Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'ubuntu'

Marcus Haslam

Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote this week at the Ubuntu Developer Summit includes introducing Juju, including a big slide showing off the new Juju logo. Below is the story of how that logo it came into being. The Juju project is done. We asked the Juju community to help, and out of out of love for the brand they responded:

Juju logo

Juju was finally released to all the Dev-Ops out there, and so it’s time for a little look back on how the Juju logo come into being. Four months ago in the middle of July 2011 the Design Team received a request for some help with a new logo. This was for a project what was just on the edge of the RADAR and nobody was quite sure how big it would get!

Abi R had a number of ideas for logos, the most interesting where the wavey “magic carpet” designs. After that Robbie introduces some ideas around the letter ‘e’ as the project has still called Ensemble at the time, and Abi had a couple of further goes at developing that into a cuboid concept to go with the atoms. These all got collected up and attached to the bug report that you can read.

Ensemble was about to get a rebrand, to become Juju. Juju is a west-African system of beliefs, and has the ‘u’ sound much more akin to the other ‘Ubuntu’ and “Unity’ words that the family projects working within Ubuntu tend to get. This is when the call went out to the Design blog for some new ideas. Martin Owens did a sun/shield design making use of the circle concept seen in the Ubuntu Circle of Friends, and the other suggestion from “Birdy” was for a concept around a flying bird.

Mark Shuttleworth also suggested something around the topic of “connections”. So with everything in the basket, from Flying Carpets to Flying birds when it was time to sit down and play with the designs. What you can see here is the first concept presented to Mark for review.

This didn’t really have the “connections” aspects (Juju is about magically plugging components together to semi-automatically build a bigger system). The other things that didn’t seem to work was the dots on the ‘j’s in the word ‘juju’, so what you see is a slightly modified version of the Ubuntu Font Family. There’s the circle, there’s the connections, and also the Canonical/Ubuntu “dots” at the joins. It’s spells “juju” in the logo if you unwrap it in the right way, and spells “WW” in morse code!

After all Juju can only do two thirds of the server configuration site to make a website for you, you still have to do the other third! Thanks all for the juju designs. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed trying to put everyone’s ideas together into one pot.

To read more about Juju visit and learn how you can ‘charm’ even the largest cloud or cluster deployments.

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Paul Sladen

Kudos to everyone using the Ubuntu Font Family on their websites as a web font! This week the total to date reached over one billion requests—and it’ll go up even faster if you add Ubuntu Mono and Ubuntu Condensed to your sites too.

Shortly after the Ubuntu Font Family was added to Google Webfonts directory, Bruno and Dalton Maag team noticed that there had been 12 million API requests in the first month. I think you’ll agree that the current figure dwarfs that! Here’s the announcement from back then, now blown away:

Only added recently into Google’s font directory, the Ubuntu font family has already been viewed over 12 Million times around the world.

We expect the fonts to become even more popular once the font family is available in all its weights, and the core set is extended with Arabic and Hebrew, too.

Bruno and Dalton Maag, just a few months ago

I had a feeling that the usage might ramp up and now the those API requests to the Google Webfonts have reached one billion (109) or as David Wurtz, product manager for Google Webfonts put it:

…A big milestone!

David Wurtz, Product Manager, Google Web Fonts Team

Version 0.80 expansion

The statistics are not the only big milestone recently. Ubuntu Font Family 0.80 was released at the end of September 2011. In the release announcement it introduces the five additional .ttf files:

Hinting work continues on the Ubuntu Mono with Vincent Connare at Dalton Maag working to perfect the distortions to improve the rendering at low resolutions.

Mark Shuttleworth (who along with other people has been testing the Ubuntu Mono for nearly a year) is so happy with the Ubnutu Mono that in bug #865013 “Ubuntu Mono” has been made the default system monospace font in Ubuntu 11.10. For Kubuntu, Xubuntu and friends the monospace fonts are also shipped in release 11.10, but are not yet set as default.

Get them now!

I’ll hand it over to Dave Crossland to do the summing up. Dave is an independent font consultant working with the Google Web Fonts team who’s been heavily involved with building up the number of libre and open fonts available in the directory and knows intimately what works and what doesn’t:

The Ubuntu Font Family is one of the most popular fonts available in Google Web Fonts, …thanks to its excellent quality in design and technical engineering, and also its extensive character set that supports many languages. As more and more people learn about why web fonts are important, it’s great that the Ubuntu project has shared this high quality typeface and font family with the world!

Dave Crossland, independent consultant to Google Web Fonts team

To view and use the Ubuntu Font Family via Google Web Fonts; there’s a choice of Ubuntu (proportional ×8), Ubuntu Mono (monospace ×4) and Ubuntu Condensed (condensed ×1). You are expressly welcome and encouraged to share and use the webfonts on your own sites!

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Iain Farrell

Some of you may have already seen our new 11.10 video. For those who haven’t, we’ll catch you once you’ve enjoyed it :)

Made in Ubuntu using only open source tools – indeed only an open source font! – I’ve made the source assets available so readers of the blog and beyond can make their own versions to promote Ubuntu. Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started.

1. Download the assets files from my Ubuntu One share by clicking this link.

2. While that’s downloading you can also install Pitivi, the video editor I used, which is easily found in the software centre.

3. Uncompress the zip file and take a look at the contents.

The Assets folder contains, as the name suggests, all the video and PNG files I used to create my video. The what’s new .xptv file is the file that Pitivi uses to pull all the assets together and make the video and the template.xcf file is the GIMP file I used as a template for the text slides that appear in between the video clips.

4. Open the What’s new 11.10v2.xptv file and you’ll have to tell Pitivi where all the assets have gone. Just point it to the Assets folder and it’ll do the rest reconstructing the video.

At this point you have two choices. You can either reuse my video assets and just translate the text panels that come up in between the videos or, if you’re feeling really daring, you can use mine like a storyboard and re-record the videos.

Translating the text panels is the simplest route, simply open the template in Gimp and then save copies as PNG files with the same names as I’ve given them. Once you hit render Pitivi will pull in the new PNGs and, boom, you’ve got a video with translated text panels. Simple!

Recording your own videos is a little more time consuming. The way I did it was using a command line tool called recordmydesktop, available again in the software centre, which I found was pretty straightforward to use. It allowed me to specify what area of the screen to record from and could be launched either in the terminal or, when I didn’t want the terminal in the launcher, using ALT-F2 and then killing the process once I’d recorded the features I wanted to share.

