How-To Geek

Heads-Up Display (HUD) to Replace Application Menus in Unity [Ubuntu News]

Mark Shuttleworth has made an announcement introducing a new UI enhancment in the upcoming 12.04 LTS release. Application menus will be replaced by a new Heads-Up Display (HUD) that utilizes an intelligent search-based approach to access the menu items you need and expands on the Unity experience.

Image courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth’s Blog.

From Mark’s blog post: This is the HUD. It’s a way for you to express your intent and have the application respond appropriately. We think of it as “beyond interface”, it’s the “intenterface”. This concept of “intent-driven interface” has been a primary theme of our work in the Unity shell, with dash search as a first class experience pioneered in Unity. Now we are bringing the same vision to the application, in a way which is completely compatible with existing applications and menus.

The HUD concept has been the driver for all the work we’ve done in unifying menu systems across Gtk, Qt and other toolkit apps in the past two years. So far, that’s shown up as the global menu. In 12.04, it also gives us the first cut of the HUD.

You can see the new Heads-Up Display (HUD) in action in the following video.

This is definitely going to be a step above and beyond the work already done with Unity. What are your thoughts on the new Heads-Up Display (HUD)? Do you think this is a good direction for Ubuntu or do you feel it will alienate users? Is this a good enhancement for Unity or a step further in the wrong direction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


You can try out the new Heads-Up Display (HUD) in Ubuntu 12.04 now by visiting the Ubuntu Vibes blog post linked below for installation details!

Introducing the HUD. Say hello to the future of the menu. [via OMG! Ubuntu! and Ubuntu Vibes]

Introducing the HUD to Ubuntu [YouTube]

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 01/24/12

Comments (29)

  1. Wayne

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. I like the whole HUD thing, but it seems to require remembering all the commands by name in orders to locate them in a menu. Keep me honest. Is my perception correct?

  2. the_r

    I guess you are right, but most of them seem really obvious, especially in context of application (glow, shadow in Inkscape) so I don’t see it as a big problem.
    What I do think is a problem (to many) is the extensive use of keyboard. I am one of those people who peref a keyboard shortcut to selecting sth with mouse but this HUD idea takes it to the new level, I’m not sure most are ready for.

    Lastly: [invoke HUD, type “undo”, press Enter] instead of [Ctrl-Z]. Really? BAD example.

  3. Cody

    I think it simplifies the concept of “shortcut” accessibility by limiting the use of contextual menus without having to memorize shortcut commands. What I mean by this is that the user doesn’t have to know the shortcut for undoing an action [CTRL+Z] in this case, but rather has to remember the word “undo”. I really like this concept of a HUD and to be honest, I think it could be the next big step in human/machine interface interaction. However, I do think it will fail if either of the following is done: 1] The menus are completely eliminated from the get-go. Humans hate change that is forced. This HUD functionality should be eased in with menus available for use in addition to the HUD. 2] Overtime, a simpler interface for interacting with the HUD needs to be developed. Whether that is the interface adapting quicker to your commands (i.e. requiring the world “new” instead of “new document” to create a standard document file) or the commands becoming quicker with the integration of mouse movements, touch movements, or some other type of input. With all of that said, THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!

  4. jon_hill987

    Ubuntu switching to Unity made me switch to Mint. Mind you, with Windows 8 due out in the near future Unity might not be the worst desktop GUI for long…

  5. Juri Strumpflohner

    I like Unity’s approach basically because I’m a tech person and I know what I’m searching for. But what about the avg user? They like to browse through menus to even understand what the would like to achieve next. So I’m a bit sceptic…

  6. Michael Brown

    Windows 8 GUI will be the same as windows 7, unless your using a touch screen.

  7. kathy

    i can’t stand unity. i feel like i have to remember every program name and can’t figure out (easily) how to edit the top panel. i dislike it so much that i had to switch back to my windows partition. sadface.

  8. Colin Ripley

    It looks interesting, but I’am with Juri on this. If you know what to search for, it will be good, but if you are like my mother, who does not know a bookmark from a gadget, then you will be lost. Hope they keep the menus also.

