How about, you're typing along, want to move a block of text to the previous paragraph, and bold it? I think a very efficient way to do that will be to HIGHLIGHT the text with a mouse, move it, and then CLICK a toolbar menu item that says "bold." 

There's really no other way to do it efficiently. That said, I'm glad the "indiscoverable menus" are going to be able to be turned off, even if not by default, and we get the regular tried and true menu system plus toolbars back!

It was bad enough with "the ribbon" on MS Office! I refuse to use those versions, unless I absolutely HAVE to, and then, there should be...ALONGSIDE the silly ribbon, a place where you can click and type to "discover" a menu command hidden somewhere in all those icons that look alike, say "address envelope" (which, I perfectly well know how to find in previous versions with no trouble, and can't find ANYwhere in all those icons.)

psengr_techrep
psengr_techrep

I can't really see what the excitement is all about.  From what I've seen, Unity HUD is a simple extension of the Windows-type shortcut keys.   It allows the user to describe what he wants to do in imprecise terminology instead of learning jargon that varies from developer to developer, application to application. 


If the "return of local menus" means that applications which had two-stroke shortcut keys for the most commonly used task will once again have them, that would be the best of all possible worlds. 

jos
jos

Some people are using the HUD to find 4 wheels and an engine; using menus to find a door and a seat and a steering wheel. I know where my car is. I don't need all these. Yesterday I was working on an object and today I want to work on that same object, without "finding" everything again. I found it already! I start the object like the car and the object (car) finds everything I need to do the job or to drive. (And that's in Linux possible as well.) 

tomj001
tomj001

Personally, just like windows 8, I didn't like the new Ubuntu menu bar. I could use it fine. I just don't like it.

I just want to make one more point. There are people that like to build, repair, modify computers and like to see things change. But,  I'm always dealing with people like my wife and some friends, who use computers everyday, at work or at home and when something happens, they call you so you can fix it and you explain to them what happened, how to prevent it from happening again. Guess what? They keep calling on you to fix it " just because it doesn't sink in. It's like a mental block. I don't think I'm the same way when it comes to the old vs. new menu. I just see one method just as useful and efficient as the other. I just prefer the old way. I click on a start button and scroll. The old menu can be compartmentalized too! I say it's good that they will give the option to the consumer to which menu they want. That's the way it should be..... and remember,    the customer is always right!

mitchloftus
mitchloftus

The option is good. People hate change, and they don't like re-learning how to use a computer. Which, I think, is why nearly everyone hates Windows 8. When you get the younger whiz kids who have not (yet) been using the same style user interface for decades designing a new, improved(?) paradigm .... there is going to be push-back from those who HAVE been using the same thing for a long while. It works, everyone is used to it, it ain't broke .... so don't fix it. The question of whether or not it has a 'modern appearance' has no business in a serious discussion of a tool. That's nothing but cosmetics, and although it may look pretty the attraction passes quickly when you have a hard time actually doing what you bought the machine to do. Youngsters who are just learning to use a computer will probably feel the same way about whatever New And Vastly Improved interface is foist upon them 20 years from now by the next generation of young punk UI designers. 

heldemanpieter
heldemanpieter

I am guessing: That of the people that complained about the HUD, 80% of them now are complaining about the menu bar. Some people will never be happy.

lvavila
lvavila

The part you don't get "clinging on to the past" is being efficient is relative.  What is efficient for you is not for everyone.  If you are on an interface everyday, you learn it inside and out.  Otherwise (like Windows 8.1), you don't want to move around the side of the screen refiguring out where things are.  Menus stay where they are and launch what they launch.  No guessing.  Anyone new to computers see something that looks like a menu and based on the options given, have a fighting chance what they do without "figuring them out".


As a developer I may not agree, but I get "it".  Interface are both sacred and personal.  Again Windows 8.1 may be future bound but you don't every do a 100% rework.  Its an evolution.  When Office went to ribbons, there was all kinds of grunting as users had to relearn the interface when they were already "efficient" at what they knew.  You don't change for the sake of change.  And that change has no value if you are the only one that believes in it.


