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Thread: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

  1. #1
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    What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    I truly hope, even pray, that I'm not offending any delicate sensibilities by asking this question on this forum -- I tried to go directly to "recurring discussions" but the site won't let me start a thread there.

    I'm trying hard to understand what the design consideration is, for forcibly imposing on users the placement of buttons, that has been practically universally accepted on the opposite side since the invention of modern GUIs. Yes, yes, yes, there are other DEs around, nobody is forcing anything, I know, I'm familiar with that prevarication, but I'm trying to understand this DE, and the conscious decision to invest time and effort in coding restrictions to already working and existing tools (e.g. dconf-editor and several others) that always have allowed users to place window control buttons where they thought they belonged, on an OS that prides itself on being completely configurable by the end user.

    This is not new, and too many Ubuntu users have been gritting their teeth with every new release since Lucid LTS (oh how I loved it) reconfiguring this to their liking, as it invariably flipped it on them.

    The closest I've been able to find to an explanation, is this, from Mark Shuttleworth:
    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
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+s...3/comments/110

    That's nice. Not to be facetious, but moving everything to the right opens up the space on the left just as nicely. Kudos for experimenting with innovative options, but what reason is there for such options never to be on the left instead?

    This is also very nice of Mr. Shuttleworth:
    ...I encourage folks who prefer that layout to use it, or to follow the instructions for setting the gconf preference manually. It's great that you can do that.
    Encourage, that is, until the option is removed.

    What could it be? What is the UI wisdom or zen behind this?

    Could it have anything to do with user instinct, due to the fact that we write from left to right? I should hope not, given that there are close to a Billion people in the world using right-to-left languages that are supported in Ubuntu (at least as far as I'm able to glean from data in the CIA World Factbook), and I'm sure anyone as sensible as Mr. Shuttleworth would not want to offend them. Certainly not when his programmers remove the ability to represent keyboard layouts by country flags, "because the Union Jack would not be appropriate in India, for instance," as has been stated in such fora as askubuntu and so on.

    Why leave it open to speculation? A clear explanation of the reason behind it, of why it is so critical as to get programmers to go out of their way to remove that flexibility, would be most welcome.
    http://folding.extremeoverclocking.c...avital&t=45104
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  2. #2
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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Well, the buttons have to be someplace. It's pretty much a choice of one of two options. And, if memory serves, they are on the left in OS X, so it isn't really the case that putting them there violates decades of GUI rules.

    Actually, there aren't rules about this sort of thing. At least, no GUI Police hanging around to enforce someone's idea of rules.

    Can't be that hard, after a bit of time, to use Unity's buttons. Like visiting someplace where they "drive on the wrong side of the road", just really easier. In hardly anytime, it's second nature.

    The position of the buttons can be reversed using Unity Tweak Tool and, I'd bet, dconf editor.

    Actually, close, minimize and maximize buttons aren't really obligatory. As long as there is a bar across the top of a window, clicking on the left third could minimize it, clicking on the middle third could maximize it, and clicking on the right third could close it.

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Quote Originally Posted by buzzingrobot View Post
    ... they are on the left in OS X, so it isn't really the case that putting them there violates decades of GUI rules.
    Well, I never called it a "violation" -- only that it was universally accepted that they'd be on the right. Okay, so universally minus one. I remember DEC systems using early motif with buttons on the right.

    Quote Originally Posted by buzzingrobot View Post
    At least, no GUI Police hanging around to enforce someone's idea of rules.
    Well... If they go out of their way to disable the user's ability to reset them on the right, I think that's called enforcement.

    Quote Originally Posted by buzzingrobot View Post
    The position of the buttons can be reversed using Unity Tweak Tool and, I'd bet, dconf editor.
    Have you tried it? I have. I made the same ":minimize,maximize,close" entry I've always made with every new release of Ubuntu, and this time, no reaction, they stay on the left. There's a thread in launchpad about how they re-coded Unity to simply intercept that event and nullify it. Sounds more and more like enforcement. But if you find a way, I'd love to see it. So would many others.

    I've driven on the left side of the road. The difference is, I don't own the road. I'm supposed to own my computer. And my screen. And Canonical tells me I don't, not if I want to use their product. Just like Apple and Microsoft.
    Last edited by r_avital; April 25th, 2014 at 06:58 AM. Reason: Typo
    http://folding.extremeoverclocking.c...avital&t=45104
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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Quote Originally Posted by r_avital View Post
    I'm supposed to own my computer. And my screen. And Canonical tells me I don't, not if I want to use their product. Just like Apple and Microsoft.
    I get so tired of hearing this. Unlike Apple and Microsoft, YOU ARE NOT PAYING for Canonical's product. They offer it to you for free. They don't owe you. Not only that, but you also have available, FOR FREE, several other desktop environments that you can use if you don't like Unity, with access to the same applications and the ability to arrange your work area as you like. There is no ownership dispute, and no arm-twisting, and no one is taking away your computer or your freedom. They don't own you, but stop acting as if you own them.

    Use it if you like it, use something else if you don't. Sheesh. Stop whining.

    All that said, I know of no "universal" preference to put icons on the right side. Windows has always done it on the left. Apple started out putting them on the bottom. Universally, tabbed windows arrange their tabs starting on the left, new ones are added to the right.

    And if you really want to follow the Open Source ethos -- you have the source code. I'm sure you can arrange it on the right if you put your mind to it. Don't ask someone else to do it for you and then give it to you for free.

