When Ubuntu moved from the Gnome desktop environment to Unity with version 11.04, I wasn’t one of the many people who thought it was a bad move. Gnome was starting to feel old, and I like many of Unity’s interface choices. But there’s one thing that makes no sense to me, and it’s driving me crazy.
The launcher bar in Unity is always positioned on the left side of the screen. You can choose to have it “autohide”, set its sensitivity, its icon size, but not it’s position on the screen. And Canonical has made it very clear that they’re not willing to reconsider this. Here’s why I think they should.
This is my typical setup. Screen A is my laptop, screen B is a nice 1080P IPS display I use when I’m at home. At most of my clients, the setup is similar, they usually provide me with a monitor when I work at their location. Ubuntu lets you choose which screen(s) should show the launcher, and the image above represents the default.
The blue bars are the launcher bars, which I’ve set to “autohide”. The fundamental problem is that with both launchers active, the one on B is in the middle of my workspace. With “autohide”, I have to go to the the edge of the screen with my mouse in order for the bar to show. This saves screen real-estate, and is my personal preference.
Normally in multi-monitor setups, moving the mouse to the left on screen B, would make the pointer go to screen A seamlessly. But in order for the launcher on B to show, the screen’s edge becomes “sticky”. This makes the mouse bump against the screen’s edge, unless I move it quickly enough to not get caught. It’s like the mouse pointer gets caught in a spider web, and it’s the worst UI thing I’ve seem in years.
A bad and unnecessary compromise
If I disable the launcher on screen B, I have to travel a long distance to get to the one on A. This is what I currently use, and it’s not very convenient. Sure, there’s other ways to launch apps in Unity, and all sorts of shortcuts. But why create a wonderful launcher (and it is), if you’re going to make it hard to get to?
The logical, easy solution
The only way to be able to conveniently work with launchers on both screens, and not have them be in the way is to put them at the bottom. Or the top for that matter. As long as they’re not vertical. I believe this should be an option in Unity. This way, the launcher on each screen is easy to get to, no need for “sticky” side-edges, no mouse pointer speed bumps. It makes so much sense in fact, that most other OSes already do it this way. I’m not saying Canonical should copy this from windows, but in this case, being different comes at a high cost.