"getting it" <> "agreeing with it"


mike
mike

I never jumped ship. I simply do a sudo apt-get install gnome-panel, log out and select Gnome as the default desktop and then log back in. No biggie.

gsskyles
gsskyles

The video would have made more sense if it were a split screen showing the keyboard or something. Since you can't see what's being typed (I'm assuming that was what was going on) it just turns into a nice flashing display.

bseddon
bseddon

"Rules the universe" Ha Ha Ha.  Ha Ha Ha.  Ha Ha Ha.  (reads again) Ha Ha Ha.


Must be one of those other universes.  If there is an infinite number of universes I guess this must be true in at least one of them.  Hey, maybe this is a post from such an alternate universe and Jack has made history in our universe with the first trans-dimensional communication.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

My understanding of the announcement was that it would have nothing to do with the HUD.  I was under the impression that the situation with a main application menu would remain just the same as it is now.

The difference that Canonical just announced will be that the menu bar for any particular application will return to the application window rather than being part of a global menu bar at the top of the screen which changes with window focus.  I haven't ever used Unity (I was using Xubuntu as my *buntu distribution), but my impression is that this has nothing to do with the HUD, and it's certainly not a return to a "Start" button-like application menu.

gcanny@GC-Tek.com
gcanny@GC-Tek.com

I am a long time Ubuntu fan and I have become a Unity fan for the most part..... but in the beginning it was too different and a lot of thing didn't work well at first.  I think it's awesome that Ubuntu is now adding the option for both, I will use both.... It should have been that way from the start!  (Microsoft did the same thing wrong with Win 8) Other things I would like to see are - First: desktop icons or shortcuts outside the launcher.  i.e. I would like to be able to make a gedit icon, outside the launch, that will start as sudo to do admin tasks without opening a terminal. Or launch a GUI file manger in sudo.  I know how to do everything in a terminal because when I started with unix there wasn't a GUI option but I prefer using GUI tools to do all my work. I think this is a big obstacle for Linux become an option for non-tech users that should replace Win XP soon.  Second: I will add to another reader's comment about Unity not having a task-bar showing and switching between running applications.  Unity does show little arrows for this purpose but I thing it would help to move the active applications to the top of the launcher. Third: I think you should be able to move the launcher to the right, bottom, top or have a floating launcher or better yet... multiple launchers...

pheedrus
pheedrus

To me Linux and OSS in general is about choice and options. I do like HUD especially with Gimp, but I also would like to have the option of using HUD for the classical menu system AND to have the ability to set either one as my default.

Gisabun
Gisabun

"Linux rules the universe" .... If so not when the market share is under 2% and a big chunk are servers!

dariog88a
dariog88a

For me, Unity's HUD is not efficient. To open an application, I prefer using Alt+F1 and the cursor keys than having to remember and write its name. But the most annoying thing of Unity is the lack of the bottom panel: I need that the name and content of the opened windows are always there. I ran away from Ubuntu 11.10 to Debian with Xfce because I want to have a choice, and Debian offers Gnome 3 as default and KDE, LXDE and Xfce as alternatives. Finally, about the video, despite all those operations were already possible "without a single click of the mouse", I guess HUD is useful for most people because they do not use keyboards shortcuts.

ricegf2013
ricegf2013

While I use the dash constantly, the HUD has never actually worked for me on 12.04. Just to see if I missed something, I just attempted to replicate the video exactly as demonstrated. 


Opening LibreOffice Writer with the dash went perfectly - hit super, type "libre" then Enter, voila.


I typed a sentence and hit shift-Home to select it.


Then I hit Alt and typed "center". Before hitting Enter, I noticed that the icon had changed from writer to email. When I hit Enter, I got... Pidgin.  I tried this 3 times - same result. Clearly, the HUD is hopping to a different application, but I have no idea why - I thought it replaced the LOCAL menus.


Any idea why I can't actually make HUD work?

blastradius
blastradius

I too used to use Ubuntu until Unity hit, I had tried a lot if distros before but not true Debian, my laptop is old so I installed Debian with xfce and I can honestly say that you won't get me to change back EVER!

Maybe It's old school but then so is Emacs and I love that too :-)

mountney
mountney

I was a big fan of Ubuntu - started with 6.06 - until an upgrade and out of nowhere Unity appeared. No warning that there wasn't a menu. Once the upgrade was installed there also wasn't any option I could find that allowed me to have a menu. I was running 10.04 and did the 'automatic' upgrade from the update app - there wasn't any warning that the UI was changed so drastically. I gave unity a try for a period of time but didn't care for it.

