ubuntu touch toolbar
App Toolbar in Ubuntu Touch App

Finding and accessing application toolbars on Ubuntu Touch has been made easier in recent builds of the mobile OS.

Toolbars are now shown by default for a short period when opening an app or changing view. After five seconds they quietly back down behind the bottom of the screen, out of the way.

Unlike other mobile OSes which put application options on-screen Ubuntu Touch prefers to give more space over to content. Options, tools and settings are instead grouped together on a panel that remains ‘out of sight’ until needed, requiring a user to manually swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access them.

But user testing by Canonical has shown that this approach has some flaws. Many users fail to find the toolbar or even discover that there is one!

To address this a new toolbar behaviour is being tried out. App toolbars are now shown briefly on screen when entering or moving through an app before hiding again – an effect that should give users enough time to register where the toolbar has gone and how to get it back.

Further iteration on this new approach will likely be needed – as one Ubuntu Touch developer explains:

“I’m going to have learnt the toolbar exists here after the first 1 or 2 times it happens, and then it’s just going to keep doing it everytime anyway.”

Toolbar: Moving Back

Aside from making an app’s various options easier to access, this toolbar change also makes navigating ‘back’ through an application much quicker. Pressing the ‘back’ button no longer hides the toolbar when moving on to the previous screen, negating the need to continually swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal the button. 

For example, being 2 pages deep in an app stack would now work like this:

  • Old behaviour: Swipe Up > Hit Back; Swipe Up > Hit Back
  • New behaviour: Hit Back > Hit Back

Have you used Ubuntu Touch? What usability suggestions or feature improvements would you make to the toolbar?

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