It’s time to fix the window controls

This is awkward.  We need to talk.

March 3rd was a strange day. It was one day before User Interface freeze for the upcoming Ubuntu Lucid long term support release.  By the end of the day we were supposed to have the entire look and feel of the desktop settled on so people could start writing documentation and books.

This was the same day that Canonical finally released the new theme that had been under secretive development.  It was bold, daring, light-inspired, and perhaps most popularly, not brown.  Jono Bacon, Canonical’s community manager, broke the news.  Mark Shuttleworth followed up on his own blog, thanking three members of the design team for leading the effort.

The most important change, however, wasn’t actually talked about.  The designers don’t blog themselves, and Mark and Jono didn’t mention it directly.  It had to be found in the screenshots, or experienced firsthand by alpha testers.

This is not ok

Soon, the community learned the change was intentional: a bug about the misplaced window controls was quickly marked invalid,  and when the controls briefly reappeared on the right again the change was reverted.  What’s disturbing is that Planet Ubuntu has been rather silent on the topic.  No one’s posted a real defense of this change yet, or for that matter even claimed responsibility. It’s like there’s this collective unease about criticizing something that feels like it came directly from on high.  So, instead, people are just silent.  I’d certainly be if I worked for Canonical.  Perhaps I should be, as I still hope to work for them.

If you read between the lines, you can tell that people aren’t too happy about it.  The most flattering thing a developer’s said about the left-sided Window controls is that they “got used to them after a few days”.  We’re quick to praise the theme (it’s gorgeous), but talking about this major sudden change to the window controls feels like taboo.  That’s incredibly unhealthy for a community project.  It’s like there’s this collective unease and everyone’s worrying if we’re about to release something embarrassing.

This experiment was a failure and we need to realize it

The alpha releases are great places for usability experiments.  Sometimes, they don’t work out.  Put a new user on today’s Ubuntu Lucid and they’ll think it’s fantastic, sleek, and absolutely gorgeous right up to the point where they have to close a window.  That’s where our first impression becomes something awful.

Note: The new card backs pictured above are my doing and are now default (Mads Rosendahl drew them).

A brief summary of the complaints about the left side window controls

Some of these I noticed myself, a few are gathered from various comment threads on forums and blogs over the past week.

• Because the window title isn’t centered, the window controls being placed directly in front of it put it in a weird indented position
• The “slightly off left” location is inconsistent with Nautilus, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Empathy, and every other tabbed program we have, which have close buttons for their tabs on the right.
• The left position is inconsistent with Windows, previous versions of Ubuntu, and even OSX – users have to relearn decades of muscle memory.
• Users who interact with both Windows and Ubuntu machines (or migrate from Windows) will have a much harder time than they did before.
• The buttons are too close to the file and edit menus, making catastrophic misclicks much more likely.  Closing something on accident should be as rare as possible.
• Even without misclicking, a user will have to take more time to use the window control and avoid a misclick.  This is an example of Fitt’s Law.
• The close position is also inconsistent with the power button in upper right.  Currently, “close it down” is something you can always do from the upper right anywhere in the system: within a tab, within a window, and even for the whole computer.  The new window controls break that entirely.
• The new position leaves a lot of empty, wasted space in the upper right of most windows.  While strictly speaking the amount of unused space is the same, it looks much worse when it’s all clustered together.  When the controls are on the right, the extra space can function as a buffer for the potentially destructive window controls.
• Similarly, the upper left of most windows now becomes much more crowded, creating a rather unpleasing contrast to the relatively empty upper right.
• In previous Ubuntus you could close windows on the left if you really wanted, by expanding the small circle menu that’s now gone entirely.  File->Quit is also an option, which is now very close to the close box.
• Gnome upstream has them on the right, causing consistency and developmental problems when we deviate.  This is particularly jarring with the adoption of future projects like Gnome shell and Gnome 3, which will change again how we interact with window controls.
• The current implementation breaks themes not designed for the new button order (which is currently every theme we ship, so even changing the theme back doesn’t help)
• A day before User Interface freeze of a long term support release is the worst possible time to suddenly spring this on everyone without explanation.
• It is very difficult to change them back as we don’t have any UI tool for doing this (the current method is manually editing gconf keys)
• The new position doesn’t actually do anything beneficial.

That last point is the most important.  Other than “looking different” the change doesn’t do anything helpful.  It’s a huge usability loss for an awful lot of people.  Some people get used to it quickly.  Others don’t, and like me end up getting physically angry when trying to use their computer.  I can’t remember ever having my computer make me feel this way for a long time, and I’ve been running Ubuntu alphas for five years now.

Let’s admit we have a problem

Ivanka deserves credit for being the first member of the design team to at least talk about the controls:

Are we smoking crack to think that the learning curve or getting used to a new position is ever going to be worth any real or perceived benefit of new positions?

I’ll leave that question to the reader.

127 Comments

JMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:08 am

Ubonitu – Continuing to be “Linux on the desktop” wtg!

ChrisMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:38 am

Damn, I was thinking (and secretly hoping) this odd control placement was caused by a bug…

I really hope they revert this change. I can’t seem to get used to it, I always mouse the mouse to the top-right corner and realize it’s no longer there… At least, there should be a setting somewhere to disable this behavior (I looked but could not find one).

I heard people saying that modern Linux desktop is trying to mimic Mac OS X. I did not really notice it myself because I have never used Mac. However, with this new control placement, even I am starting to wonder…

RasMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:52 am

They are obviously doing it wrong.

RustyMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:53 am

One of several papercuts that are driving me to move to pc-bsd. kvm installed by default on systems that can’t use it (for example no hardware processor visualization) and preventing users from having other VMs load by preference. No, or at best negligible, documentation on how to initialize services using upstart. Continuing issues with sound that require a reboot to resolve. (PA doesn’t like it if you leave your desktop running for more than a day or two, and restarting the desktop doesn’t always give you sound back.) No default ‘pass-through’ option for line-in feeds to the output without hunting for and installing an obscure module. Mono installed by default. Bing becoming the default search engine.

I have not been a fan of KDE for a variety of reasons. But I’m more inclined to switch to it every day, and if I’m switching UI’s I think I should solve more than a few of those other problems by switching core OS as well.

It’s good that their’s choice.

OliMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:00 am

I completely agree with you. You’ve summed up the comments left on Ivanka’s post quite well although I’m sure these are your own thoughts too.

As a commenter on Ivanka’s post said, nobody has done anything to justify this change. Usually when something changes there is a fairly solid rationale put forward followed by a permutation of available choices and after some discussion, we land somewhere.

There was no discussion before this and from what I’ve seen of the feedback, 90% hate it and 10% aren’t sure. I just hope that somebody considers the users, considers (as you’ve said) the years of muscle memory carved into us from using Ubuntu and other operating systems and weighs up whether it’s really a good idea.

The only comments I’ve see on it so far have been “try and get used to it” and “it’s okay, you can put them back by hunting in gconf-editor”.

I also think it’s massively important that the buttons get moved before this release (an LTS FFS) gets finalised, UI-freeze be damned. It’ll cause much more harm if you let some people get used to it and yank it away in 6 months time.