The only other things I did while recording was make sure that any time you’re showing the clock it’s set to 11.10 and that the wifi and volume are always at maximum and bluetooth is always on.

We’d really like to translate this into as many languages as possible and Paolo, long time Ubuntu supporter in Italy has kicked us off with Italian translation of the video and we’d love for you guys to try translating it into your own languages, maybe even go and record your own videos. Paolo’s video is below, thanks again chap, we’re hoping you’ll inspire others!

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Iain Farrell

Every day just about everyone at Canonical gets email by the bucket load. Even someone like me who’s only peripherally involved in desktop development and files his own bugs through the release cycle can get get hundreds of emails from Launchpad every day. So it made our day to get a letter like this from Neil in Monroeville.

In his letter Neil says he’s been using Ubuntu since 8.10, praises Unity and also files a bug he’s experiencing with the launcher in 11.04!

Letter from America by Neil W. Kitzmiller


Neil, you don’t give us an email address but if you read this I’ve triaged your bug, marked it as confirmed and will be sending you a CD in the post which I hope will fix your problem :) Drop us an email if you can!

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Inayaili León

We’re happy to unveil the brand new Ubuntu App Developer website today, a place where developers who want to create Ubuntu applications can find all the information they need and get in touch with the Ubuntu app developer community to share ideas, ask questions and get all the news and events.

Ubuntu App Developer website homepage
Ubuntu App Developer’s website new homepage

The brief

The goal of this project was to create a website that would centralise the best resources on developing Ubuntu applications; a place where developers could find not only all the tools and information necessary to get started on Ubuntu app development, but also a place where they can be a part of an engaged community of other developers who are equally eager to learn and happy to share their knowledge.

Our timeframe was very limited: just under 10 weeks to plan, research, design and build the site. This, of course, had an impact on what could be created. We spent quite a lot of time scoping down the project, making sure the essential information was included and the site was built in a way that it could grow organically, over time.

Ubuntu Developer Website schedule
Planning the App Developer website


Research is one of the most important parts of creating sites (or, to that matter, anything that people will use). As experienced designers, we can make informed guesses on what people will want to see on a given page, but sometimes people’s expectations can be quite different from our initial thoughts. With this in mind, we knew that even though we spent a few intense weeks sketching, brainstorming, covering the Millbank walls with post-its and wireframes, having day-long workshops and listening to what all the key people in this project had to say, ultimately, we had to put our thoughts in front of the developers we were making this site for. And so we did.

Ubuntu App Developer site wireframe
One of the many sketches that were done

John Oxton, the Web Team’s UX architect, as someone more qualified to go through this phase, will write a more detailed follow-up post that will focus mainly on the research phase of the App Developer site, the tools used, the main findings, the solutions, etc.

The brand, from a developer’s perspective

The Ubuntu App Developer website is part of the main Ubuntu family of websites. With this in mind, we had to make sure it adhered very closely to the Ubuntu brand guidelines. But we also wanted it to have a life of its own, so that it wouldn’t just be a copy of

One of the key assets of the Ubuntu brand guidelines are the Voice, Audience and Developer sliders, which are a tool in understanding what the design direction of any product should be, whether it is a banner, a brochure, a cd cover, a site, etc.

Ubuntu brand guidelines slides page
One of the detailed pages on the sliders in the Ubuntu brand guidelines

Here’s a quick overview of the sliders:

  • The Voice slider determines whether a piece is representative of the Ubuntu community or if it’s representative of Canonical. This doesn’t reflect the position of the person creating the work, but of the work itself.
  • The Audience slider determines the type of user you are talking to. The work can be consumer- or enterprise-oriented.
  • The Developer slider determines whether the work is targeted towards end-users or developers. In this case, an advanced user would still not be a developer.

If you’re creating design assets for Ubuntu, you should be familiar with these: have a read of the guidelines as they go into a lot more detail, and do get in touch if you have any questions!

After talking to the stakeholders of this project, we were able to position the sliders as follows:

  • Voice: Community
  • Audience: Consumer
  • Developer: Developer

This was the first time we created a website that was so directly targeted at developers. A brand is something that evolves over time, and this was a great opportunity to evolve the Ubuntu brand in this direction and to explore a new area of the guidelines that hadn’t been looked at in depth before.

Ubuntu App Developer design direction sketches
Some quick notes and sketches exploring the design direction for the site

We wanted to create something that conveyed the idea of blueprints. This led to a design that makes use of outlines, widely spaced dots and that is clean and direct.

Ubuntu App Developer website's navigation detail
The App Developer’s site navigation follows closely the one of the main Ubuntu sites, with its own flavour

Ubuntu App Developer site's box detail
Detail of one of the reusable components of the App Developer’s site

Second round of testing

Trying to get as much feedback from our target users as possible, we showed a more finalised site to a few more developers. Again, John will write about the research side of this project in more detail soon, here on the blog.

The road ahead

This project was a highly rewarding and highly intense team effort. Everyone worked incredibly hard, but we had a lot of fun. Too many great ideas for the site had to be put aside for the future, as our time was so constrained, but rest assured all these were captured in a very exciting roadmap.

The website is now in the hands of the fantastic Ubuntu App Developer community and the Canonical Community Team, and we hope to see it grow with lots of content created by anyone who would like to contribute. Have a look at the site and tell all your friends about it! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Paul Sladen

To join the Ubuntu Monospace beta and give feedback, apply to the ubuntu-typeface-interest team on Launchpad and follow the PPA instructions after being accepted.


Hardly a day has gone by in the last six-months without the design team being asking when the Ubuntu Mono monospace is going to be available. Like all of the work on the Ubuntu Font Family, the monospace has been working its way through the phased testing process, gradually being made available to more users, as issues are improved and developed. It’s now at the state where it’s ready to share with the early-access beta team. Depending on how many issues are found it can then proceed to being released via and then finally into a future version of the Ubuntu operating system.

Development on the Ubuntu Mono started back in August/September 2010 with Amélie Bonet at Dalton Maag taking the lead. The Ubuntu Mono consists of four fonts: regular, bold, italic and bold-italic. The full set are true monospace fonts, each character being exactly 0.5em wide and 1.0em high, regardless of the weight. Just like a typewriter there are 12 characters per inch at 12 point. On a typewriter or line-printer, creating “bold” is a matter of printing over the top, building up the ink but keeping the same spacing. The Ubuntu Mono Bold follows this principle.

