Dear Qubes Community,
A new article has just been published on the Qubes website:
"New Qubes application menu" by Marta Marczykowska-Górecka
As a courtesy to plain text email readers, the original Markdown source
of the article is reproduced below.
"New Qubes application menu"
by Marta Marczykowska-Górecka
## The new application menu is here!
If you are running a release candidate of [Qubes OS
4.1](https://www.qubes-os.org/news/2021/10/11/qubes-4-1-rc1/) and wish
to just dive on in, the new app menu can be found
[here](https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-desktop-linux-menu). But first,
a couple important caveats:
- **This new menu requires 4.1 and cannot run on 4.0.**
- **This is experimental software for testing purposes only!**
Still want to give it a go? To install, enter this command in a dom0
sudo qubes-dom0-update --enablerepo=qubes-dom0-unstable
Once installed, add the new menu to the XFCE panel using the provided
For those who want to learn more, read on!
One of the key issues raised by users in last year's Qubes User Survey
--- and a big thank you to everyone who participated!) was general
usability. Qubes OS is great for security, but the *experience* of using
it can be somewhat opaque or even confusing. The UX difficulties are
exacerbated by the fact that most of our GUI components are adapted from
those designed for single-environment systems, like XFCE on Fedora. This
served as a good first pass for an open-source project developed by a
small team, but the time has come to begin working on a GUI tailored to
Qubes OS's particular multi-environment setting.
Helpfully, three years ago the SecureDrop team began user research in
support of their [SecureDrop Workstation
(built atop Qubes OS). In the course of their work, they discovered that
it was not just SecureDrop users who wanted the Qubes OS GUI to be
friendlier --- a lot of other folks seemed to want Qubes OS to be more
usable, too! From the SecureDrop Workstation project, Nina Alter began
contributing to Qubes, and we subsequently joined forces to tackle the
app menu project. This project received a generous grant from the
The main idea behind the new application menu is simple: to create a way
of accessing programs that's native to Qubes OS, takes into account its
quirks and approach, and is both easy to use and accessible. The visual
clarity of the current application menu, which uses XFCE's default menu
and adds a folder within the menu for each qube, leaves much to be
desired. Research showed us most users prefer GUI system tools. The
classic Linux nerd answer of "Just use the terminal. It's easy!" does
not really capture how most people work. Thus, we needed a better
approach, one that's more accessible, easier to use, and represents a
mental model consistent with Qubes OS rather than a typical monolithic
For those interested, [we presented our work on the new app menu on the
second day of our 2021 Qubes Mini
Summit](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdDr6TiqF0k). The presentation
begins at the 01h 15min mark of the video.
## Application Menu Features
The new application menu has three tabs (as seen on the left): qubes,
favorites, and system tools. The first tab is the most similar one to
the old menu. It contains all qubes, but now sorted into three groups
(on top of the middle pane): normal application qubes (the APP section),
qube templates (TEMPLATES), and various system qubes (SYSTEM).
When you select a qube, its applications appear on the right --- the
same applications that you chose for the old menu, in Qube Settings.
Now, however, they are accompanied by a couple of utility features, like
quick access to start and shut down commands and an indicator of the
networking state of the qube on top.
The menu itself also communicates more information about system state.
Names of running qubes are bolded, and those of disposable qubes and
their templates are italicized. There's also a clear visual indicator of
the disposable template each disposable is based on.
Further enhancements (coming in the future) will be --- as inspired by
many users citing frustrations with memory management and information in
the menu --- more data about RAM usage or qube template on top of the
In order to make the use of disposable qubes more conveniently, now
programs can be started in a running disposable qube from the menu. It
works just like any other qube. There's only one limitation: If the qube
was started for a program (which is usually the case), it will shut down
when that first program is closed.
You asked, and we have delivered! Second in the primary menu, after
qubes, is a completely new tab: Favorites.
You can right-click on any application in the qube menu and add it to
your favorites. It will then appear in this menu. To remove it, simply
right-click on the app within the Favorites tab and select "Remove from
### System tools
The last tab is devoted to all sorts of configuration and system tools
and, in practice, also "random things installed in dom0." (It's a bad
idea to install random things in dom0, but if it happens, that's where
you will find them.) System tools can also be added to favorites. Some
of us find it useful, for example, to have a dom0 terminal shortcut there.
### Installing and running the application menu
As the menu is not yet part of Qubes by default, you have to install it
[user@dom0 ~]$ sudo qubes-dom0-update --enablerepo=qubes-dom0-unstable
The menu can then be added to the XFCE panel as a widget, with Panel ->
Add New Items -> Launcher, and in the Launcher add the Open Qubes
Application Menu option. Normally, the process that provides the menu
with data will be running in the background, but it will only start on
the next reboot. To avoid the need for a reboot, you can just run the
following in a dom0 terminal:
[user@dom0 ~]$ qubes-app-menu &
There are also several helpful options in the command line for users who
want more customization, like `--keep-visible` (if you want the menu to
be always visible) or `--page [N]` to select the page at which the menu
should be opened (`0` for apps, `1` for favorites, and `2` for system
tools). The entire option list is available, as usual, through
### Feedback and testing
As this is very much a first release, bugs are likely. Please [report
any issues you discover](https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/issue-tracking/).
We'd also very much welcome anonymous feedback on the new menu through
The current plan is to have this menu become the default in Qubes 4.2,
but of course compatibility with other menus will be maintained. Our
current development status can be seen in the [GitHub project for the
new application menu](https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-issues/projects/12).
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