Arnaud JeansenMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:18 am

Hello,

I was the one who marked this bug as Invalid, and I am not in any way associated to Canonical or the new theme.
As the change was done intentionally, I really don’t think it qualifies as a *bug* per se. I think the proper channel to discuss this would the mailing lists.

Again, I am not associated with Canonical or the design team

PeterMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:21 am

I wholeheartly agree with you. The result of the experiment seems to be a clear: please, put the controls back, where they were.

YokoZarMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:23 am

Anaud: To be honest I concluded it was intentional from the package changelogs rather than from your bug action (especially when it was moved back to the left). That combined with the rather obvious nature of it means it had to be intentional, as this isn’t something you just overlook.

DonnyMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:24 am

Spot on. The problem is not the decision itself, but the silence. In fact, I consider your statement that the “experiment has failed” a little bit wrong, because *we don’t have information to know even that*.

Nathan HainesMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:29 am

Frankly, I got used to it pretty quickly, and I’m doing okay with it.

But I completely agree with Scott–the timing is really lamentable. While a LTS release is surely the best time for a major change like this, there should have been a lot more discussion around it. I’m going to hope that–like the messaging indicator system that removed buttons and hotlinks–this is one of those things that needed to be done unilaterally and will be a big win, but unlike that instance I somehow doubt it.

YokoZarMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:30 am

Donny: True, this might not even have been an experiment. It could have been some sort of UI fiat like how the notifications aren’t in the corner but rather 200 pixels or so below it.

But, for now, I’ll assume the best ;)

FlimmMarch 12th, 2010 at 2:54 am

Excellent post!

marcinqMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:00 am

“The left position is inconsistent with Windows” … “Users who interact with both Windows and Ubuntu machines (or migrate from Windows)”

While we are at this one. The thing that should be changed from default Gnome is: Cancel | OK placement to the one we all know from Windows: OK | Cancel.

That’s one thing that made me go KDE when I tried Linux as I simply just as in your points saw no benefit of this buttons order and was already used to OK | Cancel from Windows.

Steve AntalMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:03 am

Now this is the most ignorant move since Pulse Audio, I think this is why the Linux desktop will never be popular, you can’t expect “human beings” to put up with this.

Benjamin HumphreyMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:06 am

Y’know, it’s not “taboo” and I haven’t been scared to talk about it. My blog may not be aggregated to the planet, but here are some posts I’ve written.

One day after the theme was released:
http://humphreybc.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/my-thoughts-on-the-ubuntu-branding-refresh/

A couple of days ago:
http://humphreybc.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/a-message-to-canonicals-design-team/

And then also a couple of days ago:
http://humphreybc.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/its-the-little-things-that-count/

This one actually got re-posted by my good friend Joey of omgubuntu.co.uk:

http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/03/16-things-that-could-be-improved-in.html

212 comments and counting. It also sparked an Ubuntu Forums thread:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1427273

All of this was interspersed with me chatting with Jono and a few other community people on the changes. Next week I’m going to be talking to Ivanka and mpt about the changes, as well as Iain Farrell.

It’s obvious that no-one likes the change:
http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/03/poll-do-you-want-ubuntu-window-controls.html

The problem here is that:

a) The Canonical UX team just dropped this theme on us very late

b) They don’t seem to have conducted much research beforehand

c) They never asked for the community’s opinion

d) They didn’t make it clear that these things might not be final

e) If they’re not final, they are going to break the UI Freeze

f) They haven’t given any clear reasons for the change.

Richard SalsburyMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:15 am

I couldn’t agree more. What is the advantage of moving the window controls to the left? Just because Apple do it that way? Ubuntu should be borrowing ideas from other OSes only in so far as they offer a concrete advantage (a) in terms of usability, or (b) in terms of aesthetics _without_ compromising usability.

Paolo SammicheliMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:28 am

I completly agree with you Scott. This experiment was a failure and we need to realize it

Also, you make me ROFL with the video from Italian Spiderman! Looking forward to meet you at next UDS.

Jeremy BichaMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:36 am

I apologize in advance, but… The Canonical user interface and artwork guys seem to like to take advantage of the intent of “user interface freeze” by uploading their changes for the first time at the last possible moment. This happened in Karmic with the new boot screen & the Humanity icon set. In fact, I got the email about user interface freeze being in effect before my update manager got the new Light themes. That’s not right to make drastic changes at that time; I don’t think other teams could get away with that. We hit kernel freeze today; wouldn’t it have been nice if a brand new kernel were available this week?

Why don’t they release these ideas earlier to get more input from the community, bug reports and fixes? Humanity was not complete for Karmic’s release (it was fairly close, but it looks more finished in Lucid).

MadsMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:40 am

Someone on reddit noted that the notification windows won’t cover the controls anymore. That makes sense, but I didn’t realize how many changes really needs to be incorporated in order for such a move. OS X has them on the left and it seems everybody agrees that apple is the holy grail in design.But it seems ridiculous to drop such a design bomb just a day before a design freeze, left controls or right controls.

Jim RorieMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:46 am

Kudos for being the first person on the Planet bold enough to speak against this change. I have a hard time believing that 100% of the bloggers are in lock step with this design change. For shame Canonical for breeding an atmosphere were dissent is feared.

JeffMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:55 am

Thank you for this post. It needed to be said by someone who’s well known in Ubuntu.

The fact that they want to change the style and don’t discuss every little tidbit seems fine with by. But doing a drastic interface change like that (even if it’s just experimental), without explaining it? That’s a disservice to the community. I know the Art Team leaders were invited and all, but it was all in secret.

I’m loving seeing Ubuntu exploring new design opportunities and going it’s own way, instead of following other OS’s. I’d love to see more of this: getting and maintaining our own style and design philosophies. But not this way, please. :(

PS FWIW, I also strongly dislike the “16 things wrong with Lucid”-like posts (which although passionate sound more like whining than constructive critisism) and agreed with Jono’s response to them. But they happen because of this same lack of communication.

JD EvoraMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:07 am

Hi,
I agree completely, all the other changes are a matter of taste, but this is a usability regression and can’t be put there the day before a freeze.

Please vote on Brainstorm
http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/23899/

HamishMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:07 am

The reasons I have seen for this, including reasons I have inferred if not explicitly stated, are

* It puts the window controls near the window menu and the main panel menu, meaning less mouse movement for many common actions.
* Not having the close button first means there is not the most destructive action first (as there is on OSX).

I have no idea if there is a rationale for having maximise before minimise – no one seems to have mentioned why that was done, although there is plenty of complaining from people hitting the wrong button. Maybe they just reversed the lot, and then moved the close button, leaving this order … ?

I’m also not overly enamoured of the changes. And I’m unimpressed that no one seems to have mentioned if any sort of usability testing took place – even just hallway usability tests would be handy. I’m all ears if there are some more arguments, or usability test data, available. I respect a lot of the work being done – for example the usability testing done for empathy sounds great. But the timing of the change and the arguments for this I’ve heard so far are not impressing me.

