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[desktop] Draft proposal for a new debian menu system


With all the new anvances in Linux Desktop tecnologies, it seems like
the current menu system needs some redesign to keep up and integrate
with the other existing systems.

Since the desktop menu problem is shared with at least the Gnome and KDE
people, I've asked in the gnome-usability list what is their current
status with it.

The answer came quickly, and was quite encouraging: they are working
together on it at www.freedesktop.org, and they are converging into the
open Desktop Menu Specification found here:


Some background:

 what is the freedesktop.org project (from the About section of the site):

   freedesktop.org is affiliated with the Free Standards Group, which
   organizes a number of standards for open source software, in
   particular the Linux Standard Base. freedesktop.org itself does not
   "legislate" or approve standards, this web site and our CVS server
   and mailing list are purely intended as a place for developers to
   meet and work together.

 what is the Desktop Menu Specification (from the Specification Intro):

   This DRAFT document defines how to construct a user-visible hierarchy
   of applications, typically displayed as a menu. It allows third-party
   software to add menu items that work for all desktops, and allows
   system administrators to edit menus in a way that affects all
   Things are complicated somewhat by the need to support legacy desktop
   entry hierarchies, and the need to allow third parties to extend the
   menu layout. Both of these issues are addressed by the idea of
   merging two menu layouts. 

What we have there is a nice menu standard which is now becoming *the*
menu standard, and which has some desirable feature like multiple
categories and menu merging.

The former seems to be one the way to to overcome the limitations of the
existing systems, where Mozilla is a web browser, an HTML editor and a
mail reader, but can only be found under one arbitrary entry of those

The latter would allow to merge our menu informations with the ones
provided by the other desktop projects, thus preserving consistency
among distributions (from the efforts of those desktop projects) and
completeness (from the Debian high quality standards).

At my first read of both standards, the DMS .menu files appear to be as
expressive as the current /usr/lib/menu/<package-name> files, so they
are suitable as a replacement.

update-menu can probably also be used to generate the new style .desktop
files from the existing data, opening the possibility of automated

I would like to propose that we switch to the freedesktop.org .menu
format for desktop entries, and we keep providing menu informations for
applications that do not provide one on their own.

The advantages would be to adhere to an existing, open standard (and
push it), to provide a better system (with multiple cathegories and menu
translations) and to better integrate with the desktop environments we
package.  The latter is going to be very important in the future as
Linux spreads in the desktop world.

I would also like to propose a link to http://www.freedesktop.org among
the "Important Links" section of http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-desktop/

The menu policy states this:

> If you have other proposals for changing the menu hierarchy, or making
> other changes to menu policy, please bring it up on debian-policy.

Before making a policy proposal, I feel the need for a feasibility
study, to see if there are resons not to do this move and, if not, to
design a strategy for the move.

I'm not experienced enough to perform the study myself.  This is the
reason I'm posting this for discussion in debian-devel.

This is a small but important step to take, please don't let this mail
go unanswered like the one about user analysis.  There's no need for
much historical Debian experience for user analysis, and I can try and
start it alone.  I cannot do this for the Debian menu system: please

Yours truly,


GPG key: 1024D/797EBFAB 2000-12-05 Enrico Zini <enrico@debian.org>

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