Notifications, indicators and alerts

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Let’s talk about notifications! As Ryan Lortie mentioned, there was a lot of discussion across the Ubuntu, Kubuntu, GNOME, KDE and Mozilla communities represented at UDS about the proposals Canonical’s user experience design and desktop experience engineering teams have made for Ubuntu 9.04.

See the mockup as a Flash movie.

There are some fairly bold (read: controversial) ideas that we’d like to explore with, so the opportunity to discuss them with a broader cross-section of the community was fantastic. There were several rough edges and traps that I think we’ll avoid in the first round as a result, thanks to everyone who participated. Some of the things we work on in these teams are done directly with partners for their devices, so they don’t see this level of discussion before they ship, but it’s wonderful when we do get the opportunity to do so.

Some of these ideas are unproven, they boil down to matters of opinion, but since our commitment to them is based on a desire to learn more I think of them as constructive experiments. Experiments are just that – experiments. They may succeed and they may fail. We should judge them carefully, after we have data. We are putting new ideas into the free desktop without ego. We know those ideas could be better or worse than similar work being done in other communities, and we want to gather real user feedback to help find the best mix for everyone. The best ideas, and the best code, will ultimately form part of the digital free software commons and be shared by GNOME, KDE and every distribution. So, for those folks who were upset that we might ship something other than a GNOME or KDE default, I would ask for your patience and support – we want to contribute new ideas and new code, and that means having some delta which can be used as a basis for discussions about the future direction of upstream. In the past, we’ve had a few such delta’s in Ubuntu. Some, like the current panel layout, were widely embraced. Others, like the infamous “Ubuntu spacial mode”, were not. C’est la vie, and we all benefit from the evolution.

Experiments are also not something we should do lightly. The Ubuntu desktop is something I take very personally; I feel personally responsible for the productivity and happiness of every Ubuntu user, so when we bring new ideas and code to the desktop I believe we should do everything we can to make sure of success first time round. We should not inflict bad ideas on our users just because we’re curious or arrogant or stubborn or proud. Despite being occasionally curious, arrogant, stubborn and proud :-)

So, what are we proposing?

First, we are focusing some attention on desktop notifications in this cycle, as part of a broader interest in the “space between applications”.

I think Canonical and Ubuntu can best help the cause of free software by focusing on the cracks between the major components of the desktop. In other words, while there are already great upstreams for individual applications in the free software desktop (Novell for Evolution, Sun for OpenOffice, Mozilla for Firefox, Red Hat for NetworkManager), we think there is a lot of productive and useful work to be done in the gaps between them. Notifications are things that many apps do, and if we can contribute new ideas there then we are helping improve the user experience of all of those applications. That’s a nice force multiplier – we’re hopefully doing work that makes the work of every other community even more valuable.

Nevertheless, expect bumps ahead. Ideas we are exploring may / will / do conflict with assumptions that are present today in various applications. We can address the relevant code in packages in main, but I’m more focused on addressing the potential social disruption that conflict can create, and that’s more a matter of conversation than code.

Notifications are interesting, subtle and complex. There are lots of different approaches on lots of different platforms. There are lots of different use cases. We’re trying to simplify and eliminate complexity, while still making it possible to meet the use cases we know about.

There has been good work in the community on notifications, and even a spec that is *almost* at 1.0 in that community, with existing open source implementations. Our proposal is based on that specification, but it deprecates several capabilities and features in it. We will likely be compatible with the current API’s for sending notifications, but likely will not display all the notifications that might be sent, if they require features that we deprecate. If this experiment goes well, we would hope to help move that FD.o specification to 1.0, with or without our amendments.

The key proposals we are making are that:

  • There should be no actions on notifications.
  • Notifications should not be displayed synchronously, but may be queued. Our implementation of the notification display daemon will display only one notification at a time, others may do it differently.

That’s pretty much it. There are some subtleties and variations, but these are the key changes we are proposing, and which we will explore in a netbook device with a partner, as well as in the general Ubuntu 9.04 release, schedule gods being willing.

This work will show up as a new notification display agent, not as a fork or patch to the existing GNOME notification daemon. We don’t think the client API – libnotify – needs to be changed for this experiment, though we may not display notifications sent through that API that use capabilities we are suggesting be deprecated. We will try to ensure that packages in main are appropriately tuned, and hope MOTU will identify and update key packages in universe accordingly.

Why a completely new notification display agent? We are designing it to be built with Qt on KDE, and Gtk on GNOME. The idea is to have as much code in common as we can, but still take advantage of the appropriate text display framework on Ubuntu and Kubuntu. We hope to deliver both simultaneously, and have discussed this with both Ubuntu and Kubuntu community members. At the moment, there is some disagreement about the status of the FD.o specification between GNOME and KDE, and we hope our efforts will help build a bridge there. In Ubuntu 9.04, we would likely continue to package and publish the existing notification daemon in addition, to offer both options for users that have a particular preference. In general, where we invest in experimental new work, we plan to continue to offer a standard GNOME or KDE component / package set in the archive so that people can enjoy that experience too.

The most controversial part of the proposal is the idea that notifications should not have actions associated with them. In other words, no buttons, sliders, links, or even a dismissal [x]. When a notification pops up, you won’t be able to click on it, you won’t be able to make it go away, you won’t be able to follow it to another window, or to a web page. Are you loving this freedom? Hmmm? Madness, on the face of it, but there is method in this madness.

Our hypothesis is that the existence of ANY action creates a weighty obligation to act, or to THINK ABOUT ACTING. That make notifications turn from play into work. That makes them heavy responsibilities. That makes them an interruption, not a notification. And interruptions are a bag of hurt when you have things to do.

So, we have a three-prong line of attack.

  1. We want to make notifications truly ephemeral. They are there, and then they are gone, and that’s life. If you are at your desktop when a notification comes by, you will sense it, and if you want you can LOOK at it, and it will be beautiful and clear and easy to parse. If you want to ignore it, you can safely do that and it will always go away without you having to dismiss it. If you miss it, that’s OK. Notifications are only for things which you can safely ignore or miss out on. If you went out for coffee and a notification flew by, you are no worse off. They don’t pile up like email, there is no journal of the ones you missed, you can’t scroll back and see them again, and therefor you are under no obligation to do so – they can’t become work while you are already busy with something else. They are gone like a mystery girl on the bus you didn’t get on, and they enrich your life in exactly the same way!
  2. We think there should be persistent panel indicators for things which you really need to know about, even if you missed the notification because you urgently wanted that coffee. So we are making a list of those things, and plan to implement them.
  3. Everything else should be dealt with by having a window call for attention, while staying in the background, unless it’s critical in which case that window could come to the foreground.

Since this is clearly the work of several releases, we may have glitches and inconsistencies along the way at interim checkpoints. I hope not, but it’s not unlikely, especially in the first iteration. Also, these ideas may turn out to be poor, and we should be ready to adjust our course based on feedback once we have an implementation in the wild.

We had a superb UXD and DEE (user experience design team, and desktop experience engineering team) sprint in San Francisco the week before UDS. Thanks to everyone who took part, especially those who came in from other teams. This notifications work may just be the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a very cool tip :-)

One or more of our early-access OEM partners (companies that we work with on new desktop features) will likely ship this feature as part of a netbook product during the 9.04 cycle. At that point, we would also drop the code into a PPA for testing with a wider set of applications. There are active discussions about updating the specification based on this work. I think we should be cautious, and gather real user testing feedback and hard data, but if it goes well then we would propose simplifying the spec accordingly, and submit our notification display agent to Long term collaboration around the code would take place on Launchpad.

349 Responses to “Notifications, indicators and alerts”

  1. AdamK Says:

    Any idea what to do if user gets overflown by notifications?

    Mark Shuttleworth says: We will queue them up, and display them when there is room.

  2. Andreas Nilsson Says:

    Great work. Cool to see notifications becoming actual notifications, not some kind of freak-dialogs like they are now.

  3. Mark Says:

    I think notifications should not force me to click on them, but still allow it, for useful actions. Like when I receive a chat notification from Kopete, I can click on it, to open the chat window. But I don’t have to. With the Boost-plugin for Facebook in Firefox, I can click on notifications to go directly to that page where something happened. That is really useful, I would miss it.

  4. .fosk. Says:

    (at least we can have a look to a mockup of this idea)

    It looks as it could be a very interesting experiment. I really agree it makes sense. Let’s see how it works out!

    Keep up with the desktop experience work and study!


  5. Alberto Says:

    Althought I agree with the concept: a notification that is not intrusive, the conceptualization is, from my point of view, intrusive. I LOVE the way you can configure Pidgin to just show you an orange box saying there is a new message. That’s not intrusive, you know there is a message, but doesn’t occupies screen real estate.

    And, for me, the visual parts is what defines if is intrusive or not. If I need to pass in front of it, doesn’t matter if is ‘click trasparent’, is still a thing I would prefer to get out of my desktop.

    And that’s where I disagree with the proposal, is false that the notification doesn’t creates a responsability. If the notification is an e-mail that I need to answer, It creates a responsability for me. If I just click on the ‘dismiss’ button, I just dismiss the responsability to focus in my current work.

    The answer to this would be a really short notification like a second or so, but, then again, if is too short, the notification lose it’s purpose: to let you know something happened.

    So I think It needs a carefull study of what people thinks.

    I just express my personal opinion.


  6. sylware Says:

    Cannot see the video! Where is the element?

  7. sylware Says:

    The <video> element…

  8. Nidoo Says:

    That is simply beautiful. I particularly like the ideas thrown around where notifications do not require action and then disappear. Keep it simple, a notification is just that, most I do not need to know about. If it’s important let there be a recognizable tray icon I can click to get more info/take corrective action.

  9. kwah Says:

    Hm… Controversy it is.

    Sometimes I like notification popping up, if I am in the mood. Sometimes my mood changes (or circumstances) hence I should be able to switch them on/off instantly then. But wait, there are no controls in notifications themselves… Of course, there will be some other way, probably more strictly obeying of current status in my IM-program, many users are actually obeying only one of them, namely “offline” 😀 And if I am not the user of IM… Shell we introduce system-wide user-assigned status? There are more questions. Hope it will be something useful and interesting at the end. Good luck.

  10. free Says:

    Please do a survey on how people use ubuntu desktop. For example nobody I know off uses evolution they all switch to thunderbird. Why is evolution there?
    For what do people use Ubuntu. Gaming, Pleasure, safe surfing, work, web development etc… Ubuntu should build around these profiles.

    The notifications should have in my opinion at least a backlog you can reach. What if you just had not enough time to read the notification and its gone. Nothing is more annoying/frustrating then not able to find it back. And if a notification is so uninteresting that its not worth of backlogging it should prob. not show up on the desktop in the first place! Or it will be annoying to see every time “you got mail”


  11. taling hallenthur Says:

    It reminds me a lot of an OS X project called Growl. Great idea, I can’t wait to see that in Jaunty. The only thing that I don’t like about this design are the shadows that make those bubbles a little to blurry. I think they should be removed or depend on the Compiz settings to keep everything consistent.

  12. Greg Says:

    Interesting concept but I suspect there will be usability issues. When I worked on the design of Windows XP I consistently saw people trying to click on the balloon tip to take an action. There are three types of notifications to consider:
    1) Notifications I care about now and need to act on right away (phone rings, instant message)
    2) Notifications that give me status (volume up/down) (wifi-on)
    3) Notification that are transient but not necessarily actionable (twitter, email, battery low)
    Non actionable notification are great but when you start getting notification you need to act on your mouse will naturally drift to the proximity of the notification and click. If the click goes to the item underneath as shown in your video you’ll likely click on something you didn’t want to click on. You show a notification where someone has sent a hyperlink in their email, users are trained to click on underlined text if it doesn’t work they will be frustrated.

    You can keep notifications mostly transient and usable with a small change. If the mouse is approaching the notification: Keep the notification visible and allow some basic interaction. If the mouse ignores the notification it can go away on it’s own.

    Lastly consider a universal hot-key to take action on a notification so if it is something I care about I can take action without moving my hands off the keyboard (also great for accessibility).

  13. Ketil Says:

    Very nice to see that some work is going into notifications. I think the mockup looks very good.
    From where I sit (on a relatively small screen), my main gripes with notifications on Ubuntu are 2 things:
    – That they tend to hide some parts of my screen, and they sit there for too long. That is why I usually use the X to close them when I’ve noticed them. So I really hope that this will be taken into consideration. Notifications that hides whatever I’m doing is stopping me from being productive, either be making me wait, or making me act upon them
    – They are often application specific. That is, they look slighlyt different and show up in different places. I wish for a notification system that disregards the fact that I could be using KDE apps or Gnome apps, and that picks up whatever OSD messages that any app would like to send. I simply don’t care if any music player dev team has decided that *their* idea for a OSD is the best idea since sliced bread

  14. David Taylor Says:

    I don’t entirely agree,

    If notifications can safely be ignored then is there really any reason in distracting the user with a notification in the first place? Less is more as some like to state. (This may not apply to all instances such as email but on the whole surely it is true)

    If a notification is displayed then surely one would like to do something with that information and so if a notification of an email was displayed then clicking on it would give you access to that email or ignored (Surely it’s not just me that uses that function in Outlook, unfortunately Kmail doesn’t give you any information about an email just that one has arrived and which folder it is – almost useless)

    The ideas stated should be guide-lines as they surely do not apply to all instances

  15. anzan Says:

    Greg’s comments are worth considering.

  16. Josh Says:

    So it will be like Growl in OS X?

  17. Golu Says:

    Looks great

  18. mark Says:

    It is a disgrace that Canonical once again, uses flash video as the first and only video format. (It happened also with the presentation of the Netbook Remix.) Please first make an ogg version (takes only a minute) and then post optionally also the flash version. Please don’t discriminate free software lovers! How can I see this video without installing flash?!

    Mark Shuttleworth says:You could try Gnash. I’m helping to fund it and the developers are doing very good work – you could contribute there instead of mouthing off here. The SWF format lets us control the playback, while Ogg starts playing immediately without giving the user any real control. For desktop experience mockups which require user interaction, that will be even more important.

  19. michele Says:

    Cool, that’s pretty much how Growl on OS X works and it works pretty well IMHO.

    A different aspect in growl is that you can actually dismiss a notification, this is useful in two situations:

    1) when you *want* to dismiss the notification earlier instead of waiting for it to fade away, maybe because you need to reach the area covered by it to click something

    2) when you *need* to dismiss a sticky notification, growl has this concept of sticky notification, I actually use it for two things. For example I configured Adium (IM client) so that it issues a sticky notification if I lost my connection, this way I’m sure to not ignore it while doing something other and going offline. Growl also uses sticky notification when you’re away from your computer so that when you’re back you can easily check what happened.

    Growl lacks the minimization animation, I’m not sure if that’s really useful, it seems more an exercise in animation effects than something really useful, for example is not coherent since you need a target for that animation and that target may not be always visible.

    Keep up the great work, things like this are what really counts for a great user experience.

  20. Le notifiche secondo Canonical/Ubuntu « pollycoke :) Says:

    […] “dark side of the moon” Shuttleworth ha pubblicato questo simpatico prototipo di come il team pagato da Canonical per migliorare ergonomia e stile di Ubuntu, intenda le […]

  21. John Anderson Says:

    This actually looks a lot like mumbles, which is a bit of a growl imitation.

    Are you intending to use this as a base?

  22. Stephen Says:

    I like the idea of notifications that are not interactive. It forces developers to use a better method for signalling important actions. It also allows the user to disable notifications would fear of missing anything important.

  23. Nuevo sistema de notificaciones en Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope « Gabuntu Says:

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  24. Evgeny Kuznetsov Says:

    I second the opinion stating that notifications should be clickable. The good point was made by one of earlier commentators: the question is, why do we want notifications, in the first place? We need notifications to see that some event happend, some event that requires our response (if I didn’t care about that event, why would I set up notifications for it?), and it’s natural to start response where you’ve got information.

    Let’s say I’ve got a mail, and I received a notification saying so. I this mail is not important or does not require my immediate attention, I can ignore it, but if I want to read this mail right at the spot (maybe I was waiting for it, and that’s why I set up notifications), why should I waste time searching the tray or the taskbar for my mail application? Why can I not just click where I got this information from? In the end, this is the very reason why computer notifications are better than some voice alerts in an airport – they can be interacted with.

    The difference between notifications and ordinary windows is that notifications are safe to ignore, and if you ignore a notification, it disappears – that’s OK. But if you choose not to ignore one, you should be able to do something, right? This is exactly why the notifications are better than LEDs on your laptop.

    I actually have a proposal: maybe it’s a sane idea to have an option of making notifications clickable, so that people could turn it on or off on their choice?

  25. Nicolas Stouff Says:

    Well, it seems that this notification issue draws a lot of attention.
    I, for one, would tend to think that anything that pops-up on my screen unannounced should be shot on sight.
    Anyways, these notifications can be quite useful, so let’s see… How could we make them disappear, but still reachable?
    I would guess a sliding panel/sidebar/something on the right/left/top/bottom (configurable?) of the screen, reachable by simply bringing our cursor to that edge of the screen, or clicking on a notification panel applet.

    The sliding panel or sidebar would stack up notifications, would be scrollable if needed, and could support actions and dismissal. A button on the bottom of it could clear all notifications, or they could be dismissed one by one.

    In fact, this sliding thing would work like a download manager, printing notifications as they are displayed, making the notification panel applet blink/shine/bounce/shout. The user can then see what’s happened by just dragging his mouse to an edge of the screen, ignore the notifications, clear them all, or just dismiss some of them if he wants to keep an eye on something.

    Integrated with new GNOME technologies (like Clutter) for a nice sliding animation, and re-arranging notifications are some of them are dismissed, it could be (well at least in my case of usability) a great idea.

    PS: on a totally different note: please make Firefox use the default notification system. I don’t know how easy it is to modify some XUL to use GTK parts, but I can’t stand seeing this sliding pop up for “Finished Downloads” appearing on the bottom of the screen, whereas every single other notification appears on the top.

  26. Nicolas Stouff Says:

    Woops I meant:
    “Integrated with new GNOME technologies (like Clutter) for a nice sliding animation, and re-arranging notifications AS some of them are dismissed, it could be (well at least in my case of usability) a great idea.”

    A little more understandeable.

  27. Ricardo Ramalho Says:


    Like many readers already pointed out, this is a *lot* like Growl on OS X. And that’s a *good* thing. I will not repeat most, as most commenters already pointed out the quirks.

    But i have installed a software program that already implements this function, and it’s called mumbles project. It even has the Growl network notification function, wich i find… cool! Not really usefull, but cool anyway.

    C ya.

  28. Rob J. Caskey Says:

    I’m going to thumbs-down any spec proposal that won’t let you have an accept on a voice-chat notification.

  29. Nabash Says:

    In a way centralizing the notifications mechanism and area of appearance can yield good UX, but the user should be given power to control the notifications mechanism or even try to construct some adaptive notification behavior.
    Adding/removing applications to and from the notification center, along with unified and understandable (not easy to archive) sensitivity (thresholds, events, etc.) settings for the notifications will be great.
    Without delivering control over the notifications (size, location, frequency and triggering events) and of course excellent defaults this might be an annoying feature.

  30. Kevin LaVergne Says:

    Awesome! I can’t wait.

  31. saeed Says:

    Great !

  32. Ryan Says:

    I like the slick animations, but thats all I like. Consider my interpretation of what I saw in the demonstration. Several transient notifications, and several that could potentially require user interaction. For instance, notification of new mail seemed to spawn that annoying and pointless evolution mail icon next to the status bar. It would seem that these 2 forms of notification are linked. Why are the not appearing in the same place? Logically, if the user is going to be notified by an event in multiple ways, all of the notifications should occur in a similar location on the screen in a similar fashion. Furthermore, it limits the scope and capability to assume that notifications have no actions associated with them 6 times out of 10, I will want to take action if I am notified that I have received mail. Similarly, if I am using the internet I will always want to take action to correct the fact that I have lost my internet signal. Ideally, there would be a way for these notifications to display actions. This need not necessarily be in the notification popup itself, but without such functionality the workflow that is spawned by the notification is scattered. Instead of being able to access desired functionality directly from the source of what created a desired action, the user must instead pause, think of where the functionality he actually wants to use is, locate it, and then proceed with his action. There are many good reasons why existing notification systems allow for user actions… when the user actually does have to respond to a notification it is much smoother and more logical to link to the desired action through the notification. Similar to the fact that when I pay my credit card bill, I fill out a form on my credit card statement, instead of going and fetching some other random form from a pile that was mailed to me by the credit card company. It seems like all of these elements should be part of a revamped tray specification that provides for the shiney ephemeral notifications, but also allows for user interaction in cases where it is likely the user will have to do something. And honestly, how often does the user not want to do something with information in a notification. After all, if you didn’t think they want to take action on a notification, why are you presenting it to them at all? Furthermore, the inability to dismiss notifications would be a “really bad thing” some people read faster than others. I am certain I would hate for a box to appear that blocks part of my screen (I have a 13″ monitor) that I have finished reading yet am unable to dismiss.

  33. Luis Says:

    In my opinion this is an error. Actions and dismissal are two very useful features. I agree that a common system used by all desktop environment is required, but those features are so important for me.

  34. Simon Phipps Says:

    Since Growl is mature and BSD-licensed (it’s at, why not port it? It works very well and has addressed the challenges you’re going to encounter, such as when to and when not to notify, what interactions do and don’t work and more.

  35. [ShortPress] Mark Shuttleworth | Notifications, indicators and alerts Says:

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  36. Johannes Says:

    Thank you for taking on the issue of notification management, it is very important. I am always reminded of that when I boot windows and get spammed with lots of popup windows that all want to tell me something, and each popup works different. Most of the stuff is not really important, but I have to click on it nevertheless. Then I always think that there should be a consistent and unobtrusive way of handling notification.

    But I think the way the notifications are displayed in the mockup is way too “loud” and distracting. If the notifications are not that important, I think they should be (or at least be configurable to be) much more unobtrusive, or they become interruptions. It makes me agressive when I get spammed and distracted by things popping up, while I try to work.

    That may be just me, but I think in some of the examples shown in the mockup is too much text. When I recieve a chat message it is enough to know that there is a message I have not yet read. To answer to it I have to open the chat window nevertheless and probably read the message again. If there is so much text in the notification it has to stay up longer, so that I can read everything, and it produces a lot of visual clutter when it pops up and disappears. Same with a new e-Mail. Sender and subject should be enough.

    I like the Wifi status and volume change notifications. There is not too much information on it so that I can pick it up at once.

    There should also be the possibility to disable some or filter notifications. I am not sure where this fits in technically (notification agent or application), but there should be the possibility for the user to suppress certain notifications (for example when subscribed to a high volume mailinglist, or in a area of unstable WiFi).

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  38. Pedro Says:

    In my opinion it is very important:
    1. Change to visible to not visible all messages
    2. Turn off some of the messages or at least change the amount of verbosity of them

    It is very important to not have 5 or 10 messages at a time, because normally you would like to be notified only by the most important, and you don’t bother most of them. However, the most important is very different from one user to another.
    As a very visual intrusive system, notification should be in my humble opinion as more configurable as they can be.

  39. Thomas Thurman Says:

    I like the idea of going back to using notifications for, well, notifying the user about things. Of late there’s been a number of applications (pidgin, for example, or empathy, or bazaar-gtk) which have used notifications as a convenient way to get a panel applet on the cheap: they’re easy, they’re cross-platform to some extent, they can position themselves automatically. It’s not hard to see why people are (ab)using the idea of notifications for this, but it’s nonetheless an abuse. The result is that I now have seven notifications permanently stacked up in the notification area.

    What is to be done about applications which behave this way? Is there some way to let them create quick and easy panel applets as a replacement?

  40. Dada Krpasundarananda Says:

    I like the points of Greg, to me that’s also the way I interact with notifications. As several programs have notifications and do it in their own way it gets confusing. There are indeed several catagories of notifications, and probably each should have a sensible default way but also allow to make people change this. Some people just like to know about every notification and maybe lose sleep worrying they may have missed some and not have a log. Some people could waste their whole life dreaming about this girl on the bus… Naturally others, and probably most, are happy if they come and go. Again the time they need to stay will be different for different people.

