Window Controls on the Right Side

john.r.moser at john.r.moser at
Thu May 14 03:06:42 UTC 2015

On 05/01/2015 10:52 AM, Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
> John Moser wrote on 30/04/15 03:23:
> > ...
> There have been dozens of desktop computer OS manufacturers less
> successful than Apple -- for example, Acorn, Be, Commodore, Google,
> IBM, Sun, and every company that has ever released an OS based on
> Gnome or KDE. "Broadly marketed" is assuming the question -- the

For decades?  Standing side-by-side with Dell in Best Buy and CompUSA? 
With their own stores?  All over the news, pervasive throughout culture?

Sure, there are plenty of commercially-introduced operating
systems--such as Ubuntu.  Do you see Ubuntu stores popping up
everywhere?  Do you see ads for Ubuntu on TV, imploring users to
switch?  Is Ubuntu broadly marketing toward the consumer market, or just
passively sitting aside as an available option?

> > Back in 10.04, Ubuntu tried moving the controls to the left.  This
> > met with huge resistance, largely in the form of complaining,
> > whining, and people putting the controls back where they belong.
> That is similarly assuming the question. The only reason you think "the
> controls ... belong" on the right is that around 1993, someone at

I have given the ergonomic definition.

> In both Windows and OS X, putting the controls all on one side (a)
> increases the risk that you'll close a window when you mean to minimize
> or maximize it,

The argument is about putting all the controls on the left instead of
the right.  In that context, you risk closing the window when you
operate the locally-integrated menu.

> (b) makes centered titles look imbalanced in the title
> bar,

No different if all controls are on the left; and, generally, the
least-important thing anyone could say on the topic.

> and (c) causes ugliness when a window doesn't have maximize and/or
> close functions, because you end up with buttons that are either
> permanently insensitive (as in Windows and OS X) or
> inconsistently-placed (as in Ubuntu).

This is not solved by moving buttons around.

> These problems could be avoided
> by splitting them across left and right, as Canonical's then-head of
> design suggested: "Personally, I would have the max and min on the
> left and close on the right."
> <>

That seems like the ultimate bad design, but I'll dodge on that one
entirely because it only strikes my senses as scattering related window
controls around.  I can make up an argument for it on-the-spot, and
it'll sound impressive and well-reasoned; but I'd rather not commit to
anything I haven't considered substantially.

> > ...
> > I said most people are right-handed, and that the easiest way to
> > tilt your wrist or move your arm was out and away.  The top-right
> > of your screen is the easiest area of the screen to access--go
> > ahead, try it. Those of us with civil rights in Elbonia will find
> > I'm completely correct; lefties will find confusion, followed by
> > the realization that they're using the wrong hand.
> Apart from the Fitts's-Law-derived conclusions that the easiest pixels
> to hit are (a) the one you're at right now and (b) the four corners,
> I'm not aware of any research on this. Do you know of any?

Hold your right arm out straight in front of you, with the fingers
extended in line with the forearm.

Now, tilt your wrist thirty degrees to the right.  That's easy, yes? 
It's a wide range of motion.

Now, instead, tilt your wrist thirty degrees to the left.


The inward tilting motion is awkward.  It strains the wrist, and range
of motion is minimal.  Further, the mouse is in such a position that
pushing forward in the neutral manner or extending the fingers causes it
to move roughly 10 degrees (extending the fingers may move the mouse 0
to 5 degrees) to the right--to the outside of the body.

Generally, when moving up-right, the crude movement sends the mouse
pointer off at a 45 degree angle; up-left crude movement is 10-15
degrees.  Large, wide movements of the arm are used to make the mouse
move inward toward the body--left for right-handed people.  You *can*
get around this if you own a cordless mouse:  advanced juggling tricks
such as lifting your hand off the mouse and rotating your arm to shuffle
the mouse around on the desk with your pinky can more easily move it to
the left.  Some people as well reposition their computer mice; if you
watch, you'll see they never lift and reposition the mouse to go right,
but will occasionally lift and reposition the mouse out to the right so
as to use the range of motion of the arm (from the shoulder) to go left.

