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.
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?
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 jackwallen.com.