    I am following the development of the KDE by Aseigo and team and know they are working on the same thing. Is there much cooperation and coordination between the work you are doing and they? It would be great to have a real flexible system that all programs can use on what ever DE they are running. Configurable for those who want and with great defaults for those who just like things to work and are happy which what is given.

  41. Michael "Action" Howell Says:

    I don’t agree on the no-actions rule. The whole point of showing a notification is that the user probably wants to know that it happened, and may want to act on it (i.e. if I got a new email, it’s easier to click on the notification that I already noticed than to hunt for the email icon).

  42. Dada Krpasundarananda Says:

    I like the points of Greg, to me that’s also the way I interact with notifications. As several programs have notifications and do it in their own way it gets confusing. There are indeed several catagories of notifications, and probably each should have a sensible default way but also allow to make people change this.

    Some people just like to know about every notification and maybe lose sleep worrying they may have missed some and not have a log. Some people could waste their whole life dreaming about this person they saw on the bus they didn’t enter… Naturally others, and probably most, are happy if they come and go. But the time they need to stay will be different for different people. The X to clear it quickly is not a bad idea at all. It’s my automatic response, read and close. As my eye goes there anyway to read, my attention is already diverted. This diversion will become an intrusion/disturbance if the notification behaves differently that I would expect or want.

    I find it disturbing when it’s gone before I could read it. What’s the point otherwise of a notification in the first place? If not important don’t bother me, if important it should be there long enough for me to notice or to see it again (in a side bar as someone suggested) or as drop down list from the notification icon.

    I am following the development of the KDE by Aseigo and team and know they are working on the same thing. Is there much cooperation and coordination between the work you are doing and they? It would be great to have a real flexible system that all programs can use on what ever DE they are running. Configurable for those who want and with great defaults for those who just like things to work and are happy which what is given.

  43. Scott Kitterman Says:

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding “There should be no actions on notifications” as there can be no actions when you meant there should be no required actions?

    I’ve been testing Quassel for the Kubuntu team (we are considering it as a possible replacement for Konversation for IRC in Jaunty as part of getting rid of KDE3 apps off the Kubuntu CD) and it already does a nice dbus notification when someone highlights your nick or /msgs you. I desperately want to click on these notifications all the time and have the click not only take me to my IRC client, but to the correct channel.

    Notifications are perhaps interesting, but I think being able to interact with them is important.

  44. Achim Says:

    The new notification system looks really promising to me.

    I hope that it will help to give the desktop a more consistent look and feel.
    At the moment there are situations were the desktop is inconsistent if you would like to take a look at this bug report.


  45. Thomas Thurman Says:

    As a followup to my previous comment, there’s a request in Launchpad to add a button to the window manager to move applications which can turn into notification to the notification area[*], but I’m chary of doing so because it would formalise the use of notifications as panel applets:

    [*] People have been calling this action “iconification”, but I dislike this idea because it’s the name of what we now call minimisation in some of the X specs.

  46. Fim de ano agitado no pinguim » Omnia sunt communia Says:

    […] algumas coisas no Desktop do pinguim. Mark Shutleworth, fundador e grande financiador do Ubuntu, postou no seu blog um mockup sobre uma nova forma de notificações para GNOME e KDE que está a ser desenvolvida pelos […]

  47. Mike Rushton Says:

    Ii find this new notification philosophy to be too much like Apple or the pidgin philosophy where i’m being told how I should do things and have no choice otherwise. I’m being told what’s best for me.

    I see a link in a pidgin IM or tweet notification and I just want to click on it .. there it is staring me in the face and I can’t do anything with it. Now I have to do more work to bring up the application, find the tweet that went by (there could have been multiple) and THEN click on it.

    I’m in the middle of editing a graphic or some such, the notification pops up (for some unknown time that I can’t specify), it blocks what i’m doing (even in a small area) and I can’t click it away … now I have to wait till it goes away to finish my work.

    “We want to make notifications truly ephemeral. They are there, and then they are gone, and that’s life.”

    basically saying tough .. deal

    What happened to openness and choice?

    I like the notifications the way they are and would like them to not only stay interactive, but feel they could be interactive in more ways.


    I receive a notification of new email, I should be able to click on it and have the email pop up in a window by itself or my whole mail client come to focus.

    I recieve a low battery notification, it could maybe give me a few options like turn the brightness down and turn wifi and bluetooth off, all with the click of a button.

  48. Vincent Says:

    Very nice that you are developing both KDE- and GNOME-versions sharing as much code as possible. That way, other DE’s can easily add their own version. Of course, life would be even easier if the GNOME implementation contained as little dependencies on GNOME libraries as possible (preferably pure GTK), so it could be used in, say, Xubuntu, as-is.

  49. Simone Says:

    I like the idea!

    A wish from a simple user:
    I would like to be able to see the history of the passed notes as a list coming down when scrolling with the mouse wheel on an area (corner of screen or area of the panel).
    The entire list of notifications should then fade away just one second after I stop scrolling (cause it means I’ve seen what I was seeking for).
    Thanks for all.

  50. David Says:

    Very exciting.

    “[Gone] like a mystery girl on the bus you didn’t get on” is wonderfully ambiguous.

  51. Eamonn Says:

    I second Ricardo Ramalho’s opinion on Mumbles above. Its a nice little piece of software that does nearly everything shown in the demo and a little better in some cases.

  52. Omegamormegil Says:

    I really like the idea of notifications which I don’t need to interact with, particularly after seeing the mock up of the instant message conversation. I am always frustrated when I am trying to focus on some reading, and get distracted by an instant message notification. I want to see the message, in case it requires an immediate response, but I don’t want to have to leave what I’m reading to open and close the IM dialog, causing me to lose my place on the page and my train of thought. The notification icons on the panel drive me crazy as I always feel compelled to make them go away. This seems like an excellent solution.

    Of course, it also drives me crazy when I glance back at my screen and see the bottom edge of a missed notification sliding away. If there is no journal of notifications, and we are trying to keep notifications off of the panel, how will I know what I missed?

  53. David Says:

    Mark, I’d like to challenge your “notifications as play” hypothesis; I have found that notifications, when implemented correctly, seriously enhance my productivity. The “weighty obligation to act or even think of acting” is already present in most cases, and I often assume the notification will assist me in fulfilling this obligation, or will at least not dogmatically hinder me by insisting that this obligation is not present. For example, when I saw the notifications of received messages in the demo, I had a strong impulse to respond to those fabricated messages! By denying and therefore refusing to facilitate my “weighty obligation,” you have frustrated me. Your response would seem to be, in the case where a user can reasonably be expected to want or need to act in response to a notification, a window-level event should occur instead or in addition to the notification? This suggestion contradicts your original mission of unifying user experience in the space between applications currently using disparate notification mechanisms; we are back to square one.

    Also, why not make my notifications more like the mystery woman on the bus I *did* get on? :)

  54. Thomas Thurman Says:

    If there is no journal of notifications, and we are trying to keep notifications off of the panel, how will I know what I missed?

    I wonder whether notifications could be a little like Twitter/ (or more precisely the Facebook news feed): you would have the aspect of ephemeral “tweets” appearing from time to time, and there’d be a journal accessible in an “Advanced” tab somewhere else if you really wanted to know that your network went out at 3am.

  55. cornbread Says:

    I’m in love with those notifications! That is so far better than what we currently have. One thing to make sure of though. Currently notifications show up above some full screen apps. I know in xbmc i have to turn off notifications because they appear above xbmc when it’s in full screen mode. Would be nice to have that not happen.

    Keep up the great work Mark!

  56. Yuriy Kozlov Says:

    “We hope to deliver both simultaneously, and have discussed this with both Ubuntu and Kubuntu community members. At the moment, there is some disagreement about the status of the FD.o specification between GNOME and KDE, and we hope our efforts will help build a bridge there.”

    So then, have you read entries such as Aaron’s:
    and contacted those people about working on the spec and coming to some agreement?

    KDE has had it’s own comprehensive notification system for a long time, and a new way to display them in KDE 4.2. KDE developers seem to be set on having actions on the notifications, so I don’t think this experiment would work at all for KDE applications. It’s not just about taking advantage of the “appropriate text display framework” but about having a fully integrated desktop. For example, plasma notifications are themed along with the rest of plasma.

    You say you agreed with Kubuntu community members to deliver this, but I don’t see any mention of it on the Kubuntu Jaunty specs ( (Actually I don’t see a spec for this from UDS at all) I for one would like to see the new plasma notifications and not these in Kubuntu (though the mockup does LOOK nice).

    Basically, I am glad Canonical is working on this, but I am missing where the collaboration was here, and don’t see how the current idea will help interoperability.

  57. Petri Says:

    I like the idea of a (pulsating?) nofication icon in the panel when something is begging for my attention. In Compiz there could be additional radiating waves on the desktop. If some day there will be rating of notifications based on importance or urgency, the visual/audio cues could be used for emphasis…

    The panel icon should open a drop-down list of the notifications with optional actions or [Close] button, or [Clear all].

  58. Natan Yellin Says:

    I tend to agree with that notifications shouldn’t contain actions, but Greg is correct about user expectations. When a notification pops up informing the user that they received a new email, they _are_ going to click on the notification and they’ll be disappointed if it does nothing.

    I think the best way to handle the problem would be to position the notifications beneath their corresponding windows in the taskbar. (E.g. New email notifications would appear below the Evolution window in the taskbar.) Clicking on a notification would then unminimize the appropriate window.

    As Greg also said, keyboard shortcuts to automatically unminimize the window would gather a lot of love from power users.

  59. Jef Spaleta Says:

    Is there code publicly available now? It’s nice to talk about code, its nicer to read it. Has anyone internal at Canonical compared it to the publicly available mumbles daemon? Is anyone at Canonical talking to the mumbles developer?

    Is it wise to ship an “experiment” as part of an OEM’s partner’s netbook default interface? The idea that you would choose to encourage an OEM to include this experimental feature as an important aspect of a products interface while at the same time cautioning your existing userbase that this is a multi-release timescale experiment that you are willing to back away from are difficult to reconcile. It’s unfortunate that those OEM discussions are private.

    And just to be clear, are you saying that this codebase is only going to be made public in a PPA after the OEM ships it?
    I’m not sure what you meant at the end of your blog, but it could be taken as to mean that you are going to wait to make this publicly available for public testing until the OEM gets a first chance to ship it as a differentiating feature.
    If so that doesn’t jive with the Ubuntu Code of Conduct which stresses the importance of releasing code to the public before it ships.


  60. jpv Says:

    You say only one notification at a time, but the video does not reflect that. Some notifications indeed need to be synchronous, like the mock-up shows (volume level change and wifi signal loss). If this is queued and delayed it loses any usefulness.

  61. Walther Says:

    In the way you’re describing the notifications it would only cost me productivity: I get distracted by something unimportant that I cannot act upon.
    The IM’s in the video are a perfect example. I get an IM, but I cannot easily respond or click the link that was send to me. I’d rather have no notification when I busy or something I can respond to when I’m slacking.

    It looks like you are removing the urgencies and the actions from libnotify. You’re only display non-urgent (you said we can safely miss them) messages without actions. If you want to continue with the new notifications, I think it would be nice if we could leave libnotify’s API the way it is, but have two different UI’s on top of that. The ‘new’ popups for non-urgent messages without actions and one (or multiple) panel items for urgent messages. Otherwise you will leave an API-gap for urgent messages and every application will have to code a solution for themselves.

  62. Rio Says:

    In an anecdotal way, whether I like notifications depends on 1) my mood, 2) my task at hand and 3) what/why I’m bothered. Like if I’m heads-down busy, I don’t care about anything but knowing who IM’ed me, and if I’m forgetting a meeting/appointment. Even then fade away, quick, get out of my way! :-) But if I’m “project managing”, I’m much more interrupt-able. Knowing who said what in which app is good. At slower times at work or at home, more apps, and dialogs that linger longer, and dialogs that have short-cuts (I’m lazy okay! :-) ) is great.

    No matter what, I am glad the idea of notifications is getting more attention. The video, like others, makes me think of Growl. I like Growl and use it when I’m in Mac OS X. Its simple, nice looking, “ephemeral”, and has configurable dialogs that pop-up and fade away. I also like being able to configure general behavior and have different settings for certain apps.

    I don’t like some of the over simplification mentioned; like a few comments and my comments above: life varies and changes the “importance” of notifications. I also don’t like the implication that “an experiment” will the default behavior in 9.04. Other channels (new section for weekly news?) could be used at first. Don’t get me wrong, I will play with it when it comes out, I just don’t want it “forced on me”. Last thing I don’t like (at least in phrasing) is the deprecating of something in a standard that isn’t even finalized.

    In end though, FOSS is about choice, and if people don’t like what’s out there, its their right to do something about it. Hopefully those that take on choosing something different give their users some choice as well. At least the other packages will still be maintained.


  63. More from SABDFL on Notifications « A Conservative Techie Says:

    […] from SABDFL on Notifications On his blog today, Mark mentions more about the changes to notifications coming up in Jaunty Jackalope.  As […]

  64. Nuevo sistema de notificaciones en Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope « Paradise of Linux Says:

    […] Si quieres leer el artículo completo, favor de visitar el blog de Mark Shutleworth. […]

  65. Sander Says:

    Nice to see that you’re not too afraid to break current user’s habits in order to create better ones. The notifications aren’t what matters – the content is, so let the notifications be as inobtrusive as possible. Is code already available on Launchpad?

    By the way, do you also notice the impact of using nicely anti-aliased (Myriad?) fonts in the mockup? It would be nice to have such beautiful fonts on the desktop too.

  66. Concepto: Notificaciones en Ubuntu Jaunty | Says:

    […] Via Blog de Mark Shuttleworth […]

  67. mtz Says:

    does anyone have an idea how different/similar this will be with what kde is doing in kde4 notifications?..will these notifications use the same API?

  68. Alex Says:

    Looks very nice.

    Just a small request, please make this work for all four possible placements of the panel, not only for the default one (top of the screen).

    Gnome is exceptionally bad at this, please don’t introduce new bugs:

  69. Boycott Novell » Links 22/12/2008: Many New GNU/Linux Releases, MAFIAA Going Bonkers Says:

    […] Notifications, indicators and alerts […]

  70. Alex Says:

    Looks very nice.

    Just a small request, please make this work for all four possible placements of the panel, not only for the default one (top of the screen).

    Gnome is exceptionally bad at this, please don’t introduce new bugs:

  71. Notifisation - …for the adult in you Says:

    […] we give the practice a stamp of approval by enshrining it in the EWMH.  Besides, there is talk of enforcing notification ephemerality. This entry was written by Thomas Thurman, posted on December 23, 2008 at 4:36 am, filed under […]

  72. troy_s Says:

    Mark, while you are at it, can you address the notification / system tray?

    As I see it, we have apps that want to live there. Basically a mini teeny-weeny window switcher / idle application area. Byproduct of no spec, no attention to a spec, or the possibility of confusion as to what should be in there and what shouldn’t.

    The best thing I can see is to possibly divide things that _should_ be in that tray – hardware and software. Hardware belongs in the ‘instrumentation’ panel, software shouldn’t.

    Perhaps radical, but let’s look no further than Losedows to see what happens when we let everyone take up camp in that blasted area. How many times has someone seen 100 applications idling in the background in that tray area?

    Forge ahead. I’d hope we get a pleasant log of Growlesque notifications so we can scrub through them painlessly?

  73. Killerkiwi Says:

    I don’t think non click able is a good idea… it dosnt pass the ‘can my dad use this test’ he would see the notification and then have no idea what to do next..

    Every notification should have instead have exactly 1 action… if the notification is about an email it should open the email, lost network connection should open network manager… sound adjustment should open volume mixer.

    A notification with no action is as good as a postit message with a name and no phone number.

  74. Tony Yarusso Says:

    I definitely like the idea of “filling in the gaps” between applications, and would like to see more done with the telepathy framework. I’d also agree that there is some work to be done to make notifications more natural, consistent, and useful. However, I absolutely loathe the idea of requiring notifications to never have actions associated with them. What’s the point of knowing I got a message from somewhere if I can’t reply? What’s the point of knowing I lost my wireless connection if I can’t then change which SSID I’m associating with? What’s the point in knowing that new software updates are available if I can’t apply them? Quite frankly, if the no-actions notifications are implemented as described, I would disable notifications entirely, as they would have been crippled to the point of completely uselessness. I know this sort of disagreement is exactly what you were anticipating, so seriously, think it over. Is sacrificing actually being able to use your desktop worth making it prettier to look at?

    Mark Shuttleworth says: Each of the cases you describe will have clearly-defined and consistent ways to respond to them, which persist well beyond the notification. You might want to re-read the latter part of my post ;-). We will identify the key things which need persistent indicators, and make sure those are represented in the panel. And we will provide a graceful mechanism for windows to call attention, which will be the general fallback.

  75. User Says:

    *sigh* This sounds like more of the GNOME philosophy: take possibilities away from the user; restrict their freedom in the name of simplicity.

    What’s the point of notifying me of something I can’t do anything about? If I can’t act on it, why bother me at all? Oh, you mean I can act on it by going up and clicking on a little flashing icon instead of the big fat text box that popped up, obscuring what I had been reading? And you mean to tell me that I can’t even click on it to make it go away sooner, that I have to wait for it to go away on its own? Sounds like some kind of viral infection that medicine won’t treat. Oh well, at least they are shiny and rounded-off and fade in and out real pretty. :)

    Practical usefulness should rank higher in your list of goals. (Notice that I didn’t say “usability,” but “usefulness.” I think there’s an important difference.) KDE seems to understand this. GNOME…doesn’t.

  76. User Says:

    Wow, my comment was flagged as spam? And it’ll be auto-deleted if Mark doesn’t notice it for two weeks? Why should I bother writing then?

  77. Psy[H[] Says:

    Something grabs pixels of your desktop, catches your sight, and you can not interact with it (use or kill). That would be annoying.
    “the existence of ANY action creates a weighty obligation to act, or to THINK ABOUT ACTING.” Well, yes…
    But the existence of incoming information, that catches your sight, creates a weighty obligation to think and react. Inability to react on fly creates an obligation to find the way to.
    So, excessive simplification results in excessive complication.

    p.s. imho, the best way to deal with notifications is a small, 1-2 lines height, terminal-like box, that phases into reality when new notification is in, and phases out if ignored. But it also shows reaction buttons (if any needed for current notification), scroll buttons (to switch to some 5-10 previous notifications). And also a notification icon on the panel could bring that box in, after a trip to the kitchen for coffee. A box without any pixel-eating effects… a thing that catches your sight, but eats as small area as possible.
    These big fat black furry ghosty bubbles in the mockup are scary. Because they are big and they live their own ghosty life.

  78. Nuove funzionalità di notifica in Ubuntu 9.04 · Commenta la tecnologia, la telefonia, i software Says:

    […] Qui il blogpost … […]

  79. Abtraction News » Archiwum bloga » Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  80. Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: December 22nd, 2008 Says:

    […] […]

  81. Planeta » Nowe "dymki" w Ubuntu 9.04 czyli szum wokół powiadomień Says:

    […] pomysłodawca Ubuntu i zarazem twórca Canonical – Mark Shuttleworth, na swoim blogu przedstawił plany dotyczące interfejsu nowej wersji Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope. Mark wysnuwa […]

  82. wiz Says:

    For those who are missing that clickability – read again “So, we have a three-prong line of attack”.

  83. Komputery » Blog Archive » Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  84. Sarah Says:

    In the video it appears to be using Compiz. What happens when this is disabled? How will the system cope with differing resolutions, such as 800×480, 1024×600 and all the way up to say 1920×1600, will it know what to do with a non-widescreen display?

    Hopefully graceful degradation will feature in this.

  85. » Blog Archive » Ubuntu Distributor Wants to Overhaul Linux Desktop Notifications [Linux] Says:

    […] can check out a demonstration of the new notifications in action at Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post. As noted by Ars, the goal is to provide a more user-friendly experience for anyone jumping onto […]

  86. transiit Says:

    Having seen systems like this annoy me on other platforms, can I offer the humble suggestion that you take a few moments considering the syslog approach in which there are differing levels of notifications. They need not match the syslog model, but the idea that you can ratchet up or down the amount of what’s being told to you is generally a good thing. I generally don’t need a volume notification, as I can tell if it’s too loud or too soft through other means. Every instant message text doesn’t have to show up if I know there’s somebody wanting to talk to me.

    I’m not saying this isn’t a line of thought worth pursuing, I’m just suggesting thinking about setting some standards for verbosity now (which the user can toggle up or down to their desire)

  87. Francesco Says:

    great work Mark!

  88. zing Says:

    I Hope this doesn’t rely on or require compiz. A large part of Linux’s appeal is the ability to run today’s operating system on older hardware that would otherwise only be useful if using aging Windows version.
    While the eye-candy is certainly invited but please keep in mind that people all over the world don’t have nvidia cards fitted into their computers.
    Compiz stopped working on Intel shared graphics with Intrepid, while it worked perfectly in Hardy.
    So I only hope that if the eye candy cannot be supported without something like compiz, then there is a stripped down less prettier but all the same useful notifications that run on older machines without compiz support as well.

    As for the idea, I am totally for it (that explains some of the apprehensions that I list above). Persistence in Panel for items requiring action is great but why not add a button to the notification for such items as well. The notification can still be ephemeral, go away quickly, if you clicked on the action its performed, else you get a persistent icon in the panel. If buttons look too intrusive we can have sort of “hyperlink” text, which triggers the appropriate action if clicked on.

  89. Sztan Pet Says:

    The other thing I would love is to have a priority system and be able to dynamically change default priority. Here’s what I mean: I’m working with a full screen app, that app is important to me and don’t want ANY distractions, so I set myself busy and the priority of the default notifications would lower and not pop up, only when that full-screen window goes away, or I set myself as available (messages deemed important could pop up of course). This priority reduction could get its own applet, or settings or something and that would also solve the problem where non-technical users have no idea why their notifications aren’t being shown.
    Just thought I would through my idea in, maybe you guys haven’t thought about this one yet.
    Cheers, Peter

  90. Ubuntu Distributor Wants to Overhaul Linux Desktop Notifications - Says:

    […] can check out a demonstration of the new notifications in action at Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post. As noted by Ars, the goal is to provide a more user-friendly experience for anyone jumping onto […]

  91. Rambo Tribble Says:

    This avenue shows substantial promise. It is still, however, necessary that you leave the user or administrator in control. While there are many aspects of that imperative, none is more important than a log. To eliminate a notification history is to deprive the user or administrator of a diagnostic tool and a forensic necessity.

    Please reconsider this aspect of your proposal so as to integrate such a notification history into it. Otherwise, I fear, you will soon find yourself burdened with tacking it on. Please remember that the person holding the keyboard needs to be in control.

  92. kjv1611 Says:

    I didn’t take the time, yet, to read the article, but if the video demo is what it’s all about, I may have to once again try to get Ubuntu to work in place of Windows XP on at least one machine. I personally LOVE the idea of advanced notifications of that nature. The idea seems sort of similar to the Office 2003/2007 email notifications window, but better. If that works out, I’m sure it’ll be great!

  93. Ubuntu rethinks desktop notifications « Jason in a Nutshell Says:

    […] a comment » Mark Shuttleworth talks about desktop notifications in Jaunty.  I find this to be an interesting subject, despite my hatred of notifications.  Why?  Well, it […]

  94. HeartBurnKid Says:

    You know, you might want to talk to the folks behind Mumbles on this. They’ve implemented something similar using DBus notifications, so from there, it’s just a matter of having libnotify ping DBus.

  95. steveneddy Says:

    I would like to agree with a few replies in that I would like the notifications to be turned off, possibly by clicking a taskbar icon, or back on. If I am giving a presentation in a mission critical operation then I would like a quick way to turn off when necessary.

  96. John Baros Says:

    I don’t have Flash installed can I have a ogg version, please?

  97. James Says:

    Will there be any means to allow remote applications to trigger notifications? Something to solve the “irc client over ssh” issue, where the current solutions involve abusing the ANSI print escape codes or having to spawn a ssh connection back on every message.

    I also think the Android notification tray is worth looking at for inspiration here. I have to agree with earlier posts that notifications often are work and need to be addressed–
    Specifically I disagree with

    They don’t pile up like email, there is no journal of the ones you missed, you can’t scroll back and see them again, and therefor you are under no obligation to do so – they can’t become work while you are already busy with something else.

