Ubuntu 10.04 – Window Controls

The fact that Ubuntu 10.04 (long term support) is converting the placement of the windows controls to the left side. I caught the issue when the theme was first posted on the forums. I have now read two community posts on it; they even say this change came from on-high because people were not talking about it.

Perhaps I will offend some Canonical folks with this then.

This change, in my opinion, is pointless. It makes nothing more user friendly. It makes nothing easier. In short the only reason I can see for this is Hubris. At the very least Ubuntu should allow this to be optional. These types of lock-in changes are the hallmark of Apple, not an open source community. Perhaps I am wrong… but currently I do not see any evidence that there is a compelling reason for this change.


note and revision:

You can change this by:



Then navigate to ‘apps / metacity / general’ look for the button layout and change it to read:


So, we can change this. This is not lock-in. I would still like, for the common user, a simple option to change the placement of the window controls.

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67 Responses to Ubuntu 10.04 – Window Controls

  1. Ddorda says:

    perhaps it’s possible to add an option the change it back in the Appearance Preferences (maybe in the Interface tab?), so it will be easy to change it, even if you’re an end-user.

  2. Foobar says:

    The whole talk about the window controls is irrelevant when you give the user the choice. In KDE you can simply change the position and order of the controls.
    But the fact that Apple positions them on the left side is that they want to be different.
    And my personal opinion is that the whole GNOME Desktop Environment was always a Mac OS knockoff (with reasonable changes) and the cairodock and this theme change in Ubuntu proves my opinion.
    …And the window control position doesn’t matter if it is open source style or not. It is only a matter of flavor.

    PS: still Apple has a good taste for style and Ubuntu is good too
    PPS: KDE rocks

    • Rone says:

      Apple does not have good taste….unless you think the prius styling is good taste…..give me the Camaro / Any other muscle car styling that is available from PC.

  3. Jimbo says:

    As I’m sure you know, Mark Shuttleworth has hinted at something new and special coming to the right hand corner in 10.10, so he wants to get people used to the placement on the left a cycle early.

    Frankly this argument is silly because the default upgrade for an LTS is to the next LTS. So the average user will have to put up with the funky window controls for 2 years before seeing the benefit of the change.

    If its any consolation I think they will move the controls back before the final release.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Its also fairly easy to move back using gconf-editor… but if Ubuntu seeks to be a ‘works out of the box’ solution it should not expect a user to muddle around with gconf-editor.

  4. Oli says:

    Thank you for speaking up.

    I know Mark has said that Ubuntu is not a democracy but I feel he might (and should) take more attention to what the proper Ubuntu members and developers are saying…

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Mark, as a business person, should know that he must serve his customers. I personally do not like the Steve Jobs method of control and hope that is not the direction Canonical will take Ubuntu.

      • Second class community member says:

        Really,Thanks for speaking up.
        Everyone is scared to say something.Ubuntu is not as friendly a place it was before.😦

        The community off-late is being taken for a ride for such “design decisions”.
        This issue really makes me think twice about working on Ubuntu.

        If we are a community that shares a common goal, why cant the reason for this change be shared with us.

        If Canonical doesnt want to mention ,to us, why they changed it , then we[non-canonical] arent treated as part of /their/ community.
        Fair enough. Sure , the company has its future to plan.
        Then, they should wait till all the plans are in place and surprise us.

        But dont drop something on people who are doing most of their grunt work for nothing and expect us to just fall in-line, with a lure of “It will eventually be good for you”.

        More than Mark , I would think Jono has to lay it out in the open if the community is of importance anymore.😦
        Or if Canonical[sabdfl] is the only final word on Ubuntu.

  5. Seb says:

    But it can in fact be easily changed… so why all the fuss

    • Charles Profitt says:

      why the change is the proper question, not why all the fuss.

    • no it can not in Ubuntu 10.04 beta – IDK if the alpha release will have this option but I have change the window borders to meta-city themes where right aligned is default and their are still left aligned . . . the only way to remedy this is too do away with meta-city all together and go with emerald

    • Lee Reynolds says:

      Your nose can be fixed so easily, so why are you complaining about me punching you?

      Changing a fundamental UI standard that has been in place for over 20 years for no reason gives rise to suspicions of malice.

      Between KDE going off the rails and Gnome devolving into a Macintrash knock-off, I’m quickly running out of desktop environments.

      I do like the new color scheme for 10.04, but the user interface corruption has got to go.

      • Greg says:

        20 years? You must have been a NeXT user. But you hate Mac OS X, which is very much just the latest refinement to NeXTSTEP, so maybe you were not a NeXT user. Maybe you should try GNUstep instead, it is very much like the old NeXT; or, was, last I looked.

