Ubuntu 12.04 to replace traditional menus with new HUD

By Lee Kaelin on January 26, 2012, 8:30 AM

Ubuntu is set to replace the traditional menu system with a head-up display (HUD), enabling users to type or speak commands in its upcoming April 2012 long term support (LTS) release of the popular Linux distribution. Rather than using the traditional drop down menu, the Ubuntu HUD uses a transparent text box in which you can type or speak what you want to do to perform actions or tasks.

Canonical founder and former CEO Mark Shuttleworth announced the new feature on his blog. "The core idea [of HUD] is to get to a world where people can direct an application to do what they want," he said. "Having stated your intent, the application leads you down a simple journey to get that done."

It will use fuzzy matching and learns commands from past usage to ensure it returns the correct result during searches on the first time. Over time it will also prioritize tasks you perform more frequently when results are displayed. The feature uses a vocabulary UI, or VUI as Ubuntu is calling it, that is supposedly closer to the way users think. Shuttleworth says the tree is no longer important, what's important is the efficiency of the match between what the user says, and the commands the operating system offers up for invocation.

One major drawback would be for beginners, the company acknowledged, who could struggle without a menu in which to search if the exact commands are unknown. But they firmly believe the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in this scenario.

"Searching is fast and familiar, especially once we integrate voice recognition, gesture and touch. We want to make it easy to talk to any application, and for any application to respond to your voice. The full integration of voice into applications will take some time. We can start by mapping voice onto the existing menu structures of your apps. And it will only get better from there," Shuttleworth further commented.

He believes that even without voice support, the HUD is faster than browsing through the drop down menus using a mouse, and more simple than using hotkey’s which can change between different applications.

There is no doubt that the drop down menu system has remained the one constant feature that has continued to be integral to operating systems as they have advanced over the years. That said, it is "tried and tested" and used universally across every platform. The HUD marks a complete fundamental change in the way we interact with the computer.

It raises an interesting question about how users will be interacting with their computers in the next 10 to 20 years. Is this a feature that we’ll see other OS developers integrate into future OS releases on other platforms like Windows, or will the drop down menu in some form always be considered the number one way of performing tasks and actions on a computer?




User Comments: 42

Got something to say? Post a comment
Lurker101 said:

So should we expect a variation of this in Windows 8 or will we have to wait till Windows 9?

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Instead of HUD, something like Metro has a better chance of succeeding in the market place, simply because it will be much easier for a novice user to master such interface in a hurry. I find myself using the good old DOS prompt many times so ........ for a power user it make sense.

inventix1136 said:

I can imagine this working on a simplified OS, something like iOS, but not on a complex desktop OS due to the sheer number of commands that would have to be exposed to allow for all of the actions.

Guest said:

It sounds like the voice commands will be limited to certain applications at first. That should make it easier for newer users to adapt to the new VUD.

Guest said:

Another marketing gimmick from a marketing company...

Guest said:

Do I really need my PC to lead me on a journey? For me this is an EPIC FAIL...

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't know how I feel about this. Already not too thrilled about the Unity interface. I miss my drop down menu where I can look through the programs installed. sometimes forget the name of a program I want, but know what category to look it and have to scan through them to find it. Can't really do that with Unity, only look thru the list of all the programs. This could be worse or better. If I type in "game" will it give me a list of all the games I have installed or just things that have the word "game" in the name of the program?

Or I forget what option I'm looking for, but remember what menu it was in. How am I supposed to find it now?

Guest said:

Assuming voice commands next

this is the first step

Guest said:

This is a new creative idea in menu and control; Is it going to be useful and easy for the average user? If so then this concept will take off, if not it will be just another BEOS type of thing. Cool idea that doesn't last.

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

Reminds me of Launchy.

TJGeezer said:

Voice control is nice in a mobile device but for a desktop PC running complex scripts and shifting to a console box when desired? I doubt it. I'll put on my red Star Trek shirt and give it a go anyway ("Computer: Mix me a martini" beep-beep) since I kinda like Ubuntu for trying new approaches. I'd like them better if they borrowed Mint's approach and included a good bridge between traditional menu and their new UI. Plus they'd catch less user grumbling that way.

Guest said:

OMG thats horrid...

I felt so confined just watching (him) that video. Thats a "Coder's" UI.

Once a proper GUI is set up, u never have to touch ur keyboard. Window 98 was great at this.. MS better get it right with Win8. Desktop operating system.. (D E S K T O P !!)

-particle_z00

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Lol, this is horrible. Seriously, what are they thinking? It's a desktop operating system, not an IT operating system.

