Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beyond the desktop

Beyond the desktop: Ubuntu Linux's new Head-Up Display

Mark Shuttleworth, architect of Canonical Ubuntu Linux’s ancestor company, has arise that Ubuntu will be adopting a abolitionist new change to the interface that will do abroad with the “menu” in the Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer (WIMP) interface, which has authentic the desktop for the aftermost thirty years.

Shuttleworth states, “The card has been a axial allotment of the GUI back Xerox PARC invented ‘em in the 70?s. It’s the M in WIMP and has been there, about unchanged, for 30 years. We can do abundant better!” This new interface, which will aboriginal arise as a beta in April’s Ubuntu 12.04 release, is alleged Head-Up Display.

He explains:

Menus serve two purposes. They act as a accepted way to adjure commands which are too infrequently acclimated to accreditation a committed allotment of UI real-estate, like a toolbar button, and they serve as a map of the app’s functionality, about like a table of capacity that one can browse to get a feel for ‘what the app does’. Its command abracadabra that we anticipate can be bigger upon, and that’s area we are absorption our architecture exploration.

As a agency of invoking commands, airheaded accept some advantages. They are consistently in the aforementioned abode (top of the window or screen). They are organized in a way that’s absolutely accessible to call over the phone, or in a argument book (”click the Edit->Preferences menu”), they are appealing fast to apprehend back they are about abiding in bound vertical columns. They additionally accept some disadvantages: back they get nested, abyssal the timberline can become fragile. They crave you to apprehend a lot back you apparently already apperceive what you want. They are added difficult to use from the keyboard than they should be, back they about crave you to bethink article appropriate (hotkeys) or use a actual bound subset of the keyboard (arrow navigation). They force developers to accomplish generally approximate choices about the card timberline (”should Preferences be in Edit or in Tools or in Options?”), and again they force users to accomplish appropriately approximate accomplishment to acquire and cross that tree.

No one would altercate with that. So, what does Shuttleworth adduce instead?

HUD will use a “vocabulary UI”, or VUI. In this you’ll alpha to blazon or say a command and in 12.04 LTS, the HUD starts a acute look-ahead look through the app and arrangement (indicator) menus. This uses down-covered matching, accumulated with a acquirements action so HUD will accent the accomplishments you use do. This works with both the focused app, because that’s area you apparently demand to act, and the all-around arrangement functionality. So, for example, if, you’re consistently extenuative your files, you could blazon Alt-F and instead of the book menu, you’d anon get the file/save choice. Eventually you’ll consistently be able to artlessly say “Save” and your chat processor, spreadsheet, or what accept you will save your accepted file.

You’ll consistently be able to use HUD to get to added alive programs, such as your burning bulletin or Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) applicant through HUD, “without alteration focus, because those apps all allocution to the indicator system.’ Shuttleworth claims that afterwards “you’ve been appliance it for a little while it seems like it’s account your mind, in a acceptable way.”

Shuttleworth believes that articulation will be an important allotment of HUD “Searching is fast and familiar, abnormally already we accommodate articulation recognition, action and touch. We demand to accomplish it accessible to allocution to any application, and for any appliance to acknowledge to your voice. The abounding affiliation of articulation into applications will booty some time. We can alpha by mapping articulation assimilate the absolute card structures of your apps. And it will alone get bigger from there.”

Still, Shuttleworth says “even after articulation input, the HUD is faster than mousing through a menu, and easier to use than hotkeys back you aloof accept to apperceive what you want, not bethink a specific key combination. We can look through aggregate we apperceive about the menu, including anecdotic advice text, so appealing anon you will be able to acquisition a card access appliance alone vaguely accompanying argument (imagine award an access alleged Preferences back you look for “settings”).”

It’s not aloof acceleration though. Another goal, as it has been “in abundant of the Unity architecture has been to acknowledgment awning absolute acreage to the agreeable with which the user is working; the HUD meets that ambition by actualization alone back invoked. Instead of abashing up the interface ALL the time, let’s bright out the chrome, and appearance users aloof what they want, back they demand it.”

The account for this, Shuttleworth continued, accept been “inspired by abounding works of science, art and entertainment; from Minority Report to Modern Warfare and Jeff Raskin’s Humane Interface. We achievement others will accompany us and advance the about-face from pointy-clicky interfaces to accustomed and able ones.”

Although Shuttleworth doesn’t say so, allotment of the acumen why Ubuntu is authoritative these changes is to accomplish Ubuntu a added adorable advantage to acute TVs and smartphones and tablets. On these systems, the WIMP interface doesn’t assignment that well. If HUD is successful, users will ultimately be able to use the aforementioned interface on any accessory from PC to smartphone with articulation commands.

If that sounds added alarming than neat, anguish not. Shuttleworth isn’t activity to leave you in the lurch. “We’ll disclose the (boring) old means of announcement the card in 12.04, in the app and in the panel. In the accomplished few releases of Ubuntu, we’ve actively beneath the beheld attendance of airheaded in apprehension of this landing. That accepted controversial. In our defense, in user testing, every user finds the card in the panel, every time, and it’s acutely a cleaner presentation of the interface. But ambuscade the card afore we had the backup was ever aggressive. If the HUD acreage in 12.04 LTS, we achievement you’ll acquisition yourself appliance the card beneath and less, and be animated to accept it hidden back you are not appliance it. You’ll absolutely accept that option, alongside added acceptable card styles.”

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