        But you’re probably just a Windows user who doesn’t realize that the Close button appeared on its title bars in 1995.

  6. Brandon Jones says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but, open source is all about options. If you want to change something then do so. Who cares if it’s pointless, has a purpose or any other reason it’s what you want. Just because it’s being used by other people is irrelevant. If you don’t like the choices other people make for you then make the choice yourself. That’s the whole point. I for one am tired of this debate. The whole debate is pointless when it’s not locked in as you and others keep saying. We can all look up how to change something if we don’t like it. This is not windows or mac where we have no choice. Be the change.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      A) Ubuntu is a distribution aimed at the common user… the common user will not want to muck about in gconf-editor to change this.
      B) Ubuntu is a community why would it want to make a change the community is not happy with?

      In the end I guess you are right — OS X uses the left w/o issue, but this just seems like a change for the sake of change vs. a change with a benefit or purpose.

    • Second class community member says:

      For one , we have the community advocating Ubuntu to others/world.
      What is the answer we are supposed give when we update our friends/families systems and they notice the new placement?
      Just give us a reason and we can agree[or disagree] and move on.

      If it was sooo confidential that Canonical’s future plans are shrouded in NDAs why drop this on us and expect us to fall in line for something we dont understand and are we expected to /blindly/ support it just so that Canonical can profit more? [not that it shouldnt profit , we want canonical to succeed]

      Are we[the community] treated as second class citizens?

      Is Ubuntu’s direction now,only to seek profit for Canonical?

      Is the Ubuntu community now just working for that[Canonical’s profit] goal?

  7. Scott says:

    Seriously? “Lock-in?” “Hubris?” You’re hardly locked in by this change, nor is it hubris. Canonical wanted to give it a try on a large scale. You’re free to change it if you want. The fact that you don’t want to have to change it is hardly their fault.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      I am… You are… what about the non-technical users that Ubuntu wants to target?

      • mimosacrescent says:

        Non-technical users were never able to choose, per your implication – they are stuck, as you believe, with the default, whether “left” handed or “right” handed.

        And the only way to gauge their response is to see how many use it. Not how many “community members” whine about it on “behalf” of “non-technical” users.

        There is no doubt a certain amount of hubris in both sides of this debate, so don’t hypocritically pretend you hold a higher ground when your chief complaint is “they changed it and it’s not what I’m used to, and I understand what everyone wants.”

        The design team may be wrong, but if their reasons (which we expect to have some rationale, even if they don’t talk about it) have a chance of being wrong, you do as well, and doubly so.

        Let us talk rather of the serious oversight of Metacity themes that they can’t seem to handle more than one button scheme across all themes. That’s pitiful.

        • Charles Profitt says:

          I never said they ‘were’ able to choose.

          I have not said that I understand what everyone wants — that is an interpretation by you.

          I already said I might be wrong — take a look.

          If we can do fantastic things with Linux then we can do something as simple as making a quick graphical method to switch the window controls when making a switch that is rather ‘major’ as far as usability.

          • David says:

            What they should do is:
            1. bring back the interface tab in Appearance Preference
            2. Have options for all new “experimental” features (no tooltips, no icons in menus, window control weirdness etc)
            3. Have an opt-in system for reporting usage stats back to Canonical.

            That would allow:
            1. Provide a way for mere-mortals to revert said features
            2. Provide a way for Canonical to properly assess how successful the changes are. At the moment, they have no way of knowing if their experiments are successful or not.

            For major changes, it should be opt-in (ie. GNOME Shell)
            For minor changes, it should be opt-out (ie. menu icons)

            What’s been aggravating is not the fact that changes are being made, but rather how they’re being made.
            1. Major interface changes shouldn’t be introduced in an LTS.
            2. Major interface changes should be introduced MUCH earlier in the lifecycle so it can be polished, or dropped. Sneaking major changes during code freeze is just bad form, and should be apologised for, or at least have the decision defended/explained. The fact that they haven’t defended the decision, makes it seem that they know they’re wrong, but won’t change it because they’re too proud to admit it.
            3. Changes shouldn’t be made without a way of being able to measure their effectiveness. Making these changes bear a remarkable resemblance to premature optimisation. Ie. Don’t waste time changing things unless you have some way of determining the effectiveness of the changes.

            I’m still going to give Lucid a go, but I’m starting to get fed up…

          • Charles Profitt says:

            You said it better than I did.

