Ubuntu 1204 scraps menus introduces a HUD

first_imgWhen Canonical released Ubuntu 10.10 it brought with it the Unity interface, which seems to have a love or hate relationship with users. You can’t fault Canonical for trying to change the established norm for user interfaces, and in so doing hoping to improve upon them. Now it seems, Unity was just the first step.With the release of Ubuntu 12.04 at some point in April this year, Canonical is making another drastic change to the way we interact with both the OS and the apps that run on top of it. The menu system we all expect to see at the top of every window is being scrapped. In its place will be a HUD.It sounds a bit futuristic and risky, but Canonical have been working on this new system for some time. It’s what they are calling a Vocabulary UI (VUI), an “intent driven interface” or intenterface for short. And it redefines how we, or more specifically Ubuntu users will interact with the software they use.In a post on his blog, Mark Shuttleworth has gone into great detail as to why a VUI is better than the classic menu system. He argues that menu systems are now so infrequently used they really don’t warrant the space they take up on the screen. Add to that the fact the menu tree can get really complex, it’s slow to navigate with a mouse, you have to remember hotkey combinations, and it forces developers to fit things into a menu structure, even when they don’t really fit one category, and you may share his viewpoint.These are all valid shortcomings, but essentially a menu system works when it is required. Can it really be improved upon? Shuttleworth is convinced it can be, and says the HUD system is already proving it deserves its place in Ubuntu. So what is the HUD?Essentially, what Ubuntu’s development team has done is to rip out the menu and replace it with a universal search field. You type in what you want to do, and the options are listed below your text. It also learns the most common actions a user requests, and offers them up more readily in future. By doing this, the user no longer needs to use a mouse to find something, there’s no need to remember hot keys or where something is on a menu, and over time the option you want will appear quicker as the HUD is used to what you request.The HUD offers more than just a menu replacement, though. It allows functionality and actions beyond the scope of the software with focus. So you may be in an art package, but using the HUD you can set your IM status, load other apps, or issue system commands–all without having to switch focus.Although this is going to be a big change for users, there will be a fallback of the traditional menu system if you prefer it. Software developers need not worry either, as the HUD requires no changes to their software. It just replaces the menu and works.One final bonus to moving to a universal HUD that works across all apps and the OS: it means that voice support can be implemented and it also works across all software. This is an addition for the future, but you can see the benefits of removing the need to implement voice on a per app basis.With Ubuntu 12.04 seeing a release in April, we don’t have long to wait to try out the HUD. If you don’t want to wait, then you can play with the pre-release version.Read more at Mark Shuttleworth’s bloglast_img read more

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