What took so long?

Making a font takes a really long time, for Ubuntu Mono it has also been necessary to re-learn and re-discover much of a lost-art behind monospace font design; hopefully the experiences from the development (recorded in the bug tracker and design blog) will help others working on monospace development in the future.

In a variable-width font, the letters ‘m’ and ‘w’ are much wider than the letters ‘i’ or ‘l’ leading to two problems. The wider characters must be squeezed to fit, and the narrow characters bulked-out to fill the space. Out of all of these, the Latin ‘i’ and ‘m’ have taken the most time, with many experiments run over several months to try and discern a solution (a compromise is going to be necessary somewhere).

To serif or not to serif?

  • Ubuntu Regular (proportional) on the top line, notice the ‘m’ and ‘@’, both much wider than the versions below. In a proportionally-spaced font the designer has a wide array of options in terms of setting the advance-width of a character, or optimising the kerning by setting customised spacing for certain pairs of letters next to each other (‘AV’, ‘Te’)
  • Ubuntu Mono Regular (fixed-width) in the middle, making characters work is not just a case of squeezing harder! One needs to find a designed alternative: the ‘m’ has a raised middle stem helping to keep the sensation of lightness and space, and for the at-sign (‘@’) the surrounding circle does half a revolution less, leaving the ‘a’ at the top instead of the bottom.
  • Ubuntu Mono Italic (fixed-width) at the bottom, is not just a slanted version of the monospace. The ‘a’ becomes single-storey matching the proportional italic and the letters ‘a’ ‘d’ ‘u’ gain tails in Latin. In Cyrillic Kursive (italic) the character forms often change completely.

The main Latin-based characters that vary are "j1flirt". In the end the ‘r’ was finalised without needing a serif, but the other glyphs have been provided with serifs of some form in order to “fill out” the whole of the cell in which they sit: the numeral ’1′ has a slab serif across the bottom, and for ‘f’ and ‘t’ the cross-bar goes the full width across instead of just the right-hand side. The commas and quotes also gain “typewriter” serif tails.

For more details (along with experimental the PDF diagrams) see bug #677134 (“Style: Mono: discern shape of serifs for i l t “). (Please try to have used the font by testing for one week in your normal use to help filter out knee-jerk reactions).

Where we are now

We need to test the readability of the font, particular the Cyrillic and Greek which have had less testing. We also need to test the technical aspects of the monospace font in as many terminals as possible, including the line-spacing. For this, a set of box-drawing and solid-fill characters have been included in the UbuntuBeta Mono. If working correctly when these are tiled side-by-side each should exactly touch, leaving no overlap and no gap.

This exact 2:1 ratio between height and width means that it can hopefully also be used as an 8×16 bitmap console font. Perhaps in a future version of Ubuntu you’ll be able to see Ubuntu Mono right from the moment the bootloader or CD menu appears! In order to do that, the fonts are being “hinted” to force optimised bitmap forms without “drop-outs” or gaps that appear from the fitting of the complex curve onto a low-resolution grid of pixels. As of this week Jason Campbell at Dalton Maag has handed over his hinted versions of Ubuntu Mono to Vincent Connare for tweaking. The most recent update from Vincent earlier today was “I am reviewing the Monospaced now!”, so hopefully that will reassure everyone that things are a-happening in the background!

Finally, remember that the Ubuntu Font Family is about quality, it’s better that we all get a high-quality monospace font in the long-run than to rush something out of the door too soon. Good things are worth waiting for!

Thank you to a commenter in a previous blog post for inspiring the title.

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Iain Farrell


First of all a big thank you to everyone who submitted a wallpaper to our collection for the Oneiric release and to all our previous selected contributors who went through the images and selected the fine selection for this release! We had almost 2000 submissions this cycle and managed to whittle that down to 45 shortlisted pictures. We will aim to get as many as we can into the final release.

I’ve attached the images to a bug in launchpad which is how the images will get into the release and we’ll keep an eye on this listing until release day on the 13th October to make sure everything’s in place.

With so many images it’s not surprising that our shortlisters couldn’t pick out every great image so I’ve been through and made a gallery of my favourites and would encourage everyone to do the same and let the creators of this content know how much you appreciate their effort!


Thanks again and I look forward to seeing what we create next time around!

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Charline Poirier

Recently we hired an external consultant to compare the usability of 2 email clients: Thunderbird and Evolution. I have taken some highlights from the report to compose this blog.

Setting of the usability session

The sessions took place in early June at the Canonical Office in London. Thirty participants were recruited. All of them used at least 2 email clients.

One email account was set up in preparation for the sessions; all users were asked to use this account’s details to set up the email package. Days prior to the testing, messages were sent to this account and it was also subscribed to a mailing list, in order to ensure a realistic influx of emails to this Inbox.

Half of the participants interacted with Thunderbird and the other half with Evolution; Thunderbird 5.0 build 1 and Evolution 3.1.2 were used on a desktop machine using Ubuntu 11.10.

During each 60 minute session, participants were asked to:

  • set up the relevant email package for an existing account;
  • create a signature;
  • compose an email and change font colour;
  • manage emails in folders;
  • locate a specific email containing an attachment (sent prior to the session);
  • respond to an email containing an attachment and send the latter back to the sender;
  • create a contact list and send a message using contacts.

Highlights of Report

What Participants Liked


  • Straightforward and familiar set-up
  • One-click Add to Address Book feature in email preview and window
  • Window/message tabbing system
  • Familiar, intuitive language
  • Quick search that meets expectations


  • Useful guiding steps in mail configuration assistant
  • Intuitive contextual menu option to Add Contact in email preview and window
  • Menu items easily accessed as alternative to button shortcuts


  • Both were seen as having a familiar layout
  • Both met expectations in terms of generally intuitive access to contextual menus
  • Both provided intuitive access to search facility

Where Participants Struggled


  • Confusion over search use (severe)

Users were confused by the existence of two search fields, often opting for the All messages search box as they intuitively saw this as highest in the hierarchy. This choice often resulted in disappointment when users did not expect to be taken away from the folder they were searching in; in addition, they found the search results confusing and inefficient, reporting that they expected the item they were searching for to be more easily visible.

Participants were further frustrated by the fact that if they had misspelled an entry or their search returned no results, they would not be aware of this until taken to the search results tab, which they saw as a frustrating waste.

