Show a spinny in the application launcher icon when performing indeterminate tasks

Bug #943995 reported by Nekhelesh Ramananthan on 2012-03-01
This bug affects 5 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Ayatana Design
unity (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

At the moment, the Unity Launcher supports displaying the progress of an application as part of its launcher tile. This is good.

Some tasks in some applications, however, do not have an easily calculated percentage completion, and so use an 'indeterminate progress bar'. A good example of this is when checking for new updates in Update Manager. The progress bar bounces back and forth, rather than filling from start to finish.

Problem: The Unity launcher has no support for displaying this type of status on a launcher tile.

Solution: Add a spinny in the launcher icon where the number is displayed. Please see the attached mockup. Also, The app can decide if it wants the number, or the spinner, or both.

This is a bug report based on the discussion on the ayatana mailing list. You can view the message about this discussion at The solution to introduce spinny was accepted by Mark Shuttleworth as can be read from the discussion.

Nekhelesh Ramananthan (nik90) wrote :
description: updated
Omer Akram (om26er) wrote :

needs-design ==> incomplete

Changed in unity:
status: New → Incomplete
tags: added: needs-design
Nekhelesh Ramananthan (nik90) wrote :

There has been another mockup made by Christian Giordano. It involves using the existing progress bar with a pulse mode added to it. You can view the mockup at

Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt) wrote :

There are determinate spinners ○◔◑◕● and indeterminate spinners ❊.

There are determinate progress bars ██░░░▏ and indeterminate progress bars ▕// // // //▏.

Sometimes a task starts out indeterminate, while waiting or pre-flighting, then switches to determinate -- for example, Ubuntu Software Center waiting for all other package management tasks to finish before it starts installing an application.

Therefore, for both consistency and visual stability, if a launcher tile uses a progress bar for determinate tasks, it should use a progress bar for indeterminate tasks too. Conversely, if it should use a spinner for indeterminate tasks, it should use a spinner for determinate tasks too.

So Christian's mockup is an improvement. I would prefer indeterminate progress bars to look less like determinate progress bars in general. But that's just a bug to fix <>, it isn't a reason to use a different widget altogether.

We can graciously switch from indeterminate (spinny) to determinate
(progress) if needed. But please continue in the direction given
previously, with a spinny in the count space rather than the Kitt Car
robotic eye of doom.


Christian Giordano (nuthinking) wrote :

The spinner inside the emblem area would be very small. What about spinning the whole emblem circumference?

Evan Huus (eapache) wrote :

I think small is probably good - we don't want to be distracting, and since indeterminates of any style tend to have more motion than determinates it makes sense that they shouldn't be as big?

Mark Shuttleworth (sabdfl) wrote :

Smaller is better. You only want to see if it you're looking for it, and
then only enough to get a sense of "it's still spinning".


Yann Dìnendal (yannbreliere) wrote :

I agree that it should not be distracting, but I like the last mockup. I think it would feel too "cramped" if it were squeezed inside the emblem area.

Here another iteration:

Besides being smaller, it also follow the heuristic that continuously moving objects should have less opacity than static ones.

Nekhelesh Ramananthan (nik90) wrote :

@Christian Giordano, what would happen if the icon needs to display both the indeterminate action and also a number to indicate something...(a combination of elements) ?

@nik90, if you are referring to a number like unread emails, hence unrelated to the progress, I would replace it temporarily (only one emblem at the time). When the progress ends, the static emblem comes back.

Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: New → Incomplete
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