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back to article HUD's up! Ubuntu creates menu-free GUI

Canonical has unveiled HUD, which it has billed as the "menu of the future" for its next Linux desktop. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, due in April, will feature the first release of Head Up Display, or HUD, which distro creator Mark Shuttleworth has predicted will ultimately replace menus in Unity applications. HUD dispenses with drop-down …

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Silver badge
Linux

Daft or Dangerous?

Finding that option you want in a byzantine set of menus is nice and all but this is hardly something that should be the primary means for a n00b to interact with applications.

Mark Shuttleworth: Is he daft or is he dangerous?

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FAIL

Desktop???

Just what I need on a desktop - a phone interface....

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WTF?

Since when does "Head Up Display" mean "look down at your keyboard"?

All the interfaces I've used in past that call themselves HUD are concerned with moving keyboard commands UP onto the screen, Canonical seams to be doing it backwards!

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FAIL

Perhaps we are expected to observe good practice and not look at the keyboard while typing - just like professional typists can do. Trouble is, I'm not a professional typist, and so the idea is crap, and I'm sticking to Mint !

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Thumb Up

Might Be a Good Thing

On Windows 7 and Gnome 3, I really like being able to launch a box where I can type in a few characters and launch what I want. I rarely use the OS menu hierarchy anymore. For an application, I think it could be pretty cool as well, provided that you can easily bind an operation with a keyboard shortcut once you find it. As an example, in Visual Studio I accidentally closed my call stack. It would have been nice to hit a key, type in "Call" and had "Call Stack Window" come up as an option, instead of searching through the menus and submenus to find the thing. It will also hopefully cure the tendency of applications like Chrome to expose a small number of top-level UI elements and cram most things into dialog tabs.

The thing is, I want somebody besides Apple thinking about usability in a serious way. If the geek community wants to continue using Gnome 2, CLI, etc. forever, it's all good. But if Shuttleworth and his minions can find ways to keep my hands on the keyboard and off the mouse, I'm more than willing to try them out.

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Happy

Finally a far-sighted UI decision from Ubuntu

While seemingly inconsistent with Ubuntu's new touch-based tablet focus, all I can say is thank goodness Ubuntu has caught up with where the rest of us were years ago and is implementing a UI that is easy to use, not just easy to discover! I would never use a complex software package such as an editor or CAD system which did not accept keyboard commands. Clicking through menus every time you want to do an action? I've seen other people do it. Looks horribly tedious and wasteful of precious time and attention. What I want from a computer is that it does what I want with minimal effort on my part, so that my scarce brain resources can be fully utilised in solving the problem at hand, not trying to make the computer understand what I want it to do.

Just look at emacs for a good example of an efficient UI. I won't claim emacs is easy for a non-computer literate person to pick up, however once a few basic concepts are understood, commands can be issued very quickly and easily. Just hit M-x and type in the command you want--or some words that you think might be part of the command, and emacs helpfully shows you all the likely candidates with a simple means of selecting among them. Moreover, emacs automatically reminds you of any keyboard bindings for a command you just used and provides many other features designed solely to aid discoverability and ease of use--including menus for browing categories of commands, accessing recently used commands, quickly repeating command sequences, defining new commands, and so on.

Ubuntu could take a UI like emacs and make it friendly and more discoverable to non-computer literate users. This would be the best of both worlds: a simple-minded user could use just the heirarchical menu structure as in current versions of Ubuntu, while more advanced users could just hit a few keys and have access to a powerful and efficient command line for accessing the same features. Of course, if software developers learned another thing from software such as emacs or smalltalk, they would make their software be fully programmable with introspection, so that advanced users and developers can trivially extend it and interface it with other software.

The only reason I care about Ubuntu is because I have to support the darned thing. Fortunately for me, non-Ubuntu systems have provided this type of capability for years. I hope Ubuntu catches up with and, in due course, surpasses existing systems in terms of user interface discoverability and ease of use.

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wasn't this in Warp 4.0 which was voice enabled

I recall the last IBM OS/2 version released publicly was voice enabled(v4.0?) back in 1996. There was one voice enabling menu added to apps which accumulated commands in the menu bar so the user could tell the computer what to do. This Ubuntu mechanism sounds interesting but if it means eliminating the menu bar they might want to wait a few revs before jumping off that bridge.