  • Difficulty locating and managing folders (severe)

The majority of participants successfully created folders, either by right-clicking in the folder area or using the New functionality in the top menu. However, most of these users were unable to easily locate the folder created or move once they had located it. This was due to them not realising they were creating subfolders; once subfolders had been created, unless that folder already had folders within it and it was expanded, users did not notice the expand icon next to the folder and bypassed it. Finally, once they found the created folder, users attempted to relocate them to the desired place; majority of users failed in doing this successfully.

  • Difficulty personalising message text (mild)

More than half of users struggled finding the function to change font colour; the majority looked for this in the message text toolbar, bypassing the colour functionality because they expected the icon to look differently. Users eventually found this with the use of tooltips, but not after looking through all toolbar and top menu options first. Participants voiced the issue for this to be the icon being in black and therefore too subtle; they mentioned preferring a more colourful icon or one resembling a palette.

  • Unclear server options (mild)

Participants reported liking the apparent ease of setting up but most were confused by the server options provided in the second, and final, step. About half reported that they would navigate away from the window and research more into their options, with the rest either ignoring this message and go with the IMAP option already selected or choosing the POP option which caused them some issues finding emails later on. The majority of users reported preferring helpful information and guidance on the options provided in the set-up screen, in order to avoid navigating away or uncertainty.

  • Difficulty finding and personalising signature (mild)

The majority of participants were unsure where to find the signature functionality, with the majority expecting it to be either in the main toolbar, message toolbar or Message menu section. Most participants were unable to find this feature on their own without looking up help or reporting that they would ask a friend for help.


  • Longwinded, unexpected set-up (severe)

Despite appreciating the guiding steps outlined in the mail configuration assistant, the majority of participants reported feeling that this process was unexpectedly too long and found the options provided very technical and confusing. For the majority of users, this culminated just at the second step, where they thought they were being asked to retrieve backed-up files, rather than being offered option to set up this feature. Some users failed at this point, reporting that they were confused by this and would revert to using the current email set-up they had.

  • Locating account email (severe)

The majority of participants had difficulty initially locating account email due to the email folders displaying an Inbox and an account-specific email section. Most participants did not notice that the account email area was collapsed and were confused about the ‘Inbox’ shown at the top of the folder list not showing any messages. Users attempted to view the account Inbox by selecting Send/Receive and then clicking through all folders available. Eventually users noticed the email account folder with the expand icon next to it and accessed the account folders that way. This experience caused great alarm in these users, particularly as it was at the beginning of interaction with the system; as a result, many reported loss of trust in the package and considering ending its use.

  • Unintuitive message search (severe)

As discussed, search was intuitively used by participants to quickly find a required message in a large Inbox. Many participants failed finding the required search results because they carried out a search unaware that they had selected an irrelevant folder. This resulted in no results being returned and users being confused because they had expected to be able to search all folders.

  • Once email opened, difficulty getting back to Inbox (severe)

Half of participants naturally double-clicked to read email in more detail; however, in Evolution, this resulted in email opening up over the main Inbox window, hiding the email list. Participants were confused by this and struggled to get back to the message list; majority reported looking for a button or link to Inbox and were extremely weary of closing the window down (either via the buttons or menu items) because they were nervous about potentially closing down the entire email application.

  • Inability to personalise email text (severe)

Almost all participants were unable to personalise message text in Evolution; they expected access to font colour to be available along with the other font toolbar options and entirely bypassed the HTML option. One participant selected HTML and still missed the font colour option. Participants were very disappointed by the lack of this feature and looked at all toolbar and top menu options for access to this.

  • Despite long set-up, confusion over lack of password request (mild)

In addition to finding the Evolution email set-up longwinded, participants were confused why this had not asked them for account password details. The majority saw this as a frustrating time waster, particularly as they were asked for this separately, once their email had been set up.

  • Difficulty locating and managing folders (mild)

As with Thunderbird, the majority of participants successfully created folders, but here mainly by using the Folder functionality in the top menu. All participants expected to be able to create a folder by right-clicking in the folder area and only a few right-clicked on a folder to look for this functionality. Despite being able to create the folders using the top menu, users were disappointed with the lack of quicker access to this feature in the folder area (either by right-clicking or with the use of a button) or a button in one of the top toolbars.

Usability Issues Common to Both

  • Difficulty finding and personalising signature (mild)

As with Thunderbird, the majority of participants were unsure where to find the signature functionality, with the majority expecting it to be either in the main toolbar, message toolbar or Message menu section. When users found the Signature option in the message toolbar, they were very frustrated that this did not provide a shortcut to signature creation. Most participants were unable to find this feature on their own without looking up help or reporting that they would ask a friend for help.

When they were taken to the signature feature, users were again frustrated at the fact they could not find a font editing facility, despite the interface looking like it should allow for this.


As discussed, users gave both positive and negative feedback on their interactions with Thunderbird and Evolution, with Thunderbird consistently being perceived by users as easier to use and fit for purpose than Evolution.

Thunderbird was widely liked for the perceived straightforward set-up and facilitated access to contact save, search and open windows features. In addition, users commented on the familiar language used in the application.

However, participants encountered a few severe issues which tarred their image of the system. These consisted of extreme, at time show stopping, difficulty with:

  • successfully understanding and choosing the relevant search field to use;
  • locating and managing the preferred location of folders.

Finally, these users encountered some lack of clarity over server options in set-up and frustration at the inability to easily format email text.

Participants who interacted with Evolution liked the guiding steps in the mail configuration assistance, the intuitive contextual mention options to add contacts and the ability to easily access alternatives to button shortcuts in the menu.

Users reported multiple severe issues around the Evolution set-up, locating account email, message search use, formatting email text and navigating back to the Inbox. All of these issues were so major that users encountering them reported lack of trust in the Evolution package and a reluctance to continue its use.

One major fact to keep in mind is that, especially as the majority of participants were new to Ubuntu, they saw the email application they used as a representative of the operating system. This is particularly pertinent to the email system that is a system default and it should be ensured that, before either one of these products is chosen for this purpose, the severe issues reported here are addressed.

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Iain Farrell

Not that long ago Matt Jones of BERG fame came up with a really lovely idea! In response to the keep calm and carry on posters from the Second World War that had become so popular again he decided that a more positive statement was needed!