    Thats like saying my RSS feeder turned reading websites in to work and if I got rid of it I’d never have to check websites again — It just isn’t true, I’d check the websites anyways but it would take a lot more time and effort to do so. Notifications should be the same thing but for application statuses.

    I think you should take a look at the way Google Android handles this, where you have the short easily ignorable notifications that can be pulled down in to more descriptive ones, while still having panel icons for persistence

  98. ronmx Says:

    the volume control bar is too big! still it would be great to have this.

  99. Chrelad Says:

    That would be awesome! I would totally love that and I know quite a few others would too… Perhaps it could have a way of themeing itself based on the gnome/kde/xresources theme currently in use? Just an idea. Great write up and I love the video 😀


  100. Chrelad Says:

    By the way, for all those looking at the video and saying that not being able to click on the notifications is bad and that it obscures things… Of course there would be some sort of opacity adjustment… Even if there was no interaction with the notifications either, I would totally use this… Just my opinion though. libnotify is good, but not much is being done with it… It’s nice to have some new perspective on the topic of notifications. Keep it up and take peoples (including mine) with a grain of salt. We know that this is just an idea in the early stages and that there is a lot more to be ironed out… Keep up the great work doing something that nobody else is doing :) Blaze some trails, everyone will be glad you did!

  101. Shayan Says:

    I personally don’t like it. I mean, I want to be able to action notifications and I want them to respond to my preferences. In my opinion, you are trying to appease the “windows” crowd by making it simple but the whole point of linux is to establish flexibility and higher performance, so that we can allow people to customize their systems to their own specifications. Now I understand that Ubuntu was designed to mirror windows and make use easier for the users but I think that this will not only frustrate the “used to clicking” crowd as Greg mentions. Also, no offense, but the UI is a direct knockoff of the Apple UI.

    Anyway, in my opinion, performance and flexibility over simplicity.


  102. James Says:

    I also like the idea of clickable notifications for IM’s, etc. but think I would prefer the notification style presented in the demo.

    But clickable notifications disappearing when I wanted to click on them would be really frustrating.

    Maybe there could be a notification area, that if I mouse over, would show the last few clickable notifications.

    Alternatively, in keeping with the proposed design, the notification for IM’s could just be “you got a new IM from username”, and the status bar icon is clickable as usual. If the notification has contextual content, you can’t display something like that in a notification window that will disappear shortly.

    And I don’t agree that this form of notification would be annoying. OSX uses similar style windows for changing volume and brightness. They’re not obtrusive, and disappear almost immediately. Just enough time for you to parse what’s in them, then they’re gone.

  103. SSVT Says:

    *I* use Evolution (for the guy who wanted a survey).

    As for the notifications, I don’t have a problem with the proposals as long as I can still disable them as I so choose.

  104. Roey Says:

    OK, they look good. But why on the right side? that’s where the window management buttons are. They get in the way if I want to close a window that’s obscured by them. And is there any place (accessible through the system tray, say) that will show me a history of such events?

    – Roey

  105. Silanea Says:

    Interesting concept. Yet I’m with “Mark”[1]: “I think notifications should not force me to click on them, but still allow it, for useful actions.” Either a message is important, in which case I should receive and be able to do something with it, or it’s not, in which case it shouldn’t come up at all. Before thinking about _how_ to show notifications you ought to weed out the notifications that actually benefit the user from those that are, well, just random bubbles popping up. Improving the signal-to-noise ratio on those messages will go a long way in itself. Then focus on a small and well-defined set of actions one can take from such a notification – ie. go to the application, dismiss it. That’d be one hell of an improvement.


  106. AnthonyF. Says:

    Wow! Love the Demo. If that’s the direction you are headed in, the future for consumer linux boxes looks good!

  107. John Layt Says:

    I think you have a massive case of wishful thinking here, in that you think that if you take away the Actions for all apps and grant only a few special cases to have easy actions in the taskbar that all app developers will continue to use the common notifications framework. I can guarantee you now that the app developers will get demands from their users for actionable notifications, so each app will go ahead and build their own OSD for notifications and we’ll end up with a big mess of multiple pop-ups everywhere again, exactly what you are seeking to avoid by this plan.

    The second bit of wishful thinking is that KDE will accept the no actions standard, something I find highly unlikely, so you will just end up splitting the community and end up with two separate notification frameworks popping up everywhere (or not popping up at all!), again resulting in a messy user experience and defeating your intended purpose.

    Let me suggest the obvious alternative, to carry on doing what your initial experiment is doing. Accept the formal spec with full Actions implemented but ignore the actions in your agent implementation. This ensures that those who want actions for notifications, such as KDE, get to have them without forking the community. You are still free to implement your own Gnome and KDE notification agents without actions the way you have suggested. It is then up to the individual Ubuntu/Kubuntu user to decide whether to stick with your default agent or to switch to a notification agent that allows them to interact with the actions Better yet, make it configurable within your agent, although you may prefer not to have the support issues from doing that.

    I really hope you or your project leader are actively engaging Aaron and the wider KDE community on this one, it could well save some unnecessary grief.

  108. unwesen Says:

    Sounds awesome, in general. I’m mostly on OS X for work, and am using growl there. Two things annoy the hell out of me:
    – Notifications popping up under my mouse curser, and having to close them before I can click through.
    – Notifications piling up and taking over a decent part of my screen estate.

    On the other hand, I would *love* having a browsable queue of notifications. When such a notification interrupts me in one of the above manners, it’s an interruption because I don’t want to deal with it at the moment it pops up – I may want to deal with it anyway. So a log of past nofitications would be ideal for me – something to catch up on if I want to, and only if I want to.

    On the gripping hand, it makes perfect sense to me that anything that a user *must* know should be signalled differently.

    The unfortunate side effect of that is, though, that the decision of what must interrupt me and what may is up to the application author. Now judging by the stupid amount of unimportant growl notifications that are being sent around, I’m not sure I want to trust them that much. They obviously have a tendency to spam me anyway, why encourage them?

    Maybe the best approach – and I say that without knowing the specs, so don’t beat me up if it’s in there – would be to prioritize notifications. We do that for log messages, to allow for easy filtering. A backlog of notifications could easily be
    a) filterable by severity, and
    b) be an easy entry point into overriding the severity the application author picked.

    I’m imagining a task bar icon that drops a tabbed list of notifications, one tab per severity, and a dropdown by each notification to switch severities. Make it two severities “severe” and “non-severe” and a checkbox to switch between them. It doesn’t have to be many. Put a number by the task bar icon that displays the amount of severe notifications that occurred since I last opened the tabbed list.

    This would give application authors three different ways to grab my attention:
    – a non-severe notification, which is most likely gone if I miss it. I could look it up, but I’d have to deliberately ignore it when it happens to know it happened.
    – a severe notification, which I know about by the task bar icon, even if I went for a coffee.
    – some other means, like the window calling for attention as mentioned above.

    Anyhow… a bit of a braindump, but this is (roughly) my preference.

  109. Gary Kramlich Says:

    Funny, this is but a subset of what i’m trying to do with Guifications3… Too bad the day job gets in the way.

    Anyways, theres some interesting concepts here. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. However, from my point of view, this is still only scratching the surface of what notifications should be capable of.

  110. Jeremy Pyne Says:

    A Growl framework for Ubuntu would be a nice improvement, witch is essentially what this is proposing. Growl on OSX is very non-intrusive and lightweight. Gogo.

  111. Gareth Latty Says:

    I was halfway through writing a post saying I didn’t like the lack of interaction at all, but I changed my mind halfway through.
    Frankly, this’ll work far better than any current system. I hate multiple options on a notification that programs often do, it’s annoying. This way notifications are just what they say on the tin. They tell you something.
    Now, that said, I think the answer to the interactivity disappearing is already there. Tray Icons. Pidgin does this well. If you get a message, when you click on the icon, it raises the window. So you can have a notification from pidgin, then interact with the tray icon, rather than the notification (it would be good to have a picture to link the two).
    That said, what I’d most like to see is basically what the G1, or rather, Android has. It’s notification bar adds an icon when an application needs to tell you something, when you drag down, you get a list, then you can hit one to deal with it. It’s effective, gives you lasting notification, so you don’t miss things, and allows interaction. Combine this with the current statusbar cleverly, and it’d work well.

  112. Learning from Ubuntu and Canonical Says:

    […] strikes me that what Mark Shuttleworth and his team are doing with the notification feature is a good example of design thinking in action. His post and the discussions that follow in the […]

  113. copyr Says:


  114. Franklin Says:

    My two bits.

    your video looks good, and I agree with most of your thoughts on the matter.

    I will say however that the only “notification” that I recieve on most of my PCs that i like, is the one that accompanies email reciept in outlook (yes, I know i used a dirty word). if you ignore it, it dissappears, but if you want, you can click it to open the email (very useful, since i almost always have 2 fullscreen apps going at work, and can never see my inbox).

    I like the whole “space between applications” thing, but I do wonder if there are more fundemental issues that need to be addressed first, like stabilizing the X config changes in Intrepid, or improving Samba performance, or just plain bullet-proof drag-and-drop on the desktop (sometimes it hangs, especially if you drag over a treeview in nautilus, and you have to wait until the icon swoops back to where it started).

    anyway, I love Ubuntu, so Thanks and keep up the good work.

  115. Kevin Kofler Says:

    Why is this mockup in Flash? Haven’t you read John “J5” Palmieri’s post? Why is an article about Free Software using a non-Free format?

    As for the actual idea, IMHO it should at least be possible to dismiss the popup by clicking on it, even if there’s no visible dismiss button.

    Mark Shuttleworth says: I would recommend Gnash, the free software player for SWF files, which I help fund. You might want to contribute there, too, if this is a matter of great importance to you.

  116. Johnny Says:

    Flashing something at me that I can’t act on directly and can’t make go away does sound like “its just life” – so do death and taxes.

    This isn’t broken now.

    (Bubble gum drops – now its not a nasty comment you have to delete…)

  117. Jelle De Loecker Says:

    Why does it have to be black OR white, why can’t we give the user the option to enable or disable interactivity with these notifications!?

    I like the interactivity with libnotify’s popups, it’s very clean, very fast, not intrusive
    (e.g: Banshee, when it plays a new song)

    A notification that I can’t “touch” shouldn’t be there, it would just annoy me.

  118. Erik Möller Says:

    Intelligent UIs should give obvious pathways to actions that the user may want to take. And notifications suggest a number of possible actions:

    * interrupt my work and act in some fashion on the notification (if I never would want to do that, don’t notify me)

    * see a message that I only partially glimpsed again (if it’s so insignificant that I never would want to see it, don’t show it to me)

    * tell the operating system to stop interrupting me (the equivalent of a “mute” option in the sound system).

    The current concept seems to support none of these actions in an obvious fashion. It operates under the assumption that all I would ever want to do with a notification is read it _if I can_. Worse, it yells at me without me having any opportunity to do anything at all. As others have pointed out, that is the UI equivalent of an airport announcement.

    Who hasn’t been subjected to an incomprehensible announcement in an airport or public transport system, trying to figure out what it was about and whether it applied to you? And who hasn’t been frustrated when the message didn’t come back, leaving you uncertain as to whether you needed to ask someone for information?

    Imagine the frustration of an ordinary person who is not computer-savvy and who will never read essays like this one when a message suddenly scrolls by, catching only a glimpse of it, without realizing whether the message was important or not. Will you think: “Oh, surely this system was designed in such a way that it would only make this message disappear if they were not important! Thank you Ubuntu!” Or will you think: “Damn, where did it go? What was it? I hate computers!”

    Similarly, if the operating system already knows that I just received an instant message and a very likely action that I may want to take is to reply to it, will I think: “Oh, an instant message came in. If I want to reply, I have to manually select the IM application from my window manager. I feel better now that I don’t have a burden of obligation to type a response!” Or will I think: “Gee, I sure wish that the constant back and forth between my word processor and my IM window was easier! I hate computers!”

    Finally, if I actually do want to focus on my work, will I appreciate the fact that “ignorable” messages keep scrolling by, drawing visual and intellectual attention? Will I think: “Thanks for telling me in a fashion that doesn’t require me to react!” Or will I think: “Shut up shut up shut up! I’m trying to work here! I hate computers!”

    To recap – the UI should support me in what _I_ am trying to do, as opposed to making assumptions about what I _should_ do.

  119. Linux 4 PR » Blog Archive » Nuevo sistema de notificaciones para Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] Shuttleworth presentó en su blog el concepto de un nuevo sistema de notificaciones y alertas para el próximo Ubuntu 9.04 […]

  120. jc-denton Says:

    nice idea, but I think Ubuntu should rather focus on fixing the Linux graphics stack.. everything else then the nvidia drivers are broken, xorg is outdated and broken, etc..

  121. Quentin Says:

    I have no problem making notification ephemeral by default, but maybe it should be configurable. Maybe apps could attach an importance to notifications, and the user can configure the behavior for each type of importance.

    And, about apps “calling for attention”, I would just like to point out that not everyone uses taskbars (really useless with more than a few apps), some just use a good (and big, especially with widescreens) pager with lots of virtual desktops. Maybe the pager should support apps “calling for attention” ?

  122. Ranjan Says:

    Well, as long as there’s options to turn this off, I am fine.

    It reminds of the annoying Word paper clip that pops up all the time and even Microsoft gives an option/choice to turn that off!


  123. John Kipling Lewis Says:

    If something isn’t click-able, it should be completely ignored by the UI… ‘intangible’. It should have a transparency and I should be able to click the elements BEHIND it. It shouldn’t block anything I might want to click on.

    On the other hand if it’s just jumping in front of my interface it’s going to be *very* annoying to have to wait for it to fade.

  124. Rooker Says:

    Anything that makes the PC less annoying is usually a good thing. I’m not sure about some of these ideas though.

    1) If the notification is about an error while I’m not sitting in front of it, I’d like to know it happened when I come back so I can fix whatever the problem is. If it just disappears and I’m not informed, then something is wrong with my PC and I’ve not been made aware of it.

    If there is some way of letting me know I missed a notice while I wasn’t paying attention (such as a tray icon), then that tray icon will likely fill up with old notices that nobody cares about. It won’t be checked to see if anything critical was missed, it will just be ignored because most of it is unimportant.

    2) If I *am* sitting in front of it and the notice is about something I don’t care to hear about, I’d prefer to close it and move on, not wait for it to close itself. Please don’t disable the ability to close things I don’t want opened. That comes too close to the sort of behavior I’d expect out of Windows for my liking.

  125. DivingDancer Says:

    Interesting concept. My concern is screen real estate. On a full size monitor it isn’t that big an issues. But I run Ubuntu almost exlusively on small format laptops such as the Asus Eee. The last thing that I need is notifications popping up and taking up a fairly large percentage of my screen, obscuring the work that I’m trying to do. If I can’t click to dismiss them, and get them out of the way, even worse.

  126. Timo Juhani Lindfors Says:

    The mockup seems to work with gnash 0.8.4-2 in Debian unstable. I recorded what gnash rendered to a theora file at since my 450 MHz laptop can not run gnash but can play the theora file just fine.

  127. Simon Says:

    Whilst I see your intentions I think users either want to interact with notifications or not have them interfere, the middle ground you are proposing to test could well turn out very frustrating for the user with regard to both types of messages.

    I think you should try to think how to use this to empower the user. Empowering them means giving them more time, making it quicker, easier to understand and act on what is happening, and interfering with what they want to do less; some compromises must happen but I think you are going one step too far in this proposed solution by oversimplifying the problem.

    The examples in the video are precisely the right ones to work from; the WIFI signal changing and the message questioning the user.

    The WIFI signal is something that the user might want to be aware of but will likely not want to interact with – your current display scenario fits that perfectly but as several other people have mentioned it could well interfere simply by not going away quick enough or distracting you when you don’t care about the wifi signal and are editing an image or similar (it’s effectively just background information).

    On the other extreme is the message that the end user may see and choose they immediately want to respond to or click a link that is contained within it.

    I would propose that you take two approaches:

    1) Concentrate on minimising the impact of the information-only messages, perhaps putting a single icon with a small count of pending information messages in the notification tray and only display them like you propose when the users mouse is not inside the workspace (immediately hiding them when the users mouse returns to the workspace and re-showing them in their current state when the user returns to the top or bottom menus, whilst the users mouse is outside the workspace then your timeout kicks in and they fade out calmly).

    2) Make the things the user wants to interact with be able to display a focusable notification that can be clicked on, DOES interfere with the desktop/workspace (but is still semi-transparent) but can be easily removed (perhaps a simple mouse cursor in and then out rapidly gesture in addition to an X placed on the side nearest the majority of the workspace; so an additional screen on the right of the example puts it on the bottom right corner, one screen and it on the right puts it in the bottom left corner). Many times messages of this variety need to be interactive to immediately jump to a conversation when someone asks something you choose to respond to, or when they include a link to something, but you will not want to revisit the message beyond one action so close it when clicked and you probably want to have a second option in addition to the close button which enables shutting up that ‘service’ from pestering you (if this takes a small additional amount of time over closing it then it’s fine, as it is worth it to indicate you are not in the mood to see messages from one person or update restart requires notices, etc).

  128. InfectedWithDrew Says:

    I’m all for simplification and demystification of notifications (so many -ation endings…), but let’s not go overboard… I don’t want a slower or clunkier system as a result. Ubuntu has been getting a lot heavier over the months and it’s not making me feel very happy to see this post.

  129. James K. Lowden Says:

    I don’t understand why smtp and xbiff aren’t a good model for notifications. The desktop could have a separate “system mailbox” for each user and a specialized client to post notifications to the screen. Defaults could control the removal of old messages. The user could then use any email client to review old messages, and a .forward file to manage automatic handling of them.

    Why did we have to invent a whole new subsystem to handle asynchronous messaging?

  130. Lisandro Damián Nicanor Pérez Meyer Says:

    First of all, I do _really_ like the idea. I think I read something very similar in Planet KDE not so many days ago. Lots of things in common, so there seems to be a real use for this :-)

    On the other hand, I do not like the idea of not being able to have actions on notifications. But I wouldn’t mind if they are turned off by default and I can configure them to be showed. And if I can do this per app, that would be even greater :-)

    Regards, Lisandro.

  131. Jumphog Says:

    An interesting idea, but the really important thing is that you can turn it off. Please dont follow the example of Firefox with the “awesome” bar – introducing a new feature is great, but making it the only option is very arrogant.

    Personally I would not use this as I find that having random bits of my screen filled with stuff I dont want very intrusive. unwesen’s proposal sounds great – one small fixed peice of screen real estate dedicated to notifications. It can get your attention with an animated taskbar icon, but does not spam your screen with fluff information.

  132. Dan Says:

    I personally think that adding such restrictions to the spec is very unwise. The spec should be used for tested usability concerns, not for untested hypotheses. If the noninteractive notification concept you suggest is wrong, then every program, for the sake of usability, breaks the spec.

    Also, as someone who loves interactive notifications, I also disagree with the idea. I think that instead of forcing totally noninteractive notifications, you instead just give more settings to play with, and set up logical defaults. That way everyone is happy. I use an EeePC constantly, and notifications I cannot dismiss are in my way for longer than I like. Also, in many cases, a notification DOES imply action, whether you have it or not. If a friend signs in on IM, you’re faced with a choice as well: chat with them or not. Making users do more work to pull up a client, find their name, and then click it is a lot more intrusive than if I were to simply click “Send message” in a notification bubble.

    Simply said, I think there is much value in choices, and removing the choice from all users is very, very unwise, and detrimental to the experience of everyone. Make the notifications better, not more limited.

  133. Stephen Says:

    I love these ideas.

    Case in point:

  134. M. Derezynski Says:

    I strongly suggest making the notification bubbles in a unified design, so people can clearly first see where something happened, and then can read what happened. I’m not fond of the idea of having just very generic bubbles, and I’m absolutely not fond of the idea of showing the user’s buddyicon in IM notifications.

    The reason why I’m on this position is that despite what we would like to believe or to show, we’re very far away from a “unified Desktop”, and I don’t think people/users perceive it as one yet (I don’t). So until we have a *truly* unified Desktop, where we don’t have a dedicated IM application but IM is “just” part of the Desktop in one way or another (many are possible), it’s prudent to give users a hint not only what happened in a rather formless fashion, but also where it happend in a recognizable way.

    I think it’s rather superfluous but I made a mockup of how I imagine these bubbles should look like:

  135. ZihuAztlan » Blog Archive » Nuevas notificaciones e indicadores para Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] Entrada en el Blog de Mark Shuttleworth […]

  136. samwyse Says:

    As I was watching the video, I got a notification about an email that I’d been expecting. Since it was important to me, I clicked on the notification and responded to the email. So, there’s my use case.

    1) Notifications should be minimally intrusive. Making them unintrusive means having a way to disable them completely. I don’t have a problem with that, ideally I could set do-not-disturb in my IM and disable notifications with one mouse click.

    2) Notifications are not for errors. If interaction is required, then a dialog box should pop up.

    3) I should be able to respond to a notification by interacting with the notification. Since my attention is already focused there, it makes sense that I be able to trigger an action there. OTOH, I don’t want an entire dialog box inside the notification. No buttons, sliders, text boxes, etc. Clicking anywhere on a notification should open a window that lets me deal with that specific event. I definitely don’t want some notifications to be click-through and some not be. I want feedback that my mouse-click was heard, even if it means I occasionally get a “No action is necessary” pop-up.

    4) My response must be idempotent. If I accidentally click twice, I don’t want two windows to pop up. Acknowledging a notification should not cause irreversible actions to occur; e.g. clicking on a “Battery Low” notification should not put my laptop to sleep, but it is allowed to present me with the standard shutdown dialog.

  137. bjd Says:

    I’m sure you’d want to have several categories, and I’ve a gut feeling that
    if you want to go ahead with this, there should be some ‘self-learning’
    element in it.

    The categories. This would have to be a layered system. Source of the message:
    system, daemon, application. Consequence of not not acting on the notif — oops,
    no the premise was that there aren’t any, well let’s leave that premise for the

    Maybe for system messages you would need a kernel module issuing messages,
    (themselves prob. different categories) to which applications (having the required
    privileges) can subscribe. These notifs would likely have to have different controls
    than say a message informing me that the CD is now playing track 4 from ‘Hard Candy’.

    One additional element might be for the new notif. system to determine if the user
    if present behind the keyboard. Not too hard to do. If she is not, maybe just
    queue them up on screen?
    But what if the user comes back. Wel, then maybe the speed at which they are
    popped down should be a function of the number of notifs queued?
    Maybe make that speed a function of the number of windows open anyway, whether or not
    user is present?

    Learning element: by default, show all controls that a notif wants. Then learn by
    determining which cateogry/type notif. a user always clicks away, which are always
    left to pop down by themselves. There’s the danger of user-unfiendliness creeping
    in in this of course.

    Maybe allow user to add a filter to notifs? In this way: “if a notif pops up that
    has the regex ‘Humpty Dumpty’ (who happens to be my best friend), let it be
    persistent, with all controls (this as an example).

    Here’s your challenge: I bet it can’t be done in a user-friendly manner, one that
    won’t be the cause of al lot of small and less small aggravations, the way you
    propose here, i.e. no controls, no way, no how, never.

    Anyway, I salute you for putting what seems to be a minor part in all of the
    desktop up for brainstorm.

  138. Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 - Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  139. Daniel Alonso Says:

    A lot of people are claiming about not being able to interact with notifications. I think some of them may have not understood the idea of the mockup, or maybe it’s me who is not understanding?

    From what I see in the video mockup, those notifications that could currently offer an action, are being transient and with no ability to act over them, but in the other hand they are being transformed into some icon in the panel that I imagine will offer the expected action.

    I mean:

    a) Notifications that could offer some action: they are transformed into an icon in the panel. Example: Reception of a new mail, as in the mockup. This icon will offer the action somebody is asking for. Isn’t it?

    b) Notifications that do not need to offer an action: They simply disappear.

    From my point of view, the above cases would be better if:

    a) Do not add a new icon to the panel, please, why do not you integrate the icon with the panel windowlist applet? A window name flashing would mean that some notification was issued for that application.

    b) For notifications not offering actions, then add a queue button so the user can get to them after an absence.

    As for people, claiming that these notifications are intrusive: have you seen that you can actually click through it to the rear window as if there was no notification?

