what is the difference between this and the notification area?

Asked by Alvin Thompson on 2009-03-17

ANSWER SUMMARY:
To understand what went into this decision, please read:
http://design.canonical.com/2010/04/notification-area/ (»Farewell to the notification area«)
http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/347 (»Ubuntu’s Indicator Menus – Ayatana bearing fruit«)
https://bugs.edge.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/532633/comments/167 (Mark Shuttleworth’s general statement regarding Ubuntu’s organisation)

--

And also, is any tiny difference in scope between these two applets worth the increase in complexity and screen real-estate (since both will have to be used for the foreseeable future), the fact that many applications will have to be rewritten to use the new indicator, and the fact that this applet doesn't use an open standard and so doesn't work with KDE programs or other programs? I just want to know the process that went into this decision. Was it done by committee because there's some extremely compelling yet unknown reason for using this new model, or was it (as I'm guessing) an arbitrary decision by one person with commit rights who thought it would be 'cool'? It's obviously too late to be removed from Jaunty, but this really needs to be rethought for the next release.

Question information

Language:
English Edit question
Status:
Invalid
For:
Indicator Applet Edit question
Assignee:
No assignee Edit question
Solved by:
Jan
Solved:
2010-05-28
Last query:
2010-05-27
Last reply:
2010-05-28
Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #1

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

still wondering

And also, is any tiny difference in scope between these two applets worth the increase in complexity and screen real-estate (since both will have to be used for the foreseeable future), the fact that many applications will have to be rewritten to use the new indicator, and the fact that this applet doesn't use an open standard and so doesn't work with KDE programs or other programs? I just want to know the process that went into this decision. Was it done by committee because there's some extremely compelling yet unknown reason for using this new model, or was it (as I'm guessing) an arbitrary decision by one person with commit rights who thought it would be 'cool'? It's obviously too late to be removed from Jaunty, but this really needs to be rethought for the next release.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #4

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Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #6

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #8

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Liam (liamgarvey) said : #10

bump.

i believe the 'needs information' flag is supposed to indicate that there is not enough information supplied for the maintainers to address the issue, not that the question hasn't been answered...

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #12

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Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #14

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Walt Knowles (waltk) said : #16

OK, now there are two people asking this question. Can anyone tell me:
1) What good this applet is?
2) What good it might eventually be?
3) Why bluetooth, network, and sound don't use it?
4) Since this appears to have been generated by someone who should probably work at Microsoft in the Vista division (judging from the quality of answers), how to get rid of it and let pidgin (the only application that seems to use it) have its rightful place on my dock?

Thanks!

Seth (seth-hollen) said : #18

I'm wondering what the hell is it good for? Besides taking up space.

Jack (jackhynes) said : #20

I like the idea (I think) but certainly seems lacking in features. Why has this been enabled on Karmic A4?

saying that you like the idea isn't an answer.

I just ran Pidgin for the first time since upgrading to Ubuntu 9.04 and discovered this applet. It confused the hell out of me at first. It does seem to be a bit redundant having an applet that is only being used by one application AFAIK.

The main reason I'm posting though is to keep this alive, the silence from anyone "official" is quite annoying. IMO, the "open" in open source means more than just publishing code, there should be open discussion and flow of information. If the maintainers of this package don't want to participate in that then they should indeed go and work from MS as was suggested above.

Darren, I think the 'Needs Information' tag means that the question is not complete, not that you're still waiting for an answer.

What makes things worse is that this applet is still in Karmic as well, and Pidgin isn't even included anymore (dropped in favor of Telepathy)!

I absolutely love that this question has just plain been ignored by developers.

Way to go, Ubuntu. You're just sealing your fate as the next ghost-town distribution. Keep pissing off users by ignoring them and doing whatever you damned well please and you devs will be the only users left. We all love waiting around while you get a project to 95%, decide that its no longer what you wanted it to be, and then reinvent the wheel, giving us another few years of dealing with bugs and endless wishlists, all while none of us understand why the original solution was a bad one. The notification area works, it's widely supported, and creating another one isn't going to solve the issues it has. This is no way to affect change.

