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HUD to replace menus in Ubuntu 12.04 – a further kick to the hornet’s nest?

Canonical have today introduced a new Head-Up Display feature due to arrive with Ubuntu 12.04. Read on for full details and video demonstration…

Canonical are no stranger to courting controversy where the common desktop paradigm is concerned, and their latest feature for Ubuntu 12.04, HUD (Head-Up Display), is likely to continue poking the hornet’s nest. As you’ll see in the following video the disappearing trick of the menus in your favourite desktop applications is set to go one step further – HUD is designed to replace them entirely.

According to Canonical ‘the HUD has been designed as an easier, faster way to access menus in applications.’ They go on to explain that instead of clicking through menus users can simply type the command they require into a search box.

According to Mark Shuttleworth: “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.”

Mark’s blog entry goes to explain that the HUD is smart enough to do things like fuzzy matching, and learn what you usually do so it can prioritise them.

“It covers the focused app (because that’s where you probably want to act) as well as system functionality; you can change IM state, or go offline in Skype, all through the HUD, without changing focus, because those apps all talk to the indicator system. When you’ve been using it for a little while it seems like it’s reading your mind, in a good way.”

It’s an interesting feature, and one that we can see translating excellently to mobile and TV, but we would be lying if we weren’t somewhat concerned that this method of navigating menus might stir up the hornets nest for the average computer user. Do users really know and recall the menu options of even their most frequently used applications? And while there are plenty of common sense menu searches taking place in the above video, we’re sure there’s an equal number of other features which aren’t in the slightest bit convenient to navigate by predictive search.

That said, we’re more than happy to be proved wrong, and look forward to testing the feature for ourselves. Speaking of which, testing is underway now, and HUD will be integrated into the 12.04 LTS release due out in April.

In the mean-time, why not let us know your initial thoughts on Canonical’s radical new direction with application menus…