When we set up Project Ayatana to improve the usability of the whole desktop, we called it Ayatana because we were focused on the “sphere of consciousness”, one’s awareness of what’s going on outside of the current application. There are two key aspects to the work:

  1. Notifications are “awareness distilled” in the sense that you cannot interact with them at all.  We designed them as ephemeral “click-transparent” messages, implemented in Notify-OSD. Their sole purpose is to notify you of transient events.
  2. Indicator Menus combine persistent awareness of a state with a set of options for modifying that state.

In this blog I’ll outline the arc of our work on indicator menus to date, and the trajectory we expect it to follow. We’re about a year into the effort, all told, and I think it will take another 18 months before we can consider it baked. It should be done by 12.04 LTS. This is an iterative process, and things are in flux right now. I hope, when we are happy that we can commit to ABI stability, that Gnome and KDE will adopt the work too. For the moment, the rapid pace of evolution has meant that we’re depending on fantastic upstreams to keep up with us as things move.

Goals of the Ayatana Indicators

The indicators are designed to create a persistent awareness of state, or an awareness of a persistent state. They complement notifications: they are persistent, when notifications are ephemeral. You might miss a notification, but you should always be able to check your indicators. You can interact with indicators, using their menus, in contrast with the un-clickable notifications.

We value:

  • Support for both GNOME and KDE. Both desktop environments are important in Ubuntu. We encourage the teams to reflect a pure vision of each, but it’s also the case that users will want to run a GNOME application on Kubuntu occasionally, or vice versa. So we have to make sure the work is considered from the perspectives of developers on either side, and we have to provide APIs and libraries that work in both environments.
  • Accessibility. Indicators are critical elements of awareness. Whether you are connected, what the time is, whether you are online, whether your battery will last long enough for you to finish your work, whether you have messages… these are all vital to a complete computing experience. We have to make sure that visual and other disabilities can be addressed.
  • Familiarity and Innovation. As always, these are in tension with one another. Innovation helps us put free software at the front of the curve, but it creates the risk of breaking people’s habits and expectations.
  • Consistency and Usability. We want the end result to be more usable in the whole, and we are willing to lose individual nuggets if that helps make the whole more valuable.
  • Streamlining. There are too many indicators, that aren’t clear enough about their intent. There are also many indicators from different applications which do roughly the same thing, but in slightly different ways. The value of all the indicators is enhanced if there are fewer of them, and they are more obvious to discover and use.

Some firm decisions

Those values lead us to some anchor decisions:

  1. D-Bus for communications. A messaging approach makes it straightforward to adopt consistent patterns across different desktop environments. We will provide wrapper libraries for both Gtk and Qt applications to access the indicator capabilities. A Qt application running on Ubuntu should “feel native” when it’s using indicators correctly. And vice-versa. The messaging approach also lets us handle accessibility in a better way: we don’t have to accommodate every possible disability visually, because we can have agents that interpret the indicator messages and handle it in ways that are appropriate for a particular disability.
  2. Opinionated placement. We will place all indicators at the top right of the screen on GNOME. We’ll place them in a particular order, too, with the “most fundamental” indicator, which controls the overall session, in the top right. The order will not be random, but predictable between sessions and screen sizes. There will be no GUI support for users to reorder the indicators.
  3. Constrained behaviour. All the indicators will take the form of an indicator (icon or text), and a menu. Clicking on an indicator will open its menu. Keyboard navigation will always work, and left and right arrows will translate either into submenu navigation or flipping from indicator to indicator. The whole set of indicators on the panel will be navigable as a single menu, in essence. We won’t support “right click” on indicators differently from “left click”, and there’ll be no ability for arbitrary applications to define arbitrary behaviours to arbitrary events on indicators.
  4. Symbolic visuals. We want to pare back the visual representation of status presented by the icons. We don’t believe that visual accessibility for the disabled need drive the design of the standard icon set, as there will be both alternative icons, renderings, and entirely different options such as speech or custom devices to handle those. Colors on the indicators should have semantic purpose and be used mainly for alerts and awareness, while the shape of the icon should define its purpose.