“It occurred to me that this was exactly the wrong sentiment for this age …

I started sketching on the paper a contrary statement, where stiff upper lip was replaced by a stiff upper arm from soldering…”

The Get Excited and Make Things poster was born.

Get excited and make things - By Matt Jones

With this in mind I’d like to open up the wallpaper submissions process for the next release of Ubuntu, Oneiric Ocelot! The Flickr group for submissions is now open and can be found at and just like last time we’re accepting both photos and rendered/ illustrated wallpapers.

For guidance on what formats are best to submit can I suggest you look at the excellent wiki page on the subject which can be found on the Ubuntu wiki at –

We recommend a minimum resolution of 2560 x 1600 and templates for GIMP can be found on the wiki page.

In order for us to make the UI freeze we need just over a week to review and shortlist entries so we will be closing the group for entries on the 11th August at 12pm UK time. From there as with previous cycles the contributors whose images were selected last time will be invited to select a shortlist that will make it into Ubuntu 11.10.

So what are you waiting for?! Get excited and make things!! I am! :)

Get snapping! By Gaetan Lee

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Iain Farrell

Round stickers made at

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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Christian Giordano

Overlay Scrollbars – Update

When we introduced the new overlay scrollbars we knew it was a bold decision and we were expecting some critics because of the use cases we didn’t support.

As hoped, we had a lot of very useful feedback. Most of the people very liked this innovation and understood our need to be consistent to our design principles. But because we were hoping for the minimal impact, it was important for us to understand when this wasn’t the case.

Since then we kept working on the scrollbars to implement some of the other things we had initially in mind and also to resolve, when possible, the issues raised. We are pretty happy with some of the solutions, for instance the Fitts’s law optimization for maximized windows, but we still have indeed work to do.

The most common features which we couldn’t cover yet are:

  • instant scroll through middle click
  • reveal the thumb when coming from outside the window

As you can easily imagine, these features are quite challenging by the nature of the current design and, in general, we would like to think any new feature through. We want to make clear that we value your feedback and these requests are far from being forgotten.

Now the juicy bits, other features we are introducing are:

  • support for right-to-left languages
  • various tweaks on delays before hiding the thumb
  • animated scrolling on page up/down and reconnection
  • a visual connection between the thumb and the overlay
  • a slightly modified shape for the thumb too!

Here a video with the most updated version:

Animated scroll and new delays for Ayatana overlay scrollbar from Andrea Cimitan on Vimeo.

Despite our efforts to materialize our vision, there are many toolkits that need to implement them to provide a consistent experience across Unity. We would be more than happy to assist anyone interested in this work stream, in particular: XUL, Qt and the web browser Chromium. If you’re willing to help or you have any question related to the implementation and the technology used, don’t hesitate contacting our software engineer Andrea Cimitan

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Iain Farrell

This week we got a fun update from our traveling team member Ivanka! While passing through Dawson City in northern Canada Ivanka and Nick met Chalsie Warren and she recognised the Ubuntu stickers on their bike! This got me wondering whether we can track down the most extreme users starting with the most northerly Ubuntu user.

Do you know that person?

Are you that person?

Get in touch and let’s fill up this map! :D

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Iain Farrell

Some of you out there may have already seen that funky print shop just launched a new product, round stickers. This means that you can now upload round images and make lovely bespoke stickers in a pack of 52. Full disclosure before I start to say that I used to work at which is why it appealed to me to play with their product. Anyway, as soon as I saw these new stickers I thought of one thing and that thing was pictograms!

Our pictograms are a beautiful library of icons that help us illustrate the Ubuntu world and they’re all round.


I thought, I’ll grab the PNGs from, upload them and be handing out stickers around the office in no time!

But … horror of horrors … the pictograms we’ve made and put online are all 113 x 113 px and MOO recommend at least 472 x 472 px and their uploading tool doesn’t yet accept SVGs which left me with a big problem. I wanted to print 52 stickers and didn’t really want to manually open 52 images and scale them in Inkscape and resave them.

“I need to automate this!”

So here’s what I did to get my lovely pack of stickers made and what you can do to make your own pack of pictogram stickers.

What you will need …

Got it all? Right! Let’s get cracking!

So unzip your pictograms and open up Inkscape. Then select all the ones you’re going to want to resize and drag them from the folder window into Inkscape.

Dragging SVGs into Innkscape

Next you want to make these tiny little objects bigger so to do this select Object from the top menu bar and choose Transform from that drop down. Make sure you have all the pictograms selected and click on the scale tab.

Because we want to give MOO some nice big images let’s make them massive. I’ve made mine scale proportionally by 1500% and make sure you apply this to each object. Hit apply and zoom out because your screen is now filled with big orange shapes.

Next up we want to add a bit of space around our objects. Whenever you print something you need to provide an area around the image known as bleed. This will allow for the fact that your small item is being printed on a large piece of paper or card and being cut out and you want your image to go right up to the edge. This will become clearer when you upload your PNGs.

To add the bleed around mine I’ve cheated and added an invisible stroke to each object – there may well be a better way to do this but I’m excited and this is how I’ve made it work. You can do it my way by right clicking on your selection of all your pictograms and choosing Fill and Stroke.

First of all select the last tab Stroke style and enter a width of say 200px .Then select the second tab Stroke paint and click the second box in to choose Flat colour. This will immediately cover your lovely pictograms in a thick black line, not at all what we’re after, so reduce the alpha channel, the fourth bar in that pane to 0 to make our stroke transparent.

SAVE! You never know!

Now we need to be able to see all our lovely pictograms before we export them as PNGs. To do this click again on Object in the top menu and choose Align and Distribute from the bottom of that menu. This will bring up another panel with a section called Remove overlaps. I entered 100 into the vertical and horizontal just to give a little room around each object. Then click the icon next to these boxes and behold in amazement as all your pictograms sort themselves into an orderly group!


Now we’re ready to export our pictogram PNGs. To do this click on File and choose Export Bitmap from the menu. You want to export each object individually so check that box at the bottom of the export window and click Export.

This will export your PNGs to the same folder you saved your inkscape file in earlier. We’re not done yet though! There’s no such thing as transparent ink and MOO will turn our strokes black again so there’s one last step we must go through and that means firing up Gimp.

If you’ve never installed a Gimp plugin before – and I hadn’t – there are plenty of guides to get you going. It’s as simple as typing make in the correct directory from a terminal window. If you get stuck drop me a line but for now I’ll assume you have the batch processing plugin installed.

