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- …


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  1. Forget It

    Still not clear to me what's going on beneath the HUD.

    1. Nathanial Wapcaplet

      Let me explain:

      You start to type in, for example, U-N-I-T-(Y) and it opens the Linux Mint download page for you :)

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Wasn't Unity supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread?

    I found it so rubbish, I stopped using Ubuntu.

    1. janimal

      So did I, and my ageing divorced parents - all on Mint now

      1. C-N

        me too

        Don't go into my office, hide all my books and shuffle the contents of my desk drawers, and then expect me to be pleased. I'd like to be able to maintain some productivity while I get used to your new menu what-ever-you-call-it.

  3. FIA Silver badge


    RISC OS from Acorn in 1989 (and possibly Arthur in 1987) had the concept of a 'context menu', there were no menu bars, you pressed the middle button on the mouse and you got a menu, which related to whatever was under the mouse pointer.

    No mess, no clutter, no mouse movement required to bring up a menu.

    It's now 2012 and the aproach to removing menu clutter is auto-complete?? Really??

    When did good UI deign take a back seat?

    1. Ru

      Plenty of X WIndows managers carry on the tradition

      Haven't used fluxbox for a while though.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Linux = Choice

        Have a look at CrunchBang linux, has a very nice fluxbox out of the box so to speak. CentOS 6.2 has support beyond my retirement date and is using Gnome 2.xx I have that one on the spare partition as a familiar environment.

    2. ElNumbre

      Buttons = Better

      I've always enjoyed more buttons on a mouse.

      A mouse - meh.

      A Mac mouse - useable

      A standard PC 2 buton mouse - better

      A 3 button Acorn Mouse - really good (apart from the square edges)

      My Logitech mouse with 11 configurable buttons - awesome in the extreme.

      But that's just me.

      1. magnetik

        "A Mac mouse - useable"

        Please, can you give that old "macs use one button mice" myth a rest. OS X has supported multi button mice since 10.0

        1. John Bailey


          The taunt just works.

          1. magnetik
            Thumb Down

            Oh please, there are plenty of things to make fun of Apple about. The "one button mouse" jokes are old, tired and boring. Come up with something original.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Mac Mice are usable

        If you don't mind carpel tunnel syndrome.

  4. Natalie Gritpants

    1970 called, it wants it's CLI back

    Nice though it is to be able to type the command names in once you know them you will need either menus or toolbars for starters. Either that or a big book for new users to read, or maybe an Ubuntu training course.

    I do like CLI for often used programs but I also like being able to start a program the first time and just use it.

    As for the interface appearing/disappearing - horrible, same goes for menus changing on context (I don't mind greying out).

    1. LaeMing

      The command line is dea....

      Oh, nevermind.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Back in fashion

        What next, bell bottoms, big afros and [shudder] polyester suits?

  5. ThomH

    Sounds like the menubar search in OS X?

    You know, under 'Help'. You type into it and it instantly produces matching options from the various actions exposed on the menu bar. It even has a handy shortcut so you access everything without touching the mouse — command+shift+/. So, for example, I'm in Pages and I want to show the style palette but I'm not sure where the command is. I press command+shift+/, type 'style', see that one of the options is 'Show Styles Drawer', cursor key down to that and press enter.

    Apple's thing is a more limited than that described here, since it's only things you'd put in the menubar, but not massively so and it turned up years ago. And even then it was just Apple following the general industry trend towards adding search to things.

    1. mafoo


      Exactly what i was thinking.

      For example, in safari it will find bookmarks for you (as its in a menu)

      Im not sure how useful this unity approach is. Menus often provide visual feedback - for example a list of the IM networks I'm connected to in adium and what each of their status is. In a unity app you would have to take up a large amount of GUI space to display this information that could simply be placed in a menu.

  6. Wile E. Veteran

    What an innovation!


    Type in the whole freaking URL to find a bookmark. That is SO much easier than two mouse clicks (one on the menu, one on the bookmark). Relying on "natural language" which requires a lot of typing instead of a couple of mouse clicks is SO much easier.


    Using a command line is easier and quicker without wasting all the resources on all the shiny shiny eye-candy.

    I'm glad I dropped Ubuntu in favor of BSD..

    1. jcipale

      I went back to SuSE and run mwm as my desktop. Much happier then having to put up with the screen-barf that is unity. I used to be a huge advocate of ubuntu. Now I advocate dumping it to the dustbin of OS'es ala Warp2.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Discoverablility: the ability of a user to learn about features and capabilities of an interface by exploring it.