The first part of our work was pure housekeeping. The panel in Ubuntu is very generic, it lets you put all sorts of different gadgets in all sorts of different places, and those gadgets can behave in all sorts of different ways. The result has been to stimulate innovation, but it has also made the panel very inconsistent and ultimately less useful.

We reviewed the way Ubuntu-specific applications were using the panel, and set out to clean them up. Update-manager lost its persistent notification in favour of the more direct popup window. Others will follow.

We decided to introduce a new gadget on the panel which would be a container for all the indicators which follow our new Ubuntu Ayatana pattern. And we started work on a set of indicators that would fit inside that container. Thus far, we’ve done the session, “me”, and sound indicators.

We also created a framework for applications which want to display their own indicator. That’s the AppIndicators work, which has been fantastically lead in 10.04 LTS by Jorge Castro, coordinating with many upstreams to ensure that their applications feel tightly integrated into the panel.

The icon visual design turned into a conversation about “-symbolic” icons at UDS in Dallas, and is now being realised in the ubuntu-mono icon theme in 10.04 LTS. There is work under way to make symbolic icons a more formal and rigorous construct that can be themed, and we’ll participate in that effort or offer an alternative implementation.

9 parts perspiration, 1 part innovation

The detailed design of a large set of systemic indicators, together with the work to make them all look, feel and behave in a consistent fashion, has been substantial effort involving MPT, Ted Gould, Cody Russell and many others. There’s still a lot of work to do. Conor Curran and Kalle Valo joined the team in this latest cycle. There is a great deal that remains to be done.

We also aspire to introduce some new and innovative concepts.

Category Indicators

In order to reduce the number of indicators and improve the persistence and usefulness of the indicators that remain, we’ve introduced the idea of “category indicators”. These are indicators into which multiple, similar applications can embed themselves. Instead of having a different indicator each application, we have one indicator for the whole category.

The messaging indicator, which aggregates awareness about many different types of messages from real people, is an example. Instead of having three different icons for email, IM and Identi.ca or Twitter, Ubuntu has just one messaging indicator, which can make you aware of important messages in any of those applications.

The three default applications for those lines of communication all share the same indicator. They are part of the same category. There are custom API’s for messaging applications which let them:

  1. Insert entries in the messaging menu which are displayed even when the application is not running. Useful for helping people go straight to the activity. Instead of having to check if the email client is running, then switching to it or launching it, then going to the message composition window, I should *always* be able to compose a new message with just two clicks, regardless of whether or not the mail client is running initially.
  2. Add custom menu entries to the messaging menu that are relevant to them. Each applications gets a “section” in the category indicator menu, and they can add custom menu entries to their section.
  3. Register themselves as applications that should be shown in the messaging menu, or remove themselves from that menu. The default applications will show up there unless they are uninstalled or expressly configured not to use the messaging menu. Other applications will put themselves there by default when they are run by that user, who can also configure them not to display there.
  4. Show whether they are running, a state which is indicated with a small “play” style triangle next to the application icon in the menu.

There are also some behaviours which are collective across all the applications in the category. For example, any of the applications can set the messaging indicator to an alert state, signalling that it’s worth clicking on.

Each category indicator supports a unique API that’s relevant for that category. There are some common features, for example the ability of applications to register and de-register for the indicators and the ability to add menu entries, but the details might vary substantially from one category to another.

The underlying goal is to make it clearer to users “what all of those icons are about”. There are fewer of them, and the ones that are there are more persistent – they are always there, and they always do the same sort of thing. “You’ve got a message” is useful no matter which channel the message came through. The net result is that the whole set of indicators feels tighter and better defined.

The session indicator, which displays the shutdown / restart menu, has a similar capability that replaced the “restart required” panel icon in 10.04 LTS. Since the session menu already contains the “restart” menu option, the session menu will now be set into an alert state when you need to restart. The “Restart…” menu option is changed to “Restart Required…” (though I would now prefer something like “Restart, completing updates…”).