This is basic human physiology applied to ergonomics:  movement X is
easy for a human, task A is easy if it requires movement X.

The four corners thing is just that you can crash the mouse out
infinitely up and right and end up at a corner (same for the other 3). 
You'll notice the implication that hitting a pixel *close* to where you
are now is harder than hitting a corner pixel.

> > A year later, in 11.04, Ubuntu released the Global Menu.  Three
> > days before 15.04, Ubuntu reversed a decision to disable the
> > Global Menu by default, after preening themselves with talk about
> > the new Locally Integrated Menus--i.e. pre-11.04, non-Apple menus.
> As far as I know, there was no "decision" to disable global menus by
> default in 15.04, it was just a mistake.

They accidentally set bug #1412297 as "Fix Released" as well.

> Locally Integrated Menus are a
> red herring: they don't solve the primary problem of menus being
> invisible by default.

Long ago, I went on some long rant about multiple mouse clicks required
to access a visible window's menus when using global menus.  Nobody
believed me.

You suggest the intellectually disjoint argument that every window's
menu should be visible by default, but that putting the menu in the
window is the wrong solution.  This is a generous assumption on my
part:  all other things you could possibly suggest would be ridiculous,
and indicate a deluded mind afflicted with some form of mental illness. 
I cannot believe you would suggest having a separate window floating on
the screen, eating screen real estate, with a list of menus arbitrarily
put together somewhere away from their respective windows; or that you
would suggest a global menu that drops down a list of windows, which you
can follow through as a menu tree to access all menus; or some other
form of bizarre distortion.  This must simply be a comment put forth
without sufficient consideration.

> Last month's SRU introducing the
> com.canonical.Unity always-show-menus setting is a first step toward
> solving it, but long-term, having a setting for something like that
> would demonstrate indecision.
My boy, did your old granddad ever tell you about the day we used to
have something called "Customizability"?  Why, they even let us set our
own desktop background on the old computers.
> > ...
> > First, if the window is maximized, the menu is obviously in the
> > same place on the screen.  If not, you have multiple windows, and
> > it takes *two* *mouse* *clicks* to click a menu.
> That isn't correct. It takes 1 + n clicks, where n = the probability
> that the menu item you want is for a window different from the focused
> one. So, probably about 1.1 clicks on average, varying depending on
> the kind of work you're doing.
I should have specified that I was referencing an unfocused window.
> > With LIMs (you know, *normal* menus), you just click File on the
> > window; with Global Menus, you have to click the window, then go
> > back and click File at the top.
> That isn't correct either. Locally Integrated Menus are not "normal
> menus"; menus in the title bar are unlike Windows, OS X, or any other
> system or app I've seen, except the eccentric iTunes for Windows.
This is like moving the title of a book from the top of the cover to a
vertical centering and claiming you haven't plagiarized the entire book.
> Regardless, with Locally Integrated Menus you have to focus the window
> before you can open a menu -- just as you need to do with the global
> menu bar.
Menus always visible...
> > These days, even standard Windows 7 is so screwed up that I'm not
> > sure what window I've got selected; right now, on Ubuntu, the only
> > difference between this window and the Thunderbird main window is
> > this window has black title bar text and controls, while every
> > other window on the screen has medium-dark gray text and controls.
> > Back in the day, the title bar would be an entirely different
> > color.  You can be pretty sure the user will have to stop and
> > verify he's looking at the right menus before he can click with
> > confidence.
> This is one of the reasons that a dark theme is a poor default. A light
> theme can, and Radiance does, make the title bars of unfocused windows
> darker. As well as distinguishing focused vs. unfocused windows, it
> looks fairly realistic: the implied light source is in front of the
> display, so windows further away are darker. But in a dark theme,
> inactive windows can hardly be darker than the active one, and being
> lighter would look bizarre. So all Ambiance can do is make them
> flatter, a small difference.
> > Second, people don't work the way Canonical has suggested.
> > A screen is meaningless.  Say it with me:  The screen is
> > meaningless. People don't know where they are on the screen.  They
> > know they're working on a specific window; LIMs are part of that
> > window, and share a consistent spatial relationship with that
> > window.  Everything in the window shares a specific spatial
> > relationship with that window--mostly with the top and left of
> > that window.  The window may resize or move around, but most
> > things--including the menus and controls--share a specific spatial
> > relationship with the top and left of that window.
> When people are concentrating on a specific window for long periods,
> that window is usually maximized, full screen, or nearly so. So the
> distinction between what is inside or outside the window is small, and
> nor is the top-left corner particularly more "spatial" than the other
> corners.
I said something about menus being in the same place in the screen when
the window is maximized; this is an obvious fact.

