Searching in the Dash in Ubuntu 13.04

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The Ubuntu 12.10 release saw the Dash take another important step towards fulfilling its intended purpose of being an online, global search tool that helps users find anything, instantly, right from their home environment. There are a number of exciting improvements planned for 13.04 that will make the Dash more comprehensive, more online and as a result – slicker and even more useful. Here’s a snapshot of what is likely to land in the next release:

Smart Scopes – Scopes are the daemons capable of presenting local or remote information right in the Dash. In 13.04, we will increase the number of scopes installed by default in Ubuntu (including many existing community developed scopes) and introduce the ability to automatically light up the right ones based on their relevancy to a user’s search query. For example, a search for “The Beatles” is likely to trigger the Music and Video scopes, showing results that will contain local and online sources – with the online sources querying your personal cloud as well as other free and commercial sources like YouTube, Last.fm, Amazon, etc. To achieve this, the Dash will call a new smart scope service which will return ranked online search results, which the Dash will then balance against local results to return the most relevant information to the user. Scopes are becoming a really interesting contribution area for our developer community – and we can’t wait to see what people will submit to make the Dash an even richer experience.

Instant Purchasing – being able to purchase music or apps directly from the Dash, without opening a browser or a separate client. In 13.04, we expect to enable instant payments, powered by Ubuntu One, for both applications from the Software Center and music from the Music Store – to deliver the fastest possible purchasing experience directly from the Dash.

More Suggestions and User Controls – the More Suggestions scope, which currently returns relevant commercial content available from the Ubuntu One Music Store and Amazon, will expand to include more retailers. We are also testing a few additional user controls like filters for local and global searching – more to come on this front as we learn from those sessions. In the meantime, users can already focus a search to local files only with a simple super-f keystroke.

There are several principles around the Dash that are also worth reiterating:

Its raison d’etre is to provide Ubuntu users the fastest, slickest way to find things right from their home environment – independent of whether those “things” are on your machine, available online, free or commercial.  The music and video lenses in the Dash have queried online sources since their introduction, and we will continue to expand our online sources over the next releases. Our testing has overwhelmingly shown that this integrated and unified search feature is the best experience for the vast majority of users – and the best user experience will always be included as a default on Ubuntu.
Privacy is extremely important to Canonical. The data we collect is not user-identifiable (we automatically anonymize user logs and that information is never available to the teams delivering services to end users), we make users aware of what data will be collected and which third party services will be queried through a notice right in the Dash, and we only collect data that allows us to deliver a great search experience to Ubuntu users.  We also recognize that there is always a minority of users who prefer complete data protection, often choosing to avoid services like Google, Facebook or Twitter for those reasons – and for those users, we have made it dead easy to switch the online search tools off with a simple toggle in settings.

Onwards and upwards.

8 comments

  1. osman

    Do you plan to add “rotating dash launcher” to user control ?

  2. Muneeb

    Great!! Looking forward to it.

  3. Lagos

    Some great improvements right there. Keep up the good work.

    Any plans to look into refining the local apps lens? Currently it can take up to 6 mouse clicks to launch and application using the mouse. There are just too many options to click or un-click to get to what you want. Other desktop environments accomplish this in 2-4 clicks max.

    There are also other issues like the fonts filter that does nothing being in there, and the sticky filter buttons that should be looked into.

  4. keith rider

    Well, I must be the only one who dislikes Dash and finds the HUD frustrating and klunky. My favourite was Ubuntu 10.10, before things were changed.

    KJR

  5. Mrinal Saurabh

    I’d really like Ubuntu to pour out results from all my hard disk, not just home folder, into the Unity search.

  6. Alan Bell

    fun thing is that a regular lens written to the spec that queries an online data source will not respect the privacy control in any way. Turn it on, turn it off, you will still get exactly the same behaviour. If the scope author reads the source of one of the default lenses then it is possible to write a new scope that checks the undocumented flag and modifies its behaviour however it is completely misleading to imply that the checkbox prevents anything or protects anything. It is a hint to the default lenses that you would prefer not to have online search results.
    Second problem with this is that I would like to write a lens that queries a local intranet server for interesting stuff. This means search queries will leave the desktop, but probably stay within the LAN, or go off to a cloud hosted service, for example your private owncloud instance. Should such a lens a) respect the flag, thereby making Amazon searching a dependency for my lens, or b) not respect the flag and disregard the users privacy setting. Either way I am doing something wrong so I can’t proceed.

  7. Serge Hallyn

    As the parent of a toddler who loves to bang the keyboard while we look at imgur.com/r/aww, and frequently brings up the dash, the ‘instantly purchase from the dash’ scares me :)

  8. Detlef

    Of course we all see that Ubuntu needs money to develop great things such as Ubuntu mobile. But you really should give users a choice during the installation/initialization process along with a neutral feature explanation, so that they can opt-in or -out of this lens.

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