The battery indicator shows the status of all of your batteries, from laptop to UPS to mouse and wireless keyboard. Other applications and devices which have battery information should be able to insert themselves there appropriately.

Similarly, all the calendar and alarm applications might fit into the Clock Indicator. And perhaps all the applications which have downloads might use a single category for that – there’s some discussion along those lines on the Ayatana list at the moment.

Timelines and iterations

The basic “add an indicator with a menu” capability is there now, and was used for Application Indicators in 10.04 LTS.

What complicates the picture from a delivery perspective is our evolving understanding of how best to organise the category indicators. For example, at the moment we are aggregating received messages in the messaging indicator, but the send or broadcast elements of those same communications channels are accessed through the Me menu, where we track presence. That has been controversial – sensible folks think we should perhaps restructure that to bring the elements together.

Each arrangement of category indicators involves shaping the API’s in new ways, because the categories are fundamentally different from one another, and we want to design custom indicators for each category. Not only are the individual category indicator designs changing, but the arrangement of categories themselves is subject to active debate and experimentation, which is important to getting a crisp final result.

We can’t be certain that the current configuration is the best one, and want the flexibility to continue to evolve and reshape the APIs accordingly. We expect it will take at least three iterations of Ubuntu to be certain, and that we can commit to ABI stability for 12.04 LTS onwards.

61 Responses to “Ubuntu’s Indicator Menus – Ayatana bearing fruit”

  1. Michael Says:

    Hey Mark, Indicator stuff that happened in the past month since last release are really great.

    For Lucid, there is just one tray that really needs to get replaced by an indicator: network-manager. Oh and I’m really Missing the Brightness Setting in the Monitor Indicator (when using my Laptop in Tablet mode – there is no hardware button to change brightness)

    Just my 2 cents :)

  2. Anzan Says:

    Please do keep icons as simple as is possible. I rarely use them and when I do I have to spend time figuring out what they are intended to represent.

    Good work on the notifications. They seem to run fine in Fluxbox.

  3. Jeremy Bicha Says:

    Mark, can I assume that in “Opinionated placement. We will place all indicators at the top right of the screen.” you are thinking about GNOME? Because top right isn’t really a place for indicators in any KDE distro I’ve seen yet.

    Mark Shuttleworth: Ah, yes, good catch! I’ll update the blog.

  4. fmarcia Says:


    There are some strangeness in the current indicators implementation (at least for me):
    1. why the wifi indicator is not part of system indicators? Is it a matter of time or a design choice?
    2. I don’t use neither ubuntu one nor gwibber but they must be installed if I want to use indicator-me. Why aren’t they pluggable? Again, time or design choice?
    3. “you’ve got a message” is less bright (green) than “you haven’t any message” (white). Why colors of the white one are not inverted (transparent would become white and vice versa) to resolve it?

    Mark Shuttleworth: The wifi indicator, NetworkManager, was too complex to convert to an AppIndicator in 10.04 LTS. Neither Gwibber nor U1 should be requirements to have the messaging menu – any dependency there is a bug and a fix would be welcome. On the choice of colours, we use the monochrome white styling to define the “default” shape and style of the indicator, and colours to indicate alerts or non-default statuses.

  5. Hmm Says:

    “Instead of having three different icons for email, IM and Identi.ca or Twitter, Ubuntu has just one messaging indicator, which can make you aware of important messages in any of those applications.”

    In the same category? I guess, but they don’t all have the same urgency.

  6. federico totaro Says:

    @ Anzan: you should see how really good they works in the gnome shell environment

  7. Robin Becker Says:

    I always try to keep the desktop as clear as possible. For me it is far better to keep all the state-full stuff wel out of sight on the panel which I then make auto-hide. This fascist approach to the desk top seems counter to the implied spirit of linux. I’ve already noticed that combining all the state-full indicators into combined indicator blocks makes them much less configurable and this appears to be a continuation of that.

  8. Sandra Says:

    Awesome! Keep up the good work!

  9. Mel Says:

    I was wondering, are you going to re-write Gnome Shell’s panel? Because your description is totally different from the actual Shell panel.