  9. Veovis Muad'dib

    I like this idea. But then I also like using AwesomeWM in Arch Linux.

    I can’t in good conscience install this on non-technical people’s computers anymore. Menu bars need to die and be replaced by something easier to use by the masses, but this isn’t it. It was bad enough telling people how to find the menus in earlier versions of Unity. Now they want to force this? I’d prefer teaching them Microsoft’s god-awful ribbons over this, even for netbook users.

    I find that when it comes to computer interaction there are a few kinds of users. Individual users can fit into multiple categories, but most will fit one well:

    1.) Comfortable doing everything in the command line, including using things like TMUX and Screen, browsing the web, watching videos and listening to music, etc…

    2.) Comfortable doing things in the command line occasionally, either from following a guide or memory.

    3.) Uses keyboard shortcuts effectively and prefers them to mouse use

    4.) Uses a few keyboard shortcuts such as ^Z

    5.) Uses the mouse for everything

    People who associate with 1-3 are going to love this system, but they generally won’t be using Unity. They’ll be using Gnome or KDE or Openbox or Awesome or something. Therefore they shouldn’t be catered to in Ubuntu’s Unity.

    People who associate with 4 will be able to use this system, but they may or may not like it, and the change alone may be enough to alienate them. They will not know of any alternatives to Unity in Linux, and may jump ship back to Windows or OS X simply because of this change. They also may hold it against the person who moved them to Linux, and forever think of Linux as difficult.

    People who associate with 5 will not know how to use this system. It runs counter to their experiences with computers, they will be unwilling to adapt and a great number of them will be unable to adapt. These people will jump ship back to Windows or OS X. They may also give up personal computers and move to tablets with iOS or Android on them. This change will cause them to not like Ubuntu/Linux, and since they are the kinds of users who most benefit from tablets, this will hinder Cannonical’s ability to move into the tablet space as planned.

    This is a complete waste of time for Cannonical, and should not make it into the final product. I know I’ll be moving all users dependent on me that like/ask for Linux over to Mint or something. Which is a shame, because they generally really like the way Unity looks. There are interface problems in Unity, yes, but they could be fixed with a little effort. But this is broken by design.

    This is a real shame. People would see me running Linux and ask what it was. I’d show them and they’d ask me to put it on their computers for them. I’d rate their computer knowledge and use cases, and see if it was a good fit. Say for simplicity’s sake, a scale of 0-10. 0-3 would be great candidates for me installing Ubuntu, 4-6 I’d recommend or install for them Windows or OS X, and 7+ I’d tell them where to get Ubuntu or Arch or something and they’d generally be able to run it either alone or with other OSes. But now, well, 0-3 users will get an installation of Mint.

  10. Jasir

    Where this would help a lot is with multiple languages maybe. Eg. if I’ve got english and arabic on in the system, then HUD should give me results weather I search in english or arabic?
    Even with HUD on, it would be best to let users show or hide the menubar. Because even if you’re an advanced user, you still need to know what options are in there. specially for newly installed programs and would also be very useful for average users.

  11. derp

    I like the idea of a HUD, but you got to remember that MOST computer users barely know how to use F1 for help or revert to Google to look something up. Most people wouldn’t know what to do with it even if it were like SIRI but just typing… This doesnt look tablet friendly either and I’m not saying everything is going to be a tablet, but your new feature doesn’t even offer tablets a chance.

  12. bRobert

    I don’t care what they do, as long as they don’t remove functionality. I want menus and launchers where I can pin frequently used apps. Don’t take them away completely, the change to Unity was bad enough.

