Notifications, Popups and U
A few thoughts:
Lead Ubuntu developer Mark Shuttleworth posted an item on his blog yesterday about the future of notifications in Ubuntu. This (or at least something similar) is what users can expect to see in Ubuntu 9.04 when it’s released in April:
A few thoughts:
- this stuff is really graceful and gorgeous–magnitudes better than the ugly white notifications that currently pop up to tell me I should install updates or check my email. On the other hand, I wonder if this depends on compiz/desktop effects (it sure looks like it does), and whether users of non-compositing window managers will be able to enjoy the new notifications.
- according to Shuttleworth, this new notification system will be available on both Gnome and KDE, which is a nice concession to Kubuntu users after what’s been a relatively Gnome-centric year in *buntu development. (No official word on how the system might be implemented in Xubuntu, but I suppose that if it’s designed to be desktop-environment-independent, it wouldn’t be too hard to port to XFCE.)
- notifications are nice for letting me know when I have new email, for example, but I worry that having such an elegant interface for displaying information will encourage application developers to make their software spam extraneous information. I’m not even sure how much I want to see an obtrusive bubble to tell me I’ve lost wifi connectivity, as one does in Shuttleworth’s example video–if I’m disconnected from the network, the Network Manager icon will communicate that information effectively on its own. I don’t want to sacrifice screen real estate or have my concentration interrupted, even briefly, without just cause.
- on that note, it would be nice to give users the ability to control which kinds of notifications they see. For example, if I don’t want to see a bubble every time I lose my wireless connection, I should be able to tell the system not to notify on such events, or not to send notifications from Network Manager at all. There should be a centralized utility for controlling this across all applications.
All in all, a new notification system would go a long way to enhance the look and feel of the Ubuntu (and Kubuntu) desktop, if not its usability. But the Ubuntu development team should keep in mind that the needs and desires of users are not homogeneous, and that they consequently need to be afforded some means of controlling which notifications they see, and when. And application developers need to be kept in check so that they don’t go overboard generating irrelevant notifications.