Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'display'

Paul Sladen

Some of original sketches for Ubuntu Arabic are about to go on display in Berlin! We’ve talked before about the work done by Rayan Abdullah on drawing and designing the original calligraphy behind the Ubuntu Arabic for the Ubuntu Font Family and from tomorrow you will be able to see that work for yourself.

Until 27 May 2012 you can see some of those original sketches and designs featuring in the Typobau exhbition at the Körnerpark Gallery in Neukölln, Berlin,

It includes many of Rayan’s design projects from the last decade, including the Bundesadler (the Federal Eagle of Germany) and his many Arabic graphic design and typography projects including the logos and typefaces for Burberry, McDonalds, Nokia Pure Arabic and the Ubuntu Font Family Arabic script coverage.

For keen visitors, the grand opening is this week, at 19:00 on Friday 20 April 2012. Or for anyone visiting Messe Berlin in May 2012 for Linuxtag 2012 you will still be able to catch the exhibition. Just take the S-Bahn ring anti-clockwise to S-Neukölln and see Ubuntu and Rayan’s exhibition at the same time as Linuxtag!

The “Typobau” exhibition runs between 21 April 2012 and 27 May 2012, 10:00–20:00, Tuesday—Sunday, at Körnerpark Galerie, Schierker Strasse 8, Berlin-Neukölln

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John Lea

Introduction to task switching

A key part of any operating system user interface is how it enables the user to switch between multiple tasks. In most desktop operating systems tasks are encapsulated into windows, and the most frequently used method of multi-tasking is window switching. Desktop OSs have multiple methods of window switching (e.g Alt-tab, clicking on indicators, notifications, etc…) however the most common means of window switching is via using what is variously termed a Launcher, Taskbar or Dock. Traditionally there has been a 1:1 correlation between each window and its representation in the Taskbar (see Windows2000 or Gnome2).


(Ubuntu Hardy Heron used Gnome2 which featured one taskbar icon per window)

With Windows XP, Microsoft introduced a way to aggregate multiple windows that belonged to the same application into a single task bar button. This change was primarily focused towards personas who made heavy use of multi-tasking; this feature only switched on when the number of windows represented in the Taskbar exceeded the length of the Taskbar. It gave the benefits of increasing the number of windows that could be comfortably represented in the available task bar space, and reduced the time and effort it took the user to visually scan a crowded Taskbar and identify an application. The cost of this change was that an additional click was required to switch to a window that was not the most recently focused window of that application.

Windows XP desktop
(The WindowsXP desktop that introduced the concept of representing multiple windows with one taskbar icon)


Unity’s current window switching functionality

Fast forwarding to 2009, when working on the original designs for Unity we knew that window switching was one of the key areas of any OS’s user interface, and we set out to design a window switching paradigm that would surpass the utility and usability of the contemporary competition at the time (Windows 7 and OSX Snow Leopard). The Launcher was only 50% of that equation, the other 50% was a set of functionality we termed the ‘Spread’.

The Spread designs were completed, prototyped and tested well before the launch of Unity with 11.04, but unfortunately due to the huge number of other items that needed to be completed before we could launch a brand new desktop shell, the decision was made to postpone the development of this feature and use the Compiz equivalent of this functionality as a stop-gap measure.

Ubuntu 11.04 desktop
(Compiz window switching in Ubuntu 11.04)

While using the Compiz window switching functionality enabled us to hit 11.04 launch deadline, there are a number ways in which it could be improved. Since then many many bugs, mailing list and forum postings have also requested the same set of functionality that was postponed as a result of this decision. Requests we frequently receive include:

  • Please make it easier to tell one window from another, all terminals look very similar!
  • Make it easier to select windows using keyboard navigation and shortcuts
  • I would like to be able to easily close windows from the window switcher view
  • Can you make it clearer to see which application’s windows are currently being displayed (in the switcher view)?
  • I find it difficult to see which window is currently focused in the window switcher view, can this be improved?
  • Can you find a way to make window switching faster?

