Tuesday, January 24

Ubuntu to Replace Application Menus with HUD, Install from PPA


Mark Shuttleworth has just blogged about a new way to use applications menu.

Called Head-Up Display, or HUD, this new feature will ultimately replace menus in Unity applications. HUD is a new means of invoking commands where users can search and launch menu commands from  a console. It has a smart mechanism that prioritizes frequently used commands in list.

Every application that support Ubuntu global menu currently will have the ability to use new HUD menus.

Check out the video:


Excerpt from the announcement:

Searching is fast and familiar, especially once we integrate voice recognition, gesture and touch. We want to make it easy to talk to any application, and for any application to respond to your voice. The full integration of voice into applications will take some time. We can start by mapping voice onto the existing menu structures of your apps. And it will only get better from there.

But even without voice input, the HUD is faster than mousing through a menu, and easier to use than hotkeys since you just have to know what you want, not remember a specific key combination. We can search through everything we know about the menu, including descriptive help text, so pretty soon you will be able to find a menu entry using only vaguely related text (imagine finding an entry called Preferences when you search for “settings”).

To install HUD from PPA, run following commands (Ubuntu 12.04):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unity-team/hud 
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

HUD could replace traditional menus in 12.04 if it meets quality standards of an LTS release as still lots of work is needed to be done. However it can be available as an option where users will be able to use both traditional menus and HUD together.

If HUD completely replaces traditional menus in final 12.04 release, users will still be able to turn it off to get global menu back on top panel.

We’ll resurrect the  (boring) old ways of displaying the menu in 12.04, in the app and in the panel. In the past few releases of Ubuntu, we’ve actively diminished the visual presence of menus in anticipation of this landing. That proved controversial. In our defence, in user testing, every user finds the menu in the panel, every time, and it’s obviously a cleaner presentation of the interface. But hiding the menu before we had the replacement was overly aggressive. 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.

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