As to: “Are we smoking crack to think that the learning curve for getting used to a new position is ever going to be worth any real or perceived benefit of new positions?” – are the benefits more than the two points I’ve put above? Because the first doesn’t seem like a massive benefit, and the second is only a benefit relative to OSX. And apart from the learning curve, the cost also includes the consistency of close functionality many others have pointed to.

I’m guessing that some of the ‘benefits’ could be kept by moving the close button back to the right, and swapping the minimise and maximise buttons back to the old order. We shall see.

EitanMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:20 am

Thanks for speaking up!

marquinosMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:21 am

Yes, you have great reasons! ;)
The buttons on the left is a very bad decision.
I think the designers use MacOX *-)
Best regards!

Ubuntu Forums Poll > On which side do you prefer your window control buttons? Left or Right? http://acurti.es/Sva

JeffMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:27 am

Massive kudos for using an Italian Spiderman .gif, by the way! :D

FabMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:29 am

Very good post! I agree with you 100%. Couldn’t have said it better myself, in fact. I hope the deciding people at Canonical will listen. If this goes into Ubuntu, it’ll be a huge mistake. If they do this in final, I am just happy my parents aren’t updating their Ubuntu machines themselves…

fakefurMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:44 am

glad i moved away from the *buntus a while ago … debian + xfce is much better and faster and none of this shot gets foisted on you

bigbrovarMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:49 am

Great post and I completely agree with you. The whole window button fiasco sets a creepy precedent on Ubuntu. when the will of 3 is imposed on the whole community. I really hope its reverted and sanity is allowed to reign. If its not I guess we can all say good bye to Ubuntu the Community distribution.

Cyde WeysMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:51 am

I agree with everyone else. Window controls should not be in the upper left. What are they thinking? If this goes through, I’ll switch back to KDE or something. Any way to get away from this.

Ubuntu is not the only OS I use — in fact, I use Windows 7 eight hours every day at work. I’m not going to deal with such a fundamentally jarring inconsistency as “how do I close my windows?” every time I get home from work.

BlaiseMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:26 am

You appear to have taken Ivanka’s comment out of context.

All in all it’s really a non issue.

FlávioMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:31 am

I have a question for the design team.
Do they use FLOSS design tools in Ubuntu all day?

I ask that because I’ve read a job posting at canonical some time ago and a requiremente was proficiency in photoshop. I undestand photoshop (CS2) runs relatively well in wine but I can’t see someone using it in a permanent manner.

The point of this question is to know if they eat their own dog food.

Matt AustinMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:35 am

Can’t agree more with all the points you’ve raised. I’d love to hear some kind of explanation for this change, although only a ‘gut’ reaction – it immediately puts me off wanting to use the new theme – I just don’t see the argument for changing something like this which (in my experience) has been the same ever since I started using Windows 3.1.

OrenMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:35 am

Brilliant post. I hated the left-side buttons from the first moment I saw them but you made me understand better why I hate them so much :D
The order of the OK/Cancel buttons mentioned here is interesting. I used to hate that as well, but after ~5 years with Ubuntu I’ve gotten completely used to it – and I use Windows as well. I guess it means that there’s a good chance that I will get used to the close/minimize/maximize order as well – but I just don’t want to have to!
(and that Italian Spiderman gif made me LOL)

Mark FernandesMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:37 am

I do not blog (as yet) but I read Ubuntu planet daily. I have never commented on any Ubuntu blog feed so far, however this buttons change has riled me so much that I am breaking my silence just to say this: THANK YOU FOR BLOGGING ABOUT MY SENTIMENTS EXACTLY, everyone else seems to be content, play along, and follow the piper.

Please note: I navigate between Windows and Ubuntu almost daily so this buttons change was really offensive the moment i saw it. I am using Lucid alpha at the moment and say what you like but I was truly grateful to another blogger (sorry I forgot his name) for hinting on how to change it back using the gconf editor.

In case someone needs to know its under:

/apps/metacity/general/button_layout

and it should be (the leading colon is significant)

:minimize,maximize,close

After reading your post, I am more likely to follow your feed regularly because I could not have expressed any better: my shock, disappointment, and a bit of anger. Nice animated jpg too, thats what got my attention! :)

jacobMarch 12th, 2010 at 5:59 am

The SC2K Transportation Advisor is wise.

loizMarch 12th, 2010 at 6:24 am

Thanks for pointing out the bug, or failed experiment if you wish. I hope this will get fixed soon.

Vadim P.March 12th, 2010 at 6:38 am

Hope this gets fixed as well. This is just stupid.

Fabian RodriguezMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:01 am

I see the bug is now ” confirmed” . I only see 25 ” this bug also affects me “.

Anyone concerned with this should login to Launchpad.net and click on the link just below the title to indicate this affects them too:
https://bugs.edge.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/metacity/+bug/533566

Omar KMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:03 am

Definitely a wrong choice.

Mark Fernandes,
Thank you for posting the cure.

JohannesMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:14 am

Thank for this post.
This is a really stupid change for the users, and for Ubuntu’s reputation. It will make a lot of users mad against Canonical – and this reason is sufficient to consider the new buttons position as a really bad choice!
Cheers!

DonnyMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:24 am

Fabian (and Scott, since he linked it), actually, this is the bug receiving most of the heat:

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/532633/

KimbleMarch 12th, 2010 at 7:39 am

Amen!

MumbwaMarch 12th, 2010 at 8:24 am

My thoughts exactly.

Everyone wants to be very polite about this, and I also want to be polite about this, but the changes are a big mistake.

I think the Fitt’s law thing doesn’t affect the default install because it has a bar at both the top and the bottom. I have configured my system without the bar so it affects me.

It is a hard thing to admit the mistake and change it back, but it’s going to be _impossible_ to do that after the CDs are burned.

Hopefully, it’s configurable so that the Fitt’s law pixel can still mean close, and it doesn’t affect me. But I want Ubuntu to do well and to avoid this embarrassment.

Btw. I like the new theme fine otherwise, and I also liked the brown theme.

AdeMarch 12th, 2010 at 8:42 am

Best Blog post ever.

JuanjoMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:12 am

I agree with you.

It was starting to be weird that nobody criticized the buttons’ position. Thank you for adding some normality to the planet!

ppMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:13 am

Not to mention they look shitty, too.

AscorbicMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:17 am

Wherever they are placed, I never liked those 3 buttons, on any OS.

On Windows 7, one can maximize a window by dragging the title bar to the top border of the screen, and back by moving it away. We should also be able to minimize it by dragging it to the task bar, and close it by dragging to e.g the bottom right corner of the screen. No more tiny hard-to-click-on-purpose-easy-to-click-by-accident buttons!

NobuMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:27 am

I don’t disagree with your points (most of them, at least), but this one confuses me:

- The current implementation breaks themes not designed for the new button order (which is currently every theme we ship, so even changing the theme back doesn’t help)

How does it “break themes”? The themes shouldn’t be designable in a way in which changing the button order breaks them, so I find that hard to believe. A screenshot would be nice, and a bug report would help too, if it actually does break the themes.