Gee, and I wonder why people who don't care about the lofty ideals behind free software just end up using Windows instead. I get the same answer from linux developers as I would from M$ had I asked them a design preference question; "if you don't like it, do it yourself" - which is fine, I'm not paying you. But don't expect me to keep using your project when I don't get a response at all.

Ubuntu's undoing will be it's separation between the /real/ community, those of us who give valuable feedback to developers, and the developers themselves; well, that and it's dumbing down for the "masses" - you know the ones, the ones that wont switch to linux /ever/ anyway because it's just "too different," the ones that don't care about how the entire world benefits from community software, the ones that don't care that using Windows is de-facto endorsement of the way they bully users with ridiculous licensing agreements, other companies with their endless piles of cash, and entire nations with their stranglehold of mass licensing agreements for the governments' employees because "they just want to play games."

Free software isn't the inevitable evolution of computer programing, friends, it's a struggle between those of us who want computer software to benefit humanity, and those of us who want to make money off of it. Just because you code for free doesn't give you god status, you're just another human just like the rest of us, and it'd be nice if you respected us rather than sitting on your high horses and treating us like idiots who'd all be lost without you, and for whom you're doing some colossal favor by using your free time to do something you enjoy anyway. For twelve years I've been using linux and trying my damnedest to give valuable feedback to the developers, to help the squash bugs, to tweak their UI, and every single project and distribution I've seen completely and utterly fails because of the same reasons; keep re-inventing the wheel while ignoring your users who /really/ and truly would rather see things make sense, be modular and configurable /so much more/ than they care about things JustWorking.

Thank you, Alvin, for taking the time to keep re-opening this question. I'm curious to see how long it takes for someone to answer it.

the ironic part is that due my constant reopening of this, i'm one of the leading "contributors" to the project!

Ruben Verweij (ruben-verweij) said : #26

You should probably take a look at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MessagingMenu/.
The whole rationale is worked out there already.
Quote: "The messaging menu exists to provide convenient access to messages concerning you that you may not have seen."
Hope this helped you.

Ruben: thanks, that was pretty informative. I can definitely see how one may want one icon for all incoming messages. However, it doesn't answer the fundamental question of why does it need it's own applet, instead of simply placing the icon in the existing notification area? I've sited all of my problems with this in my original post.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #28

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #30

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

bumping for good measure, why doesn't this dock into the existing notifcation area?

Kiddykoff (kiddykoff) said : #34

i'm interested in this as well. I thought i was missing something. I will say this, i like the artwork of the icon.

i believe the 'needs information' flag is supposed to indicate that there is not enough information supplied for the maintainers to address the issue, not that the question hasn't been answered...

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #37

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Terry S (terry-shuttleworths) said : #39

I'm also wondering why this is here. Doesn't appear to server any useful extra purpose. Killing it on my dev machine and hoping it doesn't cause problems when I do. Fingers crossed...

they obviously need to rethink the launchpad UI...

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #41

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Ruben Verweij (ruben-verweij) said : #43

I think you will have more luck if you ask this question on the Ubuntu Forums. There are a lot of people who will be more than willing to answer your question. To be quite honest, I don't think someone will answer you here if you keep opening it again, and the forum is a great place for asking questions.
To try again to answer your question with what little I know about the subject - the applet is meant as a place for applications needing an indicator. True, the notification applet already does this, but this applet provides a uniform UI for all indicators. Also, it actually will save a lot of screen real estate, if you're worried about that. It cleans up your notification area. I hope this finally solved your problem.

Yeah, it's clear that none of the developers are willing to answer this question, probably because it's mostly rhetorical--there is no answer that can be given that can not also be answered by improving the existing code. I keep this open because I'm stubborn. Besides, it has developed a bit of a following and a life of its own by now. I'm still considered one of the top contributors to the project and I just want to kill it!

