Friday, April 2, 2010

ubuntu window control buttons

Can't believe the controversy this has sparked! Ubuntu decided that in the upcoming Ubuntu 10.4 Lucid Lynx, the window control buttons will be on the upper left instead of the upper right.

Windows users, and most Linux users, are used to seeing them on the upper right. Mac users are used to seeing them on the upper left.

The crying and whining about it has been unbelievable.

Here's Mark Shuttleworth's announcement about the final decision:

Thank you to everybody who has participated in this discussion.
The final decision on window controls for 10.04 LTS is as follows:
- the window controls will remain on the left, however
- the order will change to be (from left) close, minimize, maximise
The decision is based on the view that putting the close button in the corner will be most familiar to many users, even if the particular choice of corner is not.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a comment dependent on the date :-)
Our intent is to encourage innovation, discussion, and design with the right of the window title bar. We have some ideas, and others are already springing up in the community. We welcome participation on the Ayatana list, where those can play out. This will be a fruitful topic for the design track at UDS in Brussels in May.
This bug is now marked wontfix. Please focus ongoing participation on the opportunities for innovation that this opens up. The decision as to the window controls location and order itself is now final, and as they say in the old newspapers, no further correspondence will be entered into.

It really makes no difference to me where those buttons are located, but it's easy enough to change things.

You can open up gconf-editor, navigate to apps > metacity > general section, and edit the value of button_layout. Instead of "maximize,minimize,close:" make it ":maximize,minimize,close". Just move the colon to the front.

There, was that so hard?

Someone created a script for an easy GUI that moves the buttons from left to right:

And following are a couple of commands that are supposed to do it. Warning: Haven't tried these here!

gconftool -s /apps/metacity/general/button_layout -t string "menu:maximize,minimize,close"

(Found at:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string menu:minimize,maximize,close
(Found at:

Some of the Linux Mint folks went to work on tweaking mintDesktop to allow button layout switching. Check out this Mint forums thread.

Personally, I'm glad that Ubuntu made this change. It's so anti-Windows! It stirs things up and gets people talking and thinking. And in the end, it actually makes more sense to have the buttons on the left side.

Plus, it means I'll have a lot more whiners to tease at the Linux forums!


Greg said...

"it actually makes more sense to have the buttons on the left side."

care to back up that statement? why does one side make more sense than the other.

When the majority of your users are used to one way you should have a very good reason to change. If there is some intrinsic value to having them on the left and society will be better for it in the long term, than sure, let's do it.

I'm all for Americans switching to the Metric system because there will be some benefit to having the same units of measure as the rest of the world.

But I don't seriously I find the movement of these controls to be an annoyance with no perceived benefit. Certainly your blog does not give a single reason for doing it.

And Mark Shuttleworth's announcement seems just downrigh arrogant although I've only read what you've included here so maybe it's out of context.

And there is nothing simple about the instructions to change it back - certainly not for the casual computer user that comprises the majority of today's users.

Also, it's a strange decision to make this move for the "long term support" edition, as opposed to releasing it earlier where it could be tested on a short term supported version.

As for me I will leave the controls on the left, at least for a while, to see if I find it works better there, and if it just annoys the hell out of me, then I'll move them. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now all systems will have those controls on the left.

MALsPa said...

@Greg -- You're correct in everything you said, sir. My statement that "it actually makes more sense to have the buttons on the left side" is my personal opinion, of course. You're right, my blog doesn't give a single reason for doing it. But I'm glad Ubuntu did it, just because it's fun seeing people get so pissed off over such a minor thing.