Once you’re in Gimp head over to the Filters menu in the top bar and select Batch Process.

This tool will pop up, in the input tab choose to add files and select the PNGs that Inkscape made for you. Then select the Rename tab and select a new output directory – we don’t want to overwrite and mess up the originals. Also select to flatten the images, this will remove the transparency for you. Lastly on the output tab choose PNG from the dropdown of file types. The Default should be fine. Hit start and you should fill your new folder with lovely print ready pictogram PNGs.

Try saying that three times fast!

The end is in sight! All that remains is to head over to MOO’s sticker page and make your own stickers. Upload your PNGs, crop, rotate and generally play and in no time at all you’ll have some lovely stickers in your house, on your laptop, on your friend’s laptop, on your cat, basically anywhere you put them!


Look out for a follow up post when mine arrive! :)

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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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Inayaili León

We all know Ubuntu is great, but we want even more people to know just how great. With this in mind, we thought we’d give the visitors of the tools to spread the word about Ubuntu.

As of today, you can see Tweet and Like buttons on some of the key pages of the website, such as Ubuntu for you, the Features pages, or the Download page.

Sharing features on Ubuntu for you page

This is the first step towards something bigger. In the pipeline are the introduction of more ways of sharing the Ubuntu message with friends, family and (why not?) your entire social network. For now, we’ve focused on the two most popular services.

Sharing a page from on Twitter
Sharing your favourite pages of the Ubuntu website on Twitter is a breeze. Before tweeting, you can customise your message too.

We’d love to get your feedback, hear your suggestions, and know your ideas on how you can tell the world just how lovely Ubuntu is. As an Ubuntu lover and active member of the community, what tools do you think would help you and be most valuable in sharing your experience of Ubuntu?

Finally, if you love Ubuntu, help us spread the word: visit and share those links with as many people as you can!

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Iain Farrell

At UDS in Budapest we held a session on the idea of a toolkit for community members. It would allow anyone excited enough to show off and celebrate their use and love of Ubuntu. As you can see from the notes there were a lot of ideas and one of the first activities was to create a YouTube channel celebrating Ubuntu.

Last week we did exactly that and you can now head over to right now! Go on, head over. I’ll be here when you get back … that was quick ;)

Related to this as part of the 11.04 release I worked on a video for with our web team. Intended for the features page it shows off some of the new goodness that has made it into this release. I should also say a special thanks to Jason from the Novacut project who stepped in and helped right at the end. We couldn’t have done it without you chap! Thanks!

This video and the toolkit conversation got us thinking. Everyone has their own favourite aspect of Ubuntu. The thing that makes it great for them. The thing that makes them smile when they use their computer. The thing that makes them wonder why anyone would use anything else!

So make us a video that tells the world what your favourite part of Ubuntu is.

Step 1: Come up with your ultimate Ubuntu feature and how you might make a video of it. What’s the story? Will a viewer “get it”?

Step 2: Make your video and post it up on your favourite video sharing website/ Ubuntu One/ anywhere you can put the file send it to me!

Step 3: Just like any internal design project we’ll get our Brand Lead Marcus Haslam to have a look and the ones we think make the grade will be posted on our channel for the world to see!

We’ll be looking at these throughout the Oneiric cycle, blogging and promoting the ones we think are great so there’s no deadline as such.

Get creative, enjoy and together let’s celebrate Ubuntu!

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Iain Farrell

The real life dashboard on our wall in the office

Every 6 months the Ubuntu journey starts anew. Those of us entering yet another cycle assume that this all makes sense to the outside world but I like to post up dates on the wall in the office and write a blog post to give those new to the project, and some not so new, a handy reminder of the major milestones in each cycle.

Each release that we create has a cycle with certain key milestones in it. These milestones are broadly agreed before the previous release is even out the door and are almost always an exact copy of what came in the previous release. The schedule for our next release 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot can be found by following this handy link to the Ubuntu wiki.

Anyone wanting to contribute to Ubuntu needs to be aware of these dates, designers and developers alike, as dates like the feature and UI freezes are your deadlines for getting new goodness into the release. Miss this deadline and you’ve missed the October release. Like a train the Ubuntu release rolls out of town whether you’re on it or not, however, unlike those dreadful windows trains there’s another one along real soon – in another 6 months in fact! :)

For more information on the time based approach to projects head over to the wiki pages on the subject and hit us up in the comments if you have any questions!

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Inayaili León

Natty Narwhal isn’t the only thing new today in Ubuntu. Along with it, and as you may have already noticed, we have updated some areas of the Ubuntu website, including a fresh new homepage.

What’s new?

This overhaul of the website focuses on improving and refining the experience for users who are new to Ubuntu and who we want to entice and convert. We have taken a better look at how Ubuntu’s most important features and characteristics were (or weren’t, in some cases) being shown, and whether visitors’ most important questions were being answered.

Several things have changed. Firstly, rather than having separate sections for Desktop and Netbook (and as a consequence of the move towards Unity), we have created a single section called, simply, Ubuntu. We have also added a direct link from the main navigation area to a new Download section, making the different download options more visible.

Under the new Ubuntu section, Ubuntu’s features are given the spotlight. Rather than having a long list of screengrabs as before, various tabs take you through a more detailed tour of the most exciting and useful features.

The Web browsing features page
The Web browsing features page

In the new What’s new? section you can see what has changed from previous versions of Ubuntu.

Interactive tooltips in the What’s new? page
Interactive tooltips in the What’s new? page

The new homepage is cleaner, more focused and it shows off some of Ubuntu’s features from the outset. The new design also solves one of the biggest performance issues the previous version suffered from: very large file sizes, which rendered the page too slow to load.

Ubuntu website’s new homepage
Ubuntu website’s new homepage

These larger updates to the site started earlier this year. In March, the Business section (which was previously divided in two sections, Server and Cloud) underwent a major restructuring. The main objective was to make it easier for businesses to find out about all that Ubuntu, and Canonical, have to offer them.

The new Business section
The new Business section

Why the change?

These updates didn’t just pop up from nowhere. Last December, we carried out intensive user research to see how the website was performing. During these sessions, we interviewed users of different platforms and with different backgrounds. We analysed their paths through the websites, we heard their questions, took note of their concerns and observed their “awe moments”.