    One of the biggest complaints neophytes have with command line interfaces is they are NOT very discoverable - how is a neophyte to "discover" a command like "apropos" on the command line?

    Menus can be a great deal more discoverable: you move the mouse over the options until you see one that looks promising.

    HUD may be the greatest thing since the digital watch *for an experienced user* - but how is it for a novice?

    (strange: normally you see Gnome and Canonical both going in the direction of making it easier for Granny Fanny and harder for experienced users.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Discoverability

      Along the same lines, menus are nice when you know a particular utility exists, but you can't remember its name.

    2. Ru

      That's the word I was looking for

      Assuming that the tasks the program is capable of are intuitive, searching for a task via a search box is not really much more hassle than using a menu. There's something to be said for a more keyboard-driven interface too, especially when it comes to RSI...

      The problem comes when the application is complex and the operations one might be interested in are not intuitive. A nice hierarchial menu is an excellent way to lay these out... all non-menu based GUI systems to date just seem to make this harder. But then, this sort of application (an IDE springs to mind) is not the sort of thing than a clueless newbie is likely to be getting their teeth into.

      As for command line discoverability... the 'consoles' that are traditionally found in FPS games certainly used to provide a facility to find out what could and could not be done... just entering a backslash was one way to list available commands. The CLI on my router does the same using the 'help' command. That is arguably more inuitive than a mouse-driven menu system.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not just dispense with xwindows altogether? Just boot to a bash shell and put in auto complete. Saves a lit of time and effort

      1. Paul 129


        We use xwindows to allow up to open more shell sessions n copy between them easily.

    4. admiraljkb

      re: Discoverablility?

      No doubt. The power features keep getting further and further buried making it more difficult for me to use when something goes wrong, or if I want to do something "unexpected" like Save As in Word instead of save. Instead of one click, its two or three, or more to do something that used to be EASY. It seems like they've all been taking away from the UI rather than adding, and then calling the feature removal a feature in itself. :)

      BTW - Microsoft has now joined in on the OS front with Metro. Pretty soon we'll all be on KDE and LXDE to escape Gnome/Unity/Metro (yes I lump them all together). :) Remember back in Win3.x when we were using Norton Desktop and HP's NewWave to escape Program Manager? I suspect we'll be back there for using alternative GUI shells on Windows by the end of the year...

    5. csumpi


      This was my first thought, too.

      I use the search box on windows and dmenu with xmonad on linux, which work great because I already know the name of the application.

      But if this replaces all menus, including context menus, how would I ever know that there is a duplicate command for the selected object for example? And isn't right click / select duplicate from the context menu less work then hitting a shortcut for HUD, typing "dupli", then arrow key select the correct duplicate option from the choices that come up?

      This might be a great feature in addition to menus, but not completely hiding the menus and replacing them.

    6. steogede

      Appropriate names

      >> One of the biggest complaints neophytes have with command line interfaces is they are NOT very discoverable

      A neophyte discovers a command by typing in what they think it might be called or what they want to do - so long as the command is sensible named and they show it in its context (i.e. the breadcrumb/hierarchy) I should be easy to find, find as you type goes a long way to helping with this. Failing that, I am sure the menu will be there for those who need it.

      Presently a neo-phyte, thinks what they want to do, then they think about what heading it might be under and what the command might be called, then they search for it. "HUD" allows them to do the same thing, except it searches for them.

      "HUD" reflects the way that I already use my web browser (vimperator/penta-dactyl), search engine, and the unity desktop search. I have been wanting to be able to do this with desktop applications for years. There is nothing more annoying than know what you want to do, having a good idea what the command might be called and not being able to find it without searching for ages.

  8. Fibbles

    I'm glad i switched to xubuntu. Canonical have ruined a reasonably user friendly distro with some truly horrendous UI design.

  9. keithpeter Silver badge

    Press the alt key and type...

    @David D. Hagood

    HUD was apparently aimed at desktop power users who need to access less used commands in unfamiliar applications, and at users moved over from windows.

    Sort of Ubiquity like, it works ok and I quite like it but I'm not sure what percentage of the time I'll actually use it. Only works with applications that are integrated into the global menu so no LibreOffice at the moment which is my second most used application.


    One thing that isn't on any of the sites is that the ALT key is hardwired to HUD at the moment. I want that keybindable to something less widely used!

