Revision 58 as of 2014-05-01 13:24:20

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Matthew Paul Thomas, Canonical Design

Ubuntu contains System Settings on PC (gnome-control-center), based on my original design from 2008. Ubuntu will soon also have a System Settings interface on phone and tablet. In line with the goal of a convergence device — not to mention, ordinary learnability and efficiency — these settings, and their categories, will be shared across form factors whenever practical. However, some settings will only ever make sense on one or two form factors.

This index does not yet include all settings panels included on the PC. It does include other things — such as version information — that, for want of a better position, are presented inside the System Settings UI in at least one form factor.

General behavior

Unless specifically noted, all interface elements in System Settings should update live to reflect settings when they are changed elsewhere.

PC settings interface

should be documented here eventually, for testability and comparison purposes

Phone settings interface




  • “System settings” should be “System Settings”, because it’s the name of an app.
  • The search field should be present.
  • “Flight mode” should be “Flight Mode”, and “Orientation lock” should be “Orientation Lock”, because they are proper nouns.
  • The “Network” categories should come before the “Personal” categories.
  • “Sounds” should be “Sound”.
  • “Language” and “Keyboard” should be combined into “Language & Text”.

  • “Notifications” should be present.
  • “Brightness” should be next to “Battery”, because they’re related.
  • “Updates” should be next to “Security & Privacy”, because they’re related.

  • “Reset settings” should be “Reset phone”, because it’s not just about settings.

“System Settings” should be an unremovable app in the Apps screen, and should be in the Launcher by default.

Whenever the search field is not empty, the rest of the System Settings main screen should consist only of those items matching the contents of the field. For example, if the search field contains “wallpa”, only the “Backgrounds” panel should remain. The search field should empty itself if you had switched to other apps for at least five minutes (because you have likely forgotten that you searched for anything).

If global in-app search is implemented, it should replace the System Settings search field.

The quick access area is a group of list items at the top of the overview screen. It should always contain “Orientation Lock” and “Flight Mode” items. Following those, it may also contain other items, in order:

(bug 1239884)

All other items in the main screen should act as page stacks, regardless of whether they are list items (like “About this phone”) or grid items (like “Sound”). In particular:

  1. When you choose an item, the item should highlight until its screen appears.
  2. If that screen has not loaded within two seconds, a placeholder screen should appear with an empty header.
  3. If the actual screen still has not loaded after another three seconds, a spinner should appear in the center of the placeholder screen.

“Reset phone”


Erratum: “Reset Launcher & Home Screen…” should be “Reset Launcher & Dash…”.

“Reset Launcher & Dash…” (bug 1219793) should display an alert with text “The Launcher contents, and Dash scopes, will be returned to their original settings.”, and “Reset Launcher & Dash” and “Cancel” buttons. After the reset, you should be returned to the Dash, with the Launcher momentarily revealed, so that you can see for yourself that it worked.

“Reset All System Settings…” should display an alert with text “All settings will be returned to their original values.”, and “Reset All System Settings” and “Cancel” buttons. After the reset, you should be returned to the System Settings overview.

“Erase & Reset Everything…” (bug 1292932) should display an alert with text “All documents, saved games, settings, and other items will be permanently deleted from this phone.”, and “Erase & Reset Everything” and “Cancel” buttons. After the reset, you should be returned to the phone welcome screen.

If you use any phone locking scheme, choosing “Reset All System Settings” or “Erase & Reset Everything” in the alert should prompt you to unlock before performing the reset.

Tablet settings interface