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Unity overlay scrollbars

Christian Giordano has announced on the Canonical Design blog that Unity will get overlay scrollbars. This means the scrollbars will not be visible until you move your mouse over the side where the scrollbar used to be.

Touch and scrollwheels are making that chrome, if not obsolete, then certainly less important. We want to embrace new thinking from the mobile world, while still retaining some of the key semantics and experiences of the desktop world in recognition of the differences between the environments.

Here is a video provided by Christian in which you can see the new overlay scrollbars in action:

Mac OSX again?

While Mac OSX Lion will probably merge traditional scrollbars with overlay ones, Christian suggests that Lion wasn't the source of inspiration for this and says that the two was of using overlay scrollbars are quite different.

You can already test Overlay Scrollbars in Ubuntu 11.04

The Overlay Scrollbars are currently a prototype and are not available in the Ubuntu 11.04 official repositories.

However, if you're using Ubuntu 11.04 already or you've installed it in VirtualBox, you can try the Overlay Scrollbars prototype by using the following PPA:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ayatana-scrollbar-team/release
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0

Once installed, you'll have to open an application like this to get overlay scrollbars:
export LIBOVERLAY_SCROLLBAR=1 && gedit

Good or bad?

Unity is trying to remove all the elements that stay in your way, while still providing an easy way to access them. With this addition you'll gain a few pixels both horizontally and vertically (obviously, less space vertically because there aren't a lot of applications that have an horizontal scrollbar). But is it good or bad? What do you think?

By the way, Ubuntu 11.04 alpha 3 was released today - check out our post if you haven't already.