The findings from our analysis showed that although users found Ubuntu compelling, they were having difficulty finding answers to their questions on the Ubuntu website, and some of the most interesting features didn’t have the prominence they deserved.

The findings analysis phase
The findings analysis phase

This happened not only for end users, but also for business users, hence the update of both sections.

Whilst the overhaul is visible in both the design and structure of the website, we have also been trying to (slowly) improve what’s hidden behind the scenes.

We (as Canonical’s Design and Web Team) are conscious of the fact that both the markup and the code behind the website can be greatly improved. Our ultimate goal is to make the code that powers Ubuntu’s website as good as Ubuntu itself. We want it to be indicative of our standards.

This will make the website more easy to maintain and it will reflect on how accessible it is (which is a consideration that we’re striving to keep present throughout the entire process, not only in the coding phases of the project).

Steps in the right direction

To create these new pages, we have compartmentalised the new code so that we could experiment with creating better code. Our goal is for the new code to be more accessible, more flexible, more modular, less convoluted, less redundant, more performant and more robust. Our markup can be cleaner and more semantic.

One of our main concerns regarding the current website’s design and code is its lack of accessibility at some points. For this matter, we spoke directly with the Ubuntu Accessibility team to register their worries and suggestions. The main items that transpired from this session were:

  • Some colour combinations don’t provide enough contrast between background and foreground
  • Text should be easier to resize, using relative units (such as ems) rather than absolute ones (like pixels)
  • The copy should be clear and concise
  • Some of the text is too small
  • There are visibility issues in links and navigation

This chat was helpful as it helped to consolidate the issues we were aware of, surface other problems and most importantly provide us with a real world view of how these can disrupt users.

We have begun addressing some of these in the new designs and will continue to do so in the coming months.

What the future holds

You can expect more and better updates to within the next few months.

The main focus of our work will be making the website more accessible and easier to navigate by following current web standards and bringing it up to the Ubuntu and Canonical standard of quality; the code should be easier to manage, the content easier to update, and the message clear.

We’re confident we’re heading in the right direction. We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and comments.

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Paul Sladen

We always knew Google Maps was good! Canonical and Ubuntu are a global organisation and there’s always somebody awake somewhere. Today that somebody was Jono Bacon, staying up late on the west coast of the United States. Before anyone in the UK was even awake there was a tweet saying that the Google satellites had spotted the early arrival of a yellow Narwhal in the River Thames just outside the London Millbank Tower Canonical offices. Google Maps did indeed prove its accuracy; when we looked out of the window from the 27th floor down towards Lambeth Bridge there was a visitor:

Narwhale Visiting Lambeth Bridge.  As seen from Canonical UK Ltd offices, 27th Floor Millbank Tower, London on 2011-04-01

Narwhal visiting Lambeth Bridge, seen from the Canonical Offices.

In Ubuntu we like to publicly test everything, yesterday the hundreds of people working on Ubuntu released Ubuntu 11.04 Beta 1. Canonical’s head of PR has informed us that just like the release, the Narwhal visit has been carefully orchestrated as part of the press activities for the final Ubuntu 11.04 release later in April. This 1st visit is a “beta” run to recheck whale head-room clearances under the bridges at low-tide.

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Matthew Paul Thomas

That’s it, we’re quitting

The “Quit” command in applications today is a relic from the days when the original Macintosh had no hard disk and couldn’t multitask. Modern applications have made this command increasingly annoying. Fortunately, though, modern PCs have also made it increasingly unnecessary. Mobile operating systems have, for the most part, eliminated the “Quit” command completely. In Ubuntu, the messaging and sound menus will help us do the same.

A compromise that got out of hand

It’s easy to forget just how much more powerful personal computers are today, compared with the machines on which some of our user interface conventions began.

In 1983, the Apple Lisa had a 5 megahertz processor, 1 megabyte of memory and two floppy drives — but failed largely because it was too expensive and slow. So the first Macintosh in 1984 instead used an 8 megahertz processor, only 128 kilobytes — kilobytes! — of memory, and one 400 KB floppy drive.

Implementing a multi-application graphical user interface on that original Macintosh required many design tradeoffs. Most importantly, while the Lisa could multitask, the Macintosh just didn’t have enough memory. Except for a few small accessories, only one application could run at a time.

This raised an interesting problem. If you had an application open, and you closed the only document you had open in that application, what should happen? To open a document belonging to a different application, you’d need to go back to the file manager (which was the main application launcher back then), and that would require unloading the application. But if the next document you wanted belonged to the same application, unloading and then reloading that application (from a floppy disk, remember) would be an annoying wait.

So, the Mac designers made two decisions. First, they introduced a way to open a file within the same application, without going back to the file manager: the Open File dialog. And second, they required users to specify manually when an application should remove itself from memory to make way for another one — by invoking a “Quit” command.

This was a reasonable, if awkward, compromise. As the years went by, though, something weird happened. The Amiga copied both these ideas, and then so did Windows, and OS/2, and KDE, and Gnome, and many other environments — even though they could all multitask and (except for early Amigas) used hard disks. It was a classic case of cargo-culting.

To be fair, Open dialogs eventually became more efficient than file managers for the specific task of opening files. But “Quit” (which Windows called “Exit”) became less and less relevant. Mac OS X moved the “Quit” menu item from the “File” menu into the junk drawer that is the application menu. But quitting has remained a basic part of how Mac applications present themselves, and it has persisted for many applications in Windows and Ubuntu as well.

A few behemoth applications, such as LibreOffice and Gimp, still keep “Quit” separate from “Close” for the original reason — to save you from having to wait for the application to relaunch after closing its only document. But that is fixable, and all other applications have become fast enough that they don’t need it any more. After all, they’re running on hardware that is hundreds of times faster than it was in 1984.

People who have been using computers for a long time sometimes get a sense of reassurance from the idea of controlling application unloading themselves. Meanwhile, though, the presence of “Quit” has been getting confusing and even a bit destructive.

The problems with “Quit”

Most obviously, there is a problem with Web browsers. First, people have gotten more comfortable with the idea of having multiple Web sites open at the same time. Second, Web applications have become more common and more stateful. And third, since 2003, Web browsers have competed partly on how minimalist their interfaces can be — which has made the browsers less and less obvious as applications themselves.