I'm all for something new/innovative but not by surprise or by no choice. I primarily use Crunchbang/Openbox so I'm very open to trying new things BY choice. With CB I'm totally in control of the menu and yes it meets the 'Demand for high efficiency'.

 I also use Mint and have tried all the UI's; xfce, mate, cinnamon, kde, lmde. I also run lubuntu and xubuntu (with menu AND application finder at the same time - what a concept).  VirtualBox is great for trying/running distros.

Its grand that Canonical will provide the option to chose the UI. Sad they didn't do that when unity arrived. Why not the option for both unity and menu at the same time..? That's what makes Linux distros great - choice.

So it was the surprise with no option that drove me away from Ubuntu/Unity.

DAMANgoldberg
DAMANgoldberg

I am also a fan of the ribbon, because it's is customizable in the way I work. Any OS that can do that, I am a fan of. Prefer Windows, but open to and have Ubuntu 13.10 & Mint 16 in Virtualization.

extremeskillz
extremeskillz

I've enjoyed Unity since it was released and disappointed with ubuntu bringing back the old menu. I will continue to use ubuntu as my primary os as I love it and its just very efficient.

VortexCortex
VortexCortex

I prefer the Ribbon since it makes navigating through the options much more logical and easier to locate. 

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

@janitorman The easy way tol highlight and move text:

Put the cursor at the beginning of the block of test using the cursor keys.

Press and hold Shift.

Use Ctrl-cursor to move the cursor to the end of the block.

Ctrl-X

Used the cursor keys to move the cursor to the point where you wish to put the text.

Ctrl-V


Your hands have never left the keyboard, your eyes have never left the screen, and you're ready to start typing again.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

Upon closer examination, it seems that you are talking about the HUD working from the menu bar.  Will this actually change?  I don't see that it has to just because the menu bar is now in the application window.  The menu bar changed depending on which application had focus already.  It doesn't seem like its location within the window has to change anything about the way the HUD works.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

@Gisabun  Linux servers are not counted in the 2% of desktops you quoted. Linux servers run mostly everything enjoying more than 50% of the server space. Even Microsoft uses Linux servers at times, and Linux is also available on Azure. In may ways Linux does rule the universe as, for instance, almost all stock exchanges run on Linux, most banks and all international money exchanges. If you do anything with money involved it is going through Linux servers somewhere. 

The 2% is the percentage of desktop computers purchased with Linux on them already. Almost all Linux desktops are purchased with Windows on them and then wiped and Linux installed for free. 

If you go by connections to a web site and use the useragent to determine OS some sites are reporting as high as 15% Linux based while others say 10%. This may contain mobile systems as well and this would be android which is a variant of Linux.

Freebird54
Freebird54

@mountney Just thought I should point out that there WAS a choice when they first gave us Unity - a 'Fallback to Gnome' option right on the logon page.  Did that myself until Unity settled down (and until *I* settled for that matter!).  Even tried Mint for a while, but discovered that Unity was more efficient than the alternatives, although I have struggled to customize it at times...


It certainly was a 'culture shock' until I had time to read the help files!

So - put me down for Unity - especially now that it'll run on my tablet as well (and maybe my phone?).



Gisabun
Gisabun

@sysop-dr  My "2%" was from netmarketshare. They base their statistics on traffic - not what was the OS when the desktop/laptop was bought.

Not all Linux is free. Some companies will choose Red Hat or others for support.

I would like to know where you get the 10% to 15% figures as well as stock exchanges and money exchanges.

Though not scientific, I have yet to work at a place that has Linux desktops and maybe at most a few Linux servers Current location has none.

klashbrook
klashbrook

Linux servers have 50% ???  

Not in any Fortune 500 data center that I've ever walked into.

Not even close.  MAYBE 5%.  And that's a BIG maybe.

These Linux fanboys are comical.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

@klashbrook

Well, I tend to think he was sort of doing the same thing as the post he replied to.  That is, taking a stat and applying it to something other than what it's actually talking about.  It's the desktop where Linux has around 2%.  It's specifically web servers where it has around 50%.  For servers in general it's certainly more than 2% and certainly less than 50%.