  10. Hasan Says:

    Hi, Thank you for the post. The indicators looks great. A suggestion, could indicators be linked to lower level error messages (such as a kernel panic) so that they show up as an error notifications in an easy to read way. This would help users diagnose or report the error since most end users don’t know about /var/log/syslog type files.

    A little off topic, but it would be good to have the current java runtime, jre, installed in the OS by default. It’s easy to install myself but it’s a very popular execution env and may deserve to be present when OS is first booted up. Since end users download java applications and expect to run them easily.

  11. Adam Collard Says:

    The play icon to indicate an app is running has caught me out a couple of times – I keep thinking it’s a rolled up sub-menu for that app. Didn’t realise until I read it here that it’s an indication of running app – has that been finalised or is the icon still up for grabs?

  12. Hasan Says:

    I should add that apport does show a kernel problem but it’s not as nice as a notification and it doesn’t really identify what I did that caused the problem or why it happened.

  13. SilverWave Says:

    1. Notifications are “awareness distilled” in the sense that you cannot interact with them at all.

    Maybe I will get used to this but it still seems Alien.

    I have retained myself to use the Windows Controls on the Left OK, but the Notifications bug me.

    I mainly find I want to read the text under it, cant dismiss it and have to scroll :-(

    I see that this goes against the “cannot interact with” idea, but I should be able to dismiss it.

    OK as a suggestion how about, I can click on Firefox to bring it above the Notification?

    That is, Notifications are popped on top as now, but if I choose to click on an application or window, it is brought forward above the Notification.

  14. Børge A. Roum Says:

    I hope all BitTorrent clients, P2P apps, and just plain downloading apps can go together in a common downloads menu.

    But what about Windows apps running in Wine? Some of them actually minimizes to the notification area when you click on the x, and you have to rigth click the notification area icon to close it (like Spotify). I’m also concerned about apps that you want to have running in the background, but not minimized so it shows up in the Alt+Tab all the time, especially Wine apps.

  15. Benizl Says:

    “Update-manager lost its persistent notification in favour of the more direct popup window. Others will follow.”

    Really? Please no, at least keep the persistent notification too. I mean a pop-up is all well and good if it actually catches your attention but if like me you use a large number of workspaces then the pop-up may get buried under windows without you ever seeing it. In this way I’ve had critical updates delayed days where a persistent notification would have got my attention in minutes.

    And how would pop-ups integrate with the Gnome Shell?

  16. James Says:

    I like the grouping of messages, battery state, and possible future grouping with the clock…
    I was wondering if there has been any thought given to other programs that traditionally use the status area for indication that they’re running in the background without much interactivity, almost like a daemon / service monitor, examples would be “FireStarter, Dropbox, easystroke”. Another one would be for consolidating status icons that are used for quick interaction on a click, like the clipboard manager “Parcellite”, and the volume control.

    Thanks, I mostly like the direction things are going with Ubuntu :)

  17. Brian Says:

    I would like to ask, based on differences between roadmaps for Ubuntu and the Gnome desktop (in the notification/indication system you have outlined, along with window button placement vice “Activity” button in Gnome-shell), is Ubuntu going to continue to rely on the Gnome desktop in the future? I ask, because it feels like the Ubuntu desktop is diverging in a number of ways from the larger upstream Gnome desktop. Also, will Ubuntu come out with a tablet edition? In any event, best of luck!

  18. Sarah Sharp Says:

    I like the idea about making the Indicator Menu navigation consistent. I can never remember whether I need to right click or left click NetworkManager to change connections.

    “Update-manager lost its persistent notification in favour of the more direct popup window.”

    I would like some clarification as to what you’re doing with Update Manager. I update maybe once a month, and I find it distracting to close the pop-up window every single time I boot. The pop-up window grabs my attention and sometimes makes me lose my train of thought as to why I booted my computer. In Lucid, I reverted the behavior back to the tray icon by running gconfig editor.

