I just read another article proclaiming why HUD (Head Up Display) is a great idea. The gist of it is that
- HUD learns on the job improving its performance with use.
- HUD allows you to search for menu items by hitting Alt + search terms
- HUD is faster and easier to use/learn.
In fighter aircraft the idea of HUD was to allow a pilot to see important stuff while looking through the windscreen for important stuff allowing intricate operations without taking the eye off either. That‘s a good thing. Ubuntu’s HUD is not.
There are times when searching is useful, say, when you have a zillion things on the table and you need one of them quickly but that’s not what menus are about. A properly designed menu allows a few choices to bring you to what you need. The emphasis is on few.
I use XFCE4. Suppose I want to examine a download from the GUI. I click on the menu icon for file manager, “Downloads” and I am there, in two clicks. HUD wants me to type Alt,Downloads, ten clicks and maybe it will learn and get me there sooner or later with two clicks, Alt+D. What if I have Downloads, Debian, Deals, Donald, Donations etc. in my file system. I now need more clicks with HUD than with simple menus. That’s not faster. It’s slower. Further, if I want, I can make an icon for Downloads and be there in one click. I know what I want and can do a better job than HUD can do learning from me.
Further, if I start to work on a new project, the searching may keep pulling me towards the wrong directory and it will take some frustration to have it relearn. Lather, rinse and repeat. I don’t want my system to fight me. I want it to do what I want every time right away.
Further, suppose I fiddle with HUD and come to a folder with 1000 files and I don’t know the filename or much about the contents? How smart is HUD going to be? I want a search engine or database to do what I want. I already have that on my system, I don’t need an extra one from Ubuntu.
In applications, if you have so many options that you need a search engine to guide you, you have feature bloat. Not a good idea. Not fixable by using a search engine but by proper design of the menus in the program. Suppose you are in a graphics programme. You may have 937 operations at hand but you can probably get to any of them in 2 or 3 menu operations. If you cannot, you need to re-balance the decision trees. Ideally, one should not have more than a few choices at each level of the menu-tree. e.g. tools, selection, 1,2,3,4,5 choices. That takes three clicks and you’re there. If you have to search, do you even know what to search for? What happens when both you and the search engine are learning on the job? Wasted motion. Searching only makes sense when you have a huge array of choices and you are incapable of narrowing down the choices easily the way you have been reading text since pre-school.
HUD is Big Brother all over again trying to define IT so that we will be dependent on Ubuntu to function. HUD is an unnecessary bit of candy for the GUI. Simpler and familiar is best. Otherwise we or HUD will be constantly learning to walk when we want to run. Having three ways of doing everything is certainly overkill/bloat, a waste of resources.
I will finish with a story from the North where for a thousand years Inuit have been competing with polar bears. There, the elders tell the young folk, “When a polar bear charges, dodge right. They are right-handed.” Of course, polar bears may not be right-handed but leaving people with a single choice sure does make them faster at choosing it. IT should always be about speed/economy of getting the result. I don’t like HUD for that reason. It may be useful for some people in some situations but it is far from ideal generally. I suspect in hugely complicated systems where there are way too many files and menu-items, HUD would make sense. My PC with a few favourite apps is not that situation. PCs are general-purpose machines by and large and people and what they do changes. For maximum efficiency the way they use their machines should not change but remain familiar and constant.
HUD is not like replacing M$’s crappy OS with a sleek OS like GNU/Linux. It’s more like replacing a gate with a locked door. We should not have more fiddling to pass through. If we have to fiddle to change we should only do it once, not every time we want to do something.
Shuttleworth: “hiding the menu before we had the replacement was overly aggressive. If the HUD lands in 12.04 LTS, we hope youâ€™ll find yourself using the menu less and less, and be glad to have it hidden when you are not using it. Youâ€™ll definitely have that option, alongside more traditional menu styles.”
see Beyond the desktop: Ubuntu Linux’s new Head-Up Display