Welcome to the HUD

Today we are releasing one of the first projects I was involved in and I wanted to share some of the goodness with you.

One of the first topics in my new job was a project called HUD. The project has been talked about in length and design have been created, reviewed and started over again. It wasn’t until last UDS-P when I sat with the whole team to grasp the full scope and potential of HUD. Mark is describing his vision about a new generation of application interfaces in his current blog post and I am excited to be part of such a change.

It took the team only a little while to come up with a first prototype and the first responses were promising. After a few iterations of tuning and reviews we got to a stage where we were comfortable talking to the Ubuntu Platform team about including it into 12.04. Like every other component that is targeted for inclusion into Ubuntu, we are on our way to adhering to Ubuntu’s Acceptance Criteria.

On the technical side we had to make a few tough decisions:

  • Usability vs Privacy: in order to provide the best user experience we wanted to show the user only the content that matters to him. Next to some heuristics, this is done by keeping track of which actions are used most frequently. We understand that this is a privacy concern to some and thus we decided to make this option configurable (via com.canonical.indicator.appmenu.hud.store-usage-data).
  • Invocation: which key or key combination is appropriate to invoke menu actions? The current decision is to simply tap ALT to invoke the HUD.
  • Tuning: the prediction is based on the Levenshtein distance and will need some tweaking as we learn more about HUD’s interaction with other languages. We are exporting a few key parameters under com.canonical.indicator.appmenu.hud.search and invite people to report their findings.
While the team is working on integrating HUD into the upcoming Ubuntu 12.04 release you can get a preview on Youtube or download the packages from the PPA. Feel free to grab the sources from here and here.
The current release is headed towards more widespread testing and exposure and we are keen to get your feedback specifically on i18n issues and the preciseness of the prediction algorithm.

[UPDATE]: fixed 12.4 to 12.04 typo