I was referencing an old argument on this very topic, where someone had
stood firm that putting the menu in the window confuses the user by
causing the menu to move around (it moves with the window, instead of
staying in the same place on the screen).

> > ...
> > Canonical has been backpedaling on Global Menus for several
> > releases, giving configuration options, then heavily considering
> > just turning that crap off.  They have not come out and claimed
> > anything about good UI design; they've just shuffled around
> > uncomfortably.
> Yes, we're in an Uncanny Valley between in-window and global menus.
> In-window menus are horrendously slow.

So fix your rendering system.

> But our global menus don't have
> the visibility, focused-window distinction, or pointer acceleration
> necessary for them to work well. Those three issues are not difficult,
> but nobody has done the work.
> > Now we're talking about controls being in the top left.
> > I'll make this simple.
> > The top of the screen is easy to hit:  throw the pointer that way
> > haphazardly.  The top of a window is *not* easy to hit.  Grouping
> > the controls around the single most important universal element of
> > a modern UI--the freaking FILE MENU--is a good way to get errant
> > clicks coming out your ass.
> I doubt the "File" menu is the most important universal element, but
> yes, putting window controls right next to menus is an unnecessary
> risk.

At least we clearly agree on something.

Also:  File->Open.  There's a reason the most familiar buttons in
toolbars are Open and Save:  everyone is constantly hitting File->Save,
and then we invented toolbars, and we put a floppy disk on a button, and
people stopped using the File menu.  Mostly.

So yeah, I'm a little dated; the File menu is so universally important
that we've duplicated it into more quickly accessible toolbar buttons to
speed up the workflow.

> In the menu bar it's also frustrating, because with the Launcher
> on the left, the controls are out of alignment with the rest of the
> window.
> > ...
> > We're going to have these arguments repeatedly, and we're going to
> > keep having them until people stop going "YEAH THIS WILL BE COOL,
> > LIKE THE NEW UI!"  Maybe one day, we'll have competent UI designers
> > set up end-user focus groups and take actual metrics of what does
> > and doesn't work, instead of having some self-absorbed
> > pseudo-dictator make shit up and claim it's good UI practice.
> > End rant.
> The reason for moving the controls to the left was made clear by Mark at
> the time: "Moving everything to the left opens up the space on the right
> nicely, and I would like to experiment in 10.10 with some innovative
> options there."
> <>
> Those innovative options were, of course, windicators and netbooks.
> <>

Yes but I chose to ignore that argument entirely because it was
embarrassingly incompetent.  I'm sure Shuttleworth has learned over
time; the mechanism of learning involves doing stupid things and making
a fool of yourself, so much so that the current definition of "practice"
used by cognitive scientists is an activity which *generates* *errors*
so that you may learn to avoid these errors.  The shifting direction and
experimentation indicates constant learning--welcome to technology, this
is how it advances--and learning requires mistakes, errors, and a
certain amount of wrongness.

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