Friday, February 18, 2011

Integrating the Menu into the Ubuntu Unity Window Titlebar

I just read a very interesting post about placing the menu bar into each window titlebar in Ubuntu's Unity desktop.

With ever increasing sizes of screens, this means much less mouse movement to reach the application menu, but as the person who created this mock-up,  Andrea Azzarone, said, just how is someone to move the window frame if one cannot so easily "grab the title bar"?

This is a very interesting idea to me, one of those fundamental changes to something that has been "standard" ever since the Mac first presented the rest of the world with what we now all know of as the "Graphical User Interface".

Here's a shot of Xerox's GUI that, according to various histories, started it all.

As you can see, right from the start was realized the functionality of window title bars with the buttons we know and use every day.

I'm no fan of change for the sake of change. My favorite car was one in which there was maybe one diode, and nothing that couldn't be repaired or adjusted by me with basic (metric) hand tools. I wore that car out! What a beast.

This idea of using the title bar for real functionality is a fascinating one, and it is interesting that the article above notes that it can already be done in KDE4.

Wow, the things one learns every day! I personally do not like all the things that KDE4 does. I was a great fan of KDE3, enough to today be using the Trinity Desktop fork of KDE3.5, even though I don't consider it the ultimate answer.

Here's to the fantastic and wondrous variety possible in F/OSS while all the while working with standard applications and files, so that each person can have what they want without compromising the quality of their interactions with others who are doing something different.

"Look and feel" is the most personal of all the attributes of these things we have come to call our "computers". The proprietary software companies keep trying to make their offerings "pretty", but I have never come to think of them as MINE.

I wonder what new things I'll learn tomorrow?


  1. Anonymous23/2/11 08:55

    An how would one move such a window if the titlebar is all occupied with the menu items?

    This is a *very* impractical idea.

  2. I like the idea of the titlebar being used for the menu, as vertical real estate has become a precious commodity with the focus on wide-screen displays. Clearly though you would want to place some type of explicit grip area with a distinctive graphic on the right of the titlebar, much like some apps do on the lower right, as a guaranteed place and means to always grab the window.

    Of course far more often you can encounter a situation where the right edge (or even bottom) is off-screen. This is part of why I think having the window manager "menu" and grab area always on the upper left (and perhaps the other individual buttons on the right) had made the most sense to me.

  3. Anonymous23/2/11 09:10

    Like today. Alt + left mouse button.

  4. I agree with both comments above, actually. It does create a question as to how to move the windows, but it also uses the vast horizontal space.

    Already there is an extra right-hand button for "windowshade", a function I have never found a user for. A "grab me" button for moving would not be out of order, neither would deliberately leaving a space on the far left (and right, between the menu items and the window buttons) deliberately for such grabbing.

    This is not an insurmountable problem, merely one of familiarity. It's new, we're not familiar with it yet, so the problems with how we use them now are obvious. More so, maybe, than the benefits.

  5. Fat finger. Never found a USE for.

    I mean, seriously, if I have the time and space to reduce a window to just a title bar, then minimize it so it's in the task bar.

    But then, having two task bars, top and bottom, makes my head spin yet there are people who like it that way. Variety is the Linux killer feature!

  6. "...just how is someone to move the window frame if one cannot so easily "grab the title bar"?"
    "... a grab me button..."

    Are you serious? I have not clicked on a title bar to move a window since I started using linux 4 years ago, as Anonymous said: Alt+left mouse (Alt+wheel button resizes, btw)

  7. Anonymous23/2/11 21:18

    I always setup my top bar on my screen to disappear, so am I going to be able to hide the left menu so I have more screen real estate to view.
    If I find to many problems with this new layout, I will certainly switch to gnome desktop, but I will give the new layout a try.
    But I'm not all to happy with banshee as the media player on ubuntu as I plan to remove from my linux box and all .mono runtime files as well. I just don't feel right with .mono since it is similar to .net crap or on that same track.

  8. Anonymous24/2/11 02:14

    Single menu bar causes a real problem with multi-screen setups. You need an extra click to activate the window and you often have to traverse from one screen to the other. Not liking the sound of unity very much.

  9. I started using Linux recently, with Ubuntu 11.04, and I have the same issue as the last Anonymous poster. I got used to work with many windows, ie: one for GIMP, one for the web browser and another for wichever folder I'm currently viewing. This integrated menu confuses me a lot, as it requires me to activate the window to have access to it's application menu. It always brings me a feeling that ubuntu is not good to multitask, as it makes multitasking less intuitive than it could be. =/

  10. Has anyone accomplished this in Gnome Shell?

    PS, I absolutely love the anarcho-capitalist name of your blog.

  11. Thanks Gavin.

    Hopefully someone who actively uses the Gnome Shell will pipe up.