Ubuntu Is Changing The Way You Use Menus With HUD – Brilliant or Bonkers?

Mark Shuttleworth of Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu Linux) is very excited about Ubuntu’s new menu system, which will likely make its debut in version 12.04, out in April. The Heads Up Display or HUD Menu is a search box that only pulls results from the menu system of the app you’re in.

If you want to bookmark something in Firefox, just bring up HUD and type “book” and by the time you get there you’ll see the Bookmark command. HUD will also show you the menu structure and every other instance of “book” in the menu in case the first result isn’t the one you want.

Down the line HUD will eventually replace the menu in Ubuntu altogether.

HUD Menu for Ubuntu

In his detailed description of HUD and the philosophy behind it’s creation and development — which you should read in full if you’re as fascinated by this stuff as I am — Shuttleworth claims that HUD increases the intuitiveness of the interface. “It’s a way for you to express your intent and have the application respond appropriately.” The developers are working on making it just as useful for heavy multitaskers as for the everyday user, but I’m not completely sold.

I take issue with everything in this paragraph:

Even casual users find typing faster than mousing. So while there are modes of interaction where it’s nice to sit back and drive around with the mouse, we observe people staying more engaged and more focused on their task when they can keep their hands on the keyboard all the time. Hotkeys are a sort of mental gymnastics, the HUD is a continuation of mental flow.

Especially the bit about HotKeys. When you live inside of a program you know the HotKeys by heart. I’ve designed my workflow around knowing them or inventing them when necessary. I even bought a keyboard that allows me to execute keyboard shortcuts with just one tap. The HUD would require me to type out words, which is more than one tap. and used both hands to do so, which is also more work.

I might be weird in this regard. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in comments.

The part I am excited about is the promise of voice commands. That would improve my workflow.

Despite my misgivings I’m willing to let HUD wow me, When the next Ubuntu comes in April I’ll give it a try. I wonder how long before something like this ends up in Windows or OS X?

See Also: OMG!Ubuntu! on HUD.