          • victor says:

            No major changes have been made this cycle! Basically the only user interface changes are:

            (1. Window Controls
            (2. Application indicators – although that’s not a very big change
            (3. MeMenu
            (4. Four workspaces – instead of the two that we’ve had in the past cycles

            That’s hardly anything, particularly when compared to the changes that they’ll be making when they integrate GNOME-shell. (Looks like Lucid+1 right now)

            They aren’t explaining because they don’t need to! It’s a free product; you are free to use it or not use it. You didn’t pay for it. You have no right to complain about trivialities.

          • Charles Profitt says:

            Community… I think that good companies explain what they do to their customer. Sure its no-cost, but it is also Free (as in Freedom). Paying for something does not give you the right to complain — the right to complain does not require an exchange of currency. Perhaps you do not understand what a community is Victor.

      • salty-horse says:

        @mimosacrescent, that’s now being worked on:


  8. yea I know . . . at least let us choose left or right?? WTF – I really like Ubuntu 10 – it starts up very fast but the windows controllers on the left side make me want to shoot myself in the head . . . alternatively you can use Emerald as your window border manager and this completely solves the issue and give you a nice transparent UI for the windows borders that has tons of themes and knocks the socks off of the default meta-city – but still . . . most people do not know this.

  9. Hello Salute says:

    Open gnome-terminal with the old/new defaults. Which looks prettier? But everybody loves to use gconf so it’s okay.

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  11. I agree. It’s confusing and looks really weird with other themes.

    Btw, LTS means Long Term Support.

  12. rif says:

    Ubuntu 10. 04 LTS Lucid Lynx beta1 Screenshots tour Written by Zinovsky | 19 March 2010 Posted in News – News Ubunutu 10. 04 TLS Lucid Lynx has bee..

  13. Brandon Jones says:

    I keep hearing people talk about what to do when they introduce someone to the new Ubuntu. Well YOU are introducing them to a NEW system, not everything is going to be the same. What do you do when they say where is Internet Explorer? You show them firefox end of story. Why can’t you do the same for them with the window placements? Or better yet, do it for them? Why complain about a change that can be reverted easily? just change it or tell them how to change it.

  14. Vadim P. says:

    There’s a good reason for this change – you now have space on the right which can be used.

  15. Alex says:

    In my opinion, putting the window controls on the left would be fine if it didn’t mess up third-party themes.

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  17. Greg says:

    I just love how Minimize and Close will jump to the left when a window cannot be maximized. And then Close will jump to the left again for windows that can’t be maximized or minimized. Or perhaps they will not move, but instead there will be obvious gaps in the window frame; that will make it feel light and airy.

    I think it’s also great that Close and Minimize will be right next to each other, for all those times when you don’t care whether you just minimized the window or closed it. It’s almost as good as when we had Maximize right next to Close for all the times when you thought you wanted to focus on your work but the computer revealed that you really just wanted to practice swinging a sledgehammer at it.

    I’m glad we’ve moved so far away from having Minimize and Maximize on the opposite side of the window from Close. Microsoft led the way with Windows 95. Apple followed some years later with Mac OS X. I don’t know when Linux caught up, but now we can lead the way with the jumping (or just lightly floating) Close button!

  18. James says:

    Hello everybody, my name is John and I am a Human-Computer Interface expert (god would be more correct).

    The reason why Macs have always had the buttons on the left side is because on their systems the windows could never be moved to the left of the ZEROTH column, this was implemented because it makes sense, in terms of security.

    But the problem is that most people read in left-right or left-center-right so… the termination or modifier is expected to be in the right side.

  19. mimosacrescent says:

    My point is the design team made the choice for users. You seem to think that “non-technical users” are disadvantaged because of this – but I argue that they have always been unable to choose, and always subject to a choice made for them. Ubuntu didn’t make this any worse in that regard.

    And, by judging it as “not easier” and “not user friendly”, you are in fact invoking judgement terms that project your own judgement to a much larger group, with nothing but your own personal opinion to back it up.

    It’s really not an unpardonable sin or anything. There’s just way too much unempowered frustration in Ubuntu lately. People *can* contribute to the conversation *and* to Ubuntu, but not like this.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      No, my point is not that they are disadvantaged by this. I think it will be uncomfortable for them. I think that when this change was considered it would have been good to provide users, non-technical in particular, with an easy way to switch between the two styles. Yes, this is my opinion… and opinions do not need backing up; they are opinions. I suspect you have one as well and I will not issue some personal ultimatum to you that it must be backed up in fact.

      I agree it is not the end of the world. I agree that users will likely get used to it; heck OS X users have this same design. I just prefer that when changes like this happen that users be given a choice… you know like Microsoft allowing for Windows users to revert to and older style of menu.

