Comment 24 for bug 682788

My opinion: Fitts' law is overrated and people are taking it as gospel while ignoring much more important factors.

Fitts' law says that it is easier to move the mouse to menus located at the top of the screen because you don't have to carefully aim in the vertical direction -- you can just ram it up there and let it hit the top of the screen. Sounds logical, right? Well, consider the following:

1. Have you ever found it difficult to click on in-window menus? Is this actually a problem? I really don't think it is.

2. How often do people actually use menus these days? The menus are the place where developers shove all the rarely-used options. The actual action takes place inside the window. It seems like we should be applying Fitts' law to something that is actually frequently used. But no one is creative enough to figure out how to take arbitrary window content and shove it to the edges of the screen. It seems like people apply Fitts' laws to menus just because they are already traditionally located at the edge of the UI.

3. Context. Context context context. The way to pack a lot of functionality into a user interface without confusing the user is to make sure that each function is located contextually, so that the user can zero in on the thing they want to do while ignoring whole swaths of the UI that they know are unrelated to their task. By located the menu at the top of the screen, you are ripping it out of the logical context in which it applies. This is *confusing*. Now it looks like that window has no menus, and lots of functionality seems to be missing. Why on Earth would I expect a program's functionality to be surfaced way off in a separate bar which otherwise appears to be part of the desktop environment?

IMO, maintaining context is priority #1 for any UI, vastly outweighing Fitts' law. Frankly, Fitts' law is a funny quirk of the display surface that should be ignored, because trying to satisfy it almost always conflicts directly with maintaining context.

All that said, I think that merging the menu into the top bar is a fine idea when the window is maximized. You are not losing any context there, because the entire screen is being devoted to one application. This also happens to provide the perfect balance between small-screen and big-screen issues, because on small screens people tend to maximize apps, whereas on big screens they don't.

Anecdotally, I used OSX as a primary desktop for several years, and one of my main reasons for ditching it was the global menu, which I could never get used to. Whenever I had to do anything menu-intensive it became a huge pain (literally, in my wrist), and I often found myself accidentally manipulating the menus for the wrong application because I didn't realize which window currently had focus (it's not so obvious on a large screen). I do hope this becomes an option in the future; until then I'll have to stick with gnome 2.