    Thanks for offering me the chance to express my oppinion.

  140. Charles R. Head Says:

    I remember a time before we even had e-mail. I had trouble keeping up with my “In Box” full of hard copy incoming. When someone suggested that I should have a second “In Box” on my computer, I told them to get lost (in stronger language).

    Over time, I’ll admit I came to accept e-mail due to it’s ability to speed up some communication. Moreover, short messages seemed to go via e-mail while longer messages still came as hard copy via snail mail (or as attachments to e-mail). Thus, although I had two “In Boxes”, the volume of incoming communication didn’t go up too much.

    Then someone suggested that I needed to IM. Simply put, there is nothing IM can do that I can’t already do via either e-mail or the telephone. Moreover, my observation of the typical workplace is that IM is a BIG distraction and waste of time.

    Now someone is suggesting we need even one more mechanism to flood our already overloaded input channels with more noise. My requests are that you include the following:

    1. Provide a mechanism for someone to review all these notifications before they go out to make sure I really need to see them.
    2. Provide an OFF switch so I can turn this noise off (when Item 1 above fails).
    3. Provide an automatic “Message not received” function so anyone who sends me one of these would-be interruptions cannot claim to be ignorant of the fact that I never received it since I will turn mine off.

  141. Colin Guthrie Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve always been interested in making a theme for libnotify that would be more growl like and that appears to be roughly what you are proposing here, but with a few added limitation (the “no actions” thing).

    I’d urge you to reconsider this policy of “no actions”. In many cases this would be very useful. For example, I’m currently planning to add libnotify support to pulseaudio. My intention was to show a popup when a new audio device was plugged in and give the user the option to make that new device the default and move all active streams across to it. This, IMO makes for a very simple UI for a very common desire. Of course there will be other ways to achieve this action so if you miss the notification it’s not the end of the world, but for new users etc. it’s quite a nice approach IMO. I obviously wouldn’t be able to do that with a “no action” system.

  142. sulfide Says:

    Greg up there has it right, and WOW is that side panel stuff ugly as sin. After using E since the days of blueheart,GNOME, and KDE etc throughout the years I’ve decided to try Windows XP and Vista on my desktops..I have to say I won’t be going back to a linux desktop!

    Choice is great, but even after all these years there are still too many fractures to create a consistent desktop for mainstream users. 60 Different versions of each type of app, all with half or less of the features of the Windows or OSX counterparts.

    Not saying there isn’t valuable free software out there, but what benefit is there to run it on linux? Because everything is opensource? Please, remove the non-free software from the Distro’s and you have something that isn’t even usable. (unless you’re Richard Stallman :)

    Anyway I don’t want to fling feces on anyones parade, if these are important issues then fine. But there are so many other gigantic problems in the Ubuntu desktop than over simplifying notifications. Is the problem lack of good developers to tackle the hard problems? Or maybe resistance from the Desktop Environment’s to accept some of the changes that Ubuntu make create? I just want to understand why a side panel in gnome would still be that bad in 2008.

  143. gpk Says:

    There is nothing to be gained by making it impossible to respond directly to a notification. Nothing but user frustration.

    I think the essential core of the idea is that notifications are something you *can* ignore and that they will disappear soon enough. It would be good to have a way to preserve them for a while (if you want to read them or interact with them) and it would also be good to be able to make them go away immediately.

    The suggestion to keep them while the mouse is moving towards them sounds brilliant. And, following the same logic, maybe they should disappear more rapidly if you move your mouse away. (Also, perhaps, any fast mouse move that’s not aimed at the notification would cause it to go away.)

  144. Zonical » Nuevo sistema de notificaciones para Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] Shuttleworth presentó en su blog el concepto de un nuevo sistema de notificaciones y alertas para el próximo Ubuntu 9.04 […]

  145. Dez Says:

    this sounds like a great idea. introduce it in to 9.04 and see how it goes.
    if all the users say its a waste of time, then remove it in 9.10

    if the users say its great after using it, then keep it and impliment it in future versions

  146. flo Says:

    Growl on OSX does the same.
    And it is just perfect, i can read my skype messages while having the browser open,
    and only if it is important i switch to skype and respond.

    Please port Growl to Ubuntu, growl has already figured out how to this things.

    It should be easily configurable which apps are “allowed” to put up notifications and
    how they look like.

    You should have the option to hide a notification, e.g. if you wan’t to click on a element below.
    Second, if you click on a notification it will get you to the corresponding app.
    Third, give the option to allow sticky notifications.

  147. Adrian Says:

    Hmmm… assuming this winds up working as shown in the video, and as discussed in the article.

    Some people love instant messengers, use them all the time, get lots of messages from lots of people, a primary and constant source of information. Even if they’re not actually messaging at the moment they leave it running. Some people, bluntly, are too stupid to consider turning it off; those people are often the same ones that get all the messages. In this implementation;

    1) Any messages blocks off a significant portion of the upper-right corner of the screen, including whatever is there, for several seconds.
    2) Notifications cannot be closed “prematurely” by the user.

    Given a popular enough individual, or simply enough messages queued up at once (usually when you just sign in), if you happen to be using that corner of the screen at the time, they’d wind up sat around waiting for the messages to clear just to be able to continue working. I dare say there are other similar use cases… a particularly flaky wi-fi network, period of over-activity regarding e-mails etc

    The problem is this notion that notifications should never be work.. which is fine, unless you’re trying to work. I simply can’t see a way around this except for at least giving the user the *option* of manually closing notifications. Never let your idea of what the user SHOULD do get in the any of what they WANT to. You’re in the enviable position of being able to get the feedback here ahead of time; abuse that.

  148. Adrian Says:

    I couldn’t find a e-mail link, so here’s some not-directly-related meta-feedback;

    1) The bottom of the page states “Copyright 2006 – 2007 Mark Shuttleworth”. We’re now in 08, very nearly 09; if you’re actually worried about your pages’ copyright, this should be updated.
    2) Above the comments box it explains that comments are filtered through Akismet, with that word being a link. I think it’s intended to link to, but it actually links to

  149. bigfox Says:

    I like it.

    I especially like how you can click through them to the window in back as if they weren’t there.

  150. Seriale Says:

    I think that KDE4 (4.2) has already very beautyful and useful notifiaction system buildin. You should use it in Kubuntu, and make patches for more apps to use it.

  151. Marc Says:

    I’m all for the idea of notifications appearing and automatically disappearing, but find full-text notifications somewhat hard to ignore- I end up reading them anyway, and may be tempted to reply to them (instant messages or emails, for instance). I’m fine with a textual explanation for events that are merely informational (network events such as ‘wireless signal was lost/found’) which cannot be more clearly displayed as an icon. I’m not sure instant messages and email content should be handled by notifications-
    when I’m doing a pair programming session or giving a demo with a client, I may not want pop-ups with private instant messages from my wife or subject lines of emails busting through, although wireless info messages may still be useful. I may still want to be informed, however, about the fact that there *are* messages or emails waiting for me.

  152. Nuevo sistema de notificaciones para Ubuntu 9.04 « Cesarius Revolutions | Cibercultura, GNU/Linux y Software Libre Says:

    […] Shuttleworth presentó en su blog el concepto de un nuevo sistema de notificaciones y alertas para el próximo Ubuntu 9.04 […]

  153. fanag Says:

    It seems that you are reinventing xconsole, so why not making an xconsole GUI viewer instead of reinventing the whole wheel? Logging capabilities in Linux/Unix are well established, and I would hate to have a system incompatible with syslogd just for the sake of it. A syslog analyzer that presents messages to the user seems the right way to do it.

  154. Pascal S Says:

    I like the principle that notifications can safely be ignored…

    I understand the goal of have simple notifications with no interaction…


    Users will expect that clicking on certain notifications will trigger something, e.g. display the e-mail they just received.

  155. Simon Says:

    Notifications without actions seem somewhat limited in value – if something is important enough that I should be told about it immediately, why force me to go and find the application that raised the notification so I can do something about it? If I’m being told that a new email has come in, I’d rather like the ability to click on the message to open it, instead of manually switching to Evolution and looking around to find which folder it’s appeared in.

  156. David Collier-Brown Says:

    Many moons ago at Siemens Sietec, a colleague did a similar
    notification/error popup, but didn’t think to make it
    go away without your clicking it.

    However, the cool thing was what happened if you
    right-clicked it or clicked the “more” button:
    it displayed a series of messages, starting with
    the most meaningful to the user, usually
    written by the GUI designer. This was followed
    by messages from farther and farther down the
    call stack, until you got so something quite
    user-unfriendly like “invalid block count at
    inode #16538128”.

    The sequence could be pasted into email by
    users if and only if they were inconvenienced
    by the thing the message reported.

    In effect, the message producer was an exception
    mechanism, handling both minor exceptions
    toe the expected behavior and also more serious
    ones, and at each level the handler could and
    often would add their interpretation of the problem.

    The engineers loved the very precise pointers
    to the problem, and users enjoyed knowing that
    they could hand the nerds something useful, and
    not be grumbled at for reporting a problem
    but not knowing the solution(;-))

  157. Bahattin Vidinli Says:

    Hey, Mark,
    off the topic:

    Your (Ubuntu’s) next target should be an Integrated Development Environment for Ubuntu.

    I am a programmer, I am searching for years a good, easy, usable (as your style) desktop application programmer ide… maybe like delphi maybe better…
    i hope you will take this serious… Maybe paid too..

  158. EdwardOCallaghan Says:

    Hi Mark,

    How about doing a release that just fixes bugs !
    Maybe every 5 release, just do a bug fix only release.

    Edward O’Callaghan.

  159. mishek Says:

    I think it’s very good idea, I will test it with pleasure.

  160. Bahattin Vidinli Says:

    As you know, as delphi 1-2 released, thousands of programmers for windows desktop appeared… if such tool exist for Delphi, free or commercial with low price, There will be a big improve in the programs supported by Ubuntu Linux…
    if you want to hire Linux community, help build such an easy programming ide,

  161. Remco Says:

    I think there are four types of notifications:

    * Notifications that are a direct result of a user action, such as the volume indicator. Those should just go away. They are never missed, because you instigate them. I wouldn’t even call them notifications, but something like “on-screen hardware indicators”.

    * Notifications that would be missed, but must not. Things like “network down”, “unread messages”, “updates available”. Those should have a permanent icon in the notification area in case you missed them.

    * The same as above: must not be missed, but must also be acted upon ASAP because the system might be at risk. These messages should have an actual notification bubble in addition to the permanent icon in the notification are. “Disk full” is such a notification, as well as “battery low”, and “security updates available”.

    * Notifications that can be missed, and you wouldn’t mind if you did. Those should not exist. If it isn’t important enough that I must read it, then it isn’t important at all. It’s just annoying. If these notifications exist, they should be turned off by default (so no programmer relies on this importance-level for essential information).

  162. Growl Says:

    Let’s call it as it should be called: this is Mac OS X’s Growl.

  163. Isaka Says:


    I think this is a great idea. I would even go further and propose that the whole notion of modal dialogs should be made obsolete, reduced to a tiny corner of absolute-must. I blogged about this last year in fact. I think that systems should be built with the ability of functioning with progressive degradation, as services starve input or parameters. Conversely they should progressively upgrade as more features and context become available. All this should occur unobtrusively, unless user explicitly express an interest they should be left alone. I see notifications as just a subset of this scheme. If there’s any lessons that Vista’s bad press should teach us, it should be that unnecessarily bothering our users is a very bad idea indeed. Systems should adapt to user behaviour, always offer them a way out but not get in the way for whatever reason.

    Just a few cents.

  164. WindPower Says:

    “the existence of ANY action creates a weighty obligation to act, or to THINK ABOUT ACTING.”: Yes, and what’s wrong with that? If I set an application to use notifications, I am responsible for these notifications anyway, and I want to do something with them, not just stare at them. That, and the lack of action caused by not acting on a notification creates a new, heavier obligation to act. And it’d take even more time to comply to that new obligation, since there’s no handy notification to click on, but a tiny icon in a panel or something.
    Letting users decide if notifications are clickable or not seems the best options to me. Still, the default setting should be “clickable”, since new users will probably consider notifications as clickable out of the box, as they are on other OSes.

  165. Callum Says:

    It looks usable, needs a cross though, so we can close them before they close automatically, or have messages that stay open until they are closed manually, for important system messages etc. Also what’s with the XP-esque cursor?

  166. Reinder Says:

    I have two remarks:

    – IMO, there is an inconsistency between the “notifications should not be actionable” and the (apparent) updating of that “are we still OK for the meeting tomorrow?” notification. I assume that it got updated by someone else, but if other persons can interact with my notifications, why can’t I?

    – Just to get you thinking: I am too lazy to look up how this is currently implemented, but could this build on the existing mechanism for non-actionable notifications (LOG_NOTICE or LOG_INFO) provided by syslog? I can see how getting icons and text styles across would be problematic, but using syslog would (IMO) a) be more the Unix way, b) be more generic, in that it would also allow the same GUI program to show e.g. debugging info, and c) provide looser coupling between notification source and notification displayer. c) in turn would mean that more programs could/would use the notification mechanism (for example command-line programs such as a ftp client, or any program that does not use KDE or GNOME).

  167. Toroa Says:

    Nice idea .. actually many people comes with a lot of ideas. I particularly like the pragmatism of Greg (Gregory Raiz) and it’s listing of different notification.

    I am wondering why not use Universities and their usability labs. I am quite sure some students could make this (and other usability projects) a master thesis (in the HCI field). I can see the point of doing a survey on the whole ubuntu community, but it will be limited to user’s opinions which can be hazardous to rely on.

    Using a university lab would provide a controlled environment, yielding scientific facts that decisions could be based upon (using the professors judgment of the students work might be a goos idea).

    Has it been considered?
    Does Mark have the time to read all the comments? 😉

  168. GourdCaptain Says:

    I can agree with the ephmerial part for some notifications, but not all. For instance, there are some “Crud, something is really freaking wrong” errors that should stay up. I would like to be able to click on them for a related action. I also generally dislike that style of notification in the first place, except for the wifi-gain/loss.

    Admittedly, my other major concern is the CPU impact from the zooming around and the weird fadeout on the effect – this is from someone who likes Xubuntu (xfce) and Crunchbang (openbox/part of lxde) – more minimalist, less friendly by default UI’s (plus, if you disable compiz, hopefully it should stop doing that. Speaking of which, why isn’t the configuration tool for compiz included with Ubunutu?).

  169. greg Says:

    I am responding to the comment about noone using evolution, I use it all the time. Its he only email client I can use in a microsoft exchange environment, there is no imap or pop so Thunderbird is useless to me.

    On the notifications, good move and good luck. This is the veauty of the FOSS world we *can* do things and if they don’t work we just move on.

    Well done Mark

  170. Matthew Herrmann Says:

    I agree entirely.

    – If notifications can be acted on, then they must stay on long enough to be clicked. Otherwise it’s frustrating. Then they become intrusive.
    – If they don’t stay for long enough, they then need to be queued.
    – Developers of software then _expect_ users to follow up on them.
    – Users then rely on notifications as a means of navigating the system, and forget the other mechanisms. They then get frustrated when they can’t find the ‘other’ way to go in.

    After all that, we then end up back where we are now. With an email-like queue of annoying messages to click through. This is precisely why the proposal is structured the way it is.

    Don’t change your proposal. It is strong but right.

  171. Jason Says:

    Interesting, I disliked several ideas about the proposal at first blush. As I re-read the post and thought about it some more while reading some of the comments I came to the realization that I actually really liked the idea and that I had been thinking at it from the wrong angle. This is, to me, the sign of truly rethinking how we look at a thing. Good work.

    I think that what did it for me was the fade to near transparency when they are moused over. This should reinforce the idea of non-interactivity to the user without the need for training.

    I like it, I will be interested to give it a spin.

  172. Simon Marseille Says:

    Great, but let’s not forget that while suppressing actions on notifications relieves the user from the time-stress of user intervention, the fact of having them popping in and out of nothingness leaves the user impotent to react asynchronously. The notifications should always pop out of a tray icon (so the user knows what “produces” them) and an history of notifs should be kept and be accessible form it(as well as a preference pane to modify their behaviors; mute this one, make this one loud, etc.) You are, after all, implementing a graphical user alert log. It cannot simply be a headless pager.

    Do not oversimplify—keep power users in control where they need it, and make the primary function (displaying notifs) as smooth as possible.

  173. John Armstrong Says:

    Linux to me is all about the turning it into the desktop which works for us the best.

    1, Design everything so that it can be turned off. (I don’t want someone slagging off this gorgeous idea if they don’t like it)
    2, Keep it simple and elegant the black theme portrayed in the video will look stunning if implemented.
    3, Allow it to be modified easily via a preference panel so we may set it to do what we would like it to do.
    4, Keep up the good work on bringing super speedy boot times to the masses!

    Peace be with you

  174. jack Says:

    Why have notifications if they meaningless? If they are not tracked, logged, “if you missed them, so what?”. THEN WHY EVEN SHOW THEM?

    If they are important enough to show once, then they are important enough to log. If they are important enough to log, then there should be tools to lock into the log, to highlight the log (like download icon).

    So simply, are they junk? toss them. Are they important? log them.

  175. saulgoode Says:

    Ouch. Apparently greater than and less than symbols messed with the appearance of my post. Let me try again, substituting “{}” for those symbols. (If this doesn’t work then I shall abandon all hope.)

    Mark Shuttleworth said,
    “The SWF format lets us control the playback, while Ogg starts playing immediately without giving the user any real control. For desktop experience mockups which require user interaction, that will be even more important.”

    Perhaps your coding of the {video} element was incorrect? The “autoplay” attribute is a boolean, which means that if the attribute is present then the feature is enabled; e.g., if you used {video autoplay=”false”}, the video would actually autoplay.

    Without specifying the autoplay attribute at all, an OGV {video} embedded in a webpage should not autoplay. If you are experiencing anomalous behavior with regard to this, please consider taking the time to submit a report to

  176. RC Howe Says:

    I hope that there is some way to make the notifications more compact – it seemed like there was a bit too much padding for my tastes in the video.

    Cool concept, though. While the balloons looked nice, they did add a feeling of urgency (I don’t like any clutter on my desktop).

  177. Sistema de Notificaciones en Ubuntu | HNKweb Says:

    […] esta entrada del blog de Mark Shuttlewoth puedes ver una animación del funcionamiento de este sistema y una explicación […]

  178. Ken Says:

    KDE 4.x already has similar concept of notifications. They don’t compel me to act on them. Maybe Ubuntu should switch to KDE from its 4.2 release onwards 😉

  179. Newsy o komputerach » Post Topic » Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  180. Dag Wieers Says:

    I think the proposal is an oversimplification. Some notifications should stay until they are resolved or I have acknowledge I read them.

    If my battery is low, I don’t want to miss the 5-seconds pop-up, I want to see the notification until I have power or until the system goes down. So that I can act rapidly when I see the notification. I hate how this is handled currently in Gnome.

    If I loose my wifi, I want to see that permanently until it comes back or is fixed. If I miss the notification I could end up spending a lot of time figuring out what went wrong or why something crucial is failing. The NetworkManager applet now shows that, but a notification could get the attention from when you get back.

    So some notifications should stay permanent until I acknowledge them. You could differentiate between notifications that stay put, and those that go away by time automatically by coloring the window.

  181. Ajay Srinivasan Says:

    How about a “stock ticker” like interface instead of a pop-up?

    Then each notification could scroll by, we could have arrows to go back and forth between missed notifications, and notifications that don’t need any action can just disappear after being seen once.

    I would like to see this in conjunction with the clock.. (the time is the default ticker display).

  182. Demetris Says:

    1st notifications must be clickable because when something goes wrong let say a notification that doesnt go away , you can click x to end it.
    2nd It would be great to have notifications taking care of programs that are not notify-aware like let say a finished download, a finished par2 check you left unattended or a long binary zip file 8gb that you extract it and minimized, it would be great to have it report is DONE!
    3rd It would be great to be able to decide how much minutes/second you want notifications to stay or go.
    Thanks for listening.
    I love UBUNTU and i cannot live without it.
    From Cyprus with love.

  183. Chris Says:

    The user can configure Growl to shut up annoying applications.

    I agree that you should port Growl. Network notifications will work between Linux and OS-X then. It’s hard to see at this point how you can improve on Growl anyway.

  184. Andrew Says:

    I think this is one of the only areas where transparancy could be used effectively. We could show the last four notifications transparently with the most recent apearing in bright color and fading into transparency as another notification show up. I think being able to scroll the notifications and interact with them is important so having a transparent app maybe at the top right of your screen with that information would be a great way to use that effect. We could free desktop space and even incorporate other items like the clock network connections etc. We dont want to interact with those items 90% of the time but want to be able to glance at the clock so why not make it transparent where it floats on top and non clickable. with one particular area that you can interact with to use that area. So a float on top, tranparent area that doesn’t interfere with your work but has some area where you can interact with the latest popup and another small area where you can make the area interactive so that if you wanted to you could change parameters etc.

  185. energyman Says:

    so how is that mockup different from kde 4.2 svn?

  186. illissius Says:

    While I’m not sure about the idea itself (in particular, I wonder if it goes too far) — as you say, it’s an experiment, and the results will have to speak for themselves — I absolutely love the way you are thinking about it (where “you” means “whoever came up with this”): not primarily concerned with the small-scale, local, technical details of what is more or less “usable” (which widget goes where), but taking a much wider view of the user’s mindset, attitude, and experience. Yes. This is how I always thought usability should be done.

    Allow me, then, to share what I have been convinced for a long time now is the single most important, overriding consideration from a usability perspective: making the user feel fully in control and empowered. For most people, using a computer is like being on some alien planet, where unexpected and bewildering things are liable to happen at any moment or step, and where they are under the control of some capricious and incomprehensible higher power, and the best they can hope for is to get what they need and get out of there alive. Untold wealths of power and productivity lie beyond the nearby dunes, but they are afraid to go exploring. They don’t “understand” the computer — the logic by which it operates — and they are afraid to try new things, in case something will go wrong and they won’t know how to make it right again. If this could be changed — if people could have the confidence that whatever they tell the computer to do, it will happen that way; that anything they do, they can just as easily undo; that the computer is their subservient tool, not their adversary — I think the effect could be dramatic (as you put it, a force multiplier). Applications are already stocked full of features and options and perks to greatly enhance enjoyment and productivity, but most of the time, most of these are only known to a small minority of power users. Everyone else just tries to get by with as little as they can possibly manage with. (I was shocked several years ago (yeah, I was still naive) when I learned that my mom didn’t know how to install software (on her Windows computer) — just press Next until you reach the end, how hard can it be? — and she insisted that I do it for her; and more recently when I learned that no one in my family knew that you can press the middle mouse button on a link to open it in a background tab, despite all of them having used tabbed browsers for several years now). The problem isn’t the lack of features, it’s that the vast majority of users don’t want to know about them. If we can change that, we could have a situation where every user is a… well, not quite a power user (not quite, because true power users also have an active curiosity, not simply a lack of fearfulness), we could unlock huge amounts of productivity. (At the very least, people would be less afraid of and annoyed with their computers.)

    One consequence of this thinking is that I absolutely hate and despise popup dialogs, warning popups most of all. By endeavouring to protect the user from themself, you are sending the message that the user is an idiot and does not know what they are doing. If the user pressed the button to send a file to the trash, 99% of the time, it’s because they want to send the file to the trash. There does exist, of course, the 1% of the time when they misclicked, but the proper solution to that is not to piss them off and degrade their confidence 100% of the time — it is to allow the user, when they err, to clearly and easily fix their error. In this case — what do you know! — files in the trash can be restored. So the goal would be to have the user always (a) be fully aware of “what just happened”, for example, by displaying it in a notification strip at the top or bottom of the application, as a desktop-wide notification, or whatever (maybe it’s supposed to be obvious what the button does, but maybe they clicked it accidentally, or (gasp) they didn’t in fact know what it does, and in any case it never hurts to give confirmation), and (b) fully aware of what they can do to undo it, should they want to. (Of course, some actions have momentous and irreversible effects — formatting a partition, for one obvious and extreme example — and in these cases a warning dialog is probably prudent. But I think they should be avoided wherever possible).

