Ubuntu’s proposed HUD User Interface is interesting. Stripping away all the PR fluff and implementation details, it is simply a user interface that combines keyboard and mouse, instead of using them separately. Who combines keyboard and mouse when using a computer, even on a web browsers? Geeks. So, as a geek, I like it. It simply confirms the way I use my computer is more superior than you lot! 😉
The first time I heard about, and uses both keyboard and mouse to drive an application is when I attended an AutoCAD training course back in 1995. It was the first thing the instructor mentioned and I like it. In the days before touch pad and gesture, it is a way of extending the number of ways a two (or three) button mouse can signal to the computer. Even today I still find myself more at home with using keyboard button to modify the way my computer interpret my mouse command than with gesture.
Using both hands to drive a computer interface is not everyone’s cup of tea. I only know of a few people who do this regularly. For us, HUD can be a very useful system, if implemented right.
Mark Shuttleworth compared it to Microsoft ribbon system. I do not think there is any resemblance. He was trying to use Microsoft ribbon system as an example of predicting what the user wants, the way his text-based HUD system is designed to do. Both HUD and Ribbon will change its display according to how it predict you want to use it. We human are designed to react to changes. That’s why for me, ribbon’s biggest problem is it keeps predicting what I want to do and this leads to incessantly changing ribbon that distracted me from the work proper. With HUD, you invoke it when you want it, so the changes in display happens when you want it. I believe this is a significant factor that influence me to say I like HUD.
HUD also mitigate against one of ribbon’s biggest problem: User felt that they are at a lost (and the UI is not helping) when they want to do something the ribbon fails to predict. With HUD, the failure to predict means the user is also at a lost. However, note that the prediction on embedded video shows the prediction as a list of menu commands, Edit->Formatting->Italics for example. This will help users recall what he can do with the menu system to get to the function he wants. It will reduce frustration, hopefully.
Will it catch on with Joe Users? I am not that sure. One thing I noticed, is people adopt a different posture when typing on the keyboard and navigating with a mouse. People sits up, and even though they need only one hand to operate the mouse, they removed both hands from the keyboard. This means it takes them longer to reposition their hands back at the keyboard. Results? Longer time needed to complete the task. This usually means a more frustrated users.
Everyone should use the keyboard like me: Keep eyes on screen and one hand on the keyboard at all time. Keep the mouse close to the keyboard. To operate it move only one hand and instead of looking for the mouse, feel for it. When one is done, move that hand back to the keyboard, again without looking at the keyboard, using the other hand as a guide on where the keyboard is.
How many people will follow this advise? Probably none. And this is the hurdle Ubuntu has to overcome to make us more effective at using HUD. I hope it can achieve it, but have my doubts.