    1. K. Adams

      "the ALT key is hardwired to HUD... I want that key bindable to something less widely used!"


      HUD is a neat idea, if it works, but the thought of it "ultimately replacing menus" doesn't sit well with me. Standard menus (or even a version of the much-maligned "ribbon bar") should always be available for use, because:

      -- -- 1. for some users, menus will be faster.

      -- -- 2. for some users, contextual keywords for some commands may not be so obvious.

      -- -- 3. for some users, keyboard interaction (typing) may difficult, and should be minimised.

      -- -- 4. for some applications, contextual function access may not fit well with the app's purpose.

      -- -- 5. for some applications, contextual function selection may produce unexpected results.

      For those scratching their heads over the phrase "Sort of Ubiquity like..." in @keithpeter's original post (above): Ubiquity was a Mozilla Labs initiative to produce a context-sensitive task command system for Mozilla Firefox. Basically, it allowed you to select and manipulate web content through a natural language user interface. For example, you could highlight a real-world (postal) address, pop open Ubiquity, then type "map this," and Firefox would go find a mapping website to generate a map. You could then select the map and use Ubiquity to send the map to a colleague with the command "email this." I was surprised at how well it worked, at least in the video demonstration provided by Mozilla Labs. You can view the Ubiquity intro video here:

      -- -- Mozilla Labs: Introducing Ubiquity

      -- -- -- --

      1. BlueGreen

        the much-malign "ribbon bar"

        There. Much better.

        Now more to the point, there's an awful lot of squealing over an interface that AFAICT nobody's had any experience with. Give it a chance, please. Although I grant on past form, you may expect the worst.

        1. Jason Hall


          I would agree with you there, except recent history has shown us that the 'UI designers' for Ubuntu don't know what the f*ck they are doing.

          1. BlueGreen

            @Jason Hall: but I totally agree!

            see my post <> on magic bookmarking improvements in FX 4. Just incredible how they managed to screw that up.

  10. keithpeter Silver badge

    Adapts kind of

    "Another potential problem is that it's unclear how far ISVs and open-source software projects must modify their Ubuntu apps to work with HUD."

    Uses menu text and any help documentation to make 'suggestions'. Remembers history with app (could be amusing for some of you lot when that involves Web history). App must integrate with Global Menu, so I suppose use relevant GTK libraries as many older apps do behave ok with the Global Menu.

    Big issue is likely to be speed. If you tap Dash and wait.......... on your current hardware, this isn't going to be much use.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Happy to use a Search Box

    I'll use the terms "Linux distro" and "without a shit UI", and see where it takes me.

    I really do loath having to type into a box to find/run a program that I know is there, when a menu-based system can accomplish the same in one click (press button, twiddle mouse a bit to go down the menu tree, release button).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    At least it's not the Ribbon (to use it's short name) or, in full, the Aesthetically-challenged User-confusion, Desktop-support-call, and Help-desk-continued-employment Generator

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet that works great on a tablet...


  14. The Original Steve

    Sounds like...

    ...Windows Vista and Windows 7 in terms that you can type in an application, document, URL, control panel applets and paths. Think OS X has something similar too.

    Difference is both Windows and OS X still keep the menu's as the primary interaction method. Search is easily accessible (press the windows key on the keyboard) however the UI is still discovery driven.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Head Up Display? Don't make me laugh!

    Have these people ever seen a proper HUD? Like the ones in Fighter Aircraft?

    Now they are a work of art.


    Don't make me laugh.


    Come on Canonical get your eye back on the ball. This sort of crap is a mere diversion. Why don't you get fixing all those bug reports that you have had sometimes for many years instead of messing around with this POS.

    I started using Ubuntu five years ago. 11.10 was the last version I shall use unless you change direction and go back to producing the best in class Linux Desktop. I didn't go to Mint like many others but I now run CentOS on all my Linux boxes. It is a breath of fresh air (IMHO).

    Anon coz my boss is a Ubuntu Fanboi and I don't want grief at work tomorrow.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Head Up Display

      For extra irony, please note that "head down" is the position that most users have when they are typing.

      Icon: Because this idea is surely just the UI designers at canonical pulling our legs.

    2. rciafardone

      I am frozen on 10.10

      nuff said

  16. Piro Silver badge

    Oh dear, Mark

    "The ribbon is highly visual, making options and commands very visible. It is however also a hog of space (I’m told it can be minimised)."