    Another aspect of this, and something which ties in nicely with the notification system being discussed, is that a dialog suddenly popping up — and this doesn’t only include warnings, but also things like “holy shit a disk has been inserted!” — disrupts the user in whatever they are doing. Beyond simply being annoying, this again sends the message that the computer knows better than you what is important and what you need to pay attention to. It takes control away from the user.

    Moving back from this specific example, I am not saying all of this would be easy. It would be immensely hard to fully accomplish, I think, simply due to the number of ways in which bad things can happen. But at the moment, we aren’t even (as far as I know) consciously trying. I think it would be well worth the reward. And so reading the thinking behind this new notification spec was highly encouraging.

    (P.S. When you design new specs or desktop-wide paradigms, please involve the KDE people for real, like, from the beginning. The people in that community are sick and tired of people from other desktops coming up with some new spec with no input from them, declaring it a Standard, and then being annoyed at KDE for hindering progress by not implementing it (faster). In other words, getting things shoved down their throats. I would hate to see progress on great things actually being hindered because of something as petty as this.)

  187. Peter Lawler Says:

    Why did Canonical decide to ignore the FDO mail lists? Or the GNOME desktop developer lists?

    Sure, I am associated with the Guifications team, but not with GF3 directly; yet I cannot help but be puzzled as to why Canonical have gone off by themselves and invented something independently without conferring with the community. Do they really think their users want an underpowered subset of existing alternatives?

  188. Yawar Says:

    You know, when I hear notifications nowadays, I immediately think of Facebook. I really like their implementation, and they had to put in a pseudo-taskbar at the bottom of the page to give them a good place to pop up from. Ubuntu of course already has a taskbar. Why not just put the notifications there as a small icon telling you how many there are, and then you click on it to see the actual notifications. This way things don’t keep popping up and going away constantly, distracting the user. Only the notification count changes in the corner. Maybe there can also be a setting where user can specify notifications coming from a certain source always be displayed/never be displayed etc.

  189. Redlazer Says:

    I think the most important part, especially of a Linux OS, is customization.

    If you force people to use something one way, someone else will want it another way.

    The things I love most about Kubuntu (seeing as how I’m a KDE user) are the insane number of ways I can customize just about everything. It is always a shock going back to Windows and feeling that limitation – even with how far its come – and the same goes for inside of other programs in Linux.

    The phrase “What do you mean I cant change that?” should never be uttered by a user.

    I think the idea of the ultra-simple notifications is an excellent one, but I also think that there are many cases where an actionable notification is a huge convenience.

    I can imagine colour differences that note wether or not an item is actionable, and you could have a settings panel that tracks what programs use the notification system, and configure permanency there.

    A commenter above mentioned that he would want his WiFi lost signal to be permanent – I don’t really care, so itd be nice for me to disable its permanency.

    Maybe I’m waiting for an important email, and would like the notifications to be temporarily permanent.


    I do urge you however, let us play with settings!

  190. Martin Maney Says:

    If the notification is so trivial that it can be ignored, then I don’t want to see it at all, ever – it will only get in my way. There are some obnoxious little bits of this sort of thing in Firefox 3 – the useless messages about “file downloading” in the bottom bar that ruins previewability of URLs you’re hovering over is bad enough, but the obnoxious popup that covers the bottom corner of the screen and WON’T GO AWAY until it feels like it are doing bad things to my blood pressure even after months of trying to get used to it. This proposal strikes me as the same sort of stupidity – telling me things I don’t need or want to know in an obnoxiously distracting fashion.

    -1, or was that already obvious? :-)

    But seriously, if this is all part and parcel of where Ubuntu is headed, I’ll be leaving this train. I appreciate a lot of the work that’s been done to make things *work*, but this is just stupidly wrong-headed IMO. I loathe it already.

  191. Andre Says:

    I find it important that not only visible notifications but also popups and warnings will be considered as a quality problem. I don’t know if there are static analysis scripts for that but there should be some means to extract out of source code notifications (in the case of misconfiguration etc.).

    It is like security. You don’t need to scan for viruses, you close the security holes they make use of. A popup that reports a problem but does not help me to solve the problem is a usability problem.

    The static analysis would at least enable to find out what problems the software catches and how helpful these messages are.

    For instance you often get these warning messages when you execute programs from the shell. In other words the software or the packages are buggy.

  192. illissius Says:

    One more thought. Having the notifications become translucent and pass clicks — so they get in the way as little as humanly possible — is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it will work. The reason is that it’s not expected behaviour. In general, just because something is translucent doesn’t mean that it passes clicks, so the user won’t expect that it does. They will hover over the notification, see that it becomes translucent, and then not attempt to click, because they have no reason to expect that the click will be passed. (Even worse, they might click on the notification to make it go away, and end up closing a window instead.)

    I think a better idea would be to have the notification bubbles physically move out of the way of the cursor whenever it would move over them. This both allows the user to click where the notification previously was, and makes the “no clicks” policy of the notifications themselves implicitly and obviously clear (by way, of course, of being impossible to click).

  193. Canonical New System Notification - Open Source - TechEnclave Says:

    […] new e-mail, when an instant messaging buddy signs online, or when a CD finishes burning. Source : Mark Shuttleworth Blog Archive Notifications, indicators and alerts Brief Review by Ars : Understanding Canonical’s new Linux notification system: Page 1 Darn it […]

  194. Brady Says:

    Either the notifications are important or they’re not. If they are important then they should stick around. If they’re not then they’re just another dumb visual distraction. The idea that the notifications are benign because you can choose to pay attention to them or not is absurd. You can’t determine if a particular notification is important without first paying attention to it…unless, of course, you’ve already decided that all notifications are unimportant in which case you should just turn them off. You can turn them off, right?

  195. Ken Says:

    One flaw I see in this user interface metaphor as described in the video is the fact that the notifications appear on top of applications that I am using. This should never be allowed. The idea that some stupid program thinks its silly little notification is more important than the program the user is using is really bad. No program EVER has the right to draw on top of the active program that the user is using for any reason (well, pending disaster excepted).

    having IM conversations show up on top of active applications is really bad too. ive seen embarrasing situations at work because of this when some guy using windows is giving a presentation and forgets to log out of his IM and his notoriously badly designed windows IM client decides to draw IM notifications on top of the presentation being delivered to the boss. (windows is notorious for abusing focus and popping up stuff that it shouldn’t).

  196. Koala Yeung Says:

    The display looks good, but I agree with Dag Wieers that this is an oversimplification.

    Different notifications are differently important to differnt people. Some wants to know more about their mail. Some wants to know more about IM. Some wants to know more about wireless signal or battery life. Some may want to know more about USB drive mounting status. And most people don’t want unnessesary notifications to even pop out.

    I’d say we can categorize notificatons into 3 kinds:

    (1) Notifications that the user don’t want to miss. Although these are not critical to the system, it could be critical to the user. User only want to dismiss these manually.

    (2) Notifications that user wants to see, but are OK to miss.

    (3) Notifications that user don’t bother to see. They’ll shout at these notification and say, “Fxxk off! Why would I want to know anything about this? Get off my screen! I’m reading!”

    I wish we could really categorize the notifications into these 3 interactively. So later, the system can act exactly like I want it to be.

  197. Jon Pritchard Says:

    I really like the mock-up. I’m also leaning towards agreeing that notifications shouldn’t have actions either. I think you should be able to have some log or replay of notifications in the queue if you were away or something was important but disappeared. In general I’m in favour of it. You should try and make it appealing enough for many distributions to use it though. Good luck with it.

  198. Canonical memperkenalkan Sistem Notifikasi baru untuk Linux | Cecep Mahbub Says:

    […] Untuk videonya silahkan lihat di blog Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  199. Caleb Sawtell Says:

    From a purely aesthetic point of view I dont like the inner glow on the notifications it might be alright if it was more subtle but it looks a little overdone. I know this is just a mockup/pre alpha but I still thought I should get my 2 cents out there.

  200. Daryl Tucker Says:

    Beautiful. I was just thinking about how notifications needed a major overhaul. I can’t wait to see the end result 😀

  201. Known Says:

    You may endorse Ubuntu Usability Tuner proposal

  202. Steve Song Says:

    “like a mystery girl on the bus you didn’t get on, and they enrich your life in exactly the same way!”
    That was worth the whole post. Elegance of expression meets elegance of desktop.

  203. AC Says:

    This has been said several times now, but if it doesn’t matter if I miss the notification, then I probably wouldn’t want to see it in the first place. Since I’m probably going to have to see it anyway, however, I’d definitely want to be able to click on it to get it out of my way. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing that amount of screen real estate and not having any way to recover it — especially if there could be several messages in the queue that would have to all run past before I could resume working. Blecch.

    I like the idealism, but it doesn’t sound too practical.

  204. Sharninder Says:

    hmmm, I don’t know if I agree with the whole notifications thing or not, but I’m the kind of guy who is against notifications anyway. I agree that notifications, if present, should be non intrusive and the user shouldn’t need to take an action on them, but why have notifications at all. Even if the dialogue is transparent and doesn’t intrude, it still is something I need to *look at*. And that can be intrusive depending on how you use your computer.

    I played around with a similar system on OS X but disabled it soon after, because I was getting distracted with the popups. I really believe that the apps should display notifications without popping up anything at all. It is one thing to change the color of the app instance in the task bar and altogether different thing to pop up a window and inform me that my worst enemy just logged off !

    I have a feeling that Linux like all other operating systems is become more than an operating system. The job of an operating system should be to let me work and not pop annoying messages at me from time to time.

    But, that’s just me. I like to work uninterrupted and am usually aware of what is happening on my computer at any given time and I like it this way. If there is something i care about, I’ll go take a look at that application – When I want to.

  205. Linux To be Overhauled | Says:

    […] can check out a demonstration of the new notifications in action at Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post. As noted by Ars, the goal is to provide a more user-friendly experience for anyone jumping onto […]

  206. varen Says:

    Great idea, as usual change creates resistance, but i think any attention to the current notification system is good attention. Personally i’m glad that as a Linux community we’re not looking towards 7 or OS X for our ideas but coming up with them in the collaborative way the OS was built.

    goeie werk!

  207. Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  208. TheFuzzball Says:

    I really like this idea however KDE 4.2 (trunk) has already done this and integrated it with the system tray. perhaps someone should write a cross-DE graphical notification system, like Growl on OS X?

  209. James Says:

    Since you rely upon panel applets not sucking, are you going to integrate desrt’s new-applet work, that he did for GSoC several years ago? Or are you going to break one thing (notifications) without fixing another (panel applets), in true Ubuntu style?

  210. Markus Hitter Says:

    I think there are two additional features to make notifications a success:

    1 – Make it easy to change verbosity. For example, not everybody is interested in being notified about a network state change while he’s reading a book or sorting his photos.

    2 – Store those notifications for some time and present them (again) on user’s request. There will be many times when you see a notification just disappearing or want to know what happened the last few minutes. Also, it’s comfortable to know there’s no need to pay attention immediately, just to recognize there’s something at all.

  211. José Gregorio Jiménez Sanchez Says:

    Muy bueno, va ser de gran utilidad y agrado a la vista de los usuarios. Saludos desde Venezuela

  212. Daniel Alonso Says:

    What’s the problem with Akismet? Is it really working as expected? I do not understand how my previous comment, waiting for moderation, could be even more polite and constructive that it already is.

  213. Pablo Martí Says:

    Notifications should be clickable, and for some -important- notifications, that should maximize the involved window. No buttons, no nothing. The problem with persistent panel notifiers is that they take more screen, and whatever application that requested your attention (pidgin, skype, xchat, nm-applet, etc.) already has its own icon.

  214. Ralph Says:

    My initial reaction to seeing the embedded flash video was negative, I won’t go as far as mark, though. If you are going to use Flash video, then this is the way to do it. The link to download the swf file was easily found and the video plays fine in gnash 0.8.4.
    The notifications look interesting. I am still trying to decide if I think they are intrusive. Whether I end up liking it or not, I think this kind of innovation is a big plus.

  215. Jim Says:

    I’ll be the first to admit that i’m a lover of pretty graphics (I’ll watch a movie if it’s got good CGI and no storyline) and the system notification looks REALLY cool.

    Main System notifications that I’d be interested in would be Pidgin log-in and -out, skype log-in and -out, new Gmail emails, and new tracks on my media player (track name, artist, album and maybe even album picture). However, I’d like to have to option to tweak the time displayed for notifications.
    Pidgin log-in and -out: 0.5s
    Skype log-in and -out: 0.5s
    Skype call notification: Option to accept or reject calls
    Skype missed call notification: 30s and option to dismiss the notification if clicked
    Gmail new email notification (with sender and subject line): 1s
    New song notification: 0.5s

    In other words, as long as each notification type can be tweaked it’d be fantastic (and perhaps also an option to remove the icons from the notifications (for those that don’t want them) and change the font size colour settings etc etc etc…

    However, the main thing that concerns me is the Compiz side of things. I have a dual screen setup (which is essential for work) and cannot get Compiz to run while I’m in dual-screen mode. As I’m a self-admitted pretty-graphics-lover – that really sucks.

    Even though I’ve been using Ubuntu now since Dapper, I’m still a relative n00b because I don’t know how to properly use the terminal (still a windows kiddy I guess you could call me). The main thing that makes Ubuntu appealing to me and people like me is the ability to change settings quickly and easily through a GUI instead of having to edit them in a terminal or text editor.

    I’m sure that this new feature will be really great and in general, people will use it, I just hope that I (and others that find themselves in my situation) will not be overlooked.

    oh and Mark: totally awesome OS mate!

  216. boris Says:

    As some readers already commented, what’s the purpose of notification (distraction) if you cannot do something with it?
    It’s natural to react on source of distraction when you are distracted. I bet 99% of people would try to click on notification when it appears.

  217. brad Says:

    Please have a quick and easy to view log of these notifications. very simple. drops down. says what has happened for the day. eventually you could have the program link to a simple viewer which would let me see what happened since… forever.

  218. Ross Says:

    Interesting idea, but I would strongly argue against not being able to click on notifications.

    One thing I find particularly useful is notifications of new e-mail messages. Notifications have one big advantage in that I can get a brief glimpse as to the content of the e-mail, letting me decide whether I need to action it now, or leave it for later when I check my mail.

    It’s a huge timesaver to be able to click on a notification for an e-mail and open that particular message. It means I can draft a reply and be done with it in just a few seconds. With the limitation proposed here of not being able to click on notifications, I would have to read the notification, go from there to the appropriate email client, and then hunt for that particular message among the many others I may have received. It’s more time consuming and far more disruptive.

    I also like the ability to right-click on notifications to quickly close them. If I’m using a graphic program with buttons in the top right corner I don’t want to be forced to sit & wait for a notification (or even a whole queue of them) to disappear before I can carry on working.

    So, although I like the idea of simplifying notifications and making them ephereal, I would like a little more control over whether I *want* to action or ignore them.

    That to me sounds like the ideal – left click to action, right click to ignore. It keeps notifications simple and unobtrusive, while still allowing plenty of functionality to be provided by applications for any notification I’ve actually chosen to action right now.

  219. TiNews - Seu portal de notícias e dicas! » Blog Archive » Canonical anuncia novo sistema de notificação para o Gnome e KDE Says:

    […] Tags: 2009, 3g, apple, browser, cabos, canonical, comunidade, conectiva, criptografia, Curiosidades, desbloqueio, desbloqueio de iphone, dev team, divulgação, downtime, Empresas, Geral, hackers, hacking, Hardware, how to, how to unlock iphone, howto, idgnow, Internet, iphone, iphone 3g, iphone crackeado, iphone desbloqueado, lança, leopard, leopard updated, link web, mac os, mac os X, mac os X leopard, mandrake, mandriva, Mercado, nota, nova tecnologia web, países não navegam, problem, problem on update leopard, programação, programação avançada, publica, publicado, quebrar criptografias, rompimento, rompimento de cabos, Segurança, sem internet, sem internet em países, sem link, sem navegação, Tags: 2008, team, teams, unlock, uol, update, update leopard, upgrade version, version, vgas, vídeos, web 2.0, xp, yellosnow Categorias: Alta Tecnologia Categories: Alta Tecnologia, Empresas, Geral, Internet Posted By: admin Last Edit: 24 Dec 2008 @ 06 34 AM E-mail • Permalink Previous:  Responses to this post » (None)  Comments are open. Feel free to leave a comment below. Comment Meta: RSS Feed for comments TrackBack URI  Leave A Comment …  […]

  220. Mike Jones Says:

    Why spend any time on this now? I have never worked on Linux and said “geez, I could get this done if only the notification system were better”. The biggest bug I have right now is that none of the 8.10 installations I have manage to drive an external display (all those machines worked under 8.04)–absolutely fatal in an academic or business environment. V4l2 support sucks and many applications need to be updated. Audio works inconsistently and Pulseaudio configuration is a mess; many of my Skype and Ekiga calls fail because audio comes from the wrong source.

    If you really want to do something new with the UI, there are plenty of better choices: improve drag-and-drop configuration of panels, make it easier to assign custom icons to custom launchers, make overlapping windows easier to handle for naive users, improve dealing with many application windows, implement a decent widget system, etc.

  221. Fred Says:

    Here’s my big problem with this general concept, put as plainly as possible: the notification messages you describe are transient, are never directly actionable, and are thus completely worthless. I don’t want them EVER taking any of my screen space, nor my reading time. They belong in a warning log, NEVER on my desktop. If these notifications can be safely ignored, the UI should ignore them by default, and never present them until explicitly asked to do so.

    If you want to give me a centralized, persistent, priority-filtered status notification feed, something like a status ticker in a desktop widget, I would like the choice of putting that widget on my desktop, wherever and whenever I choose. If I choose to click that widget, I would like access to a dialog, which shows my notification queue and filter options, and a links to a list of possible actions for each notification. I shouldn’t have to perform my own manual application hunt.

    Let me define the screen space the widget takes up consistently, so that I know it will never exceed that space. The widget should never overtake foreground windows, which I set in the foreground because *they are more important to me right now*. I’m tired of random pop-ups taking over my screen real estate — no matter how pretty, bubbly, semi-transparent, or tone neutral they are. I set that other window there for a reason, and you are not to arbitrarily overlay your random junk on top of it. The computer never knows what is important — only the user does. If the user can’t define visual priorities, and override the whims of the arbitrary GUI designer, on a moment-to-moment basis, then your GUI design is worthless. Audio designs are more debatable, but until all desktop computers come with a vibrate mode, your random audio cues better stay away from my foreground process sounds.

    As recent studies and texting related automobile accidents show, humans are not natively multi-tasking. The job of any human interface is to present the tools for the task the human currently wants to complete, and keep everything else out of the way. That includes any notification you can ever imagine. If any random notification qualifies as an emergency, it should have a dedicated communication channel configured, and the desktop screen is never such a channel, with the exception of a BSOD. Any notification short of a core dump needs to stay out of my face. It should be logged in a consistent and reliable manner, so that I can later search that log at will. Computers need to become smarter than me well before they start imposing their will on me.

  222. Un nouveau système de notification sous Linux - Tux-planet Says:

    […] la société qui édite la distribution Ubuntu, a annoncé sa volonté de perfectionner le système de notification disponible sous Linux. Le but de ce nouveau projet est d’améliorer l’expérience de […]

  223. Anteprima delle notifiche di Ubuntu Jaunty « acrònico Says:

    […] Vedi il filmato. […]

  224. Peter Says:

    Hey Mark

    First let me underline, that I am I very satisfied everyday (danish) Ubuntu user. I think Ubuntu has potential to become the everyday users new desktop. It is faster to install than xp or Vista and its a more complete and secure installation. At least I think so.

    Based on my own lack of understanding, I am unable to see that it is the desktop environments responsibility to handle notifications from applications.
    In my opinion the desktop environment should be slim, fast and not anoying. And I think your new idea would be anoying at best.

    Also based on my lack of understanding. Does som kind of definition for the services the desktop environment should give the end user exist for Ubuntu?

    But first of all. Thank you for a very nice Ubuntu ride so far


  225. Peter Whittaker Says:

    NOTICE BE GONE: I love the idea of ephemeral notifications – show me that something may need my attention but don’t interfere with what I am doing now. Just disappear.

    REPLAY +1: But I second strongly the idea of replay functionality: A notification history icon in the status bar to let me replay or review notifications.

    KISS: Present the history as a list, popup the notification with a mouse hover, and keep only those since the last login or last few (two?) unlocks. Clicking on the history item should bring up an actionable widget, i.e., a new mail link that opens or focuses the preferred email client; that widget should disappear on its own after a while.

    Or, popup the list with a hover over the notification icon, and popup an action list with a hover over a notification item. If the mouse moves away, dismiss all.

    Why since two+- unlocks? Because I may have allowed my screen to lock while pondering what I was working on or I may have forgotten or been unable to act on the notification before leaving my computer. I want to be reminded of what happened, but I don’t want to have to clean out the history list, either.

    ACCESSIBILITY: A keyboard shortcut would be required for those of us who prefer to or must navigate without mice.

  226. Andydread Says:

    Mark, The Idea is great. I would ask that you take a good look at Greg’s comments. At the very least a hot-key to be able to act on notifications that the user does indeed need to act on or will be inclined to act on right away. There will be some that the user will want to act on and they shouldn’t have to go browsing through applications->places->system to open Thunderbird or whatever as a result of the notification. One way to give both user types (users that get annoyed easily, and users that click on everything) their “cake and eat it too” may be to have 2 modes. [1] Non-ineteractive/simplified (the current propsal) and [2] Interactive mode. (Greg’s Proposal.) The system could default to non-interactive mode. Users that require funcionality beyond that can switch it to interactive mode that allows clicking on it. Also please take at look at They seem to have made some progress in this area.

  227. ene dene Says:

    As for this option I’m aloof. In my case I don’t think that it will impact on my usage of Ubuntu. I hope that these pop-ups will not bother me while playing full screen game like Nexuiz, if the answer is “no”, than I’m satisfied with an improvement. It’s important that any new simple option doesn’t bother people that don’t plan to depend on such option and for others, by default, it is a good thing. Also it’s hard to know if I’ll like some option like this, maybe in time I will not be able to live without it.
    What makes me glad is the fact that Ubuntu people are constantly trying to improve the OS, which is by my standards, already really neat.

    If I can make one general comment, motivated by criticizing of format Mark used for his video.
    I don’t see many great things that can be implemented in Linux that will drastically change how people feel about it (good or bad). The system is solid as it is, especially Ubuntu (which doesn’t mean that it should stop improving in any way!). Things that will significantly impact the number of new users, and will change the negative feelings about Linux, is software that runs on it (and how easy is it to install/remove it (deb files rule! :) )!), and the firms that are ready to make software for it. Is it free/open-source software or not is not the point. It would be cool it it was free/open-source, but in reality it will not happen for significant amount of time, if ever. For example the only reason why I’m able to use Linux is because that I can run Mathematica and Matlab on it. The same goes for my university. For example, if you could run all the major games, Photoshop (I would still rather use Gimp, but some people want Photoshop, but that’s their choice) or lot of other specialized software, on Linux, the market share of Linux would rise significantly (much more than some cool usability feature on Ubuntu, which I’m not criticizing in any way, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing). I know it’s not Linux fault if someone doesn’t want to make software that would be used by just 1% of users, but comments that criticize non-free flash are doing more damage then people realize.

  228. Notificações, Alertas e Indicadores no Ubuntu | Open Mania Says:

    […] Este vídeo é original de Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  229. rafael Says:

    Esta genial me encanta. Todo lo hacen bien, sigan asi

  230. robert Says:

    Both principles, no-action and queuing, I think are excellent ideas, and I look forward to seeing them implemented.

    I’m not sure why some claim that no-action notifications are useless. There are tons of occasions for the system to give the user FYI-type feedback. For example, music players let you know what song is going to be played next or that the play list is finished. If I see that such a notification and I want to take an action, then I would/should interact with the player app directly, not via a notification. But more importantly, I shouldn’t be required or even tempted to break off from my current activity to interact with a notification.

    I really like the idea of conceiving of notifications as “safe to ignore”.

