Mark Shuttleworth’s response to left side button criticisms

Mark Shuttleworth's response to left side button criticisms.

The default position of the window controls will remain the left,throughout beta1. We're interested in data which could influence the ultimate decision. There are good reasons both for the change, and against them, and ultimately the position will be decided based on what we want to achieve over 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. It's much easier to do that if we make this change now. I appreciate that it's an emotive subject, and apologise for the fact that I haven't been responding in detail to every comment -- I'm busy moving house this week. But the design team is well aware of the controversy,your (polite) comments and more importantly *data* are very welcome and will help make the best decision.

When we have a celebrity bug report like this, it's a real exercise for our values of communication, civility, and ubuntu. Thank you to those who have pointed to the code of conduct when things get heated. And thanks even more to those who FELT heated but didn't let it show 🙂


Please centre the window title like in previous Human theme, and also re-order the window controls in classic order, positioned on the right side (menu -- title -- minimize, maximize close).

==== Workaround ====
To revert to old layout, enter in terminal:
$ gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string "menu:minimize,maximize,close"


Use this PPA:
This option will also fix the graphical appearance of the buttons.

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49 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    It might be OK except that in the Netbook remix, maximised apps have their close icon on the right.

    Which means you have some windows with them on the left and some with them on the right.

  2. Jeffrey Vandenborne says:

    Most people we’re really bashing this new choice of canonical, while almost no one just said “Well, wish this didn’t happen, but it did, so that’s that.”

    It’s a free product, these people complaining have to get over theirselves. I mean, c’mon, if you get free wine at a yearly convention, are you going to complain the year the wine tastes different? It’s FREE, jezus

  3. kelp says:

    “It’s FREE, jezus”
    You mean it’s not to be taking seriously?
    The fact it’s free does not change the fact it’s a professional product for professional use.
    So I can only have criticism when I pay for support? Which I do the way..

  4. johndart says:

    I tried Ubuntu 10.04 yesterday. It is so beautiful.

  5. bencpht says:

    On my netbook the up/down slider for firefox and evolution is on the right side of the screen. Closing windows requires me to cross to the middle of the screen to shoot for an X, and minimizing requires me to go all the way to the top left corner to aim for an icon. I’d rather see all of these controls close to each other. Little annoyances like these will force some into other distributions, especially those who have no interest in having to customize their setup. They just want it to work easily.

  6. Jackelope King says:

    This sort of falls into the great gulf of “meh”.

    We can sit around and speculate what will or won’t turn off new users (who are currently only switching to an OS like Ubuntu from OSX or Windows because they expect and want a change), or what will and won’t increase productivity until the cows come home. We can also scream our heads off about how this new color scheme is too much like a Mac or how KDE is veering too hard towards looking like Vista/Windows 7.

    While I think it’s a poor idea to move the window controls (I migrated from Windows 2 years ago), I applaud Cannonical for at least trying it, and my hat is off to the beta testers who are willing to try it out and actually answer our questions about how it works or how it fails.

  7. Jason says:

    I don’t like it. Window controls should be on the right…that’s how it’s been for almost 20 years and that’s how it should stay IMO.

  8. Venkat says:

    User’s mind is like this: If you place buttons right side, and make everything the way windows, ahh…Ubuntu is another windows…
    If you try to place buttons on left, the way you did it recently, are copying Mac OSX.
    If you have a brown theme the way it was before..
    ahh…it is pale dull obsolete Brown..

    I have the option of customize, no complaints from me….

  9. slumbergod says:

    moving the buttons to the left frees up space on the right, huh? well, if you leave them on the right where they belong then gee wow you get space on the left! why antagonise the majority with something that didn’t need changing. sorry, bad move design team.

  10. Stephen says:

    Unfortunately, the command you offered has made my close button disappear.

    gconftool-2 –set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout –type string “menu:minimize,maximize,close”

    Please assist.

  11. Pumkin_king says:

    I agree with Jackelope King… “meh” if you don’t like it change it….. Thats kinda the beauty of the whole ubuntu thing..

  12. Stephen says:

    The value should be
    gconftool-2 –set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout –type string “menu:minimize,maximize,close,spacer”

  13. Peter says:

    I don’t mind going out of the box a little, but I think the close button should stay on the right. The minimize/maximize buttons on the left however, could be an interesting change.

  14. BlackSmileFR says:

    This new position is nice, it seems better to me to use !! Nice job, to the design team ! I’ll keep it on left side now, whatever ubuntu decide to do at the end !

    Don’t ear eager people with gna-gna-gna & gna-gna-gni.

  15. Vaughn says:

    Isn’t awesome that a simple command line tool moves the buttons back to the right? Does that happen on Windows or Mac? Nope. Ultimately, it’s a theme, right? So it’s user’s choice. I like choice.

  16. Carl says:

    I still think they should be on the right. Ubuntu was my first complete escape from Windows. I would hate to see this change as I am quite used to them being on the right. It has been this way as long as I remember. It would be a hard change for me.

  17. lidex says:

    I migrated to ubuntu for changes’ sake. Funny how quickly you get used to the “Start” button at the top. Heck, make it the complete opposite of windows!!

  18. Simon Moon says:

    I know what he wants to do with that right side … imagine an ubuntu-desktop where you can twitterbate AND search the canonical musical store from the top of _every_ window. w00t!! ubuntu is sooo social!

  19. AlanH says:

    Not a “deal breaker” for me, I can change it easily.

    The folks that need to like the look and feel – should never *ever* have to hit the command line to change anything nor should they ever have to LOOK for anything. Things should be in the proper place.