    Yes, it can indeed be minimised, taking no more space than a traditional menu bar, and with 2010, can be customised to your needs.

    I'm not even going to start on how lost your normal end-user would be.

    Also, even for power users, I'm far from convinced. Maybe we just want to click a button quickly to switch tracks, instead of typing in the track name.

    I use Launchy, and I use the Windows 7 start menu type feature, and although I appreciate the additional functionality, they can in no way replace traditional structures as well. They both need to exist.

    What if you're just discovering functions in an application, by going through the menus? You might be new to it, and not be sure what it can do yet.

    Menus (and indeed, the Ribbon) give you that chance.

    1. Sarev

      and the elephant in the room

      Menu items can have associated icons. Many functions have quite similar textual names and users rely on icons to quickly and easily distinguish between them. This HUD, in its current form, is pretty useless because:

      1. you have to switch from mouse to keyboard, which is a PITA for more casual use cases

      2. there are no icons, just a sea of text

      3. it does that shitty Windows UI think of only showing you the first few items in a list of potentially hundreds of options, even though the screen is quite a lot higher than 80 pixels...!

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Commands You Can't Remember The Name Of

    Anybody else remember the Permutated Index? One of the most useful things in the Unix manual. I wouldn't at all mind a utility that replicated this (command line, shouldn't be too hard, I suppose).

    So far as Ubuntu is concerned, they should fix the user interface, for at least several years to come, at 10.04, which is attractive and understandable to the maximum number of PC users. They have already shown that they have other ideas, so time for other Linuxes.

  18. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Well, that's Ubuntu out of the window then...

    WTF are they smoking at Ubuntu Towers?

    As others pointed out above, it's bad enough having to guess what sort of name an application might have... having to guess what *commands* it has is somewhere to the absolutely bloody insane side of crazy.

    There are bloody good reasons for hierarchical menus. There are bloody good reasons for attaching them to the windows they're associated with. There may even be good reasons for the abominations that Mr Shuttleworth has committed upon the desktop - hey, I didn't really want to do more than one thing at once.

    I've *wanted* to like it. I've tried it severally and often, and I find that I can't. I think it slows me down and gets between me and the computer - maybe it's because I use it as a tool, not a toy. I'm remembering that child's game where you have to tell someone else what to draw, and wondering just how bad a CAD drawing is going to be when you tell it what you want. It might work with a *good* speech recognition engine, but I'm not convinced.

    So while I've been an Ubuntu fan for years, I'm afraid that's it. Enough.

    1. Nathanial Wapcaplet

      WTF are they smoking at Ubuntu Towers : Durban Bushweed. Far too bloody much of it for my liking.

      I'm beginning to look on Canonical as damaging to the reputation of Linux in general. This Unity b/s has cost me 160of my perfectly-good desktops going back from Lucid 10.04 LTS back to Windows 7. The national bosses "can't risk Unity being permanent".

  19. yeahyeahno

    Video does not download

    "In a video demo here (beware – it downloads to your desktop)"

    No it doesn't I watched it in place, no downloads to my desktop, and all I did was press the play button.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    What is it with GUI designers these days?

    This is the dumbest design I've seen.

    Because of several reasons.. First of all we're talking about a GUI here, a /Graphical/ User Interface. Graphical means that most navigating will be done using a controlling device such as a mouse. You can see this put to use in the demo itself; in an internet browser you don't press tab a dozen times before the right link is selected, you use the mouse to click on it. In a drawing program you don't use the cursor keys but the mouse to navigate and select (parts of) your work.

    So why would I want to move my hands back to the keyboard if one hand is already sitting on my mouse? Another problem; I can type blindly with both hands, not with one. Worse; when I'm using the telephone I keep it in my left hand after which I can do some one finger typing with my right. But the other way around? During my work I use the right hand for my trackball... I can't type easily with my left hand alone. Then what ?

    Another problem is the difference between developer and end-user. What the developer may consider to be the perfect logical name for an option may be totally lost on the end user. So how is the end user ever going to find the option required ?

    Finally; related options don't always share the same name. What if I need to do some copy / paste or cut / paste while I'm not too sure anymore what Ubuntu uses for key shortcuts (everything seems to change in Ubuntu on a whim, so why would I assume these options to be the same) ?

    Select one file, get the menu, type copy', then select the option. Then back to the mouse again, go to the right folder, then get the menu again. Type 'paste'.... This is indeed really the future. This is SOOO much quicker than selecting a file, clicking the (always visible) "copy" icon, then moving to the right location and then click 'paste' again.