Window switching requirements

After researching the window switching problem space and examining the use cases that a window switcher needs to support, we distilled the findings into a set of design requirements. These were:

  • To aid window identification, the window previews should to be as large as possible, taking maximum advantage of the available screen real estate.
  • Window switching needs to be very intuitive and easy to understand for new users. In user testing, a user who has never used Ubuntu before must be able to switch windows without encountering any difficulty.
  • More experienced users should be offered an accelerated method of ultra-fast window switching.
  • Users should be presented with all the information that is pertinent to making a window switching decision, but no more.
  • The window switching mechanism should follow the activity/task hierarchy, in order to minimise time needed to identity the required application, support intensive multi-tasking use cases with very large numbers of windows, simplify the Launcher ordering problem, and make the most efficient use of the Launcher’s screen real estate.

A very brief introduction the ‘Spread’

So now with 12.04 almost behind us, we have dusted off our original Spread designs and given them a light spring clean ahead of development starting in 12.10. So without further ado…

This design shows when happens when a user clicks on the Firefox icon to spread the available windows. The maximum amount of screen real estate is dedicated to making the window previews as large as possible. Moving the pointer over any of the previews will display the window name in a window title bar, and a close button is included so that any window can be dismissed directly from this view. When in this view users can also directly switch to spreads of other running applications by clicking on application icons in the Launcher.

In addition to pointing and clicking with a mouse or trackpad, power users can perform all window switching actions without taking their hands off the keyboard. Holding down the SUPER key will reveal the Launcher with numbers overlaid on top of the individual Launcher icons.

Pressing a number performs the equivalent action to a left click, so if a app is already focused pressing its number will reveal a spread of its windows.

When the spread is revealed, numbers are displayed in the bottom left corner of the previews. Pressing a number will then select the relevant window and close the Spread. Added together this allows a power user to switch to any window of any application just by using the SUPER and NUMBER keys. In addition users will be able to navigate the Spread by using cursor keys to move the orange focus box and ENTER to select.

Another new feature is the ghost window ‘New Window’ option. Previously if a user wanted to open a new window for an application that was already running they had to either middle click on the application’s Launcher icon or press CTRL+N. The problem was that new users had no easy way of discovering these options. When using the Spread, a user can select the ghost window to open a new window of the currently focused application. This feature has even more benefits in a multi-monitor context, and if a application does not support multiple windows this option is not displayed.

Other features include the ability to filter the windows by typing…

and of course this new functionality apples to the SUPER+W spread of all windows on the desktop.


Multi-monitors, workspaces, and all the other gory details

This article only takes a very brief look at a few of the Spread’s features, and barely scratches the surface of the Spread design. A lot of thought has also gone into designing how the spread works in multi-monitor and/or multi-workspace environments, and if you are interested in learning more and reading all the gory details of how every corner case and eventuality is handled, head over to Unity Switching section of the The Toolkit to read the full spec.

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Paul Sladen

Back in 2008 Nick Ellery noticed that the default printer test page used more ink that it really needed to: Bug #298935 (“test print uses far too much ink”). Millions and millions of these pages get printed every year, so any saving in ink will be amplified. In addition, it still had the pre-2010 Ubuntu logomark: Bug #933489 (“Ubuntu Printer test page has old branding”). Hopefully, the ink saving will help save the planet and everyone will benefit from something slightly prettier.

Scan of new Ubuntu 12.04 Printer Test Page. The design is scaled to fit any size, not just A4 and US-Letter

With the first Ubuntu 12.04 Beta release now out and having been in prepartion over the last fortnight, there’s been a chance to look over and see if the Design Team can assist with reponding to any bugs that might have been missed for too long.

One year ago there were a number of good suggestions for making the test printouts to be more reusable, for instance by including a calendar or origami shape and would be good to incorporate in the future. Perhaps you can come up with a good design and suggest it for the next release cycle building up to Ubuntu 12.10?

Thank you to Lucas Camargo for experimenting with thinning the previous template. To Emily Maher on the design team for working on a more compact circular design that matches the rest of Ubuntu (and should use even less ink). And to Lars Ubernickel and Till Kamppeter for writing and uploading the new bannertopdf support code that pulls in the design and sends it out to the printer with debugging information appended.