<speech type="harangue">
I've been a fairly successful software engineer now for over 20 years, and if there's one problem that's endemic to the industry, it's the need to "reinvent the wheel". Not because a new wheel would work better, but because the inventors of the new wheel *thought* it would work better at the time they conceived of it. And let's face it: people generally like the idea of a wheel with their name on it, instead of a wheel with someone else's name. What usually happens it that you wind up with similar wheels, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. That's clearly what happened here. If this new wheel were any better than the old wheel, everybody would have already switched to it. The fact that adoption of this 'free' technology by other products has been glacial (to put it mildly) should give you reason to pause before assuming it's substantially better than the old technology.

So why am I so adamant about this? Because if left unchecked, foolishness like this presents a huge drain on a very scarce resource in the open-source world: contributing developers. Not only are the developers who invented this new wheel throwing away their own efforts, but now everyone else who wants to build a product that uses wheels has to investigate which project is the correct one to use, and possibly they must design their product to use both types of wheels. In the commercial world your motivation is profit, so this type of "competing wheels" model often makes sense despite the fact that it weakens the market as a whole. In the non-commercial, open-source world this model never makes sense.

Don't get me wrong; sometimes the new technology offers a clear advantage. We're definitely better off with udev over DevFS. Other times it's not as clear. Are we really gaining that much by switching from HAL? Would OSX really be better served creating a new kernel instead of using the mach kernel? And then we have this case, where any perceived advantage is so small it doesn't really justify the effort.
</speech>

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #45

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

I have now read more than I ever wanted to know about this "applet", including, finally, how I might apply it to Thunderbird. I do get a notification when new mail arrives, but that fades quickly and if was away from my desk I wouldn't easily know. There may be a way to set a 'stay-visible' marker, but until the 'envelope' appeared when I upgraded to 9.10 I wouldn't have thought of trying to do so, I suppose.

Here is a challenge for all the keen Open Programmers - pretend you are new to Ubuntu and the structure of its help systems, and see how many clicks you are away from getting the required answer. I tried this, and ended up in https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Wine where there is passing comment on using the rt-click to add "Custom Application Launcher."

Here's a question: are we trying to woo the MS masses so that a significant number of them will migrate to Linux?

My own view is that we are not. Not 'for real', anyhow. Even under Ubuntu it's all too arcane.

But let's assume we do want a bigger user mass. Are we most likely to get them from the MS expert community, or the 'non-expert' MS community? My guess is that MS experts are happy enough where they are (and anyhow, they are likely to be the smaller end of the MS population).

So, we depend on wooing over those for whom MS tends to be 'too hard' - because you won't think of changing unless you are unhappy where you are - right?

And such people are the less skilled, the poorer readers, the most easily confused, the most forgetful, and so on. They are also the hardest to educate, the hardest to design for, the hardest to write text for.

Ubuntu has great need of much better aspects that most affect the new user: particularly simpler, "everyday language" terminology and stability of user interface, and easier ways into the relevant 'how-to' for the (inevitably) ignorant new-user.

For example: Questioner 94486 knew enough to use the Applet, but not enough to put it back on the panel.

Me? I use google for my Ubuntu questions. For I never know which of the Ubuntu-related URLs is the best for my particular issues.

Maybe you can help me, come to think of it. You might be able to suggest a better route for me than what actually happened.

