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HUD to replace menus in Ubuntu 12.04 – a further kick to the hornet’s nest?

by Russell Barnes

Canonical have today introduced a new Head-Up Display feature due to arrive with Ubuntu 12.04. Read on for full details and video demonstration…

Canonical are no stranger to courting controversy where the common desktop paradigm is concerned, and their latest feature for Ubuntu 12.04, HUD (Head-Up Display), is likely to continue poking the hornet’s nest. As you’ll see in the following video the disappearing trick of the menus in your favourite desktop applications is set to go one step further – HUD is designed to replace them entirely.

According to Canonical ‘the HUD has been designed as an easier, faster way to access menus in applications.’ They go on to explain that instead of clicking through menus users can simply type the command they require into a search box.

According to Mark Shuttleworth: “The HUD concept has been the driver for all the work we’ve done in unifying menu systems across Gtk, Qt and other toolkit apps in the past two years. So far, that’s shown up as the global menu. In 12.04, it also gives us the first cut of the HUD.”

Mark’s blog entry goes to explain that the HUD is smart enough to do things like fuzzy matching, and learn what you usually do so it can prioritise them.

“It covers the focused app (because that’s where you probably want to act) as well as system functionality; you can change IM state, or go offline in Skype, all through the HUD, without changing focus, because those apps all talk to the indicator system. When you’ve been using it for a little while it seems like it’s reading your mind, in a good way.”

It’s an interesting feature, and one that we can see translating excellently to mobile and TV, but we would be lying if we weren’t somewhat concerned that this method of navigating menus might stir up the hornets nest for the average computer user. Do users really know and recall the menu options of even their most frequently used applications? And while there are plenty of common sense menu searches taking place in the above video, we’re sure there’s an equal number of other features which aren’t in the slightest bit convenient to navigate by predictive search.

That said, we’re more than happy to be proved wrong, and look forward to testing the feature for ourselves. Speaking of which, testing is underway now, and HUD will be integrated into the 12.04 LTS release due out in April.

In the mean-time, why not let us know your initial thoughts on Canonical’s radical new direction with application menus…

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    • behzad

      i think this can be a great innovation as long as the users are not limited to this method, and there is a way to fall back to traditional menus

    • Mike Baker

      Thankfully Cinnamon is no longer just a spice! Thank you Linux Mint.

    • AC

      Thankfully, Kubuntu 12.04 LTS is available.

    • django

      What a lame idea….now I have to “remember” every command I want to use in an app? Please Ubuntu, get a life, this won’t happen.

      Fortunately I left Ubuntu a few weeks ago because of:
      1) the bloath
      2) unity

    • BR549

      Based only on the video and short description above: “We are NOT amused!”

      After following the link in the article’s text and reading Mark Shuttleworth’s more detailed blog post , he says, “We’ll resurrect the (boring) old ways of displaying the menu in 12.04, in the app and in the panel. …But hiding the menu before we had the replacement was overly aggressive. [Amen to that.] If the HUD lands in 12.04 LTS, we hope you’ll find yourself using the menu less and less, and be glad to have it hidden when you are not using it. You’ll definitely have that option, alongside more traditional menu styles.”

      I’ve used Cardapio in both 11.04 and 11.10. I selected an icon for the Cardapio launcher, placed right under the big Ubuntu icon and fine-tuned the “Main Menu” to make all the various menus work the way I want to work. I don’t like icons, menus or scroll bars to appear or disappear. I want them to be in the same &@#! place I left them and don’t want to wait even a second for while they reappear. Voice commands will certainly be a useful addition and could help a transition to HUD. People need a little time to adapt to new ways of working.

      So in the meantime, I suggest we hold our ire, save Mark’s post for further reference and try to keep an open mind as 12.04 moves toward beta versions. Personally, I’ve used menus since my first 9″ B&W Mac replaced my earlier Kaypro and Apple IIe’s. I even tried some of Jef Raskin’s ideas on a card added to an Apple IIe. Working with new interface ideas is a normal part working with technology as long as we can go back a step if things don’t work out as planned.

      Ubuntu users can afford to spend some time with HUD if Mark and Ubuntu developers give all of us the option of making the software work “our way” or if we can easily back up a step while HUD is further refined. Otherwise, we can also reload and relearn KDE’s desktop after an early “April Fools Day” on March 26, if HUD and 12.04 doesn’t work as advertised.

    • fasd

      Yeah it’s fricking canonical, what about kernel? what about drivers/multimedia did they tried to fix any issue that hits every linux user? They do nothing important just GUI “re-inventing” mumbo-jumbo…

    • John Lloyd

      Obviously designed to be up-to-date with hardware manufacturer’s move toward adopting touch screens and pushing tablet PC’s.

    • dov

      What exactly is the point of a modern graphic user interface in which you have to type every command?

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    • jack1059

      Couple of issues here for a new to linux guy like myself. I figure im a bit more of the audience canonical wants in expanding their user base so here are my issues.
      Unity was driven by the desire of canonical to unify its platforms, not by the desire to make the end user experience better. That was a secondary consideration and frankly it showed.
      I left ubuntu because I had install issues with my last three upgrades. Makes you lose faith, and frankly they should be focusing on clearing up those issues. Moved to mint and voila issues gone. Interesting, I think to myself. So, im looking at ubuntu warily now.
      That said this looks interesting (certainly more interesting than unity – and i gave it a fair go believe me), and given the comments of Mr Shuttle worth I’ll reserve judgement. So, keep the user experience as your priority, clean up the technical issues (drivers, etc) so people have a seamless experience from install and you’re onto a winner.

    • Colin

      Wow Ubuntu has just got worse and worse in the way they do things. I have a bunch of servers running 10.04 and some non-LTS, but frankly I found Unity painful to use for desktops and even moreso for laptops. This new torture looks at least twice as bad. Remember that video was them “showcasing” the benefits of the HUD and it looks painful – imagine what it would be like at its worst.
      Shuttleworth has gone all GeorgeLucas on us and lost the plot.
      Way to kill what was probably the most promising O/S in the world a few short years ago. Let the mass exodus begin.

    • vincegata

      Why Windows users are not moving to Linux(s) ? One of the major reasons is that they are afraid they have to _type_ application names & config options into command window… Ubuntu is making it worse.

      How the hell am I going to remember all the names if some of them I do not use very often.

      I do not want anything to disappear, I want all my menus, icons, etc to stay at the exactly same place where I left them. I do not want to wait for them to reappear. I need to quickly switch between MATLAB, Qt Creator, MySql, etc.

      Touchscreen devices call for their own interface, mouse-driven computers call for their own interface. They cannot be unified, these two different ways to drive computers.

    • Enrico

      I have install the ubuntu 12.04 bete, but I have the applicatio menu was changed.
      I don’t like the HUD, because when lock an application KDRC I can’t launch it .
      Double click can’t run. How i can execute the application ?



    • Jamie

      As someone who’s converted about 15 Windows users over to Ubuntu I can’t believe Canonical really wants to make NEW USERS work so hard. It will result in zero new conquest users, and your old users are nothing but pissed off. So where is the business plan?

      That being said, I’ll go back to searching for a menu applet (I know there is one, I put it on a conquest machine a few weeks ago).

      I think Mr. Shuttleworth likens himself to Steve Jobs. Unfortunately Steve Jobs knew what people want, and Mr. Shuttleworth is clueless!

    • Dale L.

      nothing beats the simplicity of menus
      I find Unity more complicated…