Coming on the heels of the campaign announced last summer to fix 100 "papercuts" in Ubuntu before the 9.10 release, a new round of usability bugs have recently been targeted for Ubuntu 10.04.  Here's a look at some of the most notable ones slated to be fixed in coming weeks.

Before taking a look at the papercuts targeted for Ubuntu 10.04, it's worth noting that the papercut campaign for Ubuntu 9.10 wasn't exactly perfect.  Not quite all bugs were fixed--many of the holdovers have been pushed into the new effort-- and even if they had been, there would still have been plenty more to fix.

Nonetheless, many of the current papercuts represent issues that are very irksome, even if they're not showstoppers.  The most obnoxious issues that I'm personally dying to see fixed include:
  1. Inconsistent spelling of "Filesystem" vs. "File system": maybe spelling consistency matters more to me than to most Ubuntu users, and non-English speakers probably don't care about this bug.  But grammatical and stylistic issues like this make Ubuntu look unprofessional and cobbled together, and are definitely worth fixing.
  2. Name the home folder consistently: in a similar vein, Ubuntu would be more straight-forward if its interfaces described users' home directories in a consistent manner.
  3. More specific descriptions in Startup Programs manager: some of the descriptions criticized in this bug report aren't really that bad, but others are.  By describing what each item does in less technical and ambiguous language, Ubuntu will become more appealing to non-geeks.
  4. Clean up the PDF printer dialogue: one of my favorite things about Ubuntu is that I can print almost anything to PDF out-of-the-box.  One of my least favorite things is that the default choices in the PDF printer dialogue window are never close to what I want, and I have to waste time changing them every time I print.  I'll be really pleased to see this cleaned up, and I doubt I'm alone.
  5. Resizing windows with the mouse is hard: this is also a pet annoyance of mine.  Resizing windows shouldn't require the hand-eye coordination of open-heart surgery.  I gather from the bug report that this doesn't bother others as much, but making it easier to click and drag on a window border certainly wouldn't hurt anyone.
  6. Gnome panel applets move around arbitrarily: since my first days as a Gnome user, this issue has frustrated me to no end.  If the Ubuntu developers can succeed where Gnome's programmers have failed for years and finally make my panel icons stay where I want them, I'll be well pleased.
The bugs above are drawn from only the first few weeks of the papercut campaign.  There are plenty more worth mentioning when they get closer to completion.

Maintaining momentum

The latest papercut campaign, like its predecessor, promises to do a lot to streamline and professionalize the Ubuntu experience for new users, while also resolving pet usability peeves of longtime Ubuntu devotees.

Identifying these issues is easier than actually fixing them, however, and the developers and volunteers committed to this effort should take care not to lose steam.  As of today, the project is already behind schedule, with fixes released for only two of the ten bugs targeted to be dealt with before December 3.  At this rate, things don't look good for getting a majority of the papercuts cleaned up in time for the next LTS release of Ubuntu in April.

That issue aside, there's still something to be said for the mere fact of concentrating on usability.  While many other Linux distributions cater to geeks or worry about pushing out the latest and greatest versions of software instead of streamlining what already exists, Ubuntu has at least made an explicit commitment to the experience of the everyday user with this campaign, which is rare in the free-software world.