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Paul Sladen



To celebrate Software Freedom Day 2011 we got sent one of the banners showing the new SFD logo. The logo design is based around a custom-modified version of the Ubuntu Font Family (the fonts come with source code, and modification is allowed as long as you follow the rules).

There are some photographs showing the development of the logo components, and how it even includes the subtle outline of Tux the penguin, the mascot of the Linux kernel that forms the base layer of the Ubuntu operating system and other Free Software distributions.

Frederic Muller has added more details are on bug #838287, and there’s a case study of the modifications changed from Ubuntu Bold Italic when making the Software Freedom Day logo. Photos from SFD2011 events around the world are starting to appear on Flickr.

Marcus Haslam, brand lead for the Ubuntu project reminds everyone that if you’re representing the Ubuntu brand itself, you must only use an unmodified version of the Ubuntu typeface. This is to keep consistency across the brand.

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Paul Sladen

UbuntuBetaArabicF in print,

A beta of Ubuntu Font Family Arabic, in print as part of the testing and debugging process for the Arabic coverage. The Arabic script support will cover Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Kashmiri and other written languages using the base Arabic script.

The magazine is an intriguing tri-lingual production published by the Cultural Office of Saudi Arabia in Germany with the layout prepared by Professor Rayan Abdullah’s team at Markenbau. The magazine starts with German and English articles using Latin script at one cover (reading left-to-right) and articles written in Arabic from the other cover (reading right-to-left).

Ubuntu Arabic, now has horizontal, instead of diagonal dots

Following on from the recent posts about adding Kashmiri/Pashto ringed characters and the Arabic update from the start of 2011, the most significant change to highlight is the that the diagonal dots (?i???m / ??????) have been changed to a horizontal layout.

The resulting arrangement is now closer to an equilateral triangle, and the dots closer to a circle.

(Thank you to Abdallah, Björn Ali Göransson, Chamfay, Masoud, Muhammad Negm, Nizarus, Reda Lazr and others who each took the time to comment and give feedback about the earlier diagonal dot angle).

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Iain Farrell

Round stickers made at MOO.com

The stickers I made in my recent blog post have arrived and they’re lovely!

Thanks to everyone who commented, now get out there and make your own!

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Paul Sladen

It’s been five years since people spotted the last Ubuntu billboards in the wild. This time Mauricio Pretto sent a set of photographs of driving between the airport in Porto Alegre, Brazil and the Fórum Internacional Software Livre (International Free Software Forum) venue where Canonical and Ubuntu have a stand for FISL 2011:
Venha visitar a Canonical e conhecer as novidades do Ubuntu
Designing for a surface 7 metres × 3.6 metres is a little different than for on-screen or a brochure, especially as the Ubuntu/Canonical Brand Guidelines don’t have a dedicated section for billboards yet! The design here was originally sketched by David Cotter for the Computex Show, and updated by Emily Maher for the FISL request.

Mauricio noted that the billboard guides people to “Come visit Canonical and learn more about Ubuntu” in Portuguese:

Venha visitar a Canonical e conhecer as novidades do ubuntu!

FISL, Centro de Eventos da PUC, de 29 Junho até 2 Julho

Emily gave a bit of background about the further work that needs exploring before the brand guidelines (they are guidelines after all, not hard policy) can be extended to cover super large formats:

I had been discussing this with Marcus Haslam, the Lead Brand Designer at Canonical … we want to work a few more things out before creating a dedicated piece in the guidelines and we need to make some adjustments, for example, the large format dots do not translate well on to such a large format. The dots were almost invisible when viewed from below, so we need to run some more tests at various sizes of the dots next to text and get proofs so we know how best to advise people.

Emily felt it was perhaps a little soon to lay down definite guidelines; but on the branding side the guidelines still translate, with the photograph angle, colours and border-style still applying directly.

Has anyone in Brazil spotted the billboards yet, or would you like to see billboard templates covered as part of the resources in the The Brand Toolkit?

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