In the netbook edition for 10.10, we’re going to have a single menu bar for all applications, in the panel.

Our focus on netbooks has driven much of the desktop design work at Canonical. There are a number of constraints and challenges that are particular to netbooks, and often constraints can be a source of insight and inspiration. In this case, wanting to make the most of vertical space has driven the decision to embrace the single menu approach.

It’s all about vertical pixels

Netbooks are conventionally small-and-wide-screen devices. A common screen format is 1024×600. There’s plenty of horizontal space, but not a lot of vertical space. So we’ve been lead to explore options that really make the most of the vertical space.

This is important because the main thing people do with a netbook is surf the web. And most pages will fit horizontally in a netbook screen, but they require quite a lot of vertical scrolling. The more we can optimise the use of vertical space, the more enjoyable it will be to spend time on the web, with your netbook.

In the first few iterations of Ubuntu’s netbook-oriented UI, we concentrated on collapsing the window title into the top panel. In 10.10, we’re going to put the menu there.

Only on the Netbook Edition UI

We’re going to put the menu in the panel on the netbook edition of Ubuntu, and not on the desktop edition, because that’s where the screen real-estate is most precious. There are outstanding questions about the usability of a panel-hosted menu on much larger screens, where the window and the menu could be very far apart. Those questions are greatly diminished in the netbook environment, by definition.

Also, the netbook edition has a reduced application load. That will reduce the number of applications we need to get this working on.

However, it will be straightforward to use this on your desktop too, if you want, and we’d encourage people to try with that configuration. The more testing we have early on, the better we’ll understand how it works with different applications. It will be easy to add to the standard desktop panel for people who want to try it out, or prefer to work that way.

Innovation: combining title and menu in a single panel

It’s not confirmed yet, but we will aim to go beyond what Apple and others have done with panel menus, to consolidate both the window title (and window controls) into the panel along with the menu.

By default, we’d display the contents of the title bar. When you mouse up to the panel, or when you press the Alt key, the contents would switch to the menu. That way, you’re looking at the document title most of the time, unless you move towards it to click on the menu.

In mockups and prototype testing, the result was a leaner, cleaner feeling netbook interface. Less clutter, less wasted space, and improved clarity of purpose. We’ll have to get running code in front of users to evaluate the usability of it and tweak transitions and presentation.

Generally, people use netbooks with a small set of applications running, all maximised. In that case, putting the menu in the panel will save 24 pixels, about 4% of the vertical space. Combined with other work on the netbook interface, we’re confident there is no better OS for surfing the net on your ultra-mobile netbook.

Under the hood: d-bus menu transport

The technical approach we are taking in this work is to build on the d-bus menu work that Cody Russel and Ted Gould have pioneered for our work on indicators.

Essentially, this lets us map a menu into d-bus space, where a different application can take responsibility for rendering it. The technology works across both Gtk and Qt applications, so we are confident that it will work for the common cases of GNOME and KDE apps running on the Ubuntu netbook edition.

Of course, there is a lot of work to be done to support applications that use different toolkits, notably the Mozilla suite of Firefox and Thunderbird, and OpenOffice.

And there will be many applications which need some thought as to how best to map the experience from the current world of “one menu per window” to a single, panel-displayed menu.

We’ve started working on this with the existing Global Menu project. While there are differences in the technical approach we want to take, that team has already identified many of the common issues, and there are great opportunities for us to collaborate. I’m looking forward to seeing the result in action in 10.10!

134 Responses to “A global menu for Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition”

  1. Ubuntu 10.04 Releases! Ubuntu 10.10 to get a “Global Menu”, free Blu Ray encoder, ATI drivers for Linux! Says:

    […] new in Ubuntu 10.04? A global menu for Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition Announcing the first free software Blu-ray encoder Sony Sued For Removal Of Linux Support From PS3 […]

  2. hasan adil Says:

    The upcoming HP slate is based on x86 architecture. It should be entirely possible to run Ubuntu Netbook on it without much change to codebase. The major work would be to map signals that original by human touch from hardware layer and treat them as incoming mouse signals. The icons are nice and big in it and will map to touch usability very nicely.

  3. Top 60 Ghetto Black Names | beijing shopping Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » A global menu for Ubuntu 10.10 … […]

  4. Luis Miguel Davim Says:

    I’ve been using the global menu for along time, I hope Ubuntu can fix the issues with multiple monitors and different toolkits (QT, Mozilla,OpenOffice,…)

  5. John Bill Says:

    I installed Ubuntu 10.04 and it has mouse/keyboard conflicts, even since the LiveCD, I thought installing it would have solved those conflicts, that was not the case. Repeated letters like ccccccccccccccccc etcetera, blinking menu items lines, other conflicts that make it completely UNUSABLE!
    Ubuntu 10.04 is only for newer pc’s, I think…
    Ubuntu 9.10 worked flawlessly on my same pc.
    I’ll go back to version 9.10 as soon as possible.
    I think there’s no solution, who knows.