If you meant that it just makes them look bad, that’s different. A bad looking theme != a broken one. But I would agree that most of the themes would not look good with the buttons on the left. A simpler way of changing the window controls’ placement (like in OpenBox or Xfce) would be nice too, has there been a bug filed about that?

Paul KishimotoMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:33 am

Thanks for being so rational despite feeling angry!

I think your third-to-last point (“A day before User Interface freeze…”) is actually the most important. If it landed earlier, then there would still be a chance to fix mistakes, so it wouldn’t ultimately matter what mistakes were made in the first place.

You can tell they are trying to avoid “design by committee,” which generally produces bland results. Maybe they also wanted to create a splash when they announced the new branding. But there are ways to do both those things without doing a runaround on the community.

Drupal is a good counterexample: they release less frequently but have had a UX project going for the whole Drupal 7 development cycle (http://www.d7ux.org), with mockups (http://www.d7ux.org/category/projectframework/header/), “crowdsourced” (ugh) testing (yay), cross-project bug tags (http://drupal.org/project/issues/search/drupal?issue_tags=D7UX).

The design talent iterates several times based on the feedback from developers and users, the whole process is out in the open, and everybody winds up happy.

YokoZarMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:34 am

Nobu: I mean that if you switch to another theme, even the old ones from Karmic, your window buttons will be moved to the left. Yes, this is a bug, but it’s due to the current implementation of the theme.

d gMarch 12th, 2010 at 10:52 am

I actually like the new theme n leftist butt control hahaha

Bob MottramMarch 12th, 2010 at 11:06 am

I agree that moving the buttons to the left is a failure to consider usability issues, and is inconsistent with many other commonly used applications. If Canonical wants to grow Ubuntu’s user base they really need to be considerate of the way new users will use the operating system. The “look and feel” should be consistent throughout, not with some close buttons on the right and some on the left. Also users coming from other OS’s (the most common case is likely to be Windows XP) will intuitively expect these buttons to be located on the right hand side. Non-intuitive window behavior provides yet another reason for detractors to dismiss Ubuntu/Linux as a niche thing for a small number of specialists.

NobuMarch 12th, 2010 at 11:11 am

YokoZar: Actually, it’s because of how Metacity (the window manager) is designed. The placement of the buttons is not decided by the theme, but by a configuration option. If you changed this option to have the close button, then the title, then the maximize and sticky buttons, it would be reflected in all themes. They’ve changed this option, so now the buttons are how they are, no matter what theme you use.

As I’ve said, this doesn’t “break” the themes, because that you can change the button/controls order if you wish to whatever you want. It would be nice to have an easier way to change the order back, but there isn’t at the moment…so if there’s no bug reported for that, I’d suggest reporting one (in case we end up stuck with the buttons the way they are, we might like a way to change them to how we like, right?).

(btw, to access this option, open gconf-editor and go to apps > metacity > general and change button_layout to your preference. It’s not a fix for everyone, but until they change it back–if they change it back–this will get it back to how you like it)

chanuxMarch 12th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Copying everything from Apple is not right. Control buttons on left hand side is a usability error. (I’m a right handed person and I dunno about how left handed people feel about it.)

Apple do it because Jobs is left handed :P .

(BTW we should honor the ~10% of the population who are left handed and give the option of having controls on left hand side if they wish.)

Evan CarrollMarch 12th, 2010 at 11:41 am

It would seem to me that it is wrong simply because you read in English left-to-right. This means the mutability of the content should approach static as it reaches the bottom-right. This is why news feeds are *always* newest at the top. This is why navigation really should be on the right-hand side. (as it is on your site).

But either way, this isn’t the end of the world. I’m kind of more upset that the default theme is another esoteric dark one. I’m not sure that a dark theme is a good default no matter how shinny and transparent you make it. People simply like high-contrast brightness. We make web pages where 50% of it is white-space, and all of the colors are are bright and vivid; and, desktops where all of the color are dark with glare?

NobuMarch 12th, 2010 at 11:57 am

Evan Carroll: I actually prefer mid-high/high contrast and dark colors; bright colors hurt my eyes.

My desktop (even when I still used Windows) always used dark colors (black or dark-blue/gray) for windows and a lighter color (medium/light blue or medium/dark red) for text and selections. Of course, bad UI and web browser/website design have often forced me to use lighter colors for text areas and selections and darker colors for text, but I guess it’s my decision to visit those pages and use those programs.

bobMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I’m agree with you. Hope they’ll leave us an option to move this buttons to normal place.

RonMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

If Ubuntu (both the OS and philosophy) is about humanity to others; then Canonical needs to follow suit and be humane to its users by not f***ing with one of the cornerstones in the foundation of the fundamentals of desktop work flow and work space.

Not even Microsoft has done anything this stupid because while they may have created the “Ribbon” interface (which everyone hates), at least the minimize, maximize and restore buttons ARE IN THE SAME ORDER AND IN THE SAME PLACE….

Ian LevesqueMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I’d just like to point out that if they’re trying to mimic Mac OS X they also fail, because the order of the buttons is reversed. On mac the close (X) button is on the far left, in Ubuntu 10.04 they have close on the right.

So it’s consistent with neither Windows nor Mac OS X. :(

h1n1March 12th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

@evan either those design developer team have eyes problem/blur or simply have no general public taste ;) … maybe just steve jobs/apple design team wannabe?

the new window button is mind boggling even for a left handed like me.
right handed user can do this as a test, change your right window button alignment to
“close| minimize | maximize”
test it for few hour then you will know what i mean. you can’t reset/retrain decade of muscle memory in few days

~ h1n1 …
just some-random-full-time-linux-user

YokoZarMarch 12th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I don’t get what being left handed has to do with any of it. It seems far more important to ask where the cursor is currently on the screen, and I think this depends far more on the other buttons than it does handedness.

ThanosMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Another reason I prefer the buttons on the right side of the window is that I usually rest my mouse pointer at the bottom right part of the window that is active. So its easier to just go up and click the buttons instead of having to go across the other side of the window, if the buttons are on the left. Or maybe it’s just me. Hoping decision makers in ubuntu art team listen to the many many people complaining and revert the change. There are far more serious problems to be solved. We don’t need to create new ones when they did not exist.

zitstifMarch 12th, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Ubuntu != OSX

Mark Shuttleworth, stop trying to be like the OSX! Granted there may be things to learn from the OSX, but come up with your own approach.

Mutiny32March 12th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Call me a masochist or just plain asking for trouble with what I did, but my experience will quantify the final result of the team leaving the controls on the left. Again, I know.

Do you have any idea of the amount of hell I bought upon myself after I upgraded my 60-year-old father’s Ubuntu machine to 10.04 Alpha 3 and then had it do automatic updates, resulting in his window buttons being flipped all of a sudden? Seriously, he is the type of user that you need to worry about. He didn’t appreciate the change. He didn’t care what the reason was, he just wanted me to change it back. And even he, being the very non-technical user he is, was telling me that it was screwing with all kinds of other window functionality (creating bugs) after he figured out WHERE they went. He also kept telling me that he was accidentally hitting other buttons and menus because of how close they were to everything else. Above all, he hated how he kept accidentally closing windows because of the stupid “x” button being there.