    You seem to be saying that future Ubuntu editions will force Update Manager to start in a pop-up window at boot if there are updates; is that correct? Can it be an option to turn Update Manager into an indicator instead? Or only pop up the window if there are security updates?

    “There will be no GUI support for users to reorder the indicators.”

    Will users be able to hide indicators? Maybe I’m coding in deep hack mode and I don’t want my attention to waver. Or maybe I’m a college student working on a final paper, and I’m ignoring my twitter/facebook/emails to get it done. In either situation, I will notice the messaging indicator change color, so I would want to hide that indicator or move it to a less prominent place to make it stop distracting me.

    Basically these comments boil down to: Please allow some flexibility for users to decide what notifications they want to be interrupted by.

  19. aknom Says:

    “Shuttleworth blogs about indicator menus: http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/347 … and makes it sound like it’s their innovation.” – aseigo on Status.net ( http://identi.ca/conversation/29388169#notice-29455551 ).

  20. arthur Says:

    all i can say is, ballsy. i may not agree with all of your design decisions but i support your right to make them. the free desktop deserves consistent ui conditions and refinements that make sense and 10.04 is definitely a step in the right direction.

    we need someone with balls; thank you for all your hard work

  21. Michael Wayne Goodman Says:

    All good stuff, but I wonder about the role of, say, the messaging indicator with non-Evolution email apps. Assuming we’ll see some kind of integration with other apps, what would it mean when one clicks “compose email” if they use web-based mail, or a console app like (al)pine? Would we launch a browser or a terminal and get to the appropriate composition page?

    Also, it’s not immediately clear how the messaging indicator is different from the me-menu. They both have something to do with chat and broadcast accounts, though the latter also links to profile editing and Ubuntu One accounts, but doesn’t do email or contacts. Whereas the other indicators have a clear and distinct purpose, there seems to be overlap with these two.

    Anyway, I’m really liking most of the changes to the indicators. Good work!

  22. derek Says:

    Hey, wonderfull news! But, for my opinion, currrent indicator applet isn’t so usefull. When there was tray icons, you can click left mouse button to show application and right mb to show menu, now we have only left button, showing menu and its discomfortable.

  23. Ankit Tulsyan Says:

    Ubuntu just gets better and better!!

    Looking forward for the change :)

  24. Denis Says:

    I really can’t see what “consistency” you are talking about when describing indicators. The consistent behaviour for notification area items is: left click to hide/open, right click to open context menu. All my apps user the n.area works in this way. But today, with indicators, there’s absolutely no consistency with open/hide task: there’s no common place for “show app” point. For several tasks like nautilus file copying indicator approach is pointless overhead.

  25. Open Source Pixels » Shuttleworth: Ubuntu’s Indicator Menus Says:

    […] in where Ubuntu plans to go with its user interface innovations: Mark Shuttleworth has posted a writeup on indicator menus, which will provide persistent state information to users. “We will place all indicators at […]

  26. Kurt Smolderen Says:


    Some of the advertised decisions sound very promising, however others are not IMHO… I just hope Ubuntu will allow users to still have a choice on how to configure their desktop and interact with it. I’m just concerned to much ‘decisions’ will eventually lead to an Apple-like philosophy where the user has to change its way of working to be compatible with what Apple decided, instead of the user having the opportunity to alter the behaviour of its OS to fit his/ her needs. Ubuntu has always supported the idea of ‘freedom’ as in having choices. I really hope end-users will still have some kind of flexibility when using Ayatana…

  27. Andrew Smith Says:

    I really like the clean, simple approach of the status indicators and the direction here sounds good. However, similar to Mel’s question above, how does this fit with the emergence of Gnome Shell? There certainly seems to be an opportunity to work together here to produce something wonderful.

  28. João Patrício Says:

    XFCE is “always” forgotten. xubuntu really is the poor brother. I think that the similitude to gnome doesn’t help, but I still think that with more investment it will be far better, easier, faster and customized to a distro like ubuntu. Especially in the netbook market where the speed and functionality is a Plus. That’s why I think a project like this shouldn’t forgot the potentiality of this WM, and now that ubuntu has a netbook remix for gnome and kde, xfce should venture in this way.

    sorry for my clumsy English.

