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GNOME Shell and Debian Menu

GNOME Shell (both master and the overview-relayout branch) present the list of launchable applications to us as a large, non-hierarchical, immediately searchable list. We can hit the logo key and start typing a few letters and immediately find what we're looking for. KDE has it. Windows Vista and 7 have it. OS X has it (via Spotlight). And now we have it.

On Debian this is a problem because menu and menu-xdg convert an ancient, Debian, unified menu system that predates the existence of the cross-desktop XDG menu specs in to XDG menus and stores them in /var/lib/menu-xdg duplicating everything that's already in the standard /usr/share/applications. This wasn't really a problem because all the duplication was crammed in to an easily avoidable "Debian" menu. The idea was that you'd get the same Debian menu in all desktops. Unfortunately, this isn't getting killed off fast enough. However, we can change it for our own systems.

sudo update-menus --remove
sudo apt-get purge menu

The first step is required because /var/lib/menu-xdg is not considered configuration and therefore the contents of this directory are not removed on package removal. It is necessary to the remove the menu package to prevent package installation from triggering the recreation of these menus via the dpkg triggers mechanism.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 19th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Is the debian menu going away?
If the debian menu is going away I certainly hope some other mechanism is going to be used to insure all the software is available in all the environments.

Gnome and KDE in particular seem not to show you all the software, but even for the software they do, I find it easier sometimes to locate it on the Debian menu.

Later, Seeker
jasondclinton
Nov. 19th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Is the debian menu going away?
Yes, it is; it's completely and totally obsoleted by the XDG specs. GNOME and KDE only exclude those items which have been explicitly configured so.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 21st, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)
Re: Is the debian menu going away?
The Debian maintainer of the Debian menu package is not convinced that the Debian menu is obsolete. Various other opinions exist in Debian. Getting rid of the Debian menu is something that needs doing but is really hard due to the maintainer and the massive transition. Please discuss it with the Debian menu maintainer.

In addition, you should purge both menu and menu-xdg instead of doing sudo update-menus --remove.
jasondclinton
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
Re: Is the debian menu going away?
menu-xdg cannot be purged because GNOME Panel depends on it.
resiak
Nov. 20th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Aha! I suspected this was why this part of my Shell experience was … suboptimal. Thanks for the handy checklist for fixing this up.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 21st, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
I hope you guys choose to keep the hierarchical non-search menu around. Not for Debian-menu stuff, I understand that is obsolete given the xdg stuff, but for regular use.

A lot of the times I don't know the name of the applications I am looking for. Like I want to find the font settings or something like that. It's very difficult to figure the magic words that will give me a icon to launch. Or if I want to go do something like search for network shares... what is the search term that is suppose to bring that up? And how would a person using the desktop for the first time know this?

Also the search does not allow for discoverability very easily. Like if I am bored and want a video game there is no easy way to find all the games that I have installed.

Search is very cool, especially for things i use frequently, but it's no substitute for application menu. It is a terrific addition to it though.
jasondclinton
Nov. 22nd, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
In Shell, the Applications list is grouped by the major categories in the existing GNOME menus.
np237
Nov. 22nd, 2010 11:48 am (UTC)
Is it only the major categories, or does it reproduce the way the panel displays the menu, with possible subcategories?
jasondclinton
Nov. 22nd, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
The major categories are reproduced. Here is the mockup: overview-application-picker.png

The relayout-branch is midway through implementation and is somewhat close at this point but it should be very close to that mockup when finished.
np237
Nov. 23rd, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
Ugh, it still feels absolutely unusable.

Why not keep applications sorted in a vertical, hierarchical menu? It is much easier to find them in a single direction than to have to look in two dimensions. It’s the reason why the list view in Nautilus is preferred over the icon view.
jasondclinton
Nov. 23rd, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
Actually, the overview-relayout branch looks similar to what you describe (without headers) right now. Whether it will stay that way, I don't know.
np237
Nov. 23rd, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
Good to know some people are interested in making it usable again, then. I’ll try again when we manage to get all necessary pieces in Debian experimental.
np237
Nov. 22nd, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
The real problem is here: “large, non-hierarchical, immediately searchable list”. Such a menu is unusable as soon as you have a large enough number of applications installed, Debian menu or not.

In all cases, the Debian menu is explicitly disabled by default, with NoDisplay=true set in Debian.directory. It is therefore a bug in GNOME Shell to show the entries that come from this menu.
np237
Nov. 22nd, 2010 11:52 am (UTC)
gnome-panel/panel-run-dialog.c has some code to deal with disabled submenus when listing all available applications and search in them. It’s probably just a matter of taking the appropriate code here.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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