Needless to say, basic users will be pretty pissed off if this is permanent. They don’t like stuff to be screwed with if didn’t have to be. It’s annoying.

Søren HaubergMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Somehow this reminds me of the time they decided to use spatial browsing in Nautilus but that windows should be closed when a new folder was opened. Anybody remember that? Fortunately they reverted their decision in the next release. So, perhaps we get lucky and get proper window controls in half a year…

borisMarch 12th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

putting the windows controls to the left is really, really stupid. i’ve installed ubuntu on my parents laptop. they have problem with the gnomepanel being on the top, missing drives like C:\ and other workflow stuff differing from windows. now it the window controls change as well, i guess they’re going to want their ms windows back. Because of the window title and the buttons on the left side, you could not even spot the menus immediately.

LuizMarch 12th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I wish the proponents of the new window decoration organization could make rational and technical arguments as you have.

Thanks for the great post.

(just waiting for someone to step up, and either correct this grave mistake or at least try to justify)

JeremyMarch 12th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I actually prefer the MacOS X layout and usually rearrange my window controls in ubuntu this way just for the fun of it (even with a Mac inspired theme too). It confuses the heck out of people who are used to ‘Windoze’ which is great! (Using Windoze at first usually confuses the heck out of me for a little while and I’m always left wondering why anyone would want to use it… kinda a physical anger type of thing mentioned… although not so much for the window arrangement as just for being crap. )

But if the controls are stuck in Ubuntu – this sucks! Especially if they’re in a kinda-half-Mac like position with the window title off centre. I hope they revert things to being customisable. They could definitely make the customisation interface a bit simpler I think, but it needs to have some easy way to change the layout.

Tim HMarch 12th, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Yah. This sucks.

Jeffrey VandenborneMarch 13th, 2010 at 12:46 am

Am I the only person that got used to it within a week while still being able to know the buttons are on the right side when I’m using Windows temporally? And I thought my brains weren’t great. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with anything in this article, it’s just like the preferences option is in the edit menu in Gedit, Firefox while in Netbeans, it’s way to the right in the tools menu. I never confuse that, I know where the preferences menus are in these applications, and I’m never mistaken. I can perfectly switch between Windows, Mac and Ubuntu, without the need to hesitate when I’m never the buttons. Is my memory good? Or are you people just judging without really knowing what it’s like?

SagarMarch 13th, 2010 at 2:21 am

Maybe it’s just ’cause I’m a OSX + Linux user, instead of a Windows + Linux user, but I’m not bothered by this. It makes a lot of sense to me–most of the other controls are on the left side of the screen, so it makes sense to move the window controls there as well. On the other hand, I usually use ^W to close a window anyway.

I think the button order conflicts somewhat with the “most destructive action last” rationale though–when mousing from inside the window, you hit the right-most button first. That’s now the close button, and so you have to mouse over the close button to hit maximize/minimize.

Maybe the default order should be maximize, minimize close? (If we’re changing it up anyway).

SagarMarch 13th, 2010 at 2:22 am

Gah, my suggested ordering was “maximize, minimize [title] close” but I used angle brackets around “title” in my comment and they got stripped out.

s.March 13th, 2010 at 3:54 am

I really want now to rewire all cars of Ubuntu Design Team to exchange positions of Brake and Accelerator. I’m sure they will be delighted.

s.March 13th, 2010 at 3:57 am

…also, “Ubuntu is all about choice”. As long as users choose what Ubuntu decides is right.

jeffMarch 13th, 2010 at 5:14 am

That they do a crappy default ubuntu theme is one thing (really, how shitty are those progressbars?! the rest is “OK”).

That they break my Clearlooks and every other theme out there with their stupid button placement (“minimize,maximize:close” would have made MUCH more sense) is another entirely. But I don’t have the energy for fighting this kind of crap these days, especially when they have a top-down “we designers are always right” approach.

HuygensMarch 13th, 2010 at 6:04 am

I read your message on my favourite reader, and of course I wanted to react, and while your page was loading, I kind of expected that much comments already!
I could not read them all, but I am sure people have already express Pros and Cons about this new little UI change.
I’m just telling little, because it’s not a major issue. It’s not the first Linux theme with the button on the left, and some of them have already been quite of a success (just look at the {kde,gnome}-look websites. And it does not break the Ctrl+Q or Alt-F4 that many users are preferring over mouse clikcing. I, on my part, prefer the mouse (or whatever tracking device) over the keyboard and thus welcome the change!

This change is particularly convenient for natives of left-to-right language such as in those in Europe, Americas and other counrties.
Basically, if you look at programs, they are almost all left oriented (menu, most side bar, back/forward buttons, how you write, etc.) So, it is very convenient to have the window controls also on the left. If you are a trackpoint (the little red dot in the middle of some laptop keyboards) user, this will be even more visible than with just the mouse.

I think this should be however configurable, especially for those who uses a language that is right-to-left such as Arabic. This, I can consider a real issue!

Second, I have been sadly mainly a Windows user at work, but a happy Linux user at home. But recently I have bought a Mac. I have to tell that having those little controls on the left was a cool thing, easy to catch with the trackpad! And only a few times at the beginning did I get shortly “confused” going in the wrong direction on either systems. Since then, I’m completely amby-positions ;-) Just like I used to have a QWERTY keyboard at work and an AZERTY one at home. You get confused just a little moment, but then no more.

Finally, everyone is talking about the “designers” that did this UI change. I guess (but this is a wild one) this does not come from designers! A designer job is to make things pretty, not tho move things around based on usage. I guess, this must be the work of some ergonomists who have most probably made a UI study with many participants and find out that for most users it is better (more logic) to have the window control buttons on the left side.

An happy user of the new way controls are presented to the user.

HuygensMarch 13th, 2010 at 6:16 am

Another side note! ;-)
They are a few things that are quite more annoying when switching from Windows to Linux (either definitively or on a daily basis, like @work/@home)!
Examples:
– Firefox preferences menu (under Edit for Linux and Tools for Windows)
– Hard disk, CD/DVD and even floppy disk (for those who had to cope with them) naming (C:\ against / or /whatever)

And other minor changes awaiting dear Windows users are : the thing that resemble the “Start” menu is not at the bottom-left but at the top-left in Gnome! And what about the Start->Shutdown scheme bottom-lefted and the little button top-righted in Ubuntu? Or the “showing the desktop” button which is bottom-right in Win7 now (was bottom-leftish in XP!! take care) and is still bottom-left in Ubuntu!
However, no one is complaining about these little placement differences!