Guest said:

"One major drawback would be for beginners, the company acknowledged, who could struggle without a menu in which to search if the exact commands are unknown. But they firmly believe the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in this scenario."

Because they're complete flaming loonies.

Guest said:

"This is a new creative idea in menu and control"

Er, it's a command line.

Guest said:

What? Everything is like a terminal now? What wrong with point and click? I think this just makes it easier for the programmers not us. As they don't have to make a click-able GUI.

Guest said:

I think Ubuntu is killing itself in doing so. Already, the Unity itself was dumb where you have to to click four to six times to open a program instead of just one/two clicks before, now they are introducing something that has no menu at all? This is a big step backward because you have to remember the name of the program which is the same as remembering commands in command line.

Guest said:

well i see it as a strategic move towards mobile , then u think of this think of voice not just writing

UBuntu main target now is mobile and differentiating itself from others systems is not a failure , on the other hand imitating successful OSs is.

give them a chance :)

Guest said:

Yes. HUD may be good for developers and for IT people in general. And I agree that it may be challenge for a newbie who does not know the application and know what exactly to search for. But I am thankful that Canonical is working on new ideas and innovations. Some ideas work and some don't but I would like my OS to evolve and be a leader in the evolution. HUD may be very well suited for MUbuntu (the mobile OS, Mr. Mark S. is probably thinking ahead on this already). Keeping in my Ubuntu's linux for human being idea, I would have the option for enabling the traditional menus so new users are happy. Thank you.

Guest said:

Fail. Would much rather have (pre-Unity) navigable menus from pointy-device than having to bounce between mouse and keyboard even more. Great for (some) developers. Not great for the masses. This feels like a step backwards. Unity, bad. HUD, worse.

Guest said:

I don't see this working for the same reason vista's voice recognition was a flop and Ford's 'sync' system was hated by so many. it's still syntax based. Siri has one-uped this because it isn't syntax based on the users end. We need to get passed that, and although yes HUD has search built in, it still leaves it to the user to know the name of the command out of sheer thousands of possibilities. What is necessary is a task rather then command based system where a user doesn't need to know the difference between a 'bookmark' or a 'favorite' when all they want to do is save the page for later.

Guest said:

Desktop computers are DESKTOP computers no pads or phones! I'll never move around with my pc and I have no need to speak for a command. I dislike Unity and this new one seems horrible. What's wrong with old point and click Gnome interface?

Guest said:

This concept is based on many mistakes:

1) Experienced users know the fastest way how to do things.

HUD is an obstacle or complication only.

2) Lexical (text baswed) UI tool is pushed to replace Graphical (position and icon) based system.

Ubuntu developers go in an opposite way to windows with their ribbons

that prove to be effective replacement of traditional drop down menus.

This system will not work for me on desktops / notebooks and I will ratther switch to KDE.

Guest said:

It's a gimmick, but it's not being forced on anyone. If you don't like 'buntu's silly UI stuff, then don't use 'buntu - it's as simple as that. There are hundreds of other GNU/Linux distros out there - all of which are as good as if not better than 'buntu.

Canonical Ltd are interested in breaking into the smartphone/tablet market - in a nutshell they want a "touchscreen ready" GUI. This has upset some "traditional" desktop users who have had these UI "improvements" installed along with regular updates. That's the direction 'buntu is going in - it's a commerical Linux distro, like it or not.

The HUD is basically an "autocomplete" system (a bit like bash completion for anyone who knows what that is) which allows the user to filter down to wanted applications rather than clicking through menus. The spiel from canonical is tries to cover the fact that this is all about touchscreens where as anyone that uses a touchscreen will no, menus are not the easiest way around.

What this touchscreen centric approach will achieve is a GUI which is a jack of all trades but master of none. In trying to be one size fits all, Unity will end up as a cumbersome piece of bloat - gnome 3 will also go the same way. What is actually needed are touchscreen/tablet/smarthphone desktop environments or shells which are built for purpose and leave the originals alone for desktop users - sadly this is not the trend being followed at the moment.

Guest said:

So basically we're taking a UI geared towards casual use, but replacing traditional UI features with a glorified "run" program of which only power users will see a benefit and which-- despite what they say-- seems to provide no way for a new user to even discover what is available.

It's slow without a GPU, but the goal is to have it run on small devices.

It is supposed to be a simple, "unifying" interface, yet it forces you to use the mouse for some simple tasks and the keyboard for others.

Has anyone ever heard of that play "The Producers"?

Guest said:

Welcome to the New World Order!

Guest said:

"apropos" command my friend

Guest said:

Definably switching to Linux Mint when I can't (as in wont get the job done) use lucid (Ubuntu 10.04) anymore

Guest said:

Definably switching to Linux Mint when I can't (as in wont get the job done) use lucid (Ubuntu 10.04) anymore

That release is still supported - until April next year.