* I found this 'envelope' on my panel when I upgraded to 9.10. It holds a list of things I don't recognise and never use.
* I right-clicked and then "about" and found it was intended to hold all the system indicators. But it doesn't hold my wifi indicator or my touchpad indicator (for example) so I had better read about it, huh?
* I click "Indicator Applet Website" in the "About" and get to https://launchpad.net/indicator-applet which, if you know it, doesn't tell me how my life will be made easier, but there is a link to the Messaging Menu.
* I click that link and go to https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MessagingMenu/ which looks like the coding instructions, but there is a link to its being hosted on launchpad. Maybe there is more detail down that route.
* I click that link - and whoa! I'm back in https://launchpad.net/indicator-applet - talk about circular. So I look at the bug list - might provide insight. No such luck.
* But wait! I remember it is 'hosted on Launchpad' and at the foot of the page it says "Launchpad > take the tour" and Hey, this might be what I need.
* But no. It's for software developers.
* Eventually I stumble onto https://answers.launchpad.net/indicator-applet/+faqs which is useless as there are no FAQs given there.
* So I click Ask a Question and get to https://answers.launchpad.net/indicator-applet/+addquestion where I type my question as noted above, and that gets me to the list of similar questions that might answer my query (now that does make sense!) but they don't seem to, however 'leave no stone unturned' to I click through them in turn, hoping for enlightenment.
* And Lo! I come across 94486 and all that the stream implies for the sensitive reader.

By now you might have some idea of the absolute frustration I'm feeling with this whole exercise (I bet it's pretty boring even reading about it - worse to live through it, believe me).

Continuing the above vein, I finally found why I could use the app, in https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MessagingMenu/#User stories - but if it were not for those two sentences - in the programming guide - I would never have known. But I believe the app instance in the panel, if it is going to be placed there by default (for a V0.1 - pull the other leg!) needs a Help link in BOTH the left and right click pulldowns - and the help really ought to tell the #User stories even ABOVE the TOC. "Why and How" at the basic level, are usually all most users need. But it must be trivially accessible. Needing one click for help shows the app is not truly intuitive. Needing two clicks for help shows the help writer doesn't understand the typical user problems.

I'm not totally ignorant, by the way. You can read of my experience in
 http://www.peter-collins.org/resumeindex.html and I have to say that I have not come across a more stable system than Ubuntu - if you either (a) know what you are doing or (b) only want to do the simplest things. But getting to grips with the real power of all aspects of the system is painful beyond belief unless you are a Unix programmer, I suspect.

I view this as an issue of sensitive-design-and-documentation-for-the-improving-user. I'd really like your comment, and your suggestions as to how I can help. Nobody else seems to even know I'm alive, and I keep sending examples of my trouble all over.

Thanks,
Peter

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #48

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Hey, Peter,

Yup, much of that speaks to the grand-daddy of all issues, issue #1 in launchpad. :) As far as the indicator applet is concerned, that fact that we will need two indicator applets for the foreseeable future is hardly an improvement if you ask me.

Ruben Verweij (ruben-verweij) said : #50

This is the last time I will post a message here, but I'm just curious.
Have you already posted this on the Ubuntu Forums I mentioned? I'm sure there will be some people who can help you further in your "quest" to merge the notification area and the indicator applet. You could even file it as an idea on the Ubuntu Brainstorm: brainstorm.ubuntu.com.
If enough people like your idea, and you will get enough votes, the developers will look into your idea. I believe, for myself, that's a more efficient way of changing something than repeatedly reopening this question.
Just my 2 cents... ;-)

Of course posting would be more efficient; I'm just stubborn. :)

Actually, I was thinking about posting the question in the mailing list, but I was hoping to get some input from the developers on what the thinking was in case I was missing something obvious. I'd rather not waste every subscriber's time on a long, drawn-out discussion if it was something that I could be persuaded was needed. Also, my thinking was that I'd much rather avoid starting one of those "I think Ubuntu is horribly broken because it doesn't implement some feature exactly as I would and I'm posting this for everyone because I want to circumvent the developers who didn't give me an explanation i liked" thread, because they get tiring to read after a while. Besides, the typical response to those type of threads is to open a bug or a question, anyway. One thing I learned in the military was to first try to resolve problems at the lowest level possible.

Of course, it *has* been almost a year with no answer, so maybe I'll need to do it anyway...