HuygensMarch 13th, 2010 at 6:23 am

@Ian Levesque
>> if they’re trying to mimic Mac OS X they also fail [...] it’s consistent with neither Windows nor Mac OS X

the order is different than Mac OS X, however a window (if not maximised) is never really place at the “same place”, thus what is cognitively (for the mind) important is approx position and colour in this case. And this is consistent with Mac.
The colour is important, look at how easier it is to close the window with the mouse since XP (big red button). The order does not really matter, what matter is how fast the “close” button is recognised from the others. And on all 3 systems, shiny red they are.
This is a kind of consistency that is user friendly and that is present on all 3 systems!

jasonMarch 13th, 2010 at 7:04 am

if they were going to change the buttons they should have at least put the max/min on one side and close on the other. this move seems pointless.

Anonymous Ubuntu UserMarch 13th, 2010 at 10:55 am

Out of pure laziness, I didn’t read every comment posted. It’s possible you’re making a big deal out of nothing. However, in keeping with the extreme customization of Ubuntu, maybe there could be an option to have these buttons on the right OR the left? An example you used (the power button being in the upper right) already does this, in that you can move it to any position on the panel. I’m by no means a developer and don’t fully understand what would have to go into doing something like this, but again as an example, I moved my “power button” to the left hand side – precisely for the reason that it was too close to my window controls and I kept clicking it by accident.
Again, did not read all the comments, perhaps someone has suggested this or something else.

@AlisonWMarch 13th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

A lot of fuss about nuttin’ so far as I can see. I have systems on a range of OSes and each use slightly different interfaces, directory structures, utility names. I get used to it. Change for changes sake might not always be good, but nor is it automatically bad.

REAL COOL LINUX DUDEMarch 14th, 2010 at 6:17 am

What an absolutely awful decision

ClamIAmMarch 14th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Scott owns and this post owns. I can live with my uncloseable popup notifications not being in the corner where they should be, but to break consistency with every other GNOME distro (and with GNOME itself) just strikes me as very odd.

About being left-handed: many (most?) of us use the mouse with our right hand, since this is how nearly every shared computer (school, work, library, etc.) is set up. Oftentimes these computers will disallow the use of the mouse control panel, and it’s not uncommon for the mouse cord to be “secured” so to make moving it impossible. Then there’s the common keyboard shortcuts (cut/copy/paste/undo), which on a PC keyboard are easier to do if you’re mousing right-handed. And don’t forget the stigma of being that sinister bastard who keeps moving the mouse to the “wrong” side of the computer.

tl;dr we’re forced to learn right-handed mousing anyway, so most of us just roll with it (and yes, this means we’re better than you). Oh yeah, we can also surf the Web and write down notes (on paper) at the same time.

MikeMarch 15th, 2010 at 2:00 am

Actually, I’m one of the few that like the new button position. It requires less mouse movement and notifications don’t interfere with my buttons. But I can see how many people don’t feel comfortable with the change. An option to change it would be nice, or even better make it themable and provide a right-button theme (or the other way around, default at right as usual and make a left-button theme for the ppl who like it like me)

Ctrl+W+T+FMarch 15th, 2010 at 7:11 am

As people are pointing out, this is a iTool move. I would expect that some pro graphic designer has the ear of the top folks — that is why the worst design decision of Mac OS X has made it into Ubuntu 10.04.

It is really a mistake, due to the menu/windows buttons placement. On the Mac, you roll over the buttons to reach the menu at the edge of the screen. The menu is effectively a larger target on the Mac, as it is at the edge of the screen. While you might over-shoot the window buttons and end up with a menu, that is not a big problem. Accidentally closing a window is a big problem.

This is all the Fitts’s law stuff you were talking about.

Peter HeinesMarch 15th, 2010 at 9:16 am

***NEWS FLASH***
from http://irclogs.ubuntu.com/2010/03/15/%23ubuntu-desktop.txt >
———
[15:17] cjohnston: hi
[15:17] the plan is to stick with the current arrangement through beta1
[15:25] cjohnston: there are arguments for an against the move left. the decision to go left is mine, based on design preference and where i want the UI to move next
[15:26] i’m open to real feedback, especially genuine reports of “i clicked the wrong thing accidentally” rather than speculative “people will click the wrong thing accidentally”.
[15:33] sabdfl: Is it going to stay the way it currently is on the left? If so I’ll start closing bugs
[15:33] cjohnston: it will stay that way through beta1 to gather feedback
[15:33] clearly, there’s a lot of feedback already being gathered :-)
[15:34] Ok. So leave the bug reports open then?
[15:36] sabdfl: so we can expect the left to stay? (just curious)
[16:04] nigelb: yes, that’s the likely outcome
[16:05] sabdfl: I’d love it :)
[16:06] sabdfl: Mostly on principal, taking bold moves and sticking to them.
———

So there you go , we are stuck with it for _ever_ , no fixing ;-)

Peter HeinesMarch 15th, 2010 at 9:18 am

***NEWS FLASH***
from http://irclogs.ubuntu.com/2010/03/15/%23ubuntu-desktop.txt >
———
[15:17] sabdfl> cjohnston: hi
[15:17] sabdfl> the plan is to stick with the current arrangement through beta1
[15:25] sabdfl> cjohnston: there are arguments for an against the move left. the decision to go left is mine, based on design preference and where i want the UI to move next
[15:26] sabdfl> i’m open to real feedback, especially genuine reports of “i clicked the wrong thing accidentally” rather than speculative “people will click the wrong thing accidentally”.
[15:33] cjohnston> sabdfl: Is it going to stay the way it currently is on the left? If so I’ll start closing bugs
[15:33] sabdfl> cjohnston: it will stay that way through beta1 to gather feedback
[15:33] sabdfl> clearly, there’s a lot of feedback already being gathered :-)
[15:34] cjohnston> Ok. So leave the bug reports open then?
[15:36] nigelb> sabdfl: so we can expect the left to stay? (just curious)
[16:04] sabdfl> nigelb: yes, that’s the likely outcome
[16:05] nigelb> sabdfl: I’d love it :)
[16:06] nigelb> sabdfl: Mostly on principal, taking bold moves and sticking to them.
———

So there you go , we are stuck with it for _ever_ , no fixing ;-)

Alex GMarch 15th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Bravo. The design decision is a bad one in my opinion, but that’s debatable – if you hold a debate. Shoving it through right before a freeze deadline makes a mockery of the Code of Conduct and the essence of the Ubuntu project. It is neither respectful, considerate, collaborative, nor communicative. What should have been done is to implement a GUI way of changing placement – and increasing user choice, not shoving a barely modifiable default down users throats in an LTS release.

BrewsMarch 18th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Bruno Girin posted this as a comment to the bug in launchpad (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/532633/comments/231). After slogging through ~230 bug comments, this is my favorite:

“”"

this tag may include content you can’t see the funny side of
please read the whole post and go have a walk before replying in anger

Oh dear! A pre-release version of the next Ubuntu includes a massive change to an essential element of user interface: the close button is now on the left! The world is going to end!

OK, so what? If I look at all the window managers I’ve used in the past apart from Gnome, I count: Amiga OS (1.3), Motif, CDE, Ye Olde Mac Classic, Mac OS-X, whatever the WM was on SunOS 4.x and the old HP-PA, Windows 3.1 to Vista. The only thing I can say is that the positions of the Close, Minimise and Maximise buttons has been quite varied. In fact, the only OS in here that ever had the Close button in the top right corner was… Windows 95/NT4 and above. Every other one had it in the top left corner.