    Best Regards.

  29. Andy Says:

    I’m liking the direction things are going, keep it up.

    One thing which do find is a bit of a regression is the loss of the scroll-wheel behaviour over the volume indicator. I know that keeping everything simple is a priority, but this is one of those things which seems like adding it can only increase usability. It doesn’t cost any screen estate, and doesn’t need anything to advertise its presence (since no functionality is lost if it isn’t discovered).

    Maybe it is worth thinking about for a future version.

  30. Madman Says:

    This sounds an awful lot like what the KDE team have been complaining about. They’ve been shifting stuff from the tray to the panel too, via Plasmoids: Battery, External Media Management and Networking are the first few.

  31. » Mark Shuttleworth pone le basi per un rinnovato sistema di notifiche Says:

    […] sia giunto soltanto alla seconda beta per Mark Shuttleworth è già tempo di guardare oltre e in un intervento piuttosto dettagliato parla di Ayana Indicators — questo il nome in codice del progetto: l’aspetto più […]

  32. T. J. Brumfield Says:

    I haven’t been an Ubuntu fan over the years, largely because I prefer KDE, but I recognize that Ubuntu is increasing visibility for Linux. What you’re doing is very important for Linux on the whole. That being said what I really want to see are the following things:

    * Sound on Linux needs to be simplified and improved.
    * Migration tools from Windows need to be improved. I’m glad you offer a migration tool, but it still falls a little short. We need to migrate mail accounts for one.
    * Firefox grew initially with a community portal called GetFirefox.com with viral, community marketing. Would Ubuntu be willing to partner with other major distros like Fedora, openSUSE, etc. on a GetLinux.com community-powered marketing hub?
    * Ubuntu and Fedora both seem to live on the bleeding edge with packages. Ubuntu has massive repositories. You might note when when Slashdot had their “Ask Matt Asay” story, the reoccuring question that everyone asked is what can Ubuntu do to improve the quality/stability of their packages? You seem to be lacking enough QA and package maintainers. openSUSE has their build service. I’d love to see Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu partner on a build infrastructure where you can build and test packages. Reduce workload so everyone can focus on better quality testing.

  33. Brian Says:

    Will we finally be able to close notification windows? For now we have to cope with the black spot on the screen for like 6 seconds or keep our mouse over it – both of which are lame experience.

  34. Earl Says:

    I like the path you’re heading in and that you try to improve things for users. I also like I still have the ability to change what I don’t like. I do miss human in 10.04 but apparently I’m the only one.


  35. Christopher Smith Says:

    Just to be clear: no GUI support for changing order, but you could change it with something like gconf, right? That strategy makes a lot of sense to me.

  36. Mark Shuttleworth pone le basi per un rinnovato sistema di notifiche | Giovanni Raco Says:

    […] sia giunto soltanto alla seconda beta per Mark Shuttleworth è già tempo di guardare oltre e in un intervento piuttosto dettagliato parla di Ayana Indicators — questo il nome in codice del progetto: l’aspetto più […]

  37. Richard Says:

    Are you doing usability testing with real users? If not, there’s a big risk this will introduce usability problems – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usability_testing

  38. Canonicals Pläne für Indikatoren « Ximion's Blog Says:

    […] Quelle: Mark Shuttleworths Blog […]

  39. Matthias Says:

    Hi Mark, I really like the direction Ubuntu is heading. If 9.10 was the worst release ever (IMHO), 10.04 must be the best release ever. I’ve been using it on my netbook for a while and it doesn’t stop to impress me. Most of 9.10’s nasty bugs (especially in networking) have been fixed by upstream and Ubuntu devs. And additionally we get all these great changes.