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Silver badge

@Doug

Correct. OS/2 4.0 aka "Merlin" was shipped with a headset and could indeed be voice controlled. And truth be told it did quite a good job too (IMO). I even managed to surf the Net while only using my headset.

However; the major advantage it had (IMO of course) was that the system was never intended as some form of replacement or anything, even though it was quite usable. The idea was basically adding to what you could already do with OS/2.

So say I'm using my mouse and selected a file. Then instead of right clicking and selecting 'copy' I could just have said "copy" (if I had assigned this command with the 'copy to clipboard' action of course). Or "copy to" after which I could use my mouse again to select a destination.

All in all; IBM knew like no other that voice commands were by far enough to replace the menu structure (Merlin had a "Win98-like" start menu), but could seriously enhance it.

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Anonymous Coward

Alt-F2

I only use the menu when I'm not sure what I want to do or can't remember what the thing's called.

The principle can work generally, but you still need your "site map" in emergencies.

Sucks for people who can't type, though.

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Anonymous Coward

Gnome

I wonder if it will be as easy to replace this new desktop with Gnome as it was with 11.10? If not, I wonder if Mint is a good choice

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Happy

Salvation

Lubuntu is your friend. Works for me.

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C-N
Linux

Too late

Thanks anyway, Mark. Mint is doing the job nicely.

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Joke

Maybe it should be: Controllable Heads Up Display

CHUD!

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Anonymous Coward

Having watched the video, which can be viewed without downloading [here on YouTube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_WW-DHqR3c), I think it's got some potential as an alternative to using traditional menus, although I agree —not as a complete replacement.

Reminds me a bit of [url=qsapp.com]Quicksilver[/url] for mac, which provides a similar kind of user experience. I install that on every mac I use and find it does come in handy for those times when I want to quickly open an app or access a function which I know the name of; it's a lot quicker to type the first few letters of said app/function, arrow to select and then hit return –as opposed to digging through folders and/or menus to find it.

(Forgive any messed up formatting. I'm trying to crack the pointlessy mysterious "how to make a link" code. HTML obviously doesn't work, so I'm trying Markdown and BBcode here]

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What "how to make a link" code?

The comment box says "plain text only", we've all been posting plain-text links for years...

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Holmes

@melt

But it can be done!

With these very eyes, I have witnessed people posting links, bold text and italic text. Of course they will never reveal how they've managed it, which does make me suspect that they may be 'agents provocateur' from El Reg management itself, just trying to have a bit of fun with us.

If not, then I'm obviously not thinking 'geeky' enough. Whatever markup works on this forum has got to be something only a 100% nerd would be familiar with. I thought 'markdown' might be an inspired guess, but obviously that was far too mainstream.

The quest continues!

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Silver badge

Links

The only links I've seen posted in comments are by Trevor_Pott. As he writes for El Reg I'd suspect he has slightly different privileges to the rest of us.

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I found out what's going on:

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1300656

:)

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They should patent it

Before you know who does and sues them

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Facepalm

Microsoft

Did Ubuntu get Microsoft's permission to use the look and feel of Windows 3.0 and DOS?

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FAIL

Clippy? Is that you?

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Flame

wrong colours

Type in a search box, oh wow.

Maybe it should be a black box with white text, type the first couple of letters and hit tab. Oh wait that's the CLI.--AAARGH!

Let's face it the menu system is the best we have to date. Don't know what options are available? just browse the menus and find out.

You can't do that with any of these rubbish menu replacements, because they are not easily browseable.

The ribbon is a bad marketing exercise, and all these attempts to redefine the GUI paradigm offer a poorer experience.

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Gee. let's call is a "shell"

Typing commands into a shell is a new idea for Unix-based OSs, right?

Auto-completion of commands and programs was a feature of TOPS-20 and its predecessor TENEX, which ran on 36-bit DEC iron in the 1970s. Unix shells were designed for hunt-and-peck geeks, to minimize keystrokes on their 35ASRs. TENEX commands were designed to be user-friendly. I doubt Ubuntu will come close.

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FAIL

Thanks for 3 years of no family IT Hell desk

Now that it is obvious I will have to change the outlaws OS, as the old boy cant resist the update button, is it mint or CentOS for a bright but computer illegitimate silver surfer?.......

