Cool Solutions

Show Me that Updated Gnome Main Menu


February 14, 2007 2:30 pm




How often do we Linux advocates and enthusiasts hear the complaint that Linux lacks the polish and refinement that users expect from their desktop? For most end users, it doesn’t matter how good the underlying software is. If the interface sucks, then the software itself sucks. While it may pain some avid Linux adherents to say it, this is part of the reason why desktop Linux has yet to catch on with a broader set of users: Linux has struggled for years to come out of the woods and be perceived as visually appealing and pleasant to use.

Those who read this blog probably know that Interaction Design matters a lot to me. It has been one of the things I have advocated extensively in my work with desktop Linux. To be sure, part of why I still like working for Novell* is that the desktop team at Novell continues to produce not only great technical advancements, but also continuous improvements in the look and feel of the desktop. The new Main Menu for Gnome that debuted with SLED10 showed how studying user interaction with the desktop can result in a strikingly improved interface. (I don’t kid myself here–there are many who have vocalized their preference for Gnome’s traditional Applications-Places-System menu. But, many do like it.)

I’m pleased to share that the desktop design team at Novell is working on further improvements to the original Main Menu. The video below comes from the upcoming SLED10 Service Pack 1 as it looks in the current internal beta 3. (The unreleased status means that this is not necessarily the final product, and things may change from what you see today.

Video Preview

Video information:

  • The video is a 12.1 MB Ogg Theora file.
  • I recommend using something like Totem for viewing. (Helix/RealPlayer did not play the video very smoothly.)
  • I narrated the video using a small PC headset rather than a professional microphone, and I did no post-production editing. So, it’s kind of rough.
  • If the video link is broken, please leave a comment. then I will put it on a different host.

*Yes, I say “still” that is an admission that I have been challenged with a certain, recently-cemented partnership

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Disclaimer: This content is not supported by Micro Focus. It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test it thoroughly before using it in a production environment.


  1. By:John Yorke

    I didn’t have any issues with the old menu other than the second line of the network status always being cut off. I always wondered what the test case could have been for the sizing of the font or space on that status line. I would think those buttons for Applications, Documents, and Places would make more sense as a tab control with the active tab highlighted rather than buttons, but I’m nitpicking… it was fine before and it is fine now.

  2. By:matt white

    I gave up a long time ago trying to fight for software based on it’s technical merits. Polish and the “cool” factor is what 99% of people equate to “good software.” I think it’s great that novell is starting to take this aspect of software development seriously. We got a taste of this with the GW7 client face lift and it seems to be making it’s way into all the novell projects. Great job Novell…keep it up! I was just getting ready to redo my laptop with Suse 10.2 because my sled is starting to feel a little dated but maybe I’ll wait for SP1. Looks like it will be another great release.


  3. By:Jeff

    I would really like to know who Novell studied to come up with this Windows XP main menu. Personally I hate this all in one menu it takes way too long to find what I want. If there was a simple way to revert to more classic gnome menus, like the standard gnome menu bar (Applications, Places, System) then maybe I would consider SuSE.

  4. Matt:
    Indeed, I think that it will be. Still some hiccups here and there in the betas, but the current direction is extremely solid.

  5. By:Bob Jonkman

    Cool video! You may want to give a tutorial on how to create a live screencam like that. It’s a really valuable tool for providing desktop support.

    I do have a problem with buttons that don’t look like buttons. How do I know to fly over them to make them look like buttons? A good interface allows me to identify the interactive items BEFORE interacting with them. Here the identifying components of the desktop (eg. the words “Search”, “System”, “Status”, “Favorite Applications”, “Recent Applications”) are indistinguishable from the interactive components (“Computer”, “Help”, “Control Center”, &c). Back to the drawing board!


  6. By:Greg

    I agree with Matt’s comments about “good software” and how GW7 UI has been greatly improved and I too feel encouraged that Novell is serious about creating a better UI for Gnome. I hope new fonts and smoothing X’s window rendering are under the microscope. However, I really dislike the SLED 10 Gnome menu system. I didn’t look at the video with the beta but I hope to soon. My biggest complaint about the shipping version is: Why when you click on More Applications does there need to be a large screen filling pop-up window and yet not everything is listed in that view, instead you need to scroll down? I also dislike that the Applications window disappears after I select something. Too much clicking and scrolling for me. I would actually like to see something more compact yet crisp,sharp and tab like or even WIN 3.11/NT 3.51 like. I like KDE’s and XP’s menus so much better. Perception is everything. The appearance is just as important as the the underlying usefullness of any GUI based OS. If I were to roll this out to the staff in my organization I would end up as lobster bait off the coast of Cape Ann.

  7. John:
    I agree about the tabs. I sent you comment on to SLED10 user interface design manager Anna Dirks. Unfortunately, SLED10 SP1 is under tight change lockdown at this point, so it won’t make it in. 🙁

  8. Jeff:
    Personally, I think the menu is considerably different from the one in Windows XP. Windows XP’s is so much more busy, and I found it so unintuitive that I reverted to their classic menus. I have not done that on my SLED systems.
    Windows main menu

    But, of course you can revert to the traditional menus. I whipped up a short video to show.

  9. Bob:
    I may just do that for the video software I use. I had considered it, but did not know whether it would interest anyone other than me. RecordMyDesktop is the software I use.

  10. By:Luis C. S. M.


    Thanks for your video.
    This has been very interesting for me as far as I’m a SLED user since last year.
    I must say that I was very impressed by your video since this tool is something I’m looking for since 2 years ago and never heard about it.
    This is what is stopping me to have an old machine in win98 just for making some tutorials for people who works for me on the realty business.
    Do you have a guide to install it? or can you give me some hints on how you did install it?
    Just: ./configure;make;make install ???
    I don’t want to brake this laptop (I REALLY have good experience on this point ;))
    Kind Regards

    Luis c. Suarez

  11. By:Luis C. S. M.

    Ok. Never mind… I already found your tutorial in “Cool Blogs”.

    Thanks so much for this tool.

    Luis C. Suárez