    The concept of indicators always sounded intersting to me, but I knew I wouldn’t use/need them. After a couple of weeks with 10.04 I have to say the opposite is true. The complete integration of everything (mail, IM, broadcast, calendar) is godsent and looks beautiful. Refreshing the CI was a good decision, too, btw! Good design and a professional looking CI _do_ matter. When I showed off Ubuntu I usually changed the UI to make it presentable. Not necessary anymore 😉

    Wishlist: more gdm2 configuration (e.g. hide users from list)

  40. jospoortvliet Says:

    These things sounds like they make sense. I like how you don’t have to have apps running to see new mail or IM etc, sounds like a job for Telepathy and Akonadi. Why don’t you guys make a quick proof of concept in Plasma first, before building the whole thing into the Gnome Panel? I’m pretty sure that would be doable much faster with all the libs and pieces of functionality at your disposal…

  41. Chauncellor Says:

    Something that bothers me about the Indicator Applets is the inconsistency of managing your window. The X button on Firefox closes the program, but the X button on Rhythmbox merely minimizes it to the applet. I remember Martin Pitt saying “we’re closers, not quitters”:


    Now we are a rather confusing hybrid of both. Maybe this new space that you have unveiled on the right side of the titlebars of windows can effectively harness this behavior?

  42. Chauncellor Says:

    Apologies, it was Matthew Paul Thomas, not Martin Pitt. My mistake.

  43. cement_head Says:


    Well, sounds like a good direction to go in – but I do miss the interactive ability in the 10.04 LTS Rhythymbox applet – I’d like to see that restored, or at least integrated into a universal media applet/icon.

    – CH

  44. Just another ubuntu user Says:

    Simplicity and freedom


    First of all I want to thank all the people who has contributed to the ubuntu os. Ubuntu made it fun using a computer and brought a lot of joy into my life.

    Nowadays people are debating whether windows buttons should be on the left or right. It’s no big deal. It’s so easy to reconfigure. That’s what ubuntu is all about. Making it yours. Ubuntu is not an iJail product, thanks God.

    Indicator applets/menus are making me worried. Notification area is working great. It’s easy to disable those icons that you don’t want there. Why add complexity? Don’t fix that which ain’t broke.
    I am also worried about the integrity of the Gnome and Kde desktop.

    Being “generic” is not sexy, but ultimately that is what will serve end-users and customers best. That’s ubuntu.

  45. factotum218 Says:

    Great, another chance at “innovation” completely screwing up what could be a stable and productive distribution. And I thought Fedora was reckless…wow.

    In truth, I’m interested in seeing how this all pans out through a Live CD. But I just can’t find myself trusting Ubuntu as a stable desktop environment any more. Best of luck!

    Mark Shuttleworth: Well, 9.10 will be maintained until April 2011, so if that’s stable and productive for you, then stick with it and see how this all works out on the side. I appreciate that not everyone will want to dip their toe in the water this early, but the desktop isn’t perfect, and if we don’t innovate, we are either static or just copying others.

  46. Alexander Khodyrev Says:

    The problem with the messaging indicator is that it reacts to messages with different levels of urgency similarly. New items in a feed reader are something I don’t care much about (why would anyone have a feed reader running constantly anyway?); email I care about, but it’s not nearly as urgent as IM or especially VoIP. Notifications about these things should be different.

    I also think this system misses one important use of the notification area — pending actions; an application might not need a persistent display of state, yet ephemeral notifications are not enough; you solve this for messaging applications buy devising a separate system, but those are not the only use case. How does an application tell the user that some action is required without permanently cluttering the screen?

  47. Raji Says:


    Good to see someone finally managing the Linux desktop. I’m a computer science student and have been using Linux for 10+ years. The worst desktop issues I’ve seen are Gnome reversing OK and CANCEL buttons back and forth, with confusing dialog boxes. These user interface design issues are basic stuff the Gnome people don’t understand. Of course, the release of KDE 4.0.0 goes down in history as a major “no testing done” error. But with Ubuntu solving these problems, I won’t be buying another Microsoft product ever again.

  48. Jo-Erlend Schinstad Says:

    You say there will be no GUI to rearrange the indicators, but will we still be able to add other applets to our applets, or will they be locked down like they are in Ubuntu Netbook? I like having the indicators gathered in a container applet which doesn’t allow rearranging its interior, but being able to add other applets or moving the indicators is important, imho. To me, it’s very important to track my time using the panel, but that won’t be interesting to everyone.