  231. Paul Robinson Says:

    I like the idea of notifications being ephemeral but, they still should have a ‘dismiss’ box for two reasons (1) so the user can get rid of one faster if they feel it sits too long (2) people expect to have the ability to dismiss a message. I think the way Windows XP does it is not bad, some of the systray entries generate a pop-up balloon indicating something that has happened or it’s working on, the message will disappear within a few seconds but does have an X box in the corner to dismiss the message early. Some of them, if you click on the message, if it’s telling you about something important it will bring up a window telling you about it. While I sometimes think that represents overkill, I think having a ‘kill box’ is a useful feature.

  232. UbuntuArte » Blog Archive » El nuevo sistema de notificación para GNOME, KDE de Canonical Says:

    […] […]

  233. Uri Shabtay Says:

    great work..! really something i’ve been waiting for.

    BTW, will there be (finally) a notification for pluggin/unpluggin hardware? (aka USB, mic jack and so on..)

  234. Kevin Kofler Says:

    @Mark Shuttleworth: Actually I maintain Gnash in Fedora. But it’s no substitute for a Free format, in particular you need patent-encumbered codecs (gstreamer-plugins-ugly and gstreamer-ffmpeg) to play video in it! Those codecs cannot be shipped in US-based distributions without the risk of a lawsuit.

    As for control of an Ogg file: just put a link to it instead of trying to embed it!

  235. sameer Says:

    Personally I like it, but make it optional and/or give the user a way to control the annoyance level.

  236. Collin Says:

    This sounds lame. No offense, I love what the Ubuntu team has done thus far. Think about this. “they can be missed”, “they are not important”, “there is no harm in missing one”… These statements all tell me that… basically the notification is just going to go berzerk on my A.D.D. and cause my eyes to gaze from whatever im doing. If they arent necessary, then why have them at all? Any linux user will definately notice when a network has become available etc. And if we need to check the status, all we have to do is hover over the panel. Seriously… what is the point?

    Isn’t that how microsoft started getting all the CRAP in windows?

  237. mjheagle8 Says:

    i think this looks like a good idea. my one suggestion would be that i think notifications should disappear into the tray icon of the program that caused them, or in some other way indicate where to access the program that launched them very quickly. great work!

  238. Ken Stone Says:

    I’m much in agreement with Fred’s thoughts re: user configurability/control of their environment. In fact, I’d like to take those thoughts a step further. Take his ‘notification widget’ idea, and make that the standard interface for controlling notifications. Within that notification widget, there should be per-application (and within each application possibly even “per-notification-type”) options that allow me to describe exactly how I want to handle each different type of notification that’s been sent. I envision radio-buttons and checkboxes: ignore, wait for acknowledgment, flash, beep, log to window/file, display for n seconds, trigger an event, run a program, whatever. I should also be able to set up default behaviors that will apply to any notification type that I haven’t explicitly specified an action for.

  239. Steve Bergman Says:

    Mark SHuttleworth,

    I agree with Kevin. I’m far from a GNU thumping “Live free or die!” hardliner. But ye gods! If even we do not support free formats on our own websites then we may as well just give up the cause. The SWF situation is only somewhat better than it was before Adobe’s big announcement last spring. Please provide a link to an ogg. Your audience here can handle that, and does not require embedded flash.

    I spend a fair amount of time defending Ubuntu from detractors. And one of my arguments is that Ubuntu is not like some distros, which try to prevent the user from doing things that their devs don’t happen to approve of. And is also not like Xandros and Linspire, which simply include proprietary software and encumbered codecs without “bothering” the user by calling the fact to their intention. My argument is that Ubuntu attempts to inform and educate, and then if the user decides they want that encumbered codec anyway, it treats them like consenting adults and helps them to install it. But providing embedded Flash as the only means of viewing important content in your blog undermines everything that I have said on that topic, regardless of any funding you are providing to the Gnash project. Even just adding an alternative ogg link would help. Providing Dirac, too, would be avante garde. 😉

  240. Zac Says:

    Thanking you, as well as thousands of others, for Ubuntu.
    I hope that Ubuntu will be a bigger success in the coming year.

    Have an Ubuntu Christmas! :)

  241. » Blog Archive » El próximo Ubuntu mejorará drásticamente su aspecto. Says:

    […] […]

  242. Anteprima delle notifiche di ubuntu jaunty Says:

    […] Vedi il filmato. […]

  243. temps Says:

    Have an Ubuntu Christmas!

  244. solprovider Says:

    “Notifications are only for things which you can safely ignore or miss out on.” Fred explains well — do not display anything that nobody needs to see.

    The best portion of this proposal is everything using this API can be safely disabled completely. The bad is wasting effort on something completely useless. The worst result is splitting the interface for applications communicating with people. This interface does not allow actions, therefore any communications requiring actions must use a different interface so using this project requires multiple interfaces for communicating with people.

    Programmers were (and most are still) not trained about usability. A good interface for a messaging system would have been easy if dialog boxes with standardized buttons had not become common. Windowing systems also kept the modal model from the single-thread paradigm. Multi-threading has been used for performance rather than interfacing with people.

    Specifications: Only the front-end application can force message window to front. Applications can check whether a message was answered and receive the answer, preferably asynchronously, but people can switch applications freezing the current application if the response was “modal”. System may limit frequency of additions and checks by applications to prevent overloading. Every message appears in list interface and log(s). Reactivating a message moves to the top of list. List remembers first time, last time, and number of appearances. People can remove messages from list without using application-defined actions (to prevent fear that application dialog box’s close action has other consequences.)

    Enough now. More will be on my website tomorrow.

  245. Eruaran Says:

    If its system related, I don’t want to see ANY popups. I don’t want to be told every time I log in that updates are available, or to be told the network is connected or disconnected… That is just ANNOYING ! Just having a little icon that appears or changes just to let me know is enough !

    This being said, IM is different, If someone wants to talk to me I want to know who it is and this without having to click on an icon, so in this case an unobtrusive popup which tells me “John Citizen says, “Merry Christmas dude !”. This is fine.

    So, when there are human beings involved, I want to see… if its a system message, don’t annoy me with popups, just let me know with an icon.

    Less is more in many cases.

  246. Ubuntu Podcast Quickie #2 24 Dec 08 | Ubuntu Podcast Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth on ‘notifications’ in 9.04 […]

  247. Mark Shuttleworth Want to Revamp Ubuntu Notifications « The Intersect Says:

    […] the notification changes, Shuttlewroth states in his blog post […]

  248. Michelle Says:

    I have to second Toroa. There is nothing like seeing users in action. For something as important and pervasive as the desktop environment, you need experienced & novice users. Walk around and observe people doing their daily work. Get permission to record their screens. Do your experiments on a few people first and learn from them. I am a almost finished with my master’s degree in HCI and still I learn new things whenever I watch users.

  249. Boycott Novell » IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: Xmas Eve (2008) Says:

    […] […]

  250. Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu […]

  251. Loic Marteau Says:

    Hey Mark !

    Thanks for all the work you have made to help the community. With many others you are really one of the person that have help to make Linux more accessible to the mass and it is inestimable.

    I dont understand why spend a lot of useless energy, time, money and human resource in research, development and communication for a result than i think is very less usable than that we have for the moment. Take a look at KDE 4.2, i think they have nicely deal with the problem without changing the initial galago spec.

    We need much efficient dialog between all the desktop’s team. KDE and Gnome should work together as much as possible and dont make important specifications in their own’s brain.

    To increase the user experience i think than we have much better to do as an example perhaps you could work with kde team to have a standard specification to deal with file dialog : I want to have my kde file dialog in gtk apps in kde desktop, anf my gnome file fialog in kde apps if im in a gnome Desktop. Or i would like to have my gtk apps using the kde theme in kde like qt let gnome user use their gnome theme in gnome.

    There are a lot of things to, please Mark help us to have real unified standards so both kde and gnome can progress in the right direction so the user will have a better experience in any linux desktop, gnome and kde will both have really benefice of this!


  252. Dylan McCall Says:

    This brings to mind a really interesting, though unexplored, issue in user interface design. That is, how do we build a passive notification that the user doesn’t feel intrudes on his workspace? The transparency / lack of responsiveness I think is a nice step there.

    Microsoft’s Notification Bar (see Internet Explorer) is something worth looking at. It pushes down the entire page, consumes tons of screen space and upon first appearing generates a popup window to explain the concept. It tries to be a passive notification, but does everything it can to get noticed, thus being more annoying than a normal alert popup. It has since been duplicated by Firefox, where it is still applied untastefully for security stuff (where the page Does Not Work until the passive notification is responded to), but has also been put to use tastefully for that nice password saving popup.

    This also brings to light a very interesting flaw in our current notification design. That being, we currently have two distinct ways to present notifications:

    * The notification area (aka. “System Tray” or “Status Bar”), whose role has been entirely abused since its invention.
    * Libnotify, which currently limits itself to time-limited bubble popups.

    This is totally wrong! Libnotify is built for the distinct behaviour of notifications, so is way better suited to the task. I really hope what you guys manage to achieve serves as a full replacement to the Notification Area for notifications (with it being just as easy to add things) so we can put that messy past behind us. I like what I see with the mail notification in your mockup (and how it doesn’t blink); for bonus points, it would be great if that could be achieved on the existing API.

    Since any system could do what today’s Notification Area applet does, I believe its current role could be somewhat smoothly replaced by an application list applet (with applications and their windows displayed, instead of just windows), so there’s another important project for the aether between applications :)

  253. Dotan Cohen Says:

    On Kubuntu, notification inconsistency is the least of the problems in the area of providing a uniform desktop. How about addressing the issue of the GTK File Chooser first:

  254. Ben Gamari Says:

    While usually I have a great deal of respect for Mark’s user interface decisions, it seems to me that this is a case of being unable to distinguish the forest from the trees. I completely understand the queuing of notifications but removing actions from notifications?

    No actions? Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t see what this gains us. When I see that someone has IM’d me, I want to respond with one click. When I see than I have a new email, I want to be able to view it easily. When I have seen a notification, I want to be able to dismiss it.

    Actions are not the problem here. If anything, it seems that the amount of text and visual intrusiveness of notifications is the real issue we should be attacking. It seems to me that Mark’s proposal is a solution looking for a problem.

  255. Fri13 Says:

    I would just reuse the KDE4 notification style. I would not reinvent the wheel like this suggestion is doing.

    What is very disturbing is to get notifications what ain’t important. Like “You have unused icons on desktop” what happens on Windows.

    KDE4 has best way to control notifications. You can configure every application to use notification system for different task. GNOME does not have such and that why it is bretty bad by usability view. I know what GNOME users think, but you need configuration options. The main question is: are the options by default configured so you dont need to touch them, or do you need first to go options to set wanted settings when you are basic user. KDE4 is taking the correct stes by making default settings correct as possible and still allowing great amount of configurations.
    GNOME is still heading to wall by it’s mentality and seems that same thing is going to continue even on the notification.

    This what Mark Shuttleworth suggest is like postman leaves a note to your door and say that you have new mail. But postman does not deliver it to you, but you need to walk/drive to postoffice to get your mail.

    KDE4 way is that postman leaves the mail on your door and yells to you trough door so you know that the mail has arrived, you do not need to horry to get it because it stays there. You can get it from there when you want.

    The mockup is bretty and “funny” but it is not usable or wise.

  256. خبرهای لینوکسی از گوشه و کنار اینترنت - شماره ۴ « کارگاه لینوکس Says:

    […] ها و اخطارها استفاده کند. در این ارتباط ویدیوی جدیدی در وبلاگ Mark Shuttleworth رئیس کمپانی کانونیکال منتشر شده است. این قطعه ی ویدویی […]

  257. Alan Says:

    Hi Mark,

    Great Idea, but what about speed? You promised much better speed for Jaunty!

  258. Vull un Mac i els reis em porten un PC!!! :( Says:

    […] hi tens ara instal·lat és, objectivament, millor que el OS X! I en la propera versió tindreu un sistema de notificacions a la growl (mica en mica…). Que per cert, quan surti, ho sabràs perquè el sistema […]

  259. Joe "Floid" Kanowitz Says:

    Let me see if I can share some thinking on this problem, and some others:

    First off, my gut reaction is that I’d be greatly annoyed by this mockup. It eats that corner of the screen, so since most windows are rectangular, you can’t “trust” that users will have access to that corner of the screen/that entire edge of a maximized window. Even if the WM was smart and wouldn’t maximize into that area (much as the Mac used to avoid the desktop edge), clicking on any desktop objects positioned there would be a game of Space Invaders: do you win, or do you select the notification that’s just popped up underneath you?

    Also, this mockup seems to show three different classes of “Notification:”
    * Human communication: The interpersonal IM or twit or whatever that was.
    * Computer state, unpredictable: The WiFi signal dropping in and out.
    * Computer state, predictable: The volume control is being adjusted interactively, the computer confirms the adjustment.

    Now, before I dig into the nitty-gritty, I should observe that I find IM (in the original every-message-is-a-new-window model) to be a very flawed interface. Even if you need to be interrupted for a message, it flies up in your face and might be accidentally dismissed by typing. I think anyone who has done a serious amount of communicating online quickly finds that it’s easier to just open a chat window (providing a running log of the conversation — this gets important, see below) and poll it, with assistance from some combination of notification techniques [audio alerts for the hearing, a persistent panel indicator for everyone].

    Same thing for email; as soon as graphical environments made it possible, visual biff indicators got the notifications out of our faces but easily polled (and persistent; if you have a new mail you probably care even if you leave and return to the console).

    So let’s look at those categories again:
    * Communication is always going to be a tough one; people tolerate different degrees of interruption. If it’s that important a task, why wouldn’t you dedicate a regular program in a regular window to it, though? You’re losing that corner of the screen either way!

    * Computer state, unpredictable: This is really important, since the user has no other way of knowing. Of course, it comes in degrees – “Printer on fire!” is important (and if it really indicates risk to life, limb, or data, maybe it should be blocking); network status can be important; disks filling up can be important; the CPU being pegged at 100% because Firefox let the user ‘view’ a .jpg.exe worm with WINE might also be important… 😉 This information is also useful for troubleshooting after the fact, though, which is why logging systems were invented in the first place. If you leave and come back, you still want to know that your download jammed because the network dropped.

    * Computer state, predictable: In the volume-control case, we’re talking interactivity; the user’s trying to do something and the computer needs to make it obvious that they’re succeeding. Personally I’d scratch the OSD and just slide the volume in the panel applet [reminding them it exists if they visit a machine without volume buttons], but people are familiar with OSD, might remove the applet to save panel space, and it ‘looks cool.’ We don’t care much about this after it’s set, hopefully the number of lines coming out of the speaker on the volume applet remind us before our ears are shattered by a shouting Flash ad refreshing into one of our browser tabs.

    So… I promised to get serious now, so let’s see: IM is a mess but to permit polling a notification has to persist, unpredictable state is really important and may remain important for troubleshooting, and predictable state is a no-brainer – confirm the user’s made an action and you’re done [as long as the user can remember what he/she did!].

    I feel that providing an interface to the logging of all this stuff is where the real UI action is, since tha frees the user to leave the desk or accomplish an actual task [rather than playing the massively-addicting I’m-a-person-on-the-Internet! or I’m-using-a-computer! games]. For instance, you click — somewhere, there’s that screen real-estate issue again — and get a list of all the notifications and events for the past 24 hours. Then you search or sort that by… perhaps program, perhaps category… and find out when your WiFi dropped out and ruined your download. Or you search or sort that by unreplied IM, and find the messages you missed [if you prefer this interface to actually using your IM program]. Or you find out that blinky thing you overlooked was a warning that your disk was full…

    One way I can imagine implementing this, probably not a very good way, would be to put tabs down the side of the “Desktop” and let the user flop between the Desktop, the running log, and chronological or other advanced “Desktop” searches. That just adds all sorts of extra “modes” to confuse users with, though, and it’s barely clear why we even have a “Desktop” anymore in the first place, aside from tradition and being a place to put wallpaper and cruft up as the default destination for Firefox downloads. [In fact, without the ‘show desktop’ button, actually getting to the desktop probably takes more time minimizing windows than just diving into the filesystem from the ‘Places’ menu.]

    That’s about as far as I’m willing to take that line of thought right now, but for a final word on the screen real-estate issue: We’re at the point where desktops can have 32″ screens (and may soon have screen-filling wall displays of some form or another), and at that point, eating some desktop with “widgets” or “notifications” or other things that behave sort-of-like-programs but aren’t is at least conceivable… provided they don’t end up on top of ‘regular’ objects or programs the user actually needs access to. However, we’re also at the point where netbooks with tiny 7″ screens are available [and probably the most popular Linux devices yet for regular humans]. Scaling to both, at least to the extent where people can feel like they’re running the same thing — that their familiarity with one lets them effectively use the other — is not an easy problem, I agree. Even Apple is “cheating” by keeping the iP* products conceptually separate (and with application-specific interfaces) from the desktop Mac; it’d be pretty unpleasant to navigate the modern Mac interface on a 4″ screen!.

    I’d rather not cheat, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. It’s true that, if you have a decent mobile interface (the iPods and iPhones, Newton, Palm, anyone else?), people will accept it as its own thing.

    And finally, just to reiterate — the more “things that behave sort-of-like-programs but aren’t” [in the window-management, consistency sense] you throw in, the more complexity there is for the user first sitting down and learning the system. “Spatial mode” had real problems but some of those were red-herrings: It’s easy to explain drag and drop, but getting two windows open and resized and positioned alongside each other ends up taking more time then explaining control-clicks and cut-and-paste. [Remember, when this was invented on the early Mac, you could stage the items for a copy onto the desktop — as a playlist, because there was no storage to ‘move’ them to the desktop itself! — and most floppies were one folder deep! I’m still thinking a ‘visual clipboard’/’corral’/’shopping cart’ for file management would be a good idea, but I haven’t seen it implemented anywhere yet.]

    Cheers — I’ll wrap this up before I get into how search (as opposed to, but encompassing, both hierarchial directories and the current fad for chronofiles) is going to be the obvious new desktop metaphor, but hierarchial paths will still be around as UUIDs/primary keys for search. :)

  260. Joe "Floid" Kanowitz Says:

    Oh, well, a postscript, as I read some of the other comments: Another ‘obvious’ UI for notification would be to have a thin bar down the side of the screen, using just enough pixels to indicate, by color or animation, the presence of a “notification”. This could then expand on mouseover or click to provide the messages [or reveal the log].

    You could potentially break that up into a nearly arbitrary number of ‘bins,’ so when the one for mail lights up, you’ve got mail, the one for wireless indicates wireless, etc. Of course, now tell me this is stupid when you can do this all with a plain panel and panel applets already! [Current panel applets just lack features to provide useful “status LED”-type information at 2 pixels width.]

  261. sidenote » Új értesítő izébigyókat az Ubuntuba? Says:

    […] és jóvagyok. Na ilyet semmiképp nem akarok, perszer lehet, hogy Shuttleworth ezt mind leírta a bejegyzésében ő is, de azt még nem olvastam, emésztettem. Ha valaki érdekesnek találja ezt az ötletet, […]

  262. salciarz Says:

    This is a fantastic idea. Mark, you are Man!

  263. New Notification System for GNOME and KDE -- Ubuntu Geek Says:

    […] as well as in the general Ubuntu 9.04 release, schedule gods being willing. You can read more about proposal including mockup video that shows new notification system […]

  264. Andres Mujica Says:

    Hi, the idea is interesting but i’m not pretty sure about the relevance of it at this time.

    However, reading through the comments i’ve found the mumbles-project didn’t hear about it before.

    It seems to be the place to start, please try to use that as a base. Don’t waste resources on something already written, try to improve it and expand it to the point needed.

    Thanks for your dedication to the Free Software

  265. Fowdy Says:

    The facts you’ve sold software to VeriSign and been in outer space don’t make you an expert on operating systems and user interfaces. If you had more perspicacity and wisdom you’d leave this to the experts. If you own any. Stating Ubuntu is going to be as good as Apple as soon as you get better icons indicates to me you have none.

    You were lucky. Really lucky. Verisign gave you a lot of cash. You seem to want to do good things with that cash. Unfortunate for us then that you don’t know much how to go about things. What an utter waste.

    And you do in fact have personal shortcomings. For example: You. Simply. Don’t. Listen.

    Your market share is as pitiable as it was three years ago. When are you going to admit you’re doing something wrong?

  266. Nuevo sistema de notificaciones para Ubuntu 9.04 - ::Digital Shippuuden:: Says:

    […] admin on Dec.26, 2008, under Noticias Mark Shuttleworth presentó en su blog el concepto de un nuevo sistema de notificaciones y alertas para el próximo Ubuntu 9.04 […]

  267. Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 | Komputer Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  268. Kadko Says:

    Can you put full acpi support for HP machines please!!!!

  269. Alex Says:

    I like the notifications mockup and I believe they will catch on. As far as I’m concerned the most important feature is to make them non-obtrusive. By not giving users the ability to click on notifications you are consequently making them less-obtrusive (mentally and practically). Mentally because the user builds up a cognitive perception of notifications as being of low importance and practically because a clickable notification wouldn’t allow users to interact with the background as demonstrated in the mockup.

    Just two additional features I would also like to see implemented are:
    – Ability to customise the look-and-feel of the notification (i.e. simple settings like bg colour, text colour, opacity) to match customised theme settings.
    – Ability to filter out types of notification.

  270. Xan Says:

    Great!!. the most annoying thing is that you login and it appears lots of info.
    Even in the programs (for example in thunderbird) there is dialogs that could disable the focus on the dialog.


  271. Michael "Easy to write" Howell Says:

    > I think a better idea would be to have the notification bubbles physically move out of the way of the cursor whenever it would move over them.

    Also, it’ll be easier to implement ;).

  272. Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 | Linux Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  273. Luís Reis Says:

    Although I like the overall concept, there are a few things that could be improved.
    For example, the “no user interaction at all” seems a nice idea, but it may be too much.
    Suppose my computer’s IM application(Pidgin) receives a message from user “X” saying “sample message”. It would appear “X: sample message”, just like the current proposal.
    But then I want to answer X with “sample reply”, so I’d just press the notification message and write “sample reply”. This would be a case in which user interaction would be a pleasant addition. I wouldn’t need to open the IM window(it could run in background) and yet I’d be able to use it!

  274. Click Exchange » Blog Archive » Ubuntu Distributor Wants to Overhaul Linux Desktop Notifications Says:

    […] can check out a demonstration of the new notifications in action at Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth’s blog post. As noted by Ars, the goal is to provide a more user-friendly experience for anyone jumping onto […]

  275. Novi sistem za obaveštenja za Gnome i KDE | Planeta Ubuntu Srbije Says:

    […] […]

  276. pete Says:

    At least give me a dismissal x. If I have an ephemeral notification covering up a portion of the screen that I need to use, I would be simply annoyed to have to wait for a timer to expire before it fades. It already has my attention, give me the ability to acknowledge that attention and dismiss it.

  277. SOYONS LIBRES | Un nouveau système de notification sous Linux Says:

    […] la société qui édite la distribution Ubuntu, a annoncé sa volonté de perfectionner le système de notification disponible sous Linux. Le but de ce nouveau projet est d’améliorer l’expérience de […]

  278. Richard Says:

    I think its a great idea to improve any section of the GUI, I do agree with some of the previous people that maybe there should be a queue that you can check if you want. likewise the user should be able to configure what they wish to see appearing as notifications. I think a good addition would be to have a colour coding for various status of notifications. Green could be “This has happened and no action is required”, likewise an Amber could be “this is not urgent and have a look when you get a chance”…thus the need for a log/store. Likewise Mission critical notifications could appear as a red notification. The log is a really good idea I think as it may help diagnose some issues/faultfinding.

    The colour could be as simple as a left hand strip and/or a border of the above colours.

  279. Joe "Floid" Kanowitz Says:

    Hmm, just a few more obvious thoughts that occurred to me this morning:

    If there’s some desire to have non-actionable notifications (the appeal of which remains questionable), it makes sense to put them somewhere on the screen where they can be dismissed by the user taking action. By definition, if you’re reading the notification you’re not acting, and if you’re acting you’re not reading the notification. (I’m going to have to put a footnote on this!)

    In the GNOME environment, it would seem to make sense to crib from both Amiga and Macintosh models: The Amiga used the screen title to convey various information when not ‘menuing’ via the right mouse button gesture, while Apple introduced the concept of ‘drop-down’ notifications in OS X.

