Ubuntu Indicators in openSUSE?
Ubuntu takes a lot of punches from time to time for its marketing and even its interface. Some feel Ubuntu is dumbed down and oversimplified, while many others think it's innovative and user-friendly. Where ever you fall in the debate, one developer thinks some elements of Ubuntu should land into openSUSE. In fact, he has packaged up and pushed them to openSUSE:Contrib.
Nelson Marques, Fedora and openSUSE contributor, thinks Ubuntu indicators are the bee's knees. Actually, since Ubuntu is the dominant distribution in his corner of the world he thinks using some of its more familiar elements might help users migrate to openSUSE. He said, "We don’t want to make of openSUSE a ‘clone’ of Ubuntu, instead we want to make the openSUSE experience more close to what people already use."
One of the first Indicators to land into openSUSE is the Ubuntu Me Menu. This Indicator is used to to set your instant messaging status: available, away, busy, and so on. Along with the Me Menu, Marques has also packaged the Faenza-Dark icon theme and Ubuntu's Radiance Theme. He said of the Ubuntu theme, "This is the kind of polishing that makes Canonical successful." This element won't be default on openSUSE, but will be available through the package manager.
Another Indicator packaged and shared by Marques is the GNOME session manager. This applet allows users to manage or change their session status. This functionality is commonly seen in main system menus, but might be handy to those that use it more often. Common uses include switching session to another user, putting the machine asleep, or rebooting.
The next Indicator to land was the Messages. This is the one that puts email functionality right on the panel. Some options include Compose new message or open your Contact list. Indicator-messages works with at least Empathy and Evolution. Marques points to the assistance of Ken Vandine on this as proof that developers from Ubuntu are very cooperative with the community and in his words, "awesome and caring."
Another ported by Marques is the battery-status Indicator that tells uses how much of their battery power remains as well as settings for the current power profile such as Powersave or Performance. Finally, and arguably, the most handy is the Indicator-sound. Indicator-sound is the applet that puts multimedia controls on the panel and Marques said, "it works out of the box for Banshee."
Indicators seemed to be a popular addition to Ubuntu last developmental cycle and smart bets would have them popular in openSUSE as well. These packages are only going to be in play for openSUSE 11.4 milestone 4 and forward and some may not be in the main contrib section yet pending further testing. Putting functionality closer to users' fingertips seems to be a central theme running through Ubuntu development, and now openSUSE is in on the fun too. As Marques says, the main goal is to "improve users' Desktop experience..."
Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of tuxmachines.org.