Too many icons in the Ubuntu menus?? (repost)

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at
Tue Feb 19 04:31:13 UTC 2008

Hash: SHA1

Michael T wrote on 12/02/08 00:53:
> Something which slightly annoys me in Ubuntu (and more generally in
> KDE and Gnome) is the overuse of icons in menus. Most (if not all) GUI
> style guidelines recommend only using icons in menus where they are
> instantly recognisable to the user, so that they can identify the menu
> entry from the icon faster than they would be able to read the menu
> text.  See for instance
> In other situations, the icon slows the user down, as they will
> automatically look at the icon before they read the text.  If you
> look at for example the "K" menu in Kubuntu, you will see that every
> menu entry, including every application listed, has an icon next to
> it, which to my mind makes it look somewhat unprofessional.
> Does anyone else have thoughts on this?  I realise of course that in
> many cases this is something that can only be fixed upstream, but I
> wanted to start a discussion somewhere :)

I agree that Gnome applications use icons in many places, including
buttons as well as menus, where text alone would be both more elegant
and faster to understand. This seems to be an example of copying
Microsoft (and, in the case of buttons, Borland) too closely. This will
need to be fixed upstream, in the Gnome HIGs, in GTK stock items, and in
individual applications.

In the specific case of the Applications menu, however, an icon is an
important part of an application's branding, so removing the icons would
be weird. This still wouldn't solve the problem of the icon slowing
people down, though. A difficult solution would be to abolish the idea
of "applications" entirely, so that they would not need branding. An
easier solution would be to present applications not in a menu, but in
some other way where their icons are bigger and therefore more recognizable.

- --
Matthew Paul Thomas
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