Besides, I much prefer the "praise in public, criticize in private" approach.

Please, don't remove the upstream behaviour in ubuntu version apps in order to include your stuff. The indicator approach drives me crazy. I didn't met this before since I disabled indicator integration in empathy (I don't like additional clicks, flashing empathy attracts much more attention than "unified" badly designed indicator applet), but after I've upgraded to Lucid I was disappointed with Rhythmbox status icon behaviour: it's completely inconsistent to the rest of the apps. I don't know guys WTF were you thinking about when dreaming about replacing notification area icons with indicator applet stuff, but it's just stupid. Each my app which uses notification area acts in the same way: click to show a main window, right click to open some menu. But today I have inconsistent notification area behaviour: some apps works in constistent way, but some don't (like Rhythmbox what you've managed to screw up). BTW, I don't have indicator applet, so I've no RB status icon for me.
Now, try to take a sober view of things:
1) The actual consistency means absolutely most of the software works the same as it was before (click to get a main window, right click to get a menu)
2) Today some piece of software works different, it means it breakes consistency
3) WTF are you doing? Guys, show me researches where you've proven your approach is better.
4) You have no resources to patch more than a few apps. So, the significant part of apps will acts in the old proper way, and other apps will work with indicator applet. Where do you find any consistency?

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #55

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #57

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #59

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

If the indicator applet its expected to coexist with the notification area, why not changing the separation within the icons to match each other?

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #63

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

AFarris01 (afarris01) said : #65

I really dislike both the indicator applet, and the 'fast user switcher' applet... with the indicator applet, it's frustrating to have such a ridiculously wasteful replication of capabilities i.e. pidgin is listed both in the indicator applet, AND the notification area... THEN, pidgin's status is settable from both the user-switcher-applet, and from pidgin... why???!? Seriously... I'm sure the devs purpose in adding these things was so people would load up ubuntu, and say 'wow, cool!' and start using the applets to do whatever-it-is they're intended to do, but in all honesty the first time I saw this indicator applet on my panel after installing a fresh ubuntu was 'What the F*** is this?' <L-click> 'well that's pointless...' <R-click - Remove from Panel>. It doesn't appear that this applet adds any value over the previous method of providing these services (i.e. the notification area), and in fact seems to act to remove, or mask, older, simpler usage abilities.

For example: If pidgin (or empathy for that matter) is already sitting in the notification area, AND I've got a window open for it, I don't need another freaking icon taking up space on my panel, telling me what the open window, and the notification panel icons are telling me(i.e. how many new messages I've got). Not only that, but if I choose to remove pidgin from the notification area, and just use the 'indicator applet', then I loose the single-click access to my pidgin buddy-list window (now it's a two-click action) as well as all the convenient right-click options for managing my status, my accounts, muting pidgin noises, etc... now those are God-only-knows how many clicks away, depending on the task.

While not directly related to the initial question, I still think it has some validity here: the 'fast user switcher' applet: aka yet-another-half-baked-replication-of-existing-features. continuing my further example of removing pidgin from the notification area, and using only the indicator applet... now add to it using the 'fast user switcher' to 'change my status' etc... why is this here??? I understand the idea of having a central area for managing the social aspects of your computer, but if that's the intent, then why offer only half-baked re-implementations of the features that the program you're substituting for already has in a fully-featured form? I cant use any of my custom away messages with this fast-user-switcher, and i can't set on-the-fly away messages (at least not that I've been able to find)... and as a matter of fact, I dont even know if I can customize what messages each 'status' displays at all! And to top it all off, I STILL loose all the convenient right-click options that the notification-area icon gives me, such as managing my away messages, plugins, program preferences, sending new messages, etc...

the only good thing I see abut both of these features is that they're going to be merged into the same icon, which means from now on I'll only need to <R-click - Remove from Panel> once to get rid of it all...