The current argument reminds me of the time when we upgraded customers from Windows NT 3.51 to NT 4. Microsoft did something terrible with NT 4: they replaced the application launcher window with this weird bar at the bottom that had a “Start” button and they moved the Close button from top left to top right! How dare they? My customers were up in arms. Granted, considering said customers were FX and equity traders, some of them had an IQ inversely proportional to their earnings and found it difficult to adapt to the change, but still. Every time I visited them, I was told: “We’ll call your boss, you’ll lose your job over this! We’ll go to the competition! Microsoft will crash down in flames for doing this!” Did I lose my job? No. Did they go to the competition? No. Did Microsoft crash down in flames? Hell no, otherwise we wouldn’t have bug #1!

Having said this, is this a major change? Yes. Should it be pulled back? No, not now and here’s why:

1. Despite the fact that this thread seems to indicate that the whole Ubuntu community is up in arms, this is not the case because the sample of users in this thread is a self-selecting one. The users who see no problem with the change will never find this thread because they won’t go looking for it. On the other hand, every single user who disagrees with the change will go to Launchpad, find the thread and add his own negative comment. So whatever data this thread contributes to the problem is by definition biased and should therefore not be used in the decision. On the other hand, that same data provides an interesting set of test cases as it shows a varied range of opinions and experience, which is useful for my second point.

2. Such a usability change can only be validated or invalidated by widespread user testing. No amount of polls, reviews or limited usability studies will tell you whether the change is a good one or not. And, guess what? A beta release is exactly the right way to do such testing: it’s stable enough that you can give it to non-technical users but you still have the option to correct bugs before the final release. I suspect this is exactly why Mark Shuttleworth said that the current button layout would stay *for the duration of beta 1 at least*. And I believe that, if beta testing were to show that the change has a definite negative impact on usability, it would be reverted before full release.

So, how, as a community, can we perform user testing on this change? Install the beta, use it, try it out as it comes out of the box. And for those who say that they support non-technical users, get them to play with it. But don’t tell them anything, let them find out what’s new. I’m sure you’ll be surprised by who adapts well to the change and who doesn’t.

Now can we please all calm down and help make Lucid the best Ubuntu yet?
“”"

That is all.

BrewsMarch 18th, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Oh! The little html tags Bruno used were cleansed from my post. See my link to the original post (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/532633/comments/231)

BrettMarch 20th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I’m not sure if anybody has noticed this but when you do “fix this in gconf-editor” to put the buttons in the correct place/order (minimise,maximise,close) it breaks the new themes which have rounded icons for maximise & close and a square one for minimise.

cprofittMarch 21st, 2010 at 10:05 am

Real Simple — They change it back — I will change it back — or I will use a different Distro.

greenMarch 22nd, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Actually I think it looks stunnung, really clean and tidy. The “close” button is still on the right (of the cluster) so for me it still works with tabs etc. But what do I know, I don’t even use Ubuntu. The real reason I posted here was to say that video is hilarious – super job :)

Mora ZyxMarch 23rd, 2010 at 2:03 pm

where did that great .gif go??

YokoZarMarch 23rd, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Mora: It’s still there. It’s actually an apng, which means you need to be using Firefox or a similarly capable browser to see it (others will just show the first frame). I tried making it an animated gif so it would work on all browsers but it inevitably looked washed out because there are too many colors in the image.

RasMarch 23rd, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I didn’t load Lucid until now… and, what a living hell!
Ubuntu isn’t into blame with this, as I noticed that GNOME made some stupid changes as well.

What the hell are they smoking? Perhaps its time to get real usability experts into this.

EricMMarch 24th, 2010 at 8:19 am

I think this proves a point in the software development world, that even open source projects are not immune to politics and bureaucratic interference. The tactics that were chosen for this move were awfully familiar with closed source programs. They were not transparent at all about it, only involved a small user group that probably had to sign an NDA and couldn’t discuss it. Then it was sprung at the last second, sounds like an Apple move was attempted but not pulled off very well!

KaylaMarch 24th, 2010 at 4:56 pm

The real difference between this and OS X (other than the order) is that OS X doesn’t have the menu as part of the window so it doesn’t matter where they land. Here, right side makes more sense.

Sascha BrossmannMarch 25th, 2010 at 8:05 am

bq. The tactics that were chosen for this move were awfully familiar with closed source programs. They were not transparent at all about it, only involved a small user group that probably had to sign an NDA and couldn’t discuss it.

Yes, and that might have been even a good move, like it or not. It’s exactly the design-by-committee type of decision making where every moron wants to raise his voice (informed/understanding or not) that kept the FOSS desktop in an incoherent pile of junk state for years. I’d expect the _reasoning_ behind the design decisions to be made as transparent as possible to the community, though.

Generally, IMNSHO the article is pretty pointless and contains loads of bullshit (in the sense of H. G. Frankfurt).

PhilMarch 25th, 2010 at 8:45 am

Lets hope they see sense before launch and put them back on the RIGHT side of the window!

KenMarch 25th, 2010 at 10:29 am

I’ll play devil’s advocate. (Or maybe not. I’m not sure.)

1. Mac OS X DP3 (2000) moved the window controls from where Mac OS had had them for over 15 years, and after a couple months I never heard anyone complain about it, even though it’s significantly worse than what we had before. The close-box used to be on the opposite side from everything else, and it moved to right next to everything else. Even after years of using a Mac regularly, I still find myself stopping to be *really* careful when clicking any of them. (They also made even more drastic changes, like removing the window-shade button, and adding and then removing the single-window-mode button.) It doesn’t appear to have hurt Mac OS X adoption. It’s not like Windows Vista went and adopted the old Mac way to try to woo Mac users.

2. If the Ubuntu team cared about Fitts’s Law, then why is the menubar still nestled snugly between a window’s titlebar and toolbar/content, instead of at the top edge of the screen where it belongs? Do they really believe that I’m going to launch new programs (top left), shut down my computer (top right), view the desktop (bottom left), and open the trash (bottom right) more often than I’m going to use the menus of the very app I’m using right now (tiny box in center of screen)? GNOME has always been great at some things, and terrible at others, and use of Fitts’s Law has always been among the latter. It seems somewhat bizarre to start complaining about it now, and about something as specific as the window controls.

I’ll join Shuttleworth in congratulating the Ubuntu team for this theme. It does look awesome. They’ve figured out what the Aqua team at Apple figured out 10 years ago: it doesn’t matter if it works a little worse, if it looks a lot better. Like it or not, a theme (and therefore, an OS) gets judged more by its screenshots and demo-ability than by how it works on a day-to-day basis. Yes, anyone can come up with 15 reasons why this is worse, and you know what? Doesn’t matter! It looks better. Not perfect (what’s with the red?), but pretty darn good. That’s going to help get Ubuntu adopted, which means it’ll survive another year. Sure, we’d be better off if looked great *and* worked great, but it’s still an improvement if it looks better and works worse.

