Mockups: http://img523.imageshack.us/img523/7501/cleangnomemainmenumockull6.png http://img159.imageshack.us/img159/1028/appbrowsermockupzj3.png http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/6744/controlcentermockupxw7.png
with the 0.9x-version, the main menu has acquired new functionality but also has lost some of its intuitive handling. Two bars plugged unto the centre of the menu are one too many. And my father wasn't even capable of finding the log-out entry in the _old_ version of the menu.
Big Board,too, now tries to cram as much info as possible into one menu (leading to an information-overload IMHO). I think it would be a good thing if the gnome-main-menu would set itself apart from that by providing as simple a way as possible to do as many things as possible within a menu.
I hope you don't mind that I make some suggestions for a simpler design of the gnome-main-menu also showing an application-browser and the control-center inline.
So, basically I'd like to see the menu slimmed down somewhat. Perhaps less can be more, sometimes. There's two ways one could do something about that: Omitting unneccessary things and arranging things better.
1. Unneccessary space-stealers
How many times do we really need to lock the screen manually? Not too often, as it happens automatically after a few minutes. So skip that menu-entry.
Does the entry-field for the search-menu have to cover the whole length of the menu? Certainly not!
2. Clever re-grouping of buttons
How many times do we want to install software when we open the menu? Not too often. We want to do it mostly when we realize that an application we need is not installed. So put the 'install software'-button next to the 'More...'-button in the menu/the app-browser, where the user will need it.
Do we really need to know whether the machine is connected to the Net everytime we open the menu? And also, how much space there is on the HD? I think not. Also, this replicates data we should be shown in the gnome-panel (network-manager, D-Bus low-space warning). In the end, we would look for system-information somewhere where we can do other system-maintenance, also. So, put it into an inline control-center (see mockup).
This leaves us with few, but important menu items on the right-hand bar: 'Help' and 'Logout'.
As shrinking the 'Search'-menu has gained us space, and as especially the 'Logout'-button is very important, one could and should put them into the top-bar of the menu IMHO; next to the search-field.
Below that, as in the 0.9x-version there is 'Applications', 'Documents' and 'Places', and it now has gained a 'System'-entry which shows the new inline control-center and some system-info.
The active entry ('Applications' respectively 'System' in these mockups) should be highlighted in blue, but, hey, I'm no good with the Gimp; sorry. Please also excuse the mixture of German and English in the mockups.
Well, this is how the mockups' design got together.
Now for the functioning of an inline application-browser and control-center that I hope to see someday. :)
In the applications-browser the upper half of the windows should contain the categories of applications; if not all fit in, the 'More...'-button should show the next categories.
The lower half of the window shows the applications of the selected category. The 'More...'-button shows the next applications of that category. It would be very clever if the most-used applications were shown first.
The search-button could search the for the active area (applications, documents... you could also regard e-mail as documents) while typing and only if the user hits the return-key the beagle-search interface could come up.
Same for the control-panel; the 'More...'-button only changes the appropriate part of the window.
BTW, the Big Board developers have come up with an idea worth stealing: installation suggestions (http://clarkbw.net/blog/2007/05/04/bullish-on-finding-new-applications/). For example if you search for 'presentation' and don't have presentation-software installed, it would suggest OpenOffice as a recommended install. That would be some idea for future use. It would be nice to have 'suggstions' for categories,too. Say, you browse the 'Internet'-category; there's two lines with place for 3 applications-icons each. Now, say, you'd only have 4 applications installedd, so the otherwise 'empty' spaces in line 2 would be filled by two suggested installations.
Enough stuff to think about. I hope someone might find the mockups worth thinking about, too.