I Can’t Wait For The Future To Get Here

I love Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a free open source Linux operating system. Those of you who know me, know that I switched to Linux cold turkey about 4 years ago. Over the years I have watched Ubuntu mature in functionality, user base, and most importantly in innovative interaction design. For those of us who pay close attention to these things, it’s fun to play with new interface elements. The advantage Ubuntu (and all open source) operating systems have over Mac OS and Windows is that there is no penalty for failure.

Each new version of Ubuntu has some surprising new interactions.  I love to watch the interface features that work, show up years down the line in commercial software. Particularly when they receive buzz for their “Bold Innovations.”  And yes, your shiny new version of Windows is far behind. They are naturally slow (and rightfully so) to adopt new experimental design and interaction. By the time the average user gets to play with multiple virtual desktops and snapping windows, Linux users have been testing and perfecting the interaction for years.

One such innovation that drew my attention is the proposed new scrollbar for Unity. I know I’ve written about scrollbars in the past, but this is pretty cool and makes a lot of sense. We waste a lot of screen real-estate on scrollbars. We know where they are and we know how they work. Why do I have to waste my precious screen space on it? The open source community took, from what we are learning with mobile devices, and applied it to a desktop environment.

Take a look at this demo video. Then think about the benefits of a scroll bar:

  • It tells us that there is more content on the current page
  • It shows us where we are in relation to the size of the page
  • It allows us to slowly or quickly scroll to different parts of a page

This proposed interaction accomplishes all of these things while saving screen real-estate for what we really need windows for: the content on the screen. With the growing number of touch interfaces each day and shrinking screens, why waste precious pixels on such an archaic interface element?

So what does the future of your operating system look like? Do yourself a favor and download an Ubuntu live cd and take a look.


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