  6. kikl Says:

    Well, I think it does make sense on a tablet or netbook given the restrictes space. But please do not implement it on the regular ubuntu. Please do a better job than Apple.

    Now I am a very casual OS X user because I do not have a Macbook, but I do have a friend who is stubbornly trying to convince me that MAC OS X is the only way to go. So he gave me his MACPro to try it out and thought I would immediately fall in love with it. Hmmmm…

    It didn’t happen precisely because of the MAC PANEL IS BOTH PART OF THE OPERATING SYSTEM OS AND THE APPLICATION GUI. This is really confusing and a very bad decision unless you have a compelling reason for mingling the OS with a particular application. Now the restricted space of a netbook is a compelling argument, but please be really really careful. I hated the initial experience until my friend pointed out the reason for my frustration!

    This is what happened to me: I never Knew what the panel icons really stood for. This is particularly confusing if you are running multiple applications at the same time (multitasking). I do believe that this is going to be common, since empathy, gwibber, skype and evolution should be running in the background on a netbook due to the great ubuntu implementation of these applications.

    Please make sure that the user has a clear and unambiguous indication of which application is really “active” in the panel. Do not merely mimic the poor apple implementation of this feature.

    I know: long time apple users probably think I am crazy or stupid, but I am not. Getting used to this is clearly non-obvious. This is a blatant usability bug in MAC OS X for newcomers. Sure, after a while you know your way around and get used to it. But that’s not the point. You can get used to anything.

    Please, do not start copying apple usability bugs just because apple brainwashes the world to believe that they understand usability and no one else does. The change of the quit-minimize icons to the left hand side – although it is of no concern to me – seems to indicate that apple is being copied without providing clear benefits! Don’t fall into this trap, please take care!

    Ubuntu 10.04 is wonderful, I love it and recommend it to everybody I know. I am really curious how 10.10 is going to turn out with gnome 3.0 on the horizon!

    All the best


  7. kikl Says:

    Just a suggestion: The chromiums way of showing which tab is active in the browser could be a solution for showing which application is active in the OS panel. But, I guess you have thought of something else, which I do not quite understand:

    “Will the toggling of the top panel from titlebar state to menu state happen when the mouse comes near, just like the proximity thing of Notify OSD? That would make it easy for users to discover there is something hidden ‘behind’ the titlebar.”

    I don’t really like stuff being “hidden” at all. Hidden stuff is usually not “apparent or obvious”. In my mind usability and obviousness are interrelated. If the menu necessary for controlling the respective application is hidden, this could be a dealbreaker for first time users. But, I may be misinterpreting or misunderstanding this comment.



  8. josephk Says:

    yeah, good point. i have already added the global menu bar on the netbook remix the past year.
    but one thing should be noticed:


    this means that the user is not free to add, delete or move elements of the panel.
    something is wrong.

  9. Jan-Christoph Borchardt Says:

    I can’t wait to see it implemented in the default install. I am experimenting with different configuration all the time, but Global Menu is always comfortable.

    Rob Kendrick wrote:
    »Global menus are not the answer. They maximise the distance to travel to open a menu, and still consume valuable vertical pixel space. Pop-up menus are another possibility; they reduce the distance to travel to zero, but you’d need another scheme, or button, to open them.«
    The distance is increased minimally, compared to every window having a menu. What counts is that the global menu is at the top of the screen, leading to fast access times because you do not have to aim exactly at the menu. You can overshoot it and still be in the clickable area because buttons at the the screen’s edges are infinitely big:'s_law

  10. Ubuntu Netbook Edition bekommt globale Menüleiste à la Mac OS | - das Netbook Blog Says:

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  11. TecNews: Noticias Tecnofagia Says:

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  12. Thomas Führinger Says:

    This seems like going back to where GNUstep has always remained. At some point they will also realise that Objective-C is a way superior language for GUI development. I whish the open source community had always put their energy into GNUstep and built something nice like Etoilé or an OS X clone instead of heading into dead end APIs like GTK and Qt.

  13. Marcio Says:

    Sorry for the offtopic comment, but… When will you fix the copy&past bugs of
    Btw, I like the global menu idea.

  14. Allan Says:

    I like this idea. I use UNE on my first gen Aspire One and every vertical pixel is precious. Particularly in Firefox (which is where I spend 90% of my time on the device) I do everything I can to maximise vertical screen space –

    – Personal Menu addon to remove menu bar and replace with a toolbar button and cascading menues
    – A compact theme to minimise the height of the toolbar
    – AutohideStatusBar addon to hide the statusbar unless I mouseover

    I like the idea of the menu being hidden unless moused over. Even with widescreens the top bar can become crowded with the home button, open application buttons, window title, menu, windicators, system tray indicators, me menu etc. It also introduces a small point of distinction between Ubuntu’s implementation and that of OSX.

    I look forward to trying it out.

  15. Richmond Mathewson Says:

    I hope that this will not prevent netbook users of having the option of working with the standard GNOME desktop.

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  17. kopi Says:

    Do you have a digital camera? Do you make short videos with it now and then?

