UX issues in "Ubuntu Software" and related applications

I think it’s important to have a look at the high level user experience around software updating in Ubuntu. This is all tested on the latest Ubuntu 19 (installed a few days ago).

Some background on my situation first, because I think it’s relevant:
I am an OSS developer who recently switched to Ubuntu for my main desktop/development machine. I’ve used Linux for about 20 years in various capacities, but not as a desktop machine for about 10 years. I was using a Mac for that time, switching from Linux while working in a web advertising agency around the time Mac was rising to prominence. I wanted to learn what made the user experience on that platform great so it’d soak in to how I approach things as a developer. I also read many books on UX and design. Now I’m back on Linux because I increasingly feel Open Source provides a vital alternative to the monopolies of today trying to create lock in (now companies like Google are doing what Microsoft used to do to us). However in the past I failed really to contribute anything back to Linux and I really want to engage more now, at least in terms of providing some solid UX feedback.

Back to the issue here…

Searching for “software” under “Show Applications”, produces a screen with these options:
“Ubuntu Softw…”
“Software & Up…”
“Software Upd…”
This is a poor experience. There’s no way for a new user to tell these 3 things apart, and for a real newbie it’s not even obvious when opening them. The problem isn’t just the truncation (which I know there’s something in the pipeline for). For example, my initial thought with “Ubuntu Software” is perhaps it is just for installing snaps, that’s the kind of unexpected confusion that can happen when there’s multiple similar-sounding options on a menu.

My suggestion would be to only have “Ubuntu Software”. Remove the .desktop files for the other options, but make them available from within “Ubuntu Software”.

(I originally posted on Launchpad and was directed here as a more appropriate place for these broader discussions https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/gnome-software/+bug/1839212)


I have to agree, it is not great from a user perspective. One reason the updater is separate is because it is relatively light and focused on a single task, rather than being a large and heavy app made for finding other software. The other reason is that Gnome Software is part of Gnome and not directly controlled by Canonical.

On the plus side, it does launch automatically when updates are available. We kind of have to wait and see because apparently a new software store is being developed as we speak.

If it is light and has both configuration and update handling, then this issue may already be taken care of. If it’s a heavier application, having a separate updater might be nice still.

Another option is hiding the launcher for the updater, for example. Advanced users will probably be using the terminal anyway, and regular users will just wait for the updates notification.

It’s good to see people like yourself taking an interest in contributing back, btw! :slight_smile:


Im not sure if this is the right place to add input about Ubuntu Software but I have tried to download many programs or add ons and they do not work when I try to launch them or when I enable the extension. I was thinking that it would be nice if there was a button next to the review button that sends your computers info to the developers of the software or wherever it needs to go to see why it does not work so it can possibly be fixed. Just like a button that says “does not work” and it can also keep track of how many people tried it and failed instead of writing a review that it failed. Would it be too much effort?

Another thing is that the Update Available notification opens Ubuntu/Gnome Software which is by far weaker than the Ubuntu specific updater for, well, updates, meaning that Gnome Software doesn’t even show what the update is about nor what the updater is doing.

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I think it would be too much effort and unnecessary since Ubuntu have it’s own report app when something crash (not for GNOME Shell extensions however).

The extensions tend to live on github, which has its own system for reporting bugs. Usually sending system information is not enough to diagnose what the issue is. Often a developer will want you to test something or ask more specific questions about your setup to see where the problem lies. Many times when an extension does not work, it is the result of it being abandoned and the developer no longer providing updates for it.

“Does not work” bug reports are seldom useful without further explanation and clarification with the addition of system information that can be provided by reporting the problem to Launchpad. Any application might work perfectly on one version or flavour of Ubuntu but have problems on another. Some problems are hardware dependent and only affect a small number of users.

Supposing a developer receiving such an advice found that the application works perfectly on his or her own installation then what would he or she do in order to fix the problem about which they have been given no useful information?

From a new user’s point of view your idea has some merit but well written and complete bug reports, often with some interaction between users and developers is what is usually required to fix most problems.