    Staring at a default Ubuntu desktop, the top right corner shown in the mockup is potentially part of the working area of a maximized window, but just above that is the full width of both the top gnome-panel and the window titlebar. “Sometimes” I care about these, but if I’m actually working in an application my attention is directed elsewhere. Chances are, if I really care about them, I’m mousing towards them.

    If the system were going to bother me with non-actionable information, it could safely fade in there (or ‘drop’ over the panel and window title) and dismiss after time or ‘scoot away’ if the mouse moves over it to reach for the panel. Of course, since it’s not “in my way,” I can also easily ignore it or overlook it.

    This is where you can use some of the compiz/Desktop Effects magic that the kids love; when something appears up there where nobody’s looking, put a brief upwards ripple along the edges of the screen — not enough to disturb anyone’s work, but enough to make them glance up if they aren’t consciously ignoring it.

    Of course, in my imagination, there would be some extra tricks; at the top right edge, where you’re only ‘reaching’ with the mouse if you’re going to log out, could be an active control — mousing into that area would not dismiss the dropdown, could be clicked to pull it down to reveal the full log, or could be mousewheeled on top of to flip through the recent notices. And when the ‘dropdown’ or ‘overlay’ scoots away or rolls up, there would still be a tiny little edge to grab and drag it back with should I exercise my caveman urge to be haptic.

    It’s not perfect — it still adds an unusual new UI element that behaves unlike anything else — but it could be enough to satisfy. It’s not like mysterious popups with no window controls are any more consistent with the basic WIMP model!

    Here’s the kicker, though: Rather than inventing yet another new UI ‘daemon,’ this could be implemented by improving gnome-panel. Just add “Inverse autohide,” the ability to overlay panels (with transparency, perhaps), and some new panel applets, and you’d have your solution. These features would then also be part of the ‘construction kit’ for users who want to try something different.

    For instance, users with huge displays might just want to dedicate an area to notifications, or people like me, not convinced by the ‘notifications’ concept, might move all their other informational, “Dashboard”-type applets — System Monitor, Weather, CPU scaling — into the self-dismissing overlay to free up room in the regular panel for clickables. That might not be perfect UI, but it still makes more sense than putting them on the ‘surface’ of the desktop (or in a Dashboard) where I can’t see them without making a modal switch!

    Of course, for your purposes, the KDE and XFCE guys can get the same notifications over DBUS or whatever and decide how they want to handle them, and people who still want the concept in the mockup could implement that.

    Footnote: I said “By definition, if you’re reading the notification you’re not acting, and if you’re acting you’re not reading the notification.” That was a lie: If you can’t act on the notification directly, you probably need to make the notification to linger so you can refer to it while figuring out “where” (in what program? in what window? in what folder?) you need to be if you do wish to react to it. [Notice that the visual model in the mockup is akin to having a Post-It note stuck on your monitor!] If a notification is actionable (by click or some other rapid ‘take the default action’ gesture), there is at least nonzero chance the default action may be desired and the “Post-It” can be dismissed.

    You could make the default action “preserve this somewhere, because I care about it,” but if there’s a log view it’s being preserved anyway, and if it’s preserved you’d still have to dig in to the “list of preserved stuff that I cared about” to do anything with it — making this just another game of Space Invaders for anyone on-task.

  280. Joe "Floid" Kanowitz Says:

    Another postscript: Some folks (thinking of Gareth Latty’s comment, above) have the sense that users should learn to discover the panel objects for the applications. Knowledge is a worthy goal, but “Fitts’ Law” is pretty well established, so the fact is that big, obvious popups are both an obvious attention-sink (speaking of which, the mockup’s are even the color of a popular form of gravity well ;)) and much easier to casually whack with the mouse than square gnome-panel icons made as tiny as possible. Aside from conventional usability, this has advantages in RSI-avoidance and so on, since unnecessary fine movements are stressful to our delicate computer-nerd hands.

    Now, in theory, with these “object model” UIs the world has been playing with for the past 20 years, everything is supposed to be an “object,” right? Done perfectly, you’d be able to drag and drop anything between applications, or straight out of applications to disk through an application like Nautilus, though in practice you can barely ever rely on it. (Even OS X is far from perfect in that regard; try using the Dock as a drag-and-drop clipboard. Of course, one problem is that it’s hard to tell if you want to drag ‘the’ object, or a reference to that object — With web page, for instance, are you dragging the whole page or one object? The HTML itself or just the URL? — and most systems try to determine that at the moment you begin the drag…)

    It seems like it isn’t inconsistent, then, to expect “notifications” to have some properties consistent with “files” — there’s a default handler for the type, and then users who understand the right-click gesture have “Open With” and “Send To…” options.

    I don’t think anyone has a good enough conception of the GNOME interaction model to want to make a notification log view part of Nautilus — right now, to be consistent, that would require giving the log a conceptual “path” somewhere — probably dumped under Computer, or somewhere in the panel Places; could work, but it seems like the wrong time to try that — but if hope’s still alive that this could be done someday, it can’t hurt to implement the context menu.

    Speaking of the Mac, another wishlist: I was skeptical at first, but they made a breakthrough with the dock; for normal humans, the most common actions (what we know as programs) stay in one place, whether they’re running or not — and as soon as RAM quartered in price, whether things were left running or not stopped being such a big deal. Contrast most other desktop environments, where you have to know if a program’s running and has windows open before you decide where to click to get to it — and even then, those multiple options are scattered all over different edges of the screen!

    Can anyone bring some of the ‘persistence’ of the Dock to the gnome-panel in a sane (or improved) way, perhaps as an alternative to the Window List, rather than tossing it out for straight Dock clones? Similarly, could the Applications menu be taught to know if an application is already running (by walking the process list and/or querying the current X display or wm), and bump off a submenu of existing windows?

    That would probably a much greater boon for the majority of users, particularly new computer users. Even if you’re experienced, ever take a stopwatch to how much time you waste checking if a window’s open or scraping workspaces for one that you know is?

  281. Nuova gestione delle notifiche in jaunty jackalope Says:

    […] queste idee, direttamente dal blog di Shuttleworth, spunta un mokup per un nuovo demone di gestione delle notifiche, vediamo di cosa si […]

  282. msanko Says:

    i support this is very nice…hope that 9.04 will have some new theme at least..

  283. Adam Hunt Says:

    While I think it is exemplary that Mr Shuttleworth wants to expand time money and effort to improve Ubuntu I truly think that the effort spent on these sorts of user interface improvements should not be the current priority within the project.

    I am very active on a number of Free software, Linux and Ubuntu forums and discussion groups as well as talking to many people considering moving from Windows to Ubuntu and I never hear people say that they won’t move to Ubuntu because of any deficiencies in the user interface. In fact the most common feedback on the Gnome interface I hear is that users who have spent some time with it greatly prefer it to the current Vista and OS-X interfaces because it is simple, uncluttered and lacks all the RAM-eating eye candy found on those operating systems. I have never heard anyone say, “I won’t use Ubuntu because it doesn’t have desktop notifications.”

    On the other hand I am hearing people quitting using Ubuntu and reinstalling Windows over hardware issues. From my experience this is easily the number one problem today and is, I believe, where the effort should be put.

    The hardware problems I am hearing about are of two types. First there is the longstanding problem of lack of support for certain hardware items, particulate some wireless cards. This is a known issue and I realize that there are manufacturers who will neither give the hardware configuration information so others can write the Linux drivers nor write the Linux drivers themselves.

    In this vein I recently had a series of conversations with a small OEM who builds a small number of PCs for low-income people, mostly for seniors and disabled people. He constructs PCs mostly from surplus parts and was looking for a better operating system than Windows for his builds. He is trying to keep costs down to make the boxes he assembles as inexpensive as possible to improve accessibility for people. He was very keen to stop paying for Windows and use Ubuntu until he discovered that the wireless cards he has in stock won’t work. He was very frustrated.

    In this class of cases I understand that some hardware manufacturers are not cooperating, perhaps they can be dealt with by just a simple list of problem hardware for people to avoid. I don’t know what else can be done there.

    That is minor, though, compared to a much greater hardware problem. That problem is where hardware is well supported by Ubuntu and then a new Ubuntu version is released and the hardware stops working. This has happened in the past, for instance when USB scanners stopped working in the change from Edgy to Feisty. Our camera worked in Feisty until an update arrived and then it stopped working and didn’t work again until the release of Hardy.

    But this sort of thing is still happening. This forum thread describes one such current problem, detailing the frustrations of users whose digital cameras worked fine on Hardy and then suddenly won’t work on Intrepid. This was not a small matter as it involved many camera brands and many, many models. Some fixes were found, files to install, some hardware workarounds, like SD card readers, were found for some users but not others, but overall the problem is not solved even today. The associated bug report is but filing a bug report doesn’t mean the problem is fixed. In this case it does not seem to be an upstream kernel problem, but something else in the assembly of the files for Intrepid.

    These sorts of problems, where hardware that worked in one version of Ubuntu don’t work in the next release, are intensely frustrating for users. Some of the comments posted on that forum thread include:

    “i am soooooooooooooo sick of ubuntu now. nothing works. no even my old camera.”

    “What sapps the enthusiasm though is when things get broken with updates – This is the latest of a continual stream of things for me. You feel like you are going backwards for no good reason.”

    “I realise that we shouldn’t complain because all this (generally wonderful) stuff is done on a non commercial basis. From my personal perspective though. After 2 and bit years, I think maybe time to call it a day – Time to check out Apple I think !”

    I have heard from people who are uninstalling Ubuntu and reinstalling Windows XP over exactly this problem.

    As a result of all this I would like to suggest that the place to spend time, effort and money is in getting better hardware compatibility, not in user interface tweaks. The greater problem of hardware that works and then stops working with new Ubuntu versions has to be solved – it is driving people away from Ubuntu.

  284. Ian Hutchinson Says:

    That’s what I love about Ubuntu, the speed at which innovative ideas are picked up is amazing. I’ve been a user since 7.04, and the progress which has been made up to here has been incredible.

    The visuals on the mockups are quite good, although I’m not too sure about having the notifications being interaction-less. There needs to be some kind of basic interaction between the subject of the notification and an action.

  285. Wolny Globers » Blog Archive » Powiadomienia w Ubuntu 9.04 Says:

    […] swoim blogu Mark Shuttleworth pokazał nowy system powiadomień w dystrybucji Ubuntu 9.04. Zmiany w interfejsie graficznym systemu wzbudziły wiele kontrowersji wśród społeczności. […]

  286. My Predictions for 2009 « Crashed Pips Says:

    […] Plymouth graphical startup system (seen in Fedora 10) to other distributions. We should also see an overhaul of notifications in Ubuntu (which I’m a bit–no, incredibly–sceptical about) and also, on the OS front, Mac OS X Snow […]

  287. Nick Says:

    It is the exact (and I really do mean exact) same way iStumbler gives notifications on OSX, and to be quite honest, I don’t like it. It takes up way to much room and is just annoying.

    How about something like small circular icons that bob-down half way that let a person know something has happened. Then if they are concerned by the notification they can hover their mouse over it, at which point the the full notification is shown.

    Also, you have to give us control over the notifications. How long they appear for, which ones you don’t want shown again etc.

  288. Craig A. Eddy Says:

    I am using Ubuntu 8.10, GNOME desktop (of course), with a number of different programs running concurrently. Some of them are KDE applications, simply because I’ve found them to be the easiest/best for me to use.

    I have a number of different “notifications” currently on my desktop. The most basic, such as the icon flashing of Konversation and Pidgin alert me to activity on those programs. There are also audibles, such as when someone on my contact list in Pidgin initially contacts me, or the beep when I get a new email. There are, though, some visible notifications involving text, and it is these that I would like to address now.

    Amarok pops up a notification of what is about to be played (a “next track” type of notification). This takes up desktop real estate, but can be removed with a click (I can always hover over the icon to see what’s currently playing). There’s the Thunderbird email notification that slides up above the lower panel bar that tells me what an email is about then leaves after a reasonable period of time. True, it takes up real estate, but in the lower right corner of the desktop where it doesn’t conflict with things that I am doing. These are all, for the most part, non-intrusive alerts, allowing me to act or not as I see fit and not interfering with the normal activities with whichI’m engaged.

    However, there are 2 that I do not particularly like. Forecastbar Enhanced, a weather add-in for Firefox, tends to pop up it’s notification right over the top of the desktop switcher, usually right at a time that I am changing desktops. It has no way to cancel it out, and I’m forced to wait until the notification goes away – a period of 2 or 3 seconds. The other is the “system notifications” generated by Synaptic/Update Manager, that often don’t fade away and require me to either take the action they suggest immediately or cancel out the notification. That they are notifying me of a needed system re-boot or a re-start of Firefox is good. I can choose to ignore them until a more convenient time or act immediately as circumstances permit.

    Each of these notification methods serves a purpose: some just to let me know what’s happening now, some to alert me to changes in status, and some to inform me of actions that need to be taken. If there is a way to combine the purposes of each of these alert notifications to a consistent location and thematic representation while still allowing the purpose-driven activity it would be good. To simply lump them all under one method of action, I feel, would not be good. Is there some sort of compromise that can be set up to allow necessary “take action” notifications to remain visible until an operator intervention takes place? Is there a way that the computer operator can configure what area of the desktop will display notifications, so that they won’t interfere with ongoing work? In addition, since I don’t use Compiz-Fusion though many do, will it be possible to incorporate the existing window manager into the mix, to stay in keeping with the look and feel of whatever the operator is using?

    I am not trying to put down the idea of a common notification system. I think that it could be a good thing (of course, depending on whether or not particular applications will respect it). However, I think the usability of it needs another look, based on both the user’s preferences and on the purpose of the notification.

  289. Wish Says:

    Hi Mark,
    I think this idea of non-actionable notifications is really cool, but I believe it can be made really awesome by categorizing the notifications.
    If I were the user I would like it to do the following things for me (it’s completely my view and none else is responsible for this.):

    1. Hold up time: (I can only write more or less but it’s up to Mark to decide the value of it)
    a) System notification: Least time.
    b) Mail notifications: May be more or same as to the above.
    c) Instant Messages: They should last the most time or even stick to the desktop under the permission of user.

    2. Actionable: The IM’s must be actionable and be having a box to enter the message on your part.
    But we have to retain the focus on the windows (not OS) so a solution may be:
    a) Customization: User’s decision to give the IM notifications the ability to respond to a message.
    b) Cursor hovers over text entry box: Notification not transparent.
    Cursor anywhere else on notification: Can be seen on the flash provided above.

    3. Assembly of notifications:
    a) User customization: group or ungroup the notifications.
    b) Drop down menu/ Dedicated window: With actionable PREVIEW facility on mouse hover.

    These are certain suggestions which I can make and I am eagerly waiting to see the development in this area.

  290. Michael Chang Says:

    Hm… this will definitely be interesting to watch.

    Personally, I’m wondering about sounds, considering how often universe applications (and even Kubuntu/Ubuntu apps) have interactions in terms of sound. Will there be any sort of auditory indication to come with these notifications?

    Either way, here’s to looking forward to seeing the first iteration — I’ll definitely make time to try it out.

  291. Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Says:

    […] 123 en la que se comentan temas como las recientes declaraciones de Mark Shuttleworth sobre el sistema de notificaciones, o los principales artículos en Internet y la blogosfera sobre esta distribución. Hay bastante […]

  292. Roman Friesen Says:

    I find “samwyse” ideas very interesting:

    I agree to all points by the “samwyse” comment. +1*4 :)

    The IM status can be changed in Intrepid “quit/switch-user” applet directly, it’s well integrated. Why not use this feature? The IM status could be a good tip for the notification daemon, how sensitive the user is to interruptions at the given time point. As it has been said, if the status is “don’t disturb” – just disable the notifications completely: no notifications – no interruptions.

  293. Dylan McCall Says:

    Sorry, Akismet marked this as spam for some reason so I’m just resending it with some changes. (My guess is Mark’s “spam to be checked” list gets filled up really quickly).

    This brings to mind a really interesting, though unexplored, issue in user interface design. That is, how do we build a passive notification that the user doesn’t feel intrudes on his workspace? The transparency / lack of responsiveness I think is a nice step there.

    Microsoft’s Notification Bar (see Internet Explorer) is something worth looking at. It pushes down the entire page, consumes tons of screen space and upon first appearing generates a popup window to explain the concept. It tries to be a passive notification, but does everything it can to get noticed, thus being more annoying than a normal alert popup. It has since been duplicated by Firefox, where it is still applied untastefully for security stuff (where the page Does Not Work until the passive notification is responded to), but has also been put to use tastefully for that nice password saving popup.

    This also brings to light a very interesting flaw in our current notification design. That being, we currently have two distinct ways to present notifications:

    * The notification area (aka. “System Tray” or “Status Bar”), whose role has been entirely abused since its invention.
    * Libnotify, which currently limits itself to time-limited bubble popups.

    This is totally wrong! Libnotify is built for the distinct behaviour of notifications, so is way better suited to the task. I really hope what you guys manage to achieve serves as a full replacement to the Notification Area for notifications (with it being just as easy to add things) so we can put that messy past behind us. I like what I see with the mail notification in your mockup (and how it doesn’t blink); for bonus points, it would be great if that could be achieved on the existing API.

    Since any system could do what today’s Notification Area applet does, I believe its current role could be somewhat smoothly replaced by an application list applet (with applications and their windows displayed, instead of just windows), so there’s another important project for the aether between applications.

  294. devolute Says:

    Just thought I’d also weigh in and say yes yes yes! It’s very Growl default like, which is great. As long as it’s easily turned off for certain things (can imagine the wireless notification being very annoying) then I’d love to see this as a default for Ubuntu.

  295. domdom Says:

    I just hope we’ll be able to disable this function.

  296. Paul Gupta Says:

    I like your idea, but HATE your execution, I used ubuntu for years until I got a macbook pro, I still virtualize ubuntu for some things that I can’t find on mac, (as well as windows), but the BIGGEST thing I like about notifications on mac (via Growl of course) is that it’s so HIGHLY configurable

    I have my notifications set to pop up for anywhere between .1 seconds to many many seconds, and then they disappear, there are also per application options, where I can (but have kept them to their defaults because I have a life) keep them sticky, where they will stay there until I click on them, or have them fade away quicker than the global default

    I LIKE THIS CONFIGURABILITY, DO NOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM LINUX OR UBUNTU, I ENJOY THE ABILITY TO TINKER WITH THESE SETTINGS, do not “FORCE” a notification system like this, have it be the _DEFAULT_ and not the ONLY way this program will work.

    I will likely keep my notification setup much like yours, but it is not EXACTLY how I want my own

    Thank you, and feel free to respond.

  297. 01 - Pilot « Webcode Podcast Says:

    […] from TechCrunch UK by Mike Butcher Notifications, indicators and alerts […]

  298. Ubuntu Podcast Episode #16 | Ubuntu Podcast Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth on upcoming notifications feature: […]

  299. zelrik Says:

    hmm too many comments to read them all. So I might repeat some of what is above.

    “There should be no actions on notifications.”

    I am really sorry Mark but I do not see any notification that one could not click on. From pidgin to the network connection..when the system asks you to reboot…
    Unless I am misunderstanding what is a notification, removing the interactions from people to computers reminds me that one company…you know Microsoft? In fact, I do not see anything that happens on the computer without any possible interaction, I thought that was what should matter, was I wrong?

  300. zelrik Says:

    Oh I forgot to mention, that video seems to not fit in your blog, the box is too large. At least that’s what I get from my firefox.

  301. orlando_ombzzz Says:

    “When a notification pops up, [..] you won’t be able to follow it [..] to a web page”

    IMHO, you should not kill the link-in-notificacion-pop-ups functionality


    i) they are potentially useful
    ii) links don’t qualify as members of the “creates a weighty obligation to act, or to THINK ABOUT ACTING” set

  302. Endolith Says:

    Notifications won’t be logged? I hate the idea of losing data or missing information, and I would be paranoid about missing anything.

    And actions on notifications are a convenience, not an obligation. Something pops up and you want more details, so you click on it. It’s better than having to find a disconnected application to open, which may be very non-obvious from context.

    If notifications are only going to be used for truly ephemeral things, then what’s going to provide the other functionality instead? The other types of notifications are necessary, too. I hope you’re not going to take a step backwards and make them open intrusive windows. That’s the whole reason notifications were invented.

  303. kikl Says:

    My naive comments as a user:

    According to my understanding, notifications are short messages generated by the operating system or applications that tell me that something has just happened. I don’t have to react to the notifications, so they might as well disappear automatically after a while.

    I think notifications can be useful but very often they are a nuisance. I wouldn’t want messages to pop up all over the place and at any moment in time on my computer. Furthermore, notifications appear to be things that you cannot control as a user. They appear to pop up out of the blue and vanish just as miraculously. As a user, I want to have the feeling that I am in control of the computer and I don’t want the computer to be in control of me. Therefore, I hope mark’s project is more about giving the user an easy way of controlling the use of notifications.

    There are three notifications I encounter very often.

    1. The ubuntu network connection wizard (I don’t know the proper name, but it’s a great program!) notifies me that a wifi connection has been automatically established each time the computer is started. This information is valuable to me, because I know that I can start using the network and the internet. But, I really don’t need the window to pop up, because the changed icon in the panel tells me this anyhow. If you’ve never used ubuntu before, it may really be a help. But meanwhile I wish I could just shut it off completely. In addition, the notification doesn’t disappear automatically, so I have to klick it away each time.

    2. Thunderbird notifies me automatically, when I receive an E-Mail. I hear a beep and a small window appears on the lower right side of the display showing me the header of the e-mail I just received. The window disappears automatically after a while. It’s actually very well done, because it gives you just enough time to decide whether you really want to react. So in many instances, it’s o.k. But it’s clearly a distraction and sometimes, when I really need to concentrate on my work, I don’t want to be distracted. I wish I could turn off all notifications in these instances.

    3. The Flash player integrated into firefox notifies me that I can exit the full screen mode each time I enlarge the window to the full screen. Again, this is useful and really necessary, if you’ve never used the player before. But meanwhile, I really know this. It’s a nuisance, because the notification obscures the video each time I enlarge it.

    I wish there was a centralized tool that I may use to control all notifications that may appear on the computer. If certain notifications are valuable to me, I may grant them a high priority. If they aren’t I may shut them off completely. If I don’t want any notifications to appear, I can suppress them automatically.

    I don’t know if this is possible, because most of the notifications are probably controlled by the application programmers. But, if the centralized tool actually makes sense, the application programmers may really want to include their notifications in the tool.

    These are my two cents and I hope it helps.



  304. Thomas Says:

    Its nice to see that you keep looking for ways to improve the Linux desktop. I think notifications are an area where improvements can be made :)
    But as others have already pointed out, you seem to be heading in the wrong direction:

    -> I _want_ to act on (most of my) notifications! Seeing that someone IM’ed me is no good if I can’t immediately write back. Seeing that someone calls me over a VoIP-app is no good if I can’t immediately pick up the phone. etc. etc.
    -> I want to be able to dismiss notifications. Maybe I need to access the screen below them. Maybe I’m watching a movie in fullscreen and the notification gets in my way, or maybe I just want to ban the notification before all the people in the room are able to read what I’m IM’ing/mailing with other people.
    -> Maybe I’m setting in front of my PC with customers or other acquaintances that I wouldn’t want to be able to read all my IM-chats. A feature _easily_ disable notifications would be nice
    -> If I come back into the room and see a notification disappear, I would want to be able to check out what that notification was. So a history would be nice (I do not want YOU to decide that I don’t need to know of notifications I missed)

    Also, as others have pointed out, with growl and mumbles there are already existing notification apps. Have you had a look at them/maybe even contacted the authors to look for possible cooperation?

    (On an unrelated note: I agree with other comments that flash is definitely not the way to go, especially for someone who wants to improve the OpenSource world. Even if Gnash exists, the format itself is NOT free).

  305. “Growl” Concept for Ubuntu | Says:

    […] OS X applications unintrusively tell you when things happen. And recently, Mark Shuttleworth has announced a “clone” of Growl that predicted will be bundled with Ubuntu 9.04(Jaunty […]

  306. Lima Says:

    Uh, I did this, I think, one year ago. Just playing with GTK to know if I could do it.

    This was what I came up with:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the code anymore. :(

  307. carlos Says:

    please look at this mockups

    read the feedback. they are just amazing! try to implement them and many (like 95%) people will be pleased.