    I really appreciate this blog post. In the future, I hope you’ll write posts like this a little earlier before a release. Thanks!

  49. Seamless I. Says:

    I’m curious, is this a call for collaboration and/or discussion, or an announcement? Because if the Father of Ubuntu and the Community continue to clash (nay, fight rancorously) it will harm this OS. Well damn that because I’m only beginning to like it. This 10.04 thing seems to be shaping up well (obviously no memory leaks chez moi). I’m considering using it when the final version comes out. I like it, and it’s improved, and did I say I like it? and I’m not ashamed to admit it :) In fact thank you Lord for proving me wrong when I thought and said Ubuntu would never be completely usable.

    Anyway about this “design” stuff. How about some mockups. This ain’t the radio. Drawing it would mean much less writing and also letting the dim-witted among us, such as myself, feel less of pesky pygmies. It just goes over my head this way, see. And I must say something about what’s been done for this 10.04 “design”-wise. When you come up with great ideas and you end up with half-baked results, it’s not good design, it’s half-assed effort. Look for example at this Banshee thing and how it sits fat and ugly there and ruins everything: http://img269.imageshack.us/img269/1201/screenshotlgq.png

    And more, it’s kinda inconsistent. If systray is neat (other than that banshee..), why is the show desktop icon blazing purple? And Gnome dropdown menu icons? Standardize, for godsakes. And that goes for localizations too. I have to run the English version, and I don’t like having to do that one bit, but the one in my own language is so bloody awful. I don’t know about the remaining 187 or so lingos listed, but I have my suspicions :) If you don’t have a complete, proofread translation, do not include that language in the list at all.

    Anyway best of luck.

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  51. Raji Says:

    Good to see someone finally managing the Linux desktop. I’m a computer science student and have been using Linux for 10+ years. The worst desktop issues I’ve seen are Gnome reversing OK and CANCEL buttons back and forth, with confusing dialog boxes. These user interface design issues are basic stuff the Gnome people don’t understand. Of course, the release of KDE 4.0.0 goes down in history as a major “no testing done” error. But with Ubuntu solving these problems, I won’t be buying another Microsoft product ever again.

  52. neilpassage Says:

    I’ve been using 10.04 for a few days now and just love the ‘buttons’ on the left.’

    It makes so much sense.

    I’m usually on the left side of the screen anyway.

    Fantastic job, please keep it up.

  53. brian Says:

    At first I hated the indicator applet, and had disabled it in 9.10. In 10.04 I have turned it back on, and now have come to the following realization:

    The indicator applet is fine, the messaging indicator is awful.

    The way that indicators work is, in general, pretty good. It does solve some (small) problems that existed with panel applets: consistent clicking, computed placement, etc. But the messaging indicator? I don’t use a thick mail client anymore; when I did use Evolution, I found the messaging indicator a major step back from the old notification icon, which put an envelope in my notification area when I had mail. Now, there’s an icon there all of the time, notification or not, and it has a very subtle change of color when there’s mail.

    Like others have said, I don’t like having my IM and email notifications conflated, and again that indicator was far less useful than the real notification icon I’m still using. Maybe it works well for gwibber notifications, but it’s hard to tell because gwibber is constantly crashing.

    So, I’m left with a mail icon on my panel that I don’t use. It does, quite literally, nothing. I take that back; it prevents me from using a real mail notifier, because the messaging indicator is there making it far too confusing to tell at a glance if I have new mail or not. The messaging indicator can’t be removed without losing all of the other indicators. But there it is, taking up screen real estate and being ever-so slightly worse than useless.

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  61. LS Says:

    There are occasional problems with indicators not loading properly or doubling themselves.
    For instance if i eliminate the login screen (auto-login) then the network indicator will sometimes show up with only half of the icon. These inconsistencies reflect poorly on Ubuntu I believe. Hope they get solved ASAP.