      Personally… I am not sure why you are bent about my thinking that an easy way of switching would be a good thing.

      • mimosacrescent says:

        I dunno. I just want to use a good product.

        The “choice” of picking my own options doesn’t matter to me. It is a product. I *choose* to use it. That’s the freedom part. Not *choosing* how the designers place their own features.

        Are you arguing that you genuinely believe it’s a usability mistake for new users (1. Earlier said that new users will have to adjust to new stuff anyway. 2. Technical users are also able to adjust, or at least I’d hope) or are you upset with the lack of “community collaboration”?

        Are you upset at the result? Or angry at the process that spawned it?

        As for my opinion, I am upset at neither. I don’t even think the theme is that great. But by making its own theme, Canonical has committed no sin against me, against anyone I will introduce Ubuntu to, or against free software. It seems a little blown out of proportion.

  20. Eric Pritchett says:

    Best image ever! Where did you find this?

  21. victor says:

    This isn’t lock-in. It’s just a change, there’s no need to make Canonical seem evil for it. Is it lock-in that Ubuntu doesn’t have an easy way for the user to revert to old versions of the default programs? Is it lock-in that they ship with the GNOME desktop? Indeed, if having the window buttons on the left was lock-in, so was having window buttons on the right! It doesn’t make sense that having buttons on the left is a “lock-in change that is the hallmark of Apple”.

    Also, there is some usability improvement on touchscreens for right-handed people; one can more easily flick the stylus to the left than to the right. This is at least one of the reasons that GNOME-shell put their “Activities” button in the upper left corner.

  22. João Henriques says:

    From which movie have taken this footage ?

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Not sure — It was posted on another person’s site and on the Ubuntu forums. I just linked to it.

  23. Ron says:

    Changing the navigation system in an OS is hardly a trivial matter as so many people say it is. What we a programmer decided to change “file Edit View” to Jimjombjam Googlimax Fudgebuckets” ? It’s so trival. What? You didn’t know that Jimjobjam = File? Too bad…. but hey!! YOU can edit it frackel-editorz (that’s gconf-editor to you who aren’t “in the know”)

  24. G M Slater says:

    It should be noted that if you are running Ubuntu Tweak, editing the button layout in gconf-editor will not work. However, starting with the latest version of Ubuntu Tweak (0.5.3), you can easily change the button placement by going to the Window Manager Settings and selecting either Left or Right under Window Title Bar Button Layout.

  25. Could it be that there is a side to this story you have not considered?

    I shall link drop you https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=611313 and leave you to speculate on that🙂 Not that I have any specific knowledge on the subject – I am simply speculating myself.

  26. HarryW says:

    Put them on the RHS and people complaint that they are copying Windows. Put them on the LHS and the same people complain that they are copying Mac. They can’t win! Personally (and it’s just my opinion) I like them on the LHS and got used to it quite quickly.
    As for getting a democratic input on every decision, big or small, remember that the camel was a racehorse designed by a committee.

  27. Kuba says:

    Only for a short while I was looking for a close button on the right side of the window. I quickly got used to the new location and now I even like it. Didn’t complain for even a second!🙂

  28. cjflory says:

    Great tip…Thanks!

  29. Nikolay says:

    Cannonical is becoming arrogant to its community and user base. This is a pity for the affected and big risk for the company. Such “closed” behavior is a gamble for a company which relies so heavily on open source software. Nothing tragic has happened yet but the time to ring the bell is when first steps down this road are made. Thank you for doing that.

  30. Felix says:

    Excellent! I followed your instructions and now the window manager buttons are back where they belong.
    What nitwit decided to make that change?

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  33. herbie says:

    All you have to do is:
    gconftool-2 –set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout –type string menu:minimize,maximize,close
    or to put them on the right again
    gconftool-2 –set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout –type string close,minimize,maximize:menu
    once you enter them they are in bash.history so you can search for it by Ctrl-R and type gconftool and Ctrl-R to find it again

  34. Adwait says:

    Thanks ..
    I Had been looking for this for ages.

  35. alex says:

    1. The only users who are going to notice this are the technically saavy. No regular person user of this operating system will even care about that.
    2. It is a better placement because all the buttons and menus and everything start in that corner anyway. The same logic applies here as moving the menu bar from the botton (windows style) to the top.
    3. @Charles Profitt if you’re so hot and bothered about the decision making process then how about you get involved?

    • Charles Profitt says:


      This is a pretty old post. I was never personally bothered by the change, just the perceived style of the change. As for being involved; I am.

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