Guest said:

Nobody is SELLING nothing here. We are talking about ubuntu if you remember.

Guest said:

Nobody is SELLING nothing here.

So somebody must be selling something here...?

Guest said:

I actually find this very useful. All of the negative comments just seem like old ways of thinking. All Ubuntu has to do is post a few videos with examples and that will nip almost of the learning curve in the behind. I think this is a great evolution in the way of navigating applications. Good job Ubuntu

Guest said:

It's not replacing the drop down menu. The menu is still there if you use your mouse on the top left. People needs to chill and the author needs to actually try it out before commenting on it. The HUD basically allows you to search within the menu system. Just make a boot disk and give it a try before freaking out.

Zilpha Zilpha said:

Guest said:

It's not replacing the drop down menu. The menu is still there if you use your mouse on the top left. People needs to chill and the author needs to actually try it out before commenting on it. The HUD basically allows you to search within the menu system. Just make a boot disk and give it a try before freaking out.

And you need to read the article before commenting.

Guest said:

Sounds to me like a disaster, worse than the Unity move, but hey, someone said "give them a chance", which I will. I'll give them a chance to get it right, I hope they don't mind that I'll move/stay with Mint in the mean time

Guest said:

God no, now will take my 5 steps to simply open a program

Guest said:

It's really faster to do things using this kind of interface, except in case the user is very slow at typing. This user will prefer the old GNOME2 GUI, but as someone said: if you don't like, simply don't use it, damnit! Some people got the habit of criticising any innovation of Ubuntu because it's now a cool attitude within Linux computing. Sad...

Guest said:

I admire them for their courage to do something different and there are things in this I really like but as a future primary vision of access to a desktop, no way.

The idea of having a couple of things on screen to begin with invites you to play and learn and keep you curious. A desktop with just a typing box means 90% of the OS wont be discovered and as much as it's pinned as something to suit the user, I think the user will more so have to suit it.

To take an example from the video, if I wanted to send a mail to someone in Evolution (which I have no interest in using generally, like most people), my first thought would be "Create.." or "Send..", not "Compose..". I'm not Tchaikovsky. It's a single example, but probably something applicable throughout the rest of the OS.

This system will be fine for seriously experienced and patient users, but hopeless to newcomers. Hence I hope a full desktop will be available along with this new feature.

Guest said:

I would love to be a fly on the wall at these summits. Who exactly thought this was the best direction for Ubuntu. I am dissapointed with 12.04, not only does the HUD look atrocious, but I dont think its practical for new or older user. IMHO, it was a giant waste of time and effort that could been better spent on stablity, which I thought was the main theme of LTS.

Guest said:

I would love to be a fly on the wall at these summits. Who exactly thought this was the best direction for Ubuntu. I am dissapointed with 12.04, not only does the HUD look atrocious, but I dont think its practical for new or older user. IMHO, it was a giant waste of time and effort that could been better spent on stablity, which I thought was the main theme of LTS.

You obviously know next to 0 about FLOSS development.

Please define how "time and effort" can be diverted from a new UI and instead "spent on stability"? Is this based on the assumption on your part that 'buntu is entirely developed by a single team of people? Some of which are pulled from other "projects" and moved to another to the detriment of those others? canonical ltd develop unity, the hud, software center and a few other bits and pieces, they don't develop the rest of the software (90% plus of the distro) - they simply /package/ it...

Guest said:

Was a moderately familiar user of 10.04 LTS (meaning, I could use Synaptic, compile code, but not write programs myself). Tried 1.04. Horrid. If I don't know what something is already, where the heck is it, and how do I get to it? Why can't I fallo back to an ordinary menu, if I wish? (I tried various strategems; the new interface can be slightly customized, but generally it's take it or leave it). I cannot think of anything the new interface does for me.

Remember the Star Trek movie in which they go back in time to San Francisco, and are confronted with an our-generation computer that has a mouse? At first Kirk tries voice commands. Doesn't work. Then he thinks the mouse is a microphone for issuing voice commands. Doesn't work. It's like that, but in reverse.

Guest said:

I really would like to use Linux (Ubuntu) and have finally found a replacement for Quicken, MoneyDance. Was still trying to find a replacement for Paperport. Just installed Ubuntu 12.4 and this was the final straw for all the effort I have put into attempting to convert. The complete omission of drop down menus with no option to revert is more like what you would expect from the dictators Microsoft and Apple. Time to remove the dual boot and dedicate the entire hard drive to Win Xp.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.