    Geez, and I thought Metro was a bad idea.

  21. Steven Raith

    Could be good...

    Providing standard menus are still there, minimised out of the way, Lion-Full-Screen-Esque.

    I have the opposite problem to most people posting here - I can remember the name of the option I want, but I'm fucked if I can remember what menu it's in....


      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?

  22. Sean Houlihane


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

  23. Peter Lea

    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!

    1. Charles Augustus Milverton

      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 !

  24. Jason Terando
    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.

  25. Mario Becroft

    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.

  26. Doug 3

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      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.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge


      Lubuntu is your friend. Works for me.

  29. C-N

    Too late

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

  30. admiraljkb

    Maybe it should be: Controllable Heads Up Display


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having watched the video, which can be viewed without downloading [here on YouTube](, 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 []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]

    1. melt

      What "how to make a link" code?

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

      1. Anonymous Coward


        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!

        1. Ben Tasker


          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.

        2. melt

          I found out what's going on:


  32. yossarianuk

    They should patent it

    Before you know who does and sues them

  33. Criminny Rickets


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

  34. lowwall

    Clippy? Is that you?

  35. Leo Maxwell

    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.

  36. Fred Goldstein

    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.

  37. Flash_Penguin

    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?.......

    1. admiraljkb


      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)




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

  38. magnetik

    nothing new

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

  39. JOKM


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

  40. magnetik


    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.

    1. Miek

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

      1. magnetik

        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.

  41. rfrovarp

    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.

    1. Miek

      "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 ?

    2. melt

      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. "

      1. admiraljkb


        << "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. " >>

        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*

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  43. Greg J Preece

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

    1. Woodgar

      My thoughts exactly.

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

  44. Big-nosed Pengie

    This is joke.


    Please tell me this is a joke.

  45. Mediocrates

    Not "Heads Up Display"

    Hopeless Ubuntu Disaster

    1. Nathanial Wapcaplet


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

      1. Miek

        @Nathanial Wapcaplet

        "Saboteurs" -- worth knowing ;)

        1. Nathanial Wapcaplet

          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.

  46. Tristan Young

    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.

    1. James Hughes 1

      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)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        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.

  47. GrantB

    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.

  48. Miek

    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.

    1. Ken Hagan 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.

    2. K. Adams

      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:

      -- -- -- --

  49. tempemeaty

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

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

  50. trog-oz


    "In a video demo here (beware – it downloads to your desktop)"

    It didn't download to my desktop, it just played in the browser, and I am using one of Bill's inferior operating systems too!

    I can't see HUD being of any use to me. Since I've installed my PC, I know every application that is on there and where on the menu it lives. I also know how to access every application from the command line. The only problem I get is knowing what application to choose to install. For example, I used to use kuickshow as an image viewer, but when I upgraded from KDE3.5 to KDE4, kuickshow didn't work. I don't see how HUD would work any better than Google in helping to decide on gwenview.

  51. DanceMan


    Housing and Urban Development?????????

  52. /dev/null

    Sounds vaguely like...

    A subset of Jef Raskin's THE user interface (now apparently known as Archy).

  53. David Bilsby
    Thumb Down

    Sounds awful

    Ans what if you don't know exactly what you want to do with something, or at least how the action you want to perform might be named?

    Quite often I just want to look at all menu options to see what is possible.

  54. SeanEllis

    Thank goodness for Kubuntu

    Sorry, while I applaud exploration, this is not the kind of experiment one should foist on the millions of users of one of the most popular Linux distros.

    For me, who is still trying to remember where the hell my formatting options have gone in Word 2007 (I have to use it for work), the lack of discoverability is an absolute killer.

    I run kubuntu at home, and was thinking about switching back to the mainstream. Not now.

  55. Nathanial Wapcaplet

    LTS - with first release of a radical new GUI environment

    This makes a fsking mockery of everything I've been telling customers about Ubuntu since 6.06.

    First the buttons, then the DisUnity, now DUH. Shameful contempt and very unprofessional IMHO.

    The mainstream press will start to rip them to pieces, freedom my ass!

  56. Snow Hill Island

    Ubuntu, now a synonym for Unnovation

    Ubuntu used to mean "Brown", but thanks to our ever evolving language now means "Unnovation" (i.e. the art of coming up with new, original ideas which are no better than the current status quo.)

