Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th May 2007 18:54 UTC
In the GNOME bugzilla, there is an ongoing discussion about whether or not to include a patch into the default GNOME installation which would enable GNOME to (optionally) have a global application menubar, similar to that of the Mac OS and KDE (in the latter it is optional and off by default). Installation instructions and .deb packages, as well as a 60-page (and counting) discussion of the patch, are available on the UbuntuForums. Read on for a poll on this issue.
Thread beginning with comment 241225
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Some numbers
by rayiner on Thu 17th May 2007 20:00 UTC

Member since:
2005-07-06

It's interesting to put some numbers to Fitt's law:

T = a + b log2(D/W + 1)

We consider two cases: menubar at the top, and menubar in the window, both on my MacBook (1280x800 screen). In both cases, we'll assume we're trying to hit the menubar from a resting position in the center of the screen. We'll simplify the math by considering vertical motion only.

Consider the first case, with the menubar at the top. In this case, D = ~400 pixels. W is not infinity, but a number bounded by the maximal overshoot that would occur using the quick mouse movement used to reach the menubar. In my experiments, if I move the mouse with the same motion I use to hit the menubar, I can get within about 50 pixels on either side of the target. This means that W for this case = ~100 pixels.

Now, consider the second case, with the menubar in the window. Of the several dozen Windows I have open right now, all of them are within about 200 pixels of the top of the screen. Thus, D = ~200 pixels. W is the height of the menu bar itself, which is 20 pixels (OS X uses particularly large menubar text --- the number for GNOME would be even smaller).

Now, for the first case, we have:

D / W = ~4

And in the second case, we have:

D / W = ~10

So, even though the distance to the target doubled, the overall ratio is still better because the effective width of the menubar increased by a factor of five.

There are some arguments on the other side, but none are particularly convincing. Yes, if you're trying to activate a menu entry on a window that doesn't have focus, there is some extra motion involved with the toplevel menubar. However, that argument is mitigated by two factors: first, IIRC, GNOME discards the focusing click, so you can't click directly on the menubar of an unfocused window anyway. Second, the toplevel menubar is usually designed to be a per-application menubar, not a per-window menubar. While it may be fairly common to want to click on the menubar of an unfocused window in the same app, it's probably much less common to want to click on the menubar of an unfocused window in an entirely different application.

Also, while larger monitors might increase the D term in the above equation, it doesn't increase by much. My 20" monitor on my desk has a height of only 1050 pixels, and the 24" one I had before that only had a height of 1200 pixels. If you run the numbers, you can see that the change in D still doesn't offset the change in W. Moreover, the popularity of laptops (and the attendant poor pointing devices therein) further works against that particular argument.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Some numbers
by fretinator on Thu 17th May 2007 20:14 in reply to "Some numbers"
Member since:
2005-07-06

Hey Math majors, take two Eigenvalues and call me in the morning!

Seriously, I don't think the main problem is in the Linear Algebra world. The main reason this _might_ help is for newbies. They would have only one place to look for "drop-down thingies". Menus are very confusing to new computer users. I think that is a more important question than Partial Derivatives in N-Space.

However, if it is off by default, go for it! I'll never see it.

[Edit: spelling]

Edited 2007-05-17 20:16

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Some numbers
by rayiner on Thu 17th May 2007 20:25 in reply to "RE: Some numbers"
Member since:
2005-07-06

I'm a certified non-newbie and I find the feature useful every day. The menubar is one less thing I have to carefully aim at every day using the blunt instrument that is my MacBook's trackpad (which is quite good as laptop pointing devices go...)

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Some numbers
by h3rman on Thu 17th May 2007 20:23 in reply to "Some numbers"
Member since:
2006-08-09

> IIRC, GNOME discards the focusing click,

No it doesn't.

> so you can't click directly on the menubar of an unfocused window anyway.

Yes you can.

(edit: funny stuff in html in osnews beta)

Edited 2007-05-17 20:29 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Some numbers
by Spellcheck on Thu 17th May 2007 20:26 in reply to "Some numbers"
Member since:
2007-01-20

Assuming we concede this part of the argument based on distances, then (as a previous post mentioned) it still ignores the time issue of switching between app focuses before the menu becomes available instead of being able to go directly to an inactive window's menu. This may be partially mitigated by, for example, the dock's context menu, but those are incomplete, anyway.

This is completely anecdotal, but it seems I'm more sensitive to timing than to distances. I can cross the screen and hit visible things or perform a gesture in a screen subset in less than a second, since I have the benefit of knowing everything is going to be at the same place. Though that might just implying that "searching" the changing menu bar is an issue, and that's not what I intend.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Some numbers
by Morin on Fri 18th May 2007 00:16 in reply to "Some numbers"
Member since:
2005-12-31

> Yes, if you're trying to activate a menu entry on a
> window that doesn't have focus, there is some extra
> motion involved with the toplevel menubar.

From experience, I can tell that much worse than the extra motion is the confusion when you are trying to access some program's menu, but have another one focused. You keep looking for a menu item that isn't there, until you finally realize that you're dealing with the menu of another program.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Some numbers
by rajj on Fri 18th May 2007 06:13 in reply to "Some numbers"
Member since:
2005-07-06

If you have multiple heads, and you happen to be on the head without the menu, what then? Now you flick your mouse up only to realize that the menu's clear over on the other side. Simply extending the bar to span both displays won't work; however, I suppose you could duplicate the menus on each side.

One of the advantages of having the the menu bar in the window is that the window becomes its own orthogonal environment that doesn't depend on UI elements located elsewhere.

I think the fundamental problem is the WIMP paradigm and its emphasis on the mouse. Stop worrying about marginally reducing the time to access the menu bar, and eliminate the need to access it altogether. Make the keyboard the emphasis.

Reply Parent Score: 2