DanMarch 29th, 2010 at 2:39 am

In my experience of window managers right hand side for the close button is the odd one out. In the order I encountered them:

OpenWindows
LHS – menu (includes close)
RHS – nothing

Amiga Workbench 3
LHS – close
RHS – resize, z-order

MacOS system 7,8,9:
LHS – close
RHS – resize window

Windows 3 (& UI clone NT 3)
LHS – menu (includes close)
RHS – minimize, maximize

Motif, Irix
LHS – menu (includes close)
RHS – minimize, maximize

Windows 95 (& UI clones NT4, 2000, XP)
LHS – menu (includes close)
RHS – minimize, maximize, close

Mac OS X
LHS – close, minimize, maximize
RHS – none

Patrick LindseyMarch 31st, 2010 at 10:40 pm

LOL! The theme is terrible, and moving the controls was a mistake. This is what the Ubuntu community gets excited about and heralds as ground breaking? You have got to be kidding me. How about these themes http://www.ubuntugeek.com/nice-themes-for-ubuntu-9-10-karmic-users.html ? I am done with Ubuntu for now, I removed it today. The choice to move the controls to the left and the attitude Mark Shuttlebug displayed on the matter was the last straw for me. Bye for now.

Al S.March 31st, 2010 at 11:13 pm

If I wanted OS X I would spend $3000 dollars and buy a friggin Mac. I don’t think Apple is the “holy grail” of design. I think this change is jarring and as much as I hate Fedora, which still uses a hillbilly shack for the home folder I will change to it. The fuzzy colors of the default are far worse than the brown people complained about, I think the day will come when they will long for it. It is also the height of arrogance to tell people that have supported and promoted Ubuntu in their daily lives to say, “This is not a democracy, get used to it.” Thanks a lot Mr. Shuttleworth. Sadly, I agree with Patrick Lindsey, I will not use Lucid and when support for Karmic ends I will move on, probably with a lot of others.

GZApril 1st, 2010 at 10:23 am

I vote against the change. Leave it all thrown right. It was the first thing I changed.

FYI: how to fix it:
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/13535/move-window-buttons-back-to-the-right-in-ubuntu-10.04/

Yuhong BaoApril 1st, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Luckily, in the final decision, they decided to move the close button to the very left, consistent with Mac OS X.

Evandro MyllerApril 4th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Isn’t that easily customizable though any config GUI? That would be an even bigger fail.
I am a KDE user since 4.2 (previously I was a KDE hater). I highly recommend it now, it’s quite better and counts on a very active development team. For those who didn’t try it for a while, it’s worth doing so.

Grant Paton-SimpsonApril 6th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

This will all be well worth it if something cool happens on the right hand side. Here is a brilliant suggestion by Ian Cylkowski complete with screenshots: http://www.design-by-izo.com/2010/03/29/workflow-and-upload-two-new-button-concepts-for-lucid/ . Here’s hoping.

BillApril 8th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

HAHAHAHA

The more I work with Linux, the more I really hate it. What a commie OS.

SteveApril 13th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Stupidest idea i’ve ever come across in my life.. Roughly 16 years spent clicking on the right to close adjust windows and close them… And i’m supposed to just adust? I have XP running in a seamless virtual.. so i’m getting pretty cheesed off with this.. The bug is irritating the hell out of me.. I add the text to the config.. the buttons move to the right.. then i change a theme and they are back on the left again and i have to do it all over again.. even worse.. each time i do it the title bar text moves along 1 space so there is a growing gap on the left now.

GurkanApril 20th, 2010 at 11:09 pm

if the move the control buttons to the left, the scrollbar should be on the left too!

Robin DegenApril 21st, 2010 at 1:05 am

i stumbled upon this when i was looking for a way to move them back to the right side after having been annoyed by this for weeks. They better fix this, this is the dumbest idea ever. Have a tickbox somewhere to just pop them back to the right. problem solved.

patrrtnApril 21st, 2010 at 11:12 am

Two years ago I bought a polo shirt from the Ubuntu merchandise shop, because at that time being part of the Ubuntu wave was something to be proud of.
Yesterday I took it from the drawer and checked it thoroughly.
Strangely enough, the buttons were still on the right side.
Nevertheless, I think I will not wear it anymore.

sartanMay 3rd, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I love the theme released with the latest Ubuntu, but the moment I noticed all of my window controls pop up on the left I immediately muttered a few choice words. Graphical interfaces have been built in this way for as long as we can remember, and a sudden quick arbitrary ‘quirk’ from a stubborn designer with a procedural trick shouldn’t stand for progress.

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature” is just developer snobbery. I thought this was supposed to be about the community and user experience – not a personal agenda. Rest assured, this was one or two stubborn individuals who think this is progress.

gconf-editor; apps/metacity/general/button_layout; menu:close,minimize,maximize

Pat McCraeMay 7th, 2010 at 11:11 am

Hm … I just thought it was a bug. Now you’re telling me it isn’t.

As much as I find it annoying there obviously seem to be some people out there who don’t … hence, why not try to keep everybody happy and simply make this feature a configurable system property? That way, users can decide for themselves if they want their Ubuntu in a Mac or Win flavour.

Personally, I would not hesitate a second to revert to the position that I have got used to over the past two decades or so … but that’s a comment which, most likely, will not interest many more people than myself.

juniorMay 24th, 2010 at 12:27 am

It’s obvious that the people who run Ubuntu have started to get Bill Gates syndrome. Time to move to a different distro

lynxStynxMay 26th, 2010 at 11:33 am

This is a stupid design decision. Fortunately, some of the themes still have them on the right so it’s easy to switch back. Morons.

MirceaJune 3rd, 2010 at 11:45 pm

I like window controls on the left. I disliked them at first but I find them easier to operate on the left than on the right. It seems that my mouse is always closer to the left side than the right.

CarlJuly 22nd, 2010 at 3:41 pm

If they want to make the window controls like the window controls on Mac OS X, I’m fine with that. (I use Mac OS X a lot anyway, and am already comfortable with controls on the left side of the window.) They should at least get it right, however, with the close button on the far left of the title bar, and the minimize and expand buttons to the right of that button.

It looks to me like they just moved the right hand centric window controls to the left, which is terrible ergonomics and design.

Terry MooreDecember 5th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Excellent article and I couldn’t agree more that this was a terrible mistake and that the buttons need to be moved back to the other side officially, ASAP. I blogged about how to move the buttons back to the other side back in March and it has been one of most visited posts. http://motersho.com/blog/index.php/2010/03/08/fix-minimizemaximizeclose-button-order-in-ubuntu-10-04-lucid-lynx/

IanFebruary 25th, 2011 at 7:56 am

So – I have the answer to a burning question being – how do I change the position of the windows controls.
Noting that 8.04 was in-alignment with the use interfaces more familiar to me I thought there must be a configuration item to switch the controls. So it seems that there’s been a little tinkering to suit someone’s own preferences, ideals or neurosis in regards to HMI CUI design.
Failing to make the window controls a configuration item seems rather unwise.

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123December 5th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

It’s looks like an orange butthole on the corner of every window. Please fix it.

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