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Linux

@Flash_Penguin

Or without going through the trouble of rebuilding the system, you can switch it over to Kubuntu, Xubuntu, or Lubuntu. I've kept the family on Kubuntu to escape the Unity issues.

Packages to install (choose one)

kubuntu-desktop

xubuntu-desktop

lubuntu-desktop

(not to detract from trying out other distro's, just thought I'd point out that going the format/reload route isn't necessary)

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Meh

nothing new

There are other programs that use this "action via word completion" technique for some time now. Quicksilver and Ubiquity come to mind.

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Facepalm

Why???

In short someone has decided that the problem with the modern gui is the graphics bit.

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Stop

sigh

So many comments along the lines of "how will I remember the name of the command"? Please people, read the article. You type in "file" and you get a bunch of possible actions on a file. As the article says, it uses "fuzzy matching". It's not that complicated.

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Linux

So? How do you browse the complete list of options? Oh, you can't and that is the point many have made here.

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FAIL

And how does a menu show you the complete list of options? I hit "image", "transform ..." in a program and ooh, look, a whole bunch of options to rotate, resize etc. not shown on the menu.

Likewise, if I want my preferences in a program where are they, "tools -> options", "file -> preferences", "help -> settings" ? If you have an action for preferences that has the keywords "options", "settings", "preferences" all tagged to it then searching for part of *any* of those words will bring up the desired action.

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sudo apt-get install wmaker

For everyone saying they're going to leave Ubuntu over this, you do realize it is very simple to install a different window manager. They have almost everything.

I too think this menu is somewhat crazy, but I don't have to worry about it as I don't use Unity.

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"but I don't have to worry about it as I don't use Unity." -- What about when support for your version runs out and you need to upgrade ?

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It's because this attitude is pervasive throughout the OS. It's not just the WM baby they threw out with the bathwater, it's now the menu system they're tinkering with.

Every time they touch something, they throw out n*10 years of work and bugfixes and smoothed rough edges.

The last improvement I found was that init scripts have been moved to Upstart, a dependency-based bootup system. It's done nothing for usability, it's now not immediately obvious what will start up on a system and it's different to everything else for zero gain (I mean, who /cares/ about bootup times any more?).

Maybe i'm getting old, but I find myself agreeing with jwz a lot of the time.

"But that's what happens when there is no incentive for people to do the parts of programming that aren't fun. Fixing bugs isn't fun; going through the bug list isn't fun; but rewriting everything from scratch is fun (because "this time it will be done right", ha ha) and so that's what happens, over and over again. "

http://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html

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Coat

@melt

<< "But that's what happens when there is no incentive for people to do the parts of programming that aren't fun. Fixing bugs isn't fun; going through the bug list isn't fun; but rewriting everything from scratch is fun (because "this time it will be done right", ha ha) and so that's what happens, over and over again. "

http://www.jwz.org/doc/cadt.html >>

I've noticed that as well. The young and not so young but fresh to a long running project see so clearly where everyone before them went wrong, and the idea is to start over with fresh ideas and not make the same mistakes. (same idea the team before them had, and the team before them) In the process adding some good ideas, and and the same time adding the same old mistakes that were made the 1st 3 times the product was rewritten. :) Plain and simple, sustaining an existing product isn't sexy and won't get you promoted. As a result NEW and shiny is what is delivered, and screw the new bugs cause you'll be onto the next project when those are found. :) Been there, done that... *sigh*

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On first thoughts.

My first thought was: Cool!

My second thought was: I wonder if it works. Have they actually done any usability research or did one of their programmers just think it up as something coo

Then I read past the headlines.

And my third thought was: so they've replaced the mouse with a command line.

And my final thought was: Quicksilver has done something similar for a long time and it's still only a tiny niche. Oh well. Kept me amused thinking about it for 5 minutes but probably a dead end. Next article.

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Silver badge

This all sounds a bit rough for an LTS release...

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My thoughts exactly.

This is supposed to an LTS release, not some experimental thing that can be replaced six months later.

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FAIL

This is joke.

Surely.

Please tell me this is a joke.

