Quick Thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 Beta

Played with Unity, the new desktop shell in Ubuntu. It places a notification bar along the top of the screen from left to right, and an application dock / taskbar down the left side of the screen. Clever looking on first boot. Some thoughts:

  • In almost all apps, the menu bar is hidden by default, but there are seldom sufficient controls exposed by the application to justify this – the menu bar is required for a great deal of the functionality in various Linux applications which is not exposed by the default toolbar buttons.
  • There is no intuitive way to show the menu bar – one has to blunder up to the very top of the screen, where the menu bar then appears, but only if you have the mouse arrow in that little 24 pixel high region somewhere over the notification area.
  • When the application’s menus do appear, they truncate the name of the running app (displayed in the very top left of the screen), making it difficult to determine which application you’ve invoked the menubar for without moving the mouse away again.
  • Not all apps even support the newly erstwhile global menu bar – LibreOffice in particular continues to show its menu bar as embedded within the application’s window (where it belongs in this blogger’s not so humble opinion). Combine this with windowed and fullscreened apps and the general lack of obviousness as to whose menu bar is whose, and you’ve got some fun on your hands.

Sure to baffle novice users and annoy experienced users. Even Microsoft’s user experience teams didn’t rid their apps of menu bars unless they had something logical to replace them with.