The current notification area is becoming more and more difficult for users to interact with. Each application behaves differently, they're not accessible, and they're even sometime styled differently. Ted Gould explains that this makes the interface difficult for users as they don't know what to expect. It provides a difficult situation for applications as there is no way that they can give the user a good experience as there are no standards to follow. And it makes the whole support system for software more difficult through documentation and long explanations of how to use the computer.
The DesktopExperienceTeam propose to migrate the different applets to using simple menus. This change should provide a more consistent interface and be an important step to improve the user experience with the right hand side of the panel.
With every application being a menu, and the panel knowing this and being able to assume it, then the whole notification area can be a menu bar. This makes it easy to browse application's menus, find what you want, and work with it. It also improves keyboard navigation and increases the accessibility. Menus are a nice mix between simplicity and expandability as they're easy to use and yet provide a way for applications to provide a rich set of functionality.
The proposed changes define two main areas in the panel:
• A "system indicator" area at the far right of the panel, gathering system features like sound, power or session management
• An "application indicator" area, just before it, grouping icons and menus from applications that wish to host a part of their interface on the panel Additionaly, we propose to turn all of the elements on the right side of the panel into regular menus.
This way, users will not have to worry about whether a function is accessible with a left or right click, or be suprised when a click on a panel icon suddenly hides or shows a full application window. Additionally, that will help provide:
• An accessible interface: icons and menus will be introspectable by screen readers
• Style consistency: as the menus will be rendered by the same toolkit as the panel, the context menus of KDE applications will be rendered in the same style as other applications running on a Gnome desktop, and vice versa
• Constant layout: being integrated in a common menubar (as opposed to a collection of applets), icons and menus shouldn't be disturbed by resolution changes, like when doing a presentation and then returning to the desktop to see all applets totally disorganized
• Menu scrubbing: users frequently browse menus in search of a feature; by turning the notification area into a set of menus, the users will be able to search the interface more easily
To understand more about what's coming in Ubuntu 10.04 and how to port applications the DX team tried to put up some documentation including a porting guide for applicationscode with examples.
In the notification area the messaging menu will also receive improvements. The DX team is providing specifications for how applications should integrated with the messaging menu.
A sketch for the Messaging menu in the nocification area for Ubuntu 10.04
Another part of Canonical's plan for panel perfection is a concept that the company calls the Me Menu. Based partly on Ubuntu's current presence applet, the new Me Menu will serve as a one-stop shop for configuring messaging status and social networks. Designed by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth himself, the Me Menu is expected to be one of the highlights of Ubuntu 10.04.
I would really like to see GNOME Shell considering picking up some of this amazing work. I am really excited about the opportunities this work is bringing to the Ubuntu desktop and I'm very much looking forward the improved user experience in Ubuntu 10.04.