Scaled Screenshot of Ubuntu 11.10 Unity’s Dash on a neutral background:

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The 8 items in the home screen of Ubuntu Unity’s Dash have been found to be confusing in user testing and will be replaced for the next release.

I think the initial content should be similar to the search results that will be listed once there is text input. Basically the first n matches for a search for everything.

The search should be sub-string based, maybe even fuzzy and even support the categories that can be used in the filter section, to make the most of the user’s input. Especially when searching for files, one might remember a part of a name, not necessarily the beginning. Fuzziness should help with typos or variations in either input or searched content.

Turning the top panel transparent on activating the Dash suggests a connection to the right-side indicator menus, where there is none. It necessitates a variation of the window Close, Minimize and Maximize buttons.

The lense-switching buttons at the bottom seem odd. This placement almost maximizes the distance from the Dash trigger button. It gets ridiculous, if you maximize the Dash, especially on a large display. These buttons determine the entire content, which suggests they should be at the top or maybe on the left side. But what if the layout can be simplified by using the lense buttons both as section headers and pathways to their sections?

Rough, explorative mockups:

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A second click on the Dash button closes the Dash, making it have the same function as the window Close button in this state. Could this be visualized? An admittedly brutal attempt, just to illustrate the idea:

I wonder if avoiding the potentially disruptive impression of the entire screen being taken over is worth having a Maximize button for the Dash and a layout that increases the need for scrolling (or paging as alternative). The button is yet another detail on the screen and costs the user a decision, not necessarily only once. Without it, the always disabled Minimize button could go, too.


About thorwil
I'm a designer from Germany. My main interests are visual and interaction design, free/open-source software and (electronic) music.

8 Responses to Dash

  1. Tushar Kumar says:

    Nice read

  2. Tim says:

    Sounds good!

  3. Adam says:

    Noteworthy. I hope these ideas get considered by the design team.

  4. dylanmccall says:

    Nice ideas, as always! Looks _way_ nicer to deal with than what we have now.

    I’m a little unsure how the transition will work after clicking on, say, the Files button from the overview, since the button to go back will presumably be on the top left. The button that appears in that space under your pointer isn’t particularly special. (In that case the sixth of your top files).
    What if those filters were cleaned up and always open on the left side, synonymous with the list of lenses in the overview?

    I like that everyone’s mockups seem to be addressing similar problems. Gives me a lot of hope that this will turn out well 🙂

    • thorwil says:


      Yes, filters always open and on the left, such that the pointer ends up in that area after clicking a lense button is worth consideration.

      One way to avoid having the pointer on a random item after clicking a lense button would be to place the Back button in that spot.

  5. rhersel says:

    Sorry, but that is just half the way of improving the dash. Of course your suggestion is good when a search term is entered but not for the initial experience. The current initial dash is useless for most users because they already have their favourite apps in the launcher and the top row is just a replication of the app and file lenses.

    In my opinion the initial dash should show the same as the Gnome-Shell dash or the Unity Super+W namely an overview of the open windows.

    • thorwil says:

      You give no reason why my suggestion would not be good for the initial experience. For my mockup, it’s actually not that important which selection of applications is shown initially, but I would suggest the first few items from a list of all available applications, sorted by either recency or frequency of use. With a penalty for the items that are on the Launcher, to put them at the end of the list, to not appear unless searched for.

      There surely could be a windows lense. But so far the Dash is for accessing things that are not already open in a sense. Things one might text-search for, which I think is far more likely and useful when dealing with many application, a potentially huge number of files, but not that much for a handful of windows.

  6. stavrosLinux says:

    can the dash be reversed so that the recycle bin Be at the top and the Ubuntu logo at the bottom (Like a Start button). And the Unity’s Dash screen would be reversed, the search at the bottom and the results on top