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Might be a useful feature, but it can't replace menus and buttons completely, because:

    1) How does a NEW USER or an experienced user using a NEW APPLICATION, know what to type? Particularly if the developers used some unusual terminology in their particular app, or it's a specialist tool.

    2) How would it work for touch based devices? Supposedly that's what Unity is focused on Typing on a touch device is pretty horrible. Maybe voice recognition would help but that's pretty clunky too at the moment, even the much lauded Siri isn't perfect.

    3) It just takes longer - if you know where the option is in the menu, you can get to it quicker than typing it in, unless it's 5 layers down or something.

    I think it could work, but only as an extra, not a total replacement

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      3) It just takes longer - if you know where the option is in the menu, you can get to it quicker than typing it in, unless it's 5 layers down or something.

      Unless you're using the excellent program Gimp. Then you simply pin the deeply embedded menu which items you plan to use a lot. And all of a sudden you can simply select the option(s) with a /single/ click of the mouse.

  58. SpaMster

    So it's basically just the Windows 7 search bar you get in the start menu...

  59. 2cent

    Where's help when you need it?

    Even a cognitive interface needs some help.

    Why a "?" isn't on an extension of the search items is not being realistic.

    You don't automatically know what to do. "Help" is the place to go to and it is not near where it should be, right next to the information you have a question about.

    Fix this and I could use it.

  60. Wild Bill

    This is basically Launchy

    Which is a fantastically useful tool... in combination with traditional mouseclick navigation

  61. EvilPixieMan

    Half Cocked... Cowboys...

    And no, I'm not talking about the folks at Canonical.

    How many posters here have actually read Mark's proposal, and how many have just jumped in with their inflated egos and sense of self-importance. Talking loud and using strong language doesn't make you right.

    A couple of things that doesn't appear to be clear to most shooting their mouths off -

    #1 - It is not a replacement for the menu. It is a replacement for one use case of the menu (discovering functionality) using one mode of acces (the keyboard). If you want to trawl through the menu options, you still can. If you want to use a mouse, you still can.

    #2 - Nobody has said that in _all_ cases it will be quicker, but if you're working in a primarily keyboard-oriented app, then every break in flow to find a command requires a context-switch to mouse control. This allows you to carry on typing and grab the command in less time than having to switch to mouse and then trace a path on the screen (do you _really_ know how slow that is?)

    #3 - Plans to "replace the menu" are down the track, but whatever is proposed will provide for mouse operation, and will offer a way to "discover" commands in a logical arrangement. These guys aren't cowboys, they're running lab tests and looking it it pretty thoroughly from what I understand.

  62. TheoM

    It's all a matter of picking the right words...

    You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

    There is an axe here.


    Sorry, do not know how to 'PICK UP AXE'


    Sorry, do not know how to 'COLLECT AXE'

    > GET AXE

    You pick up an axe.

  63. MCG

    Didn't they carry out any usability testing? Or is that sort of la-de-da tomfoolery frowned upon by the brawny-thewed lads and lasses in the Open Source world?

  64. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Flavours of Mint

    I'm looking forward to the full release of Linux Mint 12 KDE. It looks great and I have just given up on Kubuntu after spending a long time to get audio/plugins working. It works for some people but I failed on that particular distro. I'll have a look at it next time it comes around.

    I got it to work and I learned a lot, but for some reason my install on the SD card got wiped and the two backups (ToDO and Paragon) failed to work. No probs...

    So yeah - Lisa with KDE. Can't wait. I downloaded the Debian version of Mint and I'm going to give that a go in the meantime - it's a rolling release based on Debian Testing as you probably all know a whole lot better than me. I might be out of my depth with it, but people say once you get it up and running it is much quicker and more efficient than other versions.

    There is always Cinnamon as well, but I think I've got enough to 'chew' on for the moment.

    This was an interesting time to jump into the wacky waters of Linux. On one hand I am in awe of what has been achieved and on the other I am in shock at all the hard work that has been effectively destroyed, all in the name of change for changes sake, and if it ain't broke, fix it till it is.

    Anyway, I got a nice little persistent install of Katya which is supported till the end of the year, by which time I hopefully will be rocking with either the KDE or Debian version (or both).

    They are even saying they will do a KDE desktop for the LMDE as well as a Fluxbox one too.

    All this on a 4GB SD card that is permanently in my laptop so I can fire it up anytime I like. Awesome.

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