Ubuntu includes a feature called the Heads-Up Display. The HUD has been described as a “keyboard-driven menu system.” The idea is that you can now use the keyboard to perform menu functions that would previously have required a mouse.T he HUD currently only works with a certain number of applications (specifically, applications that use the appmenu system) and not all applications are compatible with the HUD.
However, if an application is compatible with the HUD, the Heads-Up Display can be a real time saver. Using the HUD, you can quickly locate menu items that are nested two or three levels deep. If you’re comfortable using your keyboard, the HUD can save you a good chunk of time – especially if you’re trying to find a menu option with which you are unfamiliar.
Like the Dash, you can invoke the HUD with a single keystroke. The HUD is linked to the ALT key (both the left ALT and the right ALT keys) on your keyboard. Simply tap the ALT key, and the HUD line will appear at the top of the screen.
The icon to the left the HUD “type your command” field changes based upon which application you are using. If you invoke the HUD in Firefox, for instance, you will see the Firefox icon. If you invoke the HUD in LibreOffice Writer, you’ll see the Writer icon, and so forth.
What exactly can you type in the “type your command” field? Basically, think of the HUD as a search engine for an application’s graphical menus. Enter a phrase, and the HUD will search the application’s menus for items close to your phrase. For example, let’s say you want to zoom Firefox in or out, but cannot remember how to do so. If you invoke the HUD, and type “zoom” into the search field, and the output then shows all results related to Zoom that can be found within Firefox’s menus. The HUD also reports where the results are located with in the menus – the command to Zoom In is located in the View menu, and then in the Zoom category.
You can select the result you want by clicking on the appropriate result with the mouse (which would rather defeat the purpose of using the HUD) or by using the UP and DOWN arrow keys to select the appropriate result and then hitting the ENTER key. Note that as soon as you select a result, the HUD will perform the item indicated. To use the example of the screenshot from above, if you select Zoom In, the HUD will immediately zoom in the browser.
If the HUD brings up no satisfactory results, you can close it by tapping the ALT key again.
On the surface, the HUD might seem like a fancy but useless trick. Firefox does not have all that complicated of a user interface, and most people can find what they need in the menu system with a minimum of searching. Where the HUD really shines is applications that have large and complex menu systems – like the LibreOffice Writer application, for example, or the GIMP Image Manipulation Program.
For instance, let’s say you’re using the GIMP and need to use the Desaturate tool, but you can’t remember where it is. Tap the ALT key and type “desaturate” into the field.
The HUD will locate the Desaturate tool for you in the Tools menu, and the Color Tools submenu. You can hit Enter to launch it from the HUD, or go to it via the menu system.
Likewise, the HUD can find menu objects for you in the menus of LibreOffice Writer. Let’s say you’re working on a long document in LibreOffice Writer, and can’t remember how to insert page numbers. Tap ALT to invoke the HUD, type “page” into the search field, and the option to insert page numbers will show up on the list.
The HUD technology in Ubuntu is still in its first phases, but properly used, it can still help you to use your applications more efficiently (provided they support the HUD).