  308. Clemens Says:

    Hi there! Sorry if this came up in the comments above already, but it’s kinda late here and I didn’t have time to read everything. Anyways, I read most of the above, and kwah’s comment ( ) instantly gave me an idea. We already got the user – switching panel, together with a status setting for instant messaging. If you consider the notifications under the same aspects as instant messages from the clients already integrated in the user switching panel, you’ll get a central tool how to handle “disturbances” in your use of the computer. Like if you set your status to “busy/do not disturb”, only really urgent notifications should pop up; ubuntu could queue them if you set your status to “away”, so you can read them later on, and so on. You’d get a nice, simple, already implemented tool to tell ubuntu whether you’re in the mood getting instant notifications :)

    Greetz, Clemens

  309. nargh Says:

    And of course, there are notifications you don’t want to ignore:
    Like the ones produced by smart-notifier – about your harddrive failing.

    Notification transparency, on the other hand, just requires Compiz to apply transparency to the notification windows type.

  310. Albert Says:

    This is very good, it can be improved if the time each notification is visible depends on the amount of information being read by the user. For example: 1 line = 2 seconds, 5 lines = 8 seconds, …

  311. Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu numéro 123 du 21 décembre au 3 janvier 2008 « Lettre Hebdomadaire Ubuntu Says:

    […] Vous pouvez lire l’article complet et voir une courte vidéo de ce à quoi cela pourrait ressembler sur le blog de Mark […]

  312. brad Says:

    Hello — Last time I was introducing a Windows user to Ubuntu, as we were login her out of her Windows session, one of the little Windows notification balloons appeared, and she commented on how she really didn’t care for the notifications.
    I hope that if you implement this idea, there’ll be an easy way to switch it off.
    I’m fond of the Synaptic Package Manager’s method of showing that it’s finished it’s task by flashing in the bottom task-bar.
    But hey, you’ve done such a fine job so far…

  313. Bill Gates Says:

    Mark Shuttleworth if you want to win for me in the market, then you need to hire a designer! has approximately 200 employees and has no 1 designer? Aff! Head that you have! If you want to win the Uncle Bill Gates and the Mac OS X needs to do much more if not Pilates THE BEACH!

  314. Freed Says:

    Mark Shuttleworth urgent hire a designer ubuntu 9.04 please !!!

  315. Co nowego w Ubuntu 9.04? « Czubek’s Weblog Says:

    […] styl powiadomień – sponsor Ubuntu – Mark Shuttleworth – na swoim blogu opisuje planowany, nowy styl wyświetlania i konfiguracji powiadomień w Ubuntu. Ma być prostszy i […]

  316. titaniumtux Says:

    Here’s my only concern about no notification history…what about when you lock the screen and someone leaves you a message?! Say you log in, then come back to your desk much later. Granted the notification (the way it’s been so far) waits for you, but for what you’re proposing, it wont!

    That’s my number 1 concern, because those could be important messages!

    Otherwise this is great, notifications should all be in the same part of the screen (I hate getting ’em ’round the notification area, the lower-right of the screen, the middle for volume and brightness adjustments…). Good work so far, but please implement a notification history for those messages from the locked screen!!

  317. gp Says:

    nice ………….but will these UI enhancements work on KDE aka kubuntu ?

  318. Leroy Says:

    Very convenient and smart, it works like magic!
    May I suggest you change the colour from black to another colour to make it even more striking!

  319. Ben Says:

    Actions and ability to close the notification are useful features.

    Situations where actions would be helpful:
    -Receive an email notification, click to read it.
    -IM chat invitation or voip call, click to converse.
    -Someone connects via bluetooth, click to browse files.
    -Network connection goes down, click for help resolving it

    Most of these actions could be omitted from the notification and put in a tray icon menu, but is that really intuitive? I think most users (particularly those form a windows background) would tend to click on the notification before looking under a tray icon menu.
    I agree that these notifications should automatically close after a given period of time. However removing the functionality to dismiss and react to notifications is just dumbing things down. Basically leave things the way they are and I’ll be happy.

    Mark Shuttleworth says: Thank you for this list of use cases, it’s very useful! At the moment, we plan to make *all* of those action possible through the panel, with a linkage from notifications to the panel in cases where there are follow-on actions as you describe. If you can think of more cases like this, please do post them as this is a critical part of our plan and the more cases we can consider now the smoother the rollout process will be.

    Initially, mail and IRC will be handled smoothly, the others will be a bit rough.

  320. tardigrade Says:

    For me the idea of the transient notifications is dubious. I think a notification that I can’t act upon would frustrate. Also I don’t see the point of having a new mail that I want to open but can’t click straight to and have to open Evolution first, look for the email, scroll to it and then open.

    I have a few ideas as well. They may or may not be interesting to some people.

    1] I need the option to pin the notification to act on later.

    Say I’m on a phone call in Skype, this could go on for an hour or so. In that time I could have anywhere from 3 to 30 notifications. Lets say I have 7 in that time. I don’t want to deal with them during the phone call but some of them I do want to act upon. However by the time the call is over I will have forgotten about the 2nd, 3rd and 5th notifications completely.

    So I think it’s a good idea to be able to single click on a notification to pin it to either a scrollable stack on the desktop or a stack on the app launcher. I can then act on those ones that I would have otherwise forgotten about after my call. Also because I’ve chosen which ones to pin I don’t have to scroll through all the ones that I didn’t want to look at and then delete them, I only have the notifications that I want to see, the ones that I actively chose to save because they are important to me.

    2] Action to open

    If I have an email come in and I am notified I want to see the from address and subject line. If it’s an email that I’ve been waiting for then I want to be able to double click on it and get taken straight to the email in question. At the moment Evolution flashes at me, annoys me, and then for every new email notification I have to go into Evolution and see if it’s anything that I want to look at or not, only to find 7 times out of 10 that it’s junk and I’ve wasted my time. So for me action on a notification and knowing the important details of that notification is a key thing.

    Also can I suggest that I have the option to only get email notifications from contacts in my address book. That would fantastic. No email notifications for spam just emails from my contacts. That would a useful productivity tool.

    3] I need to be able to dismiss a notification

    I notice from the demo that you can click through the notification. That’s great but wouldn’t work if we need to click on a notification to action it. So we still need dismiss also if I’m working in an application and I suddenly have 5 new notifications I don’t want to have to wait for a notification to disappear. That’s really annoying especially if I’m on a phone call it’s distracting. I should be able to select all and group dismiss the notifications.

    So for me it’s critical that we have 3 actions available for a notification.
    1] Pin (single click),
    2] Act (double click),
    3] Dismiss (mouse over X pops onto the top corner of the notification to click on)

    Mike Rushton’s idea about the battery low actions is also brilliant. You could then do immediately in one move what would otherwise take you a visit to three different apps to do. Lower brightness, disconnect wi-fi, and bluetooth, switch off speakers and any active programs like Banshee. Great if you’re on a train and trying to finish a doc. You could create a pre-set for such an event that enables one click to act on the pre-set and do all these things at once.

    Maybe these options could be accessed via spinning the notification around to reveal these extras on the reverse side.

    So application notifications double click to open, utility / system notifications double click to spin and access useful actions on the flip side. Single click throughout still just pins to the stack. Otherwise the notification disappears and is deleted as per the video demo.

    Stacked notifications could auto purge after 12 or 24 hours so I don’t get a huge build up. The idea being that even if I pinned the notification, if I haven’t actioned it within a set time it wasn’t as important as I first thought it was.


  321. Chris Hutt Says:

    A lot of people seem to be saying that an absence of a ‘close button’ is a problem because the notifications take up screen space and may obscure something you want to get at. From the video it seems that if you move the mouse pointer to a part of the screen covered by the notification it fades out of the way to let you do what you want to do.

    I love the idea of having no actions on notifications but I think it would be a good idea to have some kind of history feature where all notifications from the current session are displayed and scrollable with the mouse wheel so you can see at a glance what you may have missed while taking that coffee break, or to find out how long ago you received that email you should have replied to.

    Great concept though.

    Mark Shuttleworth says: Based on strong feedback that experts will want to review past notifications, we will log them for users. Thank you for the commentary!

  322. Clemens Says:

    Hi there – somehow Akismet filtered my first comment, unfortunately.

    The user switching – panel already supports setting a general status level for instant messangers, irc and stuff, I believe it would be a great idea to integrate the above seen notifications in this status level. Like if you’re “away”, notifications could queue and you could read them as soon as you’re back from your coffee break, or if you’re working, you could set the status to “do not disturb/busy” and you’d get only very important notifications.
    Greets, Clemens

    Mark Shuttleworth says: That’s a very interesting idea. I definitely agree that we should think of more useful consequences for keeping the presence indicator accurate, that way people are more likely to use it. At the moment, it’s not very relevant unless you’re strongly dependent on IM.

  323. g4b Says:

    Actually for me some unified error message queue would be more interesting, than having more notifications about stuff I really dont want to know.
    However having a common interface, where errors, warnings, notifications and so on can go in, and be displayed by output plugins, would be great.
    Especially notifications like “Lost connection to: …” and DNS errors, like “ could not be found”, mostly hardcoded in many apps, should use some common ground and only use blocking modal error message windows as fallback. Its annoying to have apps blocking you, just because they cant download your mail atm, and want to hear an “OK” for that.

    It would be however in any case very important to keep this thing clean, and not too gnome specific. Since then everything has to be copied in kubuntu / xubuntu / … . so the basic system should be non-gui with gui-plugins, x11/dbus/… interface, and so on.

  324. The Lost Priorities of Canonical « Tux Ramblings Says:

    […] Here’s the blog and the video goodness. […]

  325. Pete Myers Says:

    Great. Can’t wait.

    I think that the notification shouldn’t display any buttons – but when I move my mouse over it, some buttons should fade in so that I can follow up on the notification if I want to.

    I agree that seeing a button in the notification makes me feel forced to deal with it. But, if I spot a notification that I find interesting – then I will want to interact with it. So, I want it to interact with me if I initiate it.

  326. » Response to the proposed Canonical Notification System Says:

    […] the proposed Canonical Notification System (CNS) was demonstrated and described in a blog entry by Mark Shuttleworth (2008) following the […]

  327. Vorschau Easy Peasy 2.0 | mgBlog Says:

    […] Das Video über die neue Benachrichtigungsfunktion in besserer Qualität im Blog von Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  328. Dundee Says:

    I like it. Looks nice and seems more useful than current notifications.

  329. Oisin Hurley Says:

    An integration of presence across all the (relevant) apps is certainly something that the community in general should strive for – think of the potential for reduction in annoyance when you are in your flow time. One reservation I have is Mark’s definition – “Notifications are only for things which you can safely ignore or miss out on.” My personal preference is only have notifications for things I need to know about – but I guess there are times when one is begging for an excuse for a displacement activity.

  330. kikl Says:

    I had a brief glimpse of the alpha 3 release of jaunty jackalope. I see that you’re making a lot of progress. In particular, certain notifications (network) may be easily shut off. There’s a central tool for positioning the notifications – although I found out, you can do that already using the panel toolbar. Many other things, but off topic…

    Kudos to canonical and all the developers! Keep up the great work!



    Just a crazy idea:

    Automatically adapting the user interface to the personal profile of a user. Notifying (Notification!) the user each time a change in the interface is suggested.

    For example: If the user uses only two games 9 out of 10 times in the application menu, then these games may be presented in the menu as first highlighted and enlarged options, since they are most likely to be clicked.

    With time, the user interface is automatically custom-tailored to the particular user’s profile… (It’s just a dream ;-))

  331. Brian Says:


    I love the idea of notifications. My $0.02 on this would be a weather alert/warning pop-up for your location, (whether it be built-in or a plugin/option). A lot of people that use laptops, are either at work or out at the coffee shop or college libraries would benefit from this type of pop-up. If i’m sitting in the lib or coffee shop and I need to either walk or drive or commute somehow that involves being out in the elements, if the weathers about to change and I see a pop-up that i’m now in a severe thunderstorm watch or warning I may wait to go outside. Who knows, maybe in a really severe weather event i could be saved from potential injury if i see some bad weather is on the way. Maybe this is far fetched to some, hence why its only a personal opinion/suggestion.



  332. Alessio Gaeta Says:

    +1 for Greg’s comment (
    I’m using Gnome (Debian/Ubuntu) from years and I still try to click on “New software updates available” balloon tip, expecting that update manager will be launched…

  333. Fedora, Ubuntu y PCLinuxOS: Nuevas versiones de desarrollo para entretenerse este verano « Kajar, ciudad de las ciencias Says:

    […] (versión 1.6), mejoras en la optimización del tamaño de las fuentes y parte de lo que será el nuevo sistema de notificaciones. Por aquí las ISO para su […]

  334. Fedora, Ubuntu y PCLinuxOS: Nuevas versiones de desarrollo para entretenerse este verano « Kajar, ciudad de las ciencias Says:

    […] (versión 1.6), mejoras en la optimización del tamaño de las fuentes y parte de lo que será el nuevo sistema de notificaciones. Por aquí las ISO para su […]

  335. Joe "Floid" Kanowitz Says:

    Hm, I saw some of the motivation for changing the graphical appearance of “Notifications” just now: Shortly after booting, my “notification area” has greeted me with a “crash report detected” and “There are 8 updates available.”

    …and since it greeted me with both within one second, and the persistent anchors are small icons in the “notification area,” one popped up covering most of the other, rendering it unreadable if I hadn’t caught it fast.

    That certainly isn’t useful, and since these aren’t “windows” as far as having window-manager decoration and familiar behavior, I don’t know if I can raise or lower them or what clicking would actually do. Since the information conveyed is a little “Microsoftian” — it’s really just drawing a balloon on the screen pointing to the persisting items in the notification area, not telling me much new, either. [In fact, there are probably enough pixels within the “Updates Available” notification to show the number, though people would complain about the font; if the *notification* for the crash reporter used the additional space to say “Firefox bit it 4 hours ago at 3:45 AM your time,” it’d at least be telling me enough to confirm I don’t care without having to click on it!]
    Since they were unhelpful, I end up wondering why they were there at all when I already have bright orange things clamoring for my attention in the “area.”

    Of course, there’s a problem in that the “Notification Area” is the standard for “having something that acts like the Windows system tray,” so it becomes as much as a mess as the system tray, with anything seeking a smaller presence on screen [that doesn’t want to be specific as a GNOME applet] winding up there. Right now I don’t have any bright ideas as to how the “X11 desktop community” can get beyond that; both GNOME and KDE (and XFCE, and anyone else at the party) would have to agree on the bare requirements for any new solution.

    In the short term, letting the ‘icons’ declare whether they’re “notifications” or just “notification area applets” would at least potentially permit using two instances of the “Notification Area” gnome-panel applet, though even that has pitfalls re: creating more places to look.

    I keep bringing up the Mac, only because it’s the only surviving system doing anything particularly different in UI at all, so a useful “existing experiment” when thinking about how any of our GUIs could be rearranged – there, maybe even more obviously before OS X brought new persistent elements in, the top of the screen [where GNOME users have the top panel] is the menu bar, so by definition it’s “context-sensitive” and things you might not care about disappear until, for instance, you’d bring the Finder back in focus. Of course, now I’m looking at my top panel and trying to decide if there’s anything I ever wouldn’t care about… it’s a bit of a mess visually, but most items are either information I always want present [clock, weather, CPU scaling, volume status] or shortcuts to tasks I perform constantly while working. So much for that idea — and on the Mac, the shortcuts just move into the dock which eats the same or more pixels at the bottom of the screen anyway!

    Here’s a funnier problem: I just decided to click on the crash report, then decided I didn’t feel like authenticating, and upon whacking “Cancel,” the notification disappeared from the area entirely. Whoops. Off the top of my head, I don’t know how to get back to that handling application other than perhaps through the command line [if it’s bug-buddy, not even sure about that]. This is why we’re all so adamant about logs!

    This comment is now such a mess that I’ll also sneak in a response to “kikl” above: Are you aware that this is what Windows has been doing since XP or so? Some people, particularly when they’re just sitting down with the computer, find it useful; others get annoyed because constantly-rearranging UI elements blow out our abilities to use our spatial and motor memories to remember “where something is.” The trick is to offer both options, and thinking about it now, XP/Vista actually get that pretty much right with one critical flaw: In the reworked Windows “Start Menu,” the “recently used” items are on the left, against the screen edge (and with that benefit for lazy mousers), but the “All programs” entry to the classic menu is floating over on the right, requiring more coordination and an extra click. The flaw, I think, is that most people who benefit from MS’s “recently used” list would be patient enough to mouse over to it (or make that movement while they’re busy reading how it’s rearranged today), while those with a “spatial” memory for the complete list know where they’re going and would feel (and stopwatch-test as?) less slowed down if they could thump the mouse against the screen edge and unfurl the map.

    I do wish I had time to edit this down, but in lieu of that, I’d still rather throw my ideas against the wall and see if they inspire y’all rather than keeping them to myself!

  336. kikl Says:

    Hi floyd, Ill briefly respond since you addressed me in particular. But since this is off-topic Ill be very brief. You said: “constantly-rearranging UI elements blow out our abilities to use our spatial and motor memories to remember where something is.” I agree, therefore the changes should be very gradual and the user should be notified of any proposed change and have the possibility to refuse the change. In my opinion, a very experienced user needs a very different user interface than a complete novice. Therefore, the UI should very gradually develop with the amount of experience the user gains. That’s the basic idea.

    If you want to discuss this further, we could exchange e-mail addresses.



  337. It’s the Infrastructure Stupid « DoctorMO’s Blag Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth says that he wants to improve the Notifications, indicators and alerts, he’s not just talking about a fancy way to show notifications. But a better way of providing […]

  338. gg Says:

    rename mumbles to bubbles, add callbacks (if it hasnt, im not quite sure, dbus notifactions anyone?), there you go…

  339. gg Says:

    correct myself, use mumbles add xevent to bring event window to front after you double click the notification… where is the problem?

  340. Maik Says:

    Dear Mr. Shuttleworth,

    I didn’t know where to turn to so I ended up here. It’s nice to see some ideas and changes for the upcoming Ubuntu release but however it would be nicer to see some more hardware support. It would be great if you and the developers focus on that part a bit more.

    For example some wireless cards like the Realtek RT2860 and some High Definition Audio soundcards. I have tested some other linux distro’s where the wireless card worked right out of the box (openSUSE, Mandriva for example). Installing Ndiswrapper and the Windows driver to activate the wireless card isn’t always that effective and most of the time it doesn’t work properly. It takes 10 to 15 minutes before it’s activated after the desktop is loaded.

    The issues with the HDA soundcards is an overall problem in every Linux distro that’s around. So it would be nice to see Ubuntu being the first distro that solves these problems and let it work out of the box. If that is possible of course. :)

    Overall I am satisfied Ubuntu user for a year now and i say: Keep up the great work.

    With kind regards,


  341. Alfem Says:

    These notifications seem really similar to our Hermes project, included in Guadalinex, Linex and Molinux.

    Hermes shows piled messages (some of them are clickable) whenever an important event occurs.

    It is coded in python, but i18n was not a priority so I am afreid comments are still in spanish.

  342. matthew bradley Says:

    I like it, but I’d like it to behave like this…

    hover the mouse pointer over a new notification to prevent it fading away (no click required).

    with the mouse pointer hovered over the notification, use either the scroll wheel or keyb up and down arrows to scroll back through all the notifications received during the current session only, retaining any click actions for each notification if valid.

    i’m sure the compiz developers could come up with some nice animations for flicking back and forward through them.

  343. CJ Says:

    Will notifications be prioritized? How would it handle a “queued” mass of unimportant notifications holding up a single important notification?

  344. paul Says:

    Will there be some facility for a root user to send an alert to all the users on a system? This is something that ubuntu has always lacked.

    To that end, any way for a user or a system administrator to decide what notifications should be persistent?

  345. Fazil Lathif Says:

    I have been using ubuntu for past three years…. I’m lovin’ it …
    Please keep it coming… ubuntu is bringing a lot of (useful)changes to the GUI..

    Long live the ubuntu developers…

  346. kalon33 Says:

    Yeah, seems really professional, and the goals behind this new notifications really make sense.

    Good luck to implement this ! I really can’t wait to see it into action. Where could we get (or where will we get) in Launchpad the code and packages to test it ?


  347. Michael Vanderheeren Says:

    I like the idea about the notifications. Finally everything will be the same. That’s a big thumbs up for usability. Next up should be the splash screens of different applications. They should all have the same color, same place of the logo, … After that it would be great if all windows (like the background preferences and theme window) would have a sort of banner, with a big icon and some text, stating clearly what the window is meant for…

    Mark Shuttleworth says: Do you feel better now?

  348. Lucas Westermann Says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing this implemented! Sounds like a very good idea that seems to be being planned out quite thoroughly. Just like the fast-user-switcher that also handles things such as shutdown/reboot/IM status (I’m currently trying to figure out if I can get the same functionality in ArchLinux using your patches). One thing I might want to add would be notifications when on battery power, and if it’s at a critical level allow a few options (suspend, shutdown, ignore, etc.) on click?

    All in all it looks like it will be very well done. Keep up the good work (goes for the teams as well)!

  349. s22 Says:

    Recently I experienced some bizarre phenomena while chatting about Ubuntu on IRC: I would not see messages from other users until I typed something myself. Then all of the messages typed by other users since my last transmission would be displayed. This created a lot of confusion on both ends, but the Ubuntu community was generally tolerant of this strange behavior and diligently tried to assist me with the various problems I had gone online to seek help for. After typing a number of commands in the terminal window, I saw the following message there: “Bus error (core dump)”. Suddenly, everything became clear: I had a defective motherboard.

    Those bus errors must have been going on for a long time, causing all sorts of erratic behavior, and I never knew what was happening because the error was only reported in the terminal window after issuing a number of text commands. So now I’m thinking: how can we make Linux better? If the kernel knows when bus errors occur, there should be a way for it to pass that information to the GUI, so the GUI can notify the user that the hardware is failing. Then the user will not suspect that something is wrong with the software. I have to admit that Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular is fairly impressive, from the standpoint that it kept running long enough for me to do a number of things before shutting down, despite the bus errors and core dump. But it would be even more impressive if the OS could tell the user when they have bad hardware. So I just wanted to put this out there for people to think about.

    It’s obvious that Ubuntu’s developers want to rule out problems which aren’t their fault. You can easily check the installer CD for defects, and test for bad memory too. But there is no easy way to learn about other hardware failures even though the kernel knows when they occur. I had run a memory diagnostic all day on that board and the RAM was fine. But after I learned about the bad capacitor epidemic, and that my own system board was a casualty of this, it occurred to me that millions of people might be suffering from system instability problems caused by faulty hardware. Now that I have seen how the Linux kernel can detect bus errors and keep on running long enough to report them, I know this is a problem which can be resolved. I hope the Linux community will start discussing this and soon hardware fault reporting will be a common feature of the popular desktop user interfaces, not just the kernel.

    I suppose that any hardware subsystem which is failing might generate a bus error because it won’t respond to data transfer requests in a timely fashion. A bus error might even be caused by a cable fault. And then there could be noise on the bus or poor signaling due to faulty capacitors. If you really need the board because of the interfacing options that it supports, you might want to find out what’s wrong and repair it. In that case, it would be nice to classify the exact nature of the error. But the present ambiguity does not have to be a disadvantage: the typical user just wants to know the board is bad, and that is what developers should address first.

    Even if hardware fault detection and reporting never progresses beyond the point of saying “bus error,” I think the GUI should play some role in conveying this information to the user. You could also have an LED indicator on the front panel, similar to the “check engine” light on your car. If the OS detects bus errors, it could set a flag in CMOS/NVRAM, the same way it updates the clock. The firmware could read this register at boot time, and turn on the light if necessary. You could reset this flag if you wanted, and then wait to see how long it took before the light turned on again. That might tell you if the error was caused by some kind of rare power anomaly, or if the board is really defective.

    If you are logging power faults through the sensors on the UPS, then the OS might be able to guess whether or not the bus error was due to a hardware failure. That kind of information would be very useful, not just to the end user, but also to the IT guy who has to manage a rack of servers and keep them running continuously. I think everyone would agree that the less time you spend troubleshooting defective equipment, the better. It’s well within our capability to do something about this, and it does not necessarily have to involve a radical change in hardware or software design.