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Quote Originally Posted by llanitedave View Post
    Unlike Apple and Microsoft, YOU ARE NOT PAYING for Canonical's product. They offer it to you for free. They don't owe you.
    Please show me, when did I say they owed me? I'm past the hissing and moaning. I was asking a question. What is the design principle? Is there a plan? What is it? And the reason I ask, is that it's strange to see them, again, deliberately investing coding time into, please pay attention to this, R-E-M-O-V-I-N-G the end-user's ability to set the option, using tools that already exist. That warrants an honest, curious question.

    Asking why, is not fighting. You seem to be the one interested in a fight.
    Quote Originally Posted by llanitedave View Post
    And if you really want to follow the Open Source ethos...
    Sounds to me like you know something about the open-source ethos. Would you agree that the open-source ethos includes the principle of allowing complete customization by the end-user?

    Again, of course, they don't owe me. If I can code, I can customize as I wish. But again, you're missing the fact that they didn't have to put in any work to let me make the customization. The tools already existed. They deliberately added code to nullify existing code to remove the customization. Call me a whiner if you wish, this is a fact you can't get around. I am simply asking why.

    Does "they give it you you free" equal "it's a good thing they provide an OS that angers some people" even if only a minority? Does that make sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by llanitedave View Post
    Not only that, but you also have available, FOR FREE, several other desktop environments that you can use if you don't like Unity,
    Hold on, fella. I did not say in this thread that I didn't like Unity. I have issues with it, true, especially with its bugs (or is dissatisfaction with bugs also verbotten when it's free?). I like it enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by llanitedave View Post
    All that said, I know of no "universal" preference to put icons on the right side.
    Then, respectfully, you don't know much.

    Quote Originally Posted by llanitedave View Post
    Don't ask someone else to do it for you and then give it to you for free.
    One more time, brother, with feeling now, I never asked them to "do it for me" -- they took the initiative and removed the E-X-I-S-T-I-N-G ability to customize that particular element.

    Tired of hearing it? Not nearly as tired as I am of repeating that particular point for fan-boys and shills who refuse to acknowledge it. Now don't get me wrong, I will always defend your right to respond to any post, but if you're so tired of hearing it, you have the freedom to ignore my posts. I recommend you do, because I will continue to raise that question, respectfully and politely, until I hear an answer that makes sense, or I'm banned.

    Anyone else "gets so tired of hearing this" -- please exercise your freedom to resume cruising speed.
    Last edited by r_avital; April 25th, 2014 at 07:00 AM. Reason: Typo
    http://folding.extremeoverclocking.c...avital&t=45104
    "I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."
    ― Albert Einstein

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Doesn't worry me too much which side the icons appear on. Having said that, I'm more used to the left, which started back when I used Windows 98SE.
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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum -- Wiktionary

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Because in maximised windows, the buttons would look pretty stupid on the right of the indicators. You'd also be left with blank space there when the window wasn't maximised, or the indicators would move depending on the state of the window - either way would be terrible.

    So the buttons go on the left, where there is space above the Launcher.

    Why is the Launcher on the left instead of on the right? It's because you can control the mouse better, the closer it is to their center. Basically this means that, for right-handed people, your mousing is more precise when the cursor is on the left side of the screen. Hence, the Launcher goes on the left of the screen.

    The Launcher doesn't go on the top or bottom because that would restrict precious vertical space on a widescreen monitor.

    The truth is, virtually nobody changes the order of window buttons in Unity so they are on the right-hand side. The reason for this is that maximised windows will ALWAYS have their buttons on the left-side of the top panel regardless of the setting in dconf. This has always been the case in Unity.

    I work in a place that has fleet cars. Some of them have their turn indicator switch on the right-hand side of the steering column, some have it on the left-hand side. The first or second time you might get it wrong and the windscreen wipers come on, but you adjust fast. I installed Ubuntu 14.04 today and found that the Back/Forward buttons in Nautilus have moved somewhat. The first couple of times my mouse went to the wrong spot, now it doesn't. Because I adapted.

    Frankly, if you've been changing the order of window buttons to the right side every six months since 2010, you've been putting yourself through a lot of work to avoid adapting. The window button order is very trivial to get used to. Just stick with it. After a few hours you'll always go to the correct corner.
    I try to treat the cause, not the symptom. I avoid the terminal in instructions, unless it's easier or necessary. My instructions will work within the Ubuntu system, instead of breaking or subverting it. Those are the three guarantees to the helpee.

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    Quote Originally Posted by r_avital View Post

    Have you tried it? I have. I made the same ":minimize,maximize,close" entry I've always made with every new release of Ubuntu, and this time, no reaction, they stay on the left. There's a thread in launchpad about how they re-coded Unity to simply intercept that event and nullify it. Sounds more and more like enforcement.
    Haven't tried in 14.04. I'm don't really care which side they're on. It's not like it's a challenging situation.

    Calling a design choice like this "enforcement" is inappropriate. Developers and designers get to make those choices, and users get to choose or reject the software they make. if window button placement is a sine qua non priority for a user, then that user ought to be willing to use an environment that accords with his or her priorities.

    The freedom in Linux is not about building in every possible configurable option in every program and supporting them in perpetuity. It's about code being free.

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    Re: What's the zen behind the left side of the window titlebar?

    I've driven on the left side of the road. The difference is, I don't own the road. I'm supposed to own my computer. And my screen. And Canonical tells me I don't, not if I want to use their product. Just like Apple and Microsoft.
    Somewhat accurate analogy except for those of us who use both Windows and Ubuntu. I like being able to customize my user interface for consistency ie having the control icons on the right.
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