As a result, the effect of “Quit” in a browser is now bizarre. For example, imagine that you have windows open for Amazon, Banshee, Calculator, eBay, Empathy, Facebook, Gmail, and Shotwell. What happens if you choose “Quit” in the Gmail window? Gmail quits, but Amazon, eBay, and Facebook quit too, while Banshee, Calculator, Empathy, and Shotwell stay open. How much sense does that make? Not much.

Browser designers have tried various hacks to lessen this problem. Some browsers ignore the standard Ctrl Q keyboard shortcut for “Quit”, because of the damage it can cause. Some put up a confirmation alert, asking you if you’re sure you want to quit. And some offer, in that confirmation alert, to remember your windows and tabs for next time you launch the browser.

The existence of a confirmation alert is a fairly reliable clue that the original design is broken. And that’s true in this case: none of those workarounds make it obvious, ahead of time, which of your applications are about to disappear. And even if a browser restores all the pages you had open, usually it has still lost any work you were doing in those pages. In Ubuntu, the Epiphany browser avoids the problem much more simply: by not having a “Quit” command at all.

It’s not just Web browsers, though. The same problem exists in any application that has windows for apparently distinct tasks.

For example, if you have a presentation open in KPresenter, and a spreadsheet open in KSpread, and you choose “Quit” in KSpread, the spreadsheet closes. But if you have the same presentation open in LibreOffice Impress, and the same spreadsheet open in LibreOffice Calc, and you chose “Exit” in Impress, the presentation closes, and — surprise! — the spreadsheet closes too. How much sense does that make? None whatsoever.

KPresenter and KSpread are coded as separate applications, so they quit separately. LibreOffice Impress and Calc happen to be coded as a single application, so they quit together. But why should you have to know that engineering detail? On 21st-century computers, it’s irrelevant.

Finally, “Quit” is confusing for any application that can do useful things in the background without windows open. A long-standing example is the file manager, which typically controls the desktop as long as you are logged in, and so doesn’t have a “Quit” function. A more recent example is the Mac App Store, which — like Ubuntu Software Center before it — continues downloading and installing applications when its window is closed. Surprisingly, though, the Mac App Store continues downloading and installing applications even after you “Quit” it. In Ubuntu Software Center we avoided that weirdness by not having a “Quit” command in the first place.

In other cases, though, the behavior needs to be more flexible. You might, or might not, want to be notified of new e-mail messages when your mail client isn’t open. You might, or might not, want to receive incoming chat messages or calls when your IM client isn’t open. And you might, or might not, want to keep playing music even when the music player isn’t open. In these applications there is at least a useful distinction between “Close” and “Quit”. Unfortunately, the result is that “Quit” is being used to mean several quite different and non-obvious things: “don’t check for messages any more”, “go offline”, “stop music playback”, and so on. A single term probably isn’t a good presentation for all these things.

In summary, then, “Quit” is more confusing than useful. For many applications, it can be either removed altogether, or changed to the more straightforward “Close” if that item isn’t present already. But for applications that run configurable things in the background, the design is a little more complex. Fortunately in Ubuntu, we have some elements waiting to help out: the messaging menu, the me menu, and the sound menu. (It’s almost like we’ve been planning it.)


Since Ubuntu 10.04, Ubuntu has had a messaging menu, which shows incoming messages from humans, as received by any application that integrates with it. (It’s been great to see Thunderbird integrating with the messaging menu, for example.) Ubuntu also has a “me” menu, which — among other things — lets you set instant messaging status, for any IM or VoIP application that integrates with it. It’s possible the structure of these menus will change in the future. But the basic idea will stay the same.

One awkward detail has been that if you have used the me menu to go offline for instant messaging, you can’t use it to go online again. Last week, Ken VanDine fixed that problem — which means that for any IM application that integrates with the menu, it’s no longer necessary for it to have a “Quit” item. If you want to go offline, you can do that from the global menu. And if you want to close the program’s contact list, you can do that without affecting your online status. The functions will no longer need to be tied to each other in unpredictable ways — they will be completely independent.

For e-mail and similar messaging clients, things are a little trickier. At the moment, these applications typically stop checking for messages when their window is closed. However, many people apparently want these functions to be independent too — as shown by the variety of separate mail notifiers available in Ubuntu.

The engineering solution here is for messaging clients to split out the code that checks for new messages, so that it can optionally run even while the rest of the application is not. Gwibber already does this, for example.


There are two main kinds of media player application. For standalone players like Totem and VLC, which mainly play individual files, the behavior when you close the window is fairly straightforward: the media should stop playing, just like a game or Web page would.

For jukebox-like players like Rhythmbox and Banshee, though, what should happen when you close their window has long been a source of debate. With Ubuntu’s sound menu, we have a chance to resolve it clearly.

The basic design principle of the sound menu is that in a multi-window environment, it’s reasonable to want to control a jukebox-type player quickly without its window being open, and that a menu is a good way to present that. Again, it’s possible that the exact presentation will change in future, but the basic idea will stay the same. We’re delighted that thanks to the Mpris standard, Amarok, Banshee, Clementine, Exaile, MPD, Rhythmbox, Spotify, Symphony, and Xnoise will all integrate with the sound menu in Ubuntu 11.04.

Having a separate quick-access interface reinforces the basic idea that whether a jukebox window is open, and whether music is playing, are completely independent things. You can close the jukebox window without interrupting playback. And you can start or stop playback without opening a window.

Implementing that much has been easy enough for our friends working on Banshee, for example. But it introduces a new issue: If you want to start music playing from the sound menu, you can’t be expected to know or care whether the player is already running. So in Ubuntu 11.04, the sound menu will show the Play button even for registered players that aren’t running. If you choose Play, the player will launch and then start playing.

If a player takes a while to launch — because it scans a database of media each time it launches, for example — making this a smooth experience will be a challenge. There are several possible solutions, though, depending on the player. For example, it could remember which track it was playing when it was last running, and postpone any database scanning if it has been launched for the express purpose of playing a particular track. Or it could even keep running in the background for a couple minutes after you stop playback with no windows open, just in case you’re going to start playback again.

Always be closing

Phone and tablet operating systems, such as Android and iOS, have abolished the ideas of “quitting” or even “closing” applications altogether. In Ubuntu, running on screens large enough (and with pointing devices precise enough) for multiple windows, “Close” remains a very useful idea. But with a little effort, we can reduce frustration and simplify Ubuntu overall, by making “Quit” something that humans no longer have to think about. Let’s stop being quitters, and start being closers.

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