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

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
). 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



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?