Ubuntu Unity to bring back local menus

Ubuntu Unity to bring back local menus

Summary: When Canonical introduced its new Ubuntu Unity interface, a major design element was a global, universal menu that all apps would use. Things have changed. Canonical is switching back to local app menus.


Back in 2011, the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution made a major and controversial user-interface (UI) change. It moved from GNOME 3.x to its own GNOME-based UI design: Unity. One of its bigger design changes was to force all in-focus applications to use a single global menu. Things are different now. Marco Trevisan, one of Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, senior Unity developers announced that, with today's HiDPI Retina-style displays, it is time to return to local application menus.

Unity LIM
You can soon welcome the return of local integrated application menus to Ubuntu starting with April's 14.04 release.

Trevisan claimed that "having the applications menus in the top pane really worked very well in small screens but now, especially with HiDPI monitors getting more and more popular, the top panel could be really too far from the actual window location… The solution, that the UX designer John Lea has defined are the Locally Integrated Menus (LIM)."

Eh... not all Unity users would agree. Most people who dislike Unity tend to focus on its fixed, left-side Launcher bar.There are ways to tweak the Launcher bar, but they're not obvious. That said, many users also really dislike the top global menu metaphor as well. It didn't take a lot of looking on the Internet to find instructions on how to restore application menus.

Regardless of whether it was a design decision to make the most of today's high-end displays or because of grumbling users, local menus, LIM is on its way. For now, it's only available in Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support (LTS) betas. This feature first appeared with a way to manually disable Unity global menu on a per-app basis.

In the latest betas, you can set all your programs to use local menus from the Unity Control Center Appearance panel. If all goes well during testing, Ubuntu 14.04 will be released on April 17, 2014, and the default will be set to local menus.

Personally, I rather liked the global menu... on smaller screens. Like Canonical's developers, I've noticed that on my larger displays, such as my 24-inch Samsung SC770 Monitor, the menu can be a long, long way from my active application's window. In other words, I can see why the return to local menus will be useful. So long as Ubuntu gives us a choice about which menu style to use from an easy-to-access control panel, I'll be happy.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source, Ubuntu, PCs

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  • Ubuntu Unity to bring back local menus

    I’m not Ubuntu user, but choice is a good thing.

    • open source

      Aint it about flexibily and choice?
    • I am an user...

      And I'm lost.
      Desktop Linux has not found its vocation and the path of development is absolutely unclear.
      The convergence of desktop and mobile experience and productivity maybe a very good way, but Canonical doesn't know how to make it attractive to its customers. MS, Apple, Google have a straight line of innovations and new developments ahead. Sometimes we can predict the coming innovations with some degree of accuracy. In other way Linux Desktop is buried in the pleasure of produce nice codes instead of produce a nicer experience to the user. This is a fail.
      Ubuntu Edge was their chance to enter in the `fraternity of the great in the market`even costing almost $800 usd, but they lost opportunity.
      Once again the recent tech business history shows us that:
      The Right Time
      The Right Man
      The Right Product
      Changes all the game. Ubuntu lost this train.
  • Canonical's 10-year anniversery is rapidly approaching

    Canonical, Ltd., was founded on March 5, 2004 (according to Wikipedia). This, I believe, is a record for a business creating and marketing a Linux distro based on Debian.

    Corel Linux, Linspire nor Xandros, all based on Debian, made it 10 years.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Re: 10 Ubuntu years old

      Good point Rabid Howler Monkey.

      I really liked the direction Linspire was taking with most of their mission. Thanks to Linspire's CNR contribution into OSS most modern Linux distros now have excellent software delivery systems that are easy for anyone to use. Even a devoted Windows user/fan can quickly find and install software in a modern Linux distro.
      • I bought a Linspire-preloaded machine

        Linspire lasted less than a month before I hosed it. Was promptly replaced with Red Hat.
        John L. Ries
        • Was that the purpose when bought

          To but Red Hat on it?
          • Sorry, With all the typo.. Was installing Red Hat what you wanted to do?

  • The UI looks like something from 1991.

    • You like it then, lets good

      ;) ;)
    • Really Owl:Net???

      Is that the best you can do?
      • I will give you a clue - It's called Ribbon

        I know.... now you get it... :-)
        • Ribbon Wasn't Well Thought Out

          The 'Ribbon' interface would have been much better if they had turned it into a sidebar instead. It'd waste much less space that way. The reason they tried to do it at the top was so that they could patent it. Which fell through, because it turns out the 'Ribbon' interface was invented by other applications way before then.

          Take a look at these:


          Basically? The 'Ribbon' is not a new idea, and is not 'modern'.
      • He dares not to say too much.

        Or it might bring comparisons to Win 8.x's 1980's completely flat look, and that would be embarrassing for him.
  • I agree that on smaller screens the global menu

    works well, but I also see the point made about larger screens and higher resolution screens.

    A good move from Canonical's developers, indeed!
  • I don't know what I think of this

    I mean, the global menu brought about something that I like, a solid design ethos. It is one of the best things about OS X in my opinion (from a User Interface perspective). I know that choice is always good, but I still don't know if I like this change specifically.

    Of course, I'm not an Ubuntu user so maybe it doesn't matter so much what I think.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • I thought the opposite

      Because Ubuntu's choice of having a global menu on the top and the move of the X button to close the window to the left instead of the right made me think too much of a Mac and I stopped using Ubuntu.

      I upgraded to LinuxMint and stayed there.
      • I don't see why it's a bad thing

        It seems to me that OSX is known for being a beautiful OS. What's the harm in taking the design cues from it?
        Michael Alan Goff
  • Ubuntu Unity to bring back local menus

    How cute, linux is still stuck in 1990's era menus. linux just keeps flip flopping on what it wants to be and how to do it. There is no consistency and the linux fanboys wonder why no one is using it. Maybe one day before linux is gone the developers will all agree on one common function. Well 2 common functions, they know that the kernel needs to be compiled every day. Glad I don't have to spend my days doing that.
    • hee..

      With windows going back v1 for displays...

      some flip flopping... even bringing back the start menu...

      There is no consistency and the Windows fanboys wonder why no one is using it. Maybe one day before Windows is gone the developers will all agree on one common function. Well, 2 common functions, they know that the system needs to be patched every day...