People expect the backlight colours on the unity launcher to mean something.

Didier Roche didrocks at
Thu May 26 07:03:53 UTC 2011

Le mercredi 25 mai 2011 à 12:11 +0200, Jo-Erlend Schinstad a écrit :
> I've tested Unity on some innocent users. By that, I mean people who
> have little or no experience with Ubuntu or other distros and aren't
> coloured by politics or expectations from previous versions of Ubuntu.
> The two most common questions I get is 1) what does that blue point on
> the Ubuntu button mean and 2) what do the different colours in the
> launcher mean? Once I've explained that blue dot, they all say "oh,
> ok" and that's the end of it. It does require an explanation though,
> and I think that means it isn't obvious enough. The identifier showing
> which window is calling for attention, certainly is not obvious
> enough.
> But I had no answer to what the different background colours on the
> launcher meant. I had to investigate it. It seems that the background
> colour is chosen by the most dominant foreground colour of the icon.
> Firefox, Nautilus, Xchat and Ubuntu One all have orange as a dominant
> colour, so they get an orange background. Gcalctool, Gedit and Totem
> have grey as a dominant foreground colour, so they get a grey
> background. This doesn't seem like a good solution to me. People,
> including myself, expect the background colour to have some sort of
> meaning. Since I didn't have the answer myself, I thought it'd be
> interesting to see what people would guess those colours to mean. Most
> had no idea and had no basis to even make a guess, but I did get some
> replies from current users of Ubuntu. These are some of the answers
> I've received, from various people:
> * It depends on the vendor. Free software gets one colour and
> proprietary apps get another.
> * It depends on the toolkit. Gtk apps get one colour and Qt-apps a
> different colour.
> * It depends on category. Office applications get a grey background
> colour and communication applications are orange.
> * It depends on Ubuntu One. Synced apps are orange and non-synced are grey.
> I think these ideas are all interesting, mostly because absolutely
> no-one guessed the correct answer; that it's only aesthetics. It seems
> to me that this has to be reconsidered. I think I believe that the
> best solution is for all apps to have the same background colour when
> running and another when they're not running. Orange and grey seems to
> be fairly decent choices. I'm not sure about this. But I am completely
> convinced that the colours should either be the same for all apps or
> have a deducible meaning,
> Has this been discussed at the UDS? What are the current thoughts?

Hey Jo-Erlend,

So yeah, you're right, the color has no meaning at all right now, they
are just reflecting the dominant color of the desktop icons for
esthetic's reason. If I remember correctly, they were some discussion
with the designers on the ayatana mailing list about that. No outcome
came from the discussion though.

I think you should raise the point again (after looking at the archives
available on launchpad) on the ayatana mailing list to have direct
interaction with the unity designers.

You will find at this address how to subscribe to this mailing list:

Didier Roche

More information about the ubuntu-desktop mailing list