    If Ubuntu wants to go mainstream, they need to act it. Make it pretty. Make it faster, but do not change the intuitive virtual “window” decorations from (almost) every GUI operating system known to date. The wheel was already invented, roll with what works then add whistles.

    This could be a significant deal breaker for many new and beginning users if it is decided to keep it on the left.

  20. Ian Jefferies says:

    Whilst I applaud innovation, buttons on the left in conjunction with Gnome-shell don’t go well together. It’s difficult to close/maximize/minimize windows without the overlay from Gnome-shell suddenly appearing.

    But as long as there is an easy to change option, I don’t mind where the default location is.

  21. Brewster says:

    I’ve gotten use to it being on the left and I’m very happy with the changes in design for 10.04. I hope that we don’t change this to the right simply “because windows does it that way” or because of some ‘window-design’ legacy.
    I’m willing to sit back and see what Shuttleworth and his crew can do with this. I hope that others will share my patience.

  22. Xyzzy says:

    Hmm… It seems to me that Linux’s greatest strengths come from teams sharing their creations with the wider community, and presenting them as options (even if they were controlled in a text file). I get the strong feeling that in pursuing their goals (agreements with social networking & media services) & strengthening the Ubuntu brand, Canonical is losing the elements that attracted users like me to Linux.

    PS. This isn’t targeting UbuntuGeek readers since it’s driving me batty on several blogs… It’s fine if you have a personal aversion to feeling or admitting discontent, but it’s not cool to be unpleasant (or on two non-tech blogs, nasty) towards others for politely showing it. We can’t exactly discuss alternative options if nobody’s supposed to openly be interested in them, right? 🙂

  23. Russ says:

    As far as I know, there have been no papers or research published on window button placement, or the advantages/disadvantages of any of the suggested positions and combinations.

    What we do know already is that it appears that MS arbitrarily chose the top-right position, and Apple chose the left because they didn’t want to follow MS. As with many decisions taken in the infancy of UI design, it was probably a “well that seems alright” or a “can’t think of anything better right now” type of decision. These decisions have stuck with us for many years now, so there is much to be said for keeping it that way. It may just happen to be that the initial top-right position is in fact the best or close to the best position possible, and that the initial designers just got it right first time.

    There is a natural ease of movement of the arm and wrist of right-handed mouse users in an arc roughly centred on the elbow/wrist area. A natural pivot-point.
    This means that the top-right position for most-used buttons is an easily reached one. Top-left buttons would appear to be reached via a non-natural wrist movement, or a movement requiring small movement of the whole arm which entails more effort from the user. There are of course a series of mouse-movement enhancers (like acceleration) in the software which are designed to mitigate these problems.
    There is a natural tendency to “throw” the mouse pointer towards the known position of a button, and anything which makes this easier or harder will be embraced or rejected by users.

    There is also the principle of positional constancy to be considered.
    If there is no conclusive evidence to show that repositioning buttons will be advantageous, then it is better to keep the status quo. There is a saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. People often quote this for good reason: they don’t like change.
    Even if something is “broken”, there is often such widespread acceptance of the “broken” item, that changing it causes more alienation and or user rejection that the efficiencies a correction or fix would create.
    A good example is the ‘qwerty’ keyboard.
    The layout was set when manual typewriters could not keep up with the speed of key strikes by operators. The ‘qwerty’ layout is designed to slow down the user. This obviously does not now apply in the digital age, yet changing the vast majority of the populace away from a known bad design, to a proven better layout (e.g: dvorak) would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
    Any hardware manufacturer insisting on this would most likely see a large drop in sales.

    Keeping it all in perspective, as window buttons are probably not on the same level of user-interaction importance as the main interface device (keyboard), I would be all for change if there was good evidence showing improved window management with button repositioning, with only relatively small retraining or disruption involved. However, as I mentioned before, there does not appear to be any research to support such a change.
    I would suggest there is a whole PhD in such a research topic!

    If a window button layout, which is different from the accepted status-quo, is imposed upon users, then it is my considered belief that this will be detrimental.

  24. truck87bp says:

    So something innovative can’t be put next to the buttons on the left?

  25. JacobVonWisconsin says:

    Hi, I ran the code to move the buttons back to the right side, but now that it’s back to the right, I realize I liked it on the left. How do I move the buttons back ? 🙂

  26. richard says:


    NO! nothing can be innovative if buttons stay on the right?!?! (extreme sarcasm)

    Honestly if you think moving the buttons is the answer to something innovative then it can’t be that innovative…

    Why don’t you add another button just before minimize or right after close that modifies buttons to be “uber innovative function”?

  27. @richard

    add another button?

    yeah, that’s innovative AND intuitive…

  28. Jason Kraft says:

    The problem with the buttons being on the left side is that the close button is not the outer most button, which I assume is the most commonly used button. Its a lot easier to “throw” your mouse cursor to a particular corner and then fine tune where you want to point it. If the buttons are on the left hand side then after you have moved your cursor to the top left corner of the window, you need to backtrack over the minimize and maximize buttons.

  29. J Story says:

    I’ve closed Firefox three times by mistake when all I wanted to do was close the download window.

    What happens, unfortunately, is that the download window is positioned immediately under the main firefox window on the left side, so that the close buttons of each window are placed vertically to each other. It’s incredibly easy to click the top ‘close’ button instead of the bottom one.

    I don’t much care about the minimize/maximize buttons, but the close button should remain at the right.

  30. digi says:

    have them light up on the side where ever the mouse is closest too, and otherwise hide them all together when the mouse is more than an inch away or so.

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