    F-spot can’t import videos from a camera. I’ve been waiting about 3 years now for this feature and it is still not there. Okay you say, why don’t you take another program to do the job (import fotos AND videos), for example gthumb. Well gthumb could do it, if it wasn’t for that nasty bug that has been around for about 3 YEARS in ubuntu. Gthumb doesn’t import anything if there are videos in your camera. Whats left? DigiKam – decent program, too complicated; good luck explaining that program to my mother.

    How about you put your foot down for once?

    Mark Shuttleworth: Yes sir, I’ll get right on it. Please let me know where the patch is that you produced to help address the issue, and I’ll ask someone to review it. Or alternatively, please point me to the conversations you’ve had with upstream about that so I can join them. Or alternatively, point me to your account representative or customer account details, and I’ll have it addressed as part of that commercial relationship. Or point me to other places that you participate in free software or Ubuntu, so I can help you out in return for the contributions you make. Or, if you’re just having a bad day, I understand.

    But if you think it’s ok to show up here and rant because your pet issue hasn’t been addressed, in a product which has otherwise served you well at no cost to you, without making any effort to be pleasant about it, you’re mistaken. Ubuntu and other free software projects aim to be as brilliant as they can be, for the average user, and they are the sum of an enormous collection of contributions. Being pissy about your issue will motivate neither me, nor any of the other ten thousand contributors, to help you out. Think about it. I don’t work for you, unless you’re the sort of person I *want* to work for.

    How’s that for putting my foot down?

  18. [Ubuntu] Une interface optimisée pour les netbooks dans la 10.10 - Says:

    […]   Pour en savoir plus, lisez le post de Mark Shuttleworth. […]

  19. winniemiel05 Says:


    I just had an idea for windicator:
    When, with nautilus, you are in a folder shared by ubuntu one, display a windicator as a circle that show in percent how is the folder synchronized with U1: If synchronization is finished, windicator should be in a normal color. If only 60% is finished synchronizing, I mean 60% well updated, 60% of the windicator is in the normal color, the rest is, maybe, Grey. and when you have your mouse on the windicator, showing how fast speed did it synchronize.

    Maybe this have been proposed, I don’t have time to search, sorry!

    Very enthusiastically…Kévin

  20. jhuni Says:

    Both local and global menu-bars have problems. For example, using global menu-bars with multiple monitors is problematic and so is using local menu-bars near the bottom of the screen. Besides that there are some things that are inherently bad about menu-bars such as how they go from horizontal lists to vertical ones. As such, I have come to the conclusion that all menu-bars are bad.

    Microsoft clearly agrees as they have been removing menu-bars from their stuff and they are not present in Windows 7, Ubuntu should take the initiative and abolish this ancient widget.

  21. Andrew Jackson Says:

    I’ve written many apps in C & Python though I haven’t quite figured out how to contribute to Ubuntu. For the apps I wrote, I’ve found great things in usability tests by:
    – Not using menus
    – continuously reducing options (specialization)
    – extremely minimal & context sensitive options
    For Minesweeper:
    – no Quit (use X)
    – a “?” Windicator to replace the entire help menu
    – a “New Document”-like icon replacing “new”, wait, the happy face is a new game already. Put a star by it
    – Timer-based “hint” instead of a menu item
    – no Fullscreen, it’s pointless here
    – Scores: Just lose a game to get them
    – A pause & preferences button. Maybe the prefs should also be a standard button.
    Result: No menu, a “?” like most apps, 2 new buttons next to the nearly-empty bar with the smiley

    I’d like to discuss this more & build it for testing. (In more serious apps). Applied to Firefox & OpenOffice these ideas would help, though it would look like tabbed-toolbars of Win7 after a while.

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  23. Nicolas Collart Says:

    I think this is a great idea for netbooks! I personnally love Ubuntu NE…
    I think one of the other improvement that could be made to the next version is to default to a “icon only” mode for toolbars. I was sad to see the option to select the toolbar type removed from 10.04 while it was there in previous versions and in other GNOME distro…

  24. Michael Says:

    A somewhat belated comment. I have been working with the current GNOME global menu for a few weeks now to get a feeling for whether or not it improves my productivity. I am working on a single screen laptop which isn’t a netbook. And the biggest problem I find with it is that when you want to access the menus of an application other than the active one, you need to click on it’s title bar first (Fitt’s law gone down the drain, even for those who do like it) and then on the global menu.

    I would suggest two changes (at the window manager level) to improve this. The first would be that clicking anywhere on a non-active window would activate it, but that the click would not be passed through to the application. And the second would be that holding the mouse button for a second or so rather than doing a simple click would bring up the application’s menu as a pop-up, but *not focus the application at all*.

    Feel free to make use of this if it is of interest and to ignore it if it isn’t 🙂

  25. evran Says:

    Maybe we should start using SWT toolkit for openoffice menu for beter integration with gtk (and globalmenu):P

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  33. tapioc Says:

    Loved your reply to kopi

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