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Ubuntu 14.04 Adds Global Menu “Off” Switch

Unity GTK Module in 14.04

14.04 Makes It Possible to ‘Turn Off’ the Global Menu for Certain Apps

Having finally got my Trusty Tahr workflow up and running I’ve spent the last couple of days catching up on some the changes already present – and one in particular caught my eye.

In the current daily builds of Ubuntu 14.04 the Unity global menu can now be disabled on a per-app basis.

Before anyone gets too excited I should point out that it’s not a general ‘off switch’ exposed in System Settings or the like. But, with some manual foo using the dconf-editor tool, it’s possible to force applications to bypass the global menu entirely and attach its menus to the main application window.

Fixing A Regression

Given the vocal dislike for the global menu you might be wondering why a configurable option to disable it is only now being added. Well…

Prior to Ubuntu 13.10 application authors were able to make use of a GTK property called ‘ubuntu-local‘ that would force Ubuntu to keep their app menus within the window. With the switch to a newer packaged called ‘unity-gtk-module‘ in 13.10 and up, this flag stopped working and menus were, once again, thrust into Unity’s hide-and-seek bar.

As not all applications work well with the global menu – some would argue that not all users work well with it either! – a configurable switch has been added to the module so that particularly problematic software can be nobbled from using the menu bar from the get-go. This, developers will be hoping, will help ensure that users and app authors alike are able to benefit from the best experience in Ubuntu.

The change-log accompanying this specific update puts the change succinctly:

‘Add a GSettings schema that allows the user to set a blacklist and whitelist for unity-gtk-module’

The following key now appears in dconf-editor:

com > canonical > unity-gtk-module

From here, it’s straightforward to ‘blacklist’ or ‘whitelist’ an application.

  • Add applications to the ‘blacklist’ to prevent them using the Global Menu
  • Add applications to the ‘whitelist’ to force them to use the Global Menu

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is due for release in April of next year.