    I’ve found that I associate what I want to do with an icon, and draw a blank whenever I need to put the name or function of the app into words. For instance, yesterday I needed to VNC into a user’s desktop. Normally, I click on the menu icon for Vinagre (Remote Desktop Viewer) while I’m on the phone. Trying to remember the terms ‘VNC’ or ‘Remote Desktop’ when I’m trying to talk or troubleshoot a problem is very difficult. I literally had to stop and think in order to remember what to type to bring up the app. I spend a lot of time on the linux command line, so it’s not as if I am not used to thinking textually instead of graphically. It’s just that there is a significant difference between the two, and if it takes me several seconds to switch back and forth between the two, there are going to be people who refuse to even try and move to a different desktop.

  13. Mike

    Yet another reason I switched to Mint 9. I don’t know what Mint is doing either though. 12 is seriously buggy. Even buggy it’s still better than this Unity crap. The HUD is a step in the wrong direction in my humble opinion. I don’t consider myself just a casual user and I’m not an uber-geek either. I might be able to stumble my way through using the HUD but why? I happen to be very fond of my mouse and I like things that keep my keyboard just for typing. Mouse gestures would be cool. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t represent the average user though. I’ll shut up now. Rambling…

  14. Xilef

    I don’t like it, along with that whole Unity stuff, it’s the reason why I’m still with Ubuntu 10.10… I find Unity crap for multitasking, although i agree that the “search” thing looks quite useful if you want something specific.

  15. thorstenmz

    It has been mentioned above – internationalization is an issue for me, too. In German, many terms are not standardized. For instance, some applications have “Save” translated as “Speichern”, others as “Sichern”. And there are a lot of applications of which there is no German version, so I’m using the English one. What am I going to to?

  16. sooopy

    the question here is: are developers developing for developers? the basic purpose of the operating system is to make the average computer accessible to the average user. if the industry, whether commercial or open source, develops their product beyond an average persons apprehension then they are doing so under the false impression that there are more computer engineers than average users. the lawyer directs his efforts at becoming a lawyer; the doctor will dedicate 8 to 10 years to his art; the working woman with 2 children and husband has too much on her plate by definition of her responsibilities -all require the use of their trusty computers, none are typically inclined to learning shortcuts (much less [CTRL+Z] ) or addressing their computers on a command line level.

    hud, like many of the improvements applied to linux based o/s’s, alienates the average user. geek culture, by the very nature of it’s intelligence, is a separatist movement. while anyone can enjoy life as an average person not everyone can be an uber-geek. with this understanding in mind it’s easy to see why the mouse is simply an access tool granting user interface without having to wikipedia for a definition of terms. it also explains why children learn computer skills better on ms based o/s’s.

    for the record: i suscribe to open source ideology, use ubuntu on all my computers, but keep an ms based system readily available (just in case of a zombie apocalypse).

  17. Noel

    I do love the idea.

    I say let the user decide if they want menu’s, unity, or HUD. If people can choose what works best for them then it will make computers easier for everyone.

  18. Paul

    Last nail in the coffin… Good-bye Ubuntu. It’s been a fun ride, but enough is enough.
    “intelligent search-based approach” — Get real — that’s just marketing talk for annoying interface!
    I know what I want to do with my computer: it does not require a search, and I supply the intelligence, thank you very much.

  19. M Henri Day

    HUD seems to me like a step backwards to the old days of command-line tyranny. As an Ubuntu-user ever since Dapper, I certainly enjoy having access to the command line, but I don’t wish to be compelled to use it for things which are better done via menus in a GUI. I’m running a Cinnamon GUI on a Ubuntu Oneiric box because I find Unity a pain, but I hesitate to install Oneiric on my other boxes because – for me – good old GNOME2 is far superior, i e, quicker and easier to use, not only to Cinnamon but to GNOME3, etc. Haven’t gotten ’round to trying Xfce, but that’s next in line. In my opinion Mark Shuttleworth & co would be advised to allow as much user choice as possible – a one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t really jibe with the sort of users who are attracted to Ubuntu on the desktop. Then again, nowadays Canonical seems to be more interested in mobile than desktop users, but imagine having to type in all those commands on a device the size of a mobile phone ! There must be better alternatives….