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FAIL

Not "Heads Up Display"

Hopeless Ubuntu Disaster

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Mushroom

v2.0

I'm convinced they're infiltrated by Redmond sabotagers.

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Coat

@Nathanial Wapcaplet

"Saboteurs" -- worth knowing ;)

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Holmes

Sabotageurs then?

Do I look French to you? :) Yeah, I know it didn't look right when I clicked submit. My excuse:

I've been up the whole night toking the same Durban Bushweed they smoke at Canonical.

Easy mistake - I simply typed the first three letters into the HUD and....oh, err, nvm, I meant to start Sabayon.

Any more sh!t like this from Canonical and I'll be installing Sabayon distro instead.

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I gave up on Ubuntu for now. It's taking a turn for the worse, and is unable to innovate.

HUD sounds like a dud to me (not just because they rhyme).

I was driven to Ubuntu, and later Kubuntu, out of desire for a better platform. But all this Unity, HUD and Gnome 3 BS drove me to Windows 7... that, and the fact that release after release saw me having to fix problem after problem. Ubuntu v6 was good, but it got progressively problematic.

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Not able to innovate?

Surely the problem is that they ARE innovating? But people are not liking what they are coming up with.

I don't see much innovation with these other desktops that continue to use menus etc. (which I prefer, I'm just making the point)

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@James

Yes and no... I mean; I wouldn't call chance by itself innovative perse. Because in the end innovation /also/ implies a form of improvement. Making things better or easier to use.

Well, considering the amount of negative responses in this forum alone I wouldn't exactly consider it a widely accepted improvement.

otoh... What doesn't work for me may just as well easily work for you. So in that sense I guess you do have a point. Because trying to judge innovation by quantity is also not the best approach.

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Boffin

Could work

It could work, after all this is also the ChromeOS approach.

Look at Chrome browser; you get a smart command line / search / edit box that allows you to navigate the internet, find stuff and run endless applications including Google features like typing '1 inch in cm' into the address bar or 'dict HUD'.

Not too many complaints from me - Chrome is my browser of choice, and I rarely if ever use a menu in Chrome. If they continue to bolt in real smarts like Siri still natural language help, then regular menu's will start looking old fashioned.

Given about 90% of what I do on my home computer is done via Chrome (or limited other apps like iTunes etc - another app in which you rarely need to click an menus) then I wonder how many conventional menus anybody uses anymore.

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FAIL

This idea is the most ridiculous thing that Ubuntu has come up with yet. Will be moving on from the disgrace Ubuntu has become.

There are so many problems with this approach, ultimately, my question is "What's wrong with using menus?" It seems to work quite well.

Was looking at Mint linux, but they seem geared up towards Gnome3 and KDE4; might have to look a bit harder.

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Gold badge

Re: look a bit harder

Try Xubuntu and wave bye-bye to all those "user experience" designers, returning to something that just works and then gets the heck out of the way so you can do your job.

Are screens different now? Are keyboards? Are mice? No, so why should Xerox's orginal concept (that has so obviously made computers accessibly to the unwashed masses) suddenly require a rethink?

Methinks Ubuntu has made the same mistake that Microsoft did. After years of bringing PC operating systems up to snuff, there's actually very little *visible* work left to do. (We can argue about kernel facilities later, but the average Joe is never going to upgrade because of a new kernel feature.) So in order to pull in the punters for the next version, they're just changing visible things for change's sake.

Of course, when Microsoft did it, they were the first. It was a daft idea and they've back-tracked (adding more menu-like features to their new ribbon). Ubuntu have Microsoft's experience to learn from and apparently just can't.

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Boffin

Linux Mint: GNOME 3 (framework) Yes, GNOME Shell (GUI) No

For now, Linux Mint is using GNOME 3/GTK+ 3 with Gnome Shell, in combination with a collection of extensions that make it more like Mint's implementation of GNOME 2... However, it should be noted that it is the intent of Mint's developers to leverage the technology used by the GNOME 3/GTK+ 3 framework to create a more "classic" GNOME experience to replace Gnome Shell.

The project is called Cinnamon, and can be found here:

-- -- Cinnamon Desktop Environment:

-- -- -- -- http://cinnamon.linuxmint.com/

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Facepalm

I'll hava a uhhh...what can I have?

Ever go into a fast food place that has no menu? >.<

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