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #66

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Alvin, what about sending your question to the Ayatana Mailing List? You can find it at https://launchpad.net/~ayatana

You may want to read this post by Mark Shuttleworth about Indicator Menus first though: http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/347

I have brought it up on mailing lists. It was ignored by the developers there just as it's ignored by the developers here. Believe me, they're aware of it, just as they're aware that most people think it's a pointless waste of time that makes everyone's life more difficult. They just don't care.

Launchpad Janitor (janitor) said : #70

This question was expired because it remained in the 'Open' state without activity for the last 15 days.

Read everything about the transition here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/NotificationAreaTransition

That document doesn't address any of the issues raised in the comments here. Please actually read the question before trying to answer it instead of wasting people's time.

To recap the most important issue, many (if not most) developers have simply chosen not to implement ubuntu's proprietary indicator system in their programs, opting instead to stick with the notification area. The reason is simple: the current notification area is used by every other linux distribution and is also compatible with KDE, XCFE, other desktop environments, and even other OSs. People who wish to use these applications are going to have use the notification area as well. As a result, any Grand Statement by ubuntu developers about transitioning the notification area is completely meaningless.

Additionally, as a developer, why on earth would I use this? If I believed there were some major limitation in the current notification system (which I don't), I would simply use the improved services in Gnome 3, which I'll have to convert to irregardless.

Finally, make no mistake: the reason ubuntu wants to use proprietary widgets on their systems is simply to visually differentiate themselves from the pack. Doing so makes very good business sense for them, but the way they're doing it in this case is harmful to open source and linux, as previously stated.

Yes it does, read http://design.canonical.com/2010/04/notification-area/ referred in »1. Why are we doing this?«. In short: The Notification Area currently is a cluttered mess of application indicators that don’t belong there.

I read everything and very well understand it. You asked a question and I am trying to help you. If anything, I am wasting my own time.

If that still does not answer your question, please contact Mark Shuttleworth and Matthew Paul Thomas directly. They are mainly responsible for this and talking to them instead of having a long thread here will make sure the minimum amount of time gets wasted.

Once again, just because Ubuntu developers unilaterally declare that the notification area is (in their opinion) a mess, it doesn't mean that other developers will suddenly stop using it and instead use Ubuntu's proprietary system. That hasn't happened. Therefore, users will have to use both the notification area and the new system, so if anything Ubuntu has only added to this "mess".

Notification area is no more mess than indicator applet. The only thing indicator can be useful is the IM one and Downloads indicator. And that's all. Me menu? That's boring crap -- it's hard to distinguish items on it! Using indicators for apps is an idiocy and actually bring inconsistency instead of getting rid of it: is there any consistent way to open an app using indicators (transmission, rhythmbox, etc)? I could do this by left click on an item using notification are -- it's consistent. But is there any universal way of getting this _ever simplest_ "task" done with indicators?
They actually should rework their "indicator" approach and get rid of ideas that only make things harder, eg refuse from indicators for apps but instead implent indicators for downloads (I highly doubt if it useful though, I don't mind how they want to represent tens of bittorrent downloads in one indicator).
https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/531244

If you really, truly care about it, I challenge you to not only talk but join the respective development team to make the decisions: https://bugs.edge.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/light-themes/+bug/532633/comments/167

Yes, Ubuntu may be breaking some things. But that is because it is going a specific way. If you are not comfortable with it, you should consider changing the distribution.

A question is not invalid just because it annoys you. Furthermore, it is quite childish of you to ignore the question for well over a year just to mark it as invalid without at least attempting to address it. There are many people who have added their comments here, and many others who have subscribed, and they deserve better than that. Please reopen this.

Could someone with powers put a summary of the answer near the top of this page. (This page is 1st hit in google for 'indicator-applet "notification area" difference'.)

IMHO the summary could be just the two links:

http://design.canonical.com/2010/04/notification-area/ ("Farewell to the notification area")

http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/347 ("Ubuntu's Indicator Menus – Ayatana bearing fruit")

I forgot: Please!