  20. john kabbi

    every time i come across Ubuntu i feel sad that the OS that once was heading in the right direction is now losing it.

    windows got it right : you can hit the win key and search for anything you want ,or just browse through programs if you don’t know the name of the program. the mouse work great for most application . this HUD UI is just a geek thing , and will probably be used by less than 5% of users.

    i always says : UI should be designed by average users not by geeks.

  21. deserthiker77

    This is just ridiculous. I’ve been a windows user forever and frankly am sick of it so I have been migrating to Ubuntu. I’m a savvy windows user and will now stay one. Now I know why there are so few Linux users. Linux is for very savvy geeky people, no offense. It’s bad enough having to use the terminal all the time in Linux which is not easy for an average windows user. Ubuntu like most Linux versions are not for an average windows user because you can’t just install it like you can Windows and start using the way you like because it’s just to geeky for average computer users. Linux is just simply to complicated and time consuming to use for an average windows user and now with this HUD crap Linux is going to lose even more users. It seems every Linux distribution is buggy. I feel that Linux distros including Ubuntu just don’t aim towards wanting to get windows users, etc., to switch over. So in conclusion I will be staying with Windows for some time to come.

  22. Prasad Kumar

    I simply hate it now. I liked Unity for lens. But had to shift to GNOME Shell for some problems related to Unity calender management(I just cant get my Google Calender events to show up in Ubuntu calender. In GNOME Shell I simply enter my gmail id&password in the online accounts). Now this HUD concept is just gonna drive me nuts. I think I will have to better stick to GNOME Shell.

  23. William

    It’s a go for me. I like the flow of HUD it takes Unity functionality to a new level. I love Ubuntu, because its solid and a joy to use with a slight learning curve which I believe allows the average person to become a more knowledgeable user thus making Linux/Ubuntu into a experience verse just being a operating system. HUD is just one more leap that keeps Linux on the cutting edge when it comes to operating systems.

  24. TG2

    I swear if Ubuntu and Gnome3 people like putting lipstick on pigs, then why don’t we just give them a big piece of paper and those jumbo crayons to f**k with.

    So G3/Unity … you redesign the interface to make it more conductive to a *touch* interface .. tablets, touch screens, etc.. but then what.. you add this fk’d up idea of a HUD that requires the use of the keyboard?

    Make up your minds developers … you’re supposed to be intelligent people yet you mix touch and type interfaces as if they could be mixed but if you only have one OR the other.. you can’t use both as easily!

  25. Michael Sammels

    Here is my opinion on the matter:

    When Ubuntu moved to GNOME 3, it took some adjustment, but when they decided to butcher it completely it ruined it for me. It was my understanding the the GUI was created in order so that we would no longer need to remember commands for performing tasks, despite how complex or simple the command itself is, but would rather have an easier way of navigating. Now, I will not disagree that browsing via the command line is faster, but Ubuntu is supposed to be ‘Linux for Human Beings’. How on earth can you expect someone new to Linux to be able to remember all these commands? In my opinion, Ubuntu wen’t downhill from 7.x onwards. 6.10 (Edgy Eft) was the last decent release.

    Ah, the memories of 2007, a much simpler time.

  26. Bob

    When are they going to learn that search is stupid. It’s dumb on Windows 7, and its dumb on my iPhone. People like scrolling through the apps they have loaded. Other than your favorite 3-5 apps, most people don’t remember all the doo-dads on their computer, let alone the name of the commands within any given application.

  27. david

    someone at ubuntu is pushing for the mac-style feel. i dont know who, but it seems to be the reason they have fallen so far behind mint on distro watch

  28. tom

    You can put lipstick on a pig….

    Long time Ubuntu user has now migrated to Mint / Cinnamon.

  29. Lawrence M. Pina

    Ubuntu 11.04 = no good, a definite step backwards. Ubuntu 11.10 = worse than no good. Can’t get rid of the dock! Ubuntu 12 = Now there’s no application menu? What a betrayal this is!

    Shame on me for putting up with Ubuntu Linux so long. Three strikes you’re out. I shall not recommend or ever waste time on Ubuntu Linux again.

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