The State of the Global Menubar in GNOME

A very, very long time ago I personally advocated the inclusion of a certain feature into GNOME. We set up a poll at OSNews, which resulted in a very, very resounding “yes!” from the OSNews community – many of which are GNOME users. The feature in question was the global application menubar, which allowed the GNOME desktop to have a menu bar atop the screen similar to that of Mac OS X. The poll is long gone, the debate thread in the Bugzilla has died out, and no decision has yet been made. I wanted to know where this feature stands, and how much the developers have improved it, and I was in for a surprise.

Back in the day when the patch was first released, it required a hacked Gtk+, which made the patch a little daunting for many people. It was also rather buggy at times, and you couldn’t really rely on it too much. Well, I am happy to inform you all that that has really, really changed. The patch has become more than a patch – it’s a simple panel applet now. And it no longer requires a hacked Gtk+. They also have a fancy website now.

The panel applet, once installed, can be added to any GNOME panel as you would any other applet. Once it’s in there, right click on it, open its preferences window, and activate it. That’s it. THey even have a nice repository at Launchpad, so installation is a breeze. Add the PPA to your sources.list, install the relevant package, et voila. The current package has an error in it, so some users may need to run the linked commands to make it work properly. The next packaged build should solve this.

Once installed, it works beautifully. They’ve added several convenient options to configure the applet, so you can tweak it to your needs. For the rest, it works exactly as you would expect: the menubars in your windows disappear, and are placed in your GNOME panel of choice in Mac OS X fashion. The only downside is that it doesn’t work for non-Gtk+ applications such as Firefox or Qt+ applications are also not supported, but there have been talks in the KDE community to standardise their upcoming global menubar implementation on the Gtk+ one, making it all cross-platform.

I’m totally addicted again. I prefer a global menubar, and I know a lot of you agree with me that it’s a better solution. It is strictly a matter of taste though, so the fact that it’s implemented as a panel applet is just perfect. It can be included in GNOME, as an optional applet, and those who prefer it can use it.

I would like to, once again, urge the GNOME team to finally accept this applet into the default GNOME distribution (by lack of a better word). This is a feature requested by quite a number of people, and its inclusion as an optional, turned-off-by-default panel applet poses no threat whatsoever to GNOME’s policies and goals regarding interface design. We can have swimming fish and moving eyes in our GNOME panel by default, but a much more interesting and useful feature gets the boot.

If GNOME fails to address this issue (it’s their project after all), then maybe Ubuntu can step in and include this option. It would make it so much easier if it finally received what it deserves: blessing from the GNOME and/or Ubuntu community. Now that KDE is also looking at this specific implementation to serve as the cornerstone for a cross-DE implementation of the global menu bar, there is simply no excuse to hinder this process.


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