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Mark Shuttleworth announced today that Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" Netbook Edition will come with a global menu. He also states that ONLY the Ubuntu Netbook Edition will get the Global Menu.

The idea is that using a global menu in the top panel would increase the available vertical space, which is so important on a Netbook (we addressed the screen real estate in some parts of our Ubuntu Netbook Remix (now renamed to Ubuntu Netbook Edition) Optimization Guide).

What is Global Menu?

Global Menu is Mac OS X like globally-shared menu bar of all applications launched in your desktop session which is currently only for Gnome. Although Ubuntu started working on this with the existing Global Menu project, it won't add the Global Menu as you know it but they (as in the Ubuntu and Global Menu devs) will work to improve it and make it more awesome then ever!

Everybody using Gnome 2 Global Menu knows there are issues with non GTK and QT applications, most notably Firefox and OpenOffice. But Mark points out that work will be done to support these too, as well as KDE applications.

Global Menu could indeed be a solution for Netbooks where the vertical space is limited, however it will be interesting to see how the users will react to this change, as well as the way it's going to be implemented - because for now, the Ubuntu Netbook Edition comes with only a panel on top which is very cluttered as it is, with an applet which replaces the toolbar, a taskbar and so on.

It seems the idea is to go beyond Apple's original implementation and to include the window title (which includes the window controls) in the Global Menu:

It’s not confirmed yet, but we will aim to go beyond what Apple and others have done with panel menus, to consolidate both the window title (and window controls) into the panel along with the menu.

[...] By default, we’d display the contents of the title bar. When you mouse up to the panel, or when you press the Alt key, the contents would switch to the menu. That way, you’re looking at the document title most of the time, unless you move towards it to click on the menu.

Later, Mark clarified on the Ayatana mailing list how the global menu will work: when the window is not maximised, the menu will be in the panel, and the window title (and window controls) will be in the window.

When the window is maximised, the panel will contain:

- the window controls (from the left, just after the Ubuntu icon)
- the window title
- the indicators (aligned right)

When you mouse towards the window title, or press Alt, it will be replaced by the menu.

Notice there is nowhere stated that the top panel will also have a 'taskbar' (or something else to manage running applications). In fact Mark says that switching between running applications will be addressed separately. So will the Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 get a Mac OS X like dock application too? Sure, there's no info on this yet, but 2 panels for a Netbook would be too much and also adding an applications switcher to the top panel is almost impossible since there is no room left. Also, since Ubuntu 10.10 will be released a month after Gnome 3.0 (which will include Gnome Shell), one might think the running applications will be handled by it, but since this news talks about adding stuff the the panel, it means Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 won't come with Gnome Shell by default.

You will be able to install this improved Global Menu onto the Desktop version of Ubuntu if you want, but it will only come as default for Ubuntu Netbook Edition.

You can already install the Global Menu

You can already install the Global Menu, but it's the already existing application, not the one pictured by Mark Shuttleworth in his post. That means it won't work for some applications such as Firefox and OpenOffice. Also, it won't display the window title or controls.

That being said, you can install Global Menu (actually called Gnome2 Global Menu), using the following commands:

-For Ubuntu Karmic and Lucid:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:globalmenu-team/ppa

-For Ubuntu Jaunty, Intrepid and Hardy:
sudo -v
echo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/globalmenu-team/ppa/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys DA6DEEAA

Then, for any Ubuntu version, install Gnome2 Global Menu with:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-globalmenu 

See also: Use NameBar And DockBarX To Optimize Your Screen Real Estate [Ubuntu]

[Image credits: Lifehacker]