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## page was renamed from SoundEvents




Desktop applications in Ubuntu should use sounds consistently to indicate similar events. For example, the sound played when receiving an e-mail message should be the same regardless of which application is being used to read mail.


The current sound implementation is incomplete, inconsistent and some applications have sounds that could be used better. Tidying this up will make for a better user experience.

Scope and Use Cases

Points to note:

  • error sound - not too rad
  • Notification sounds have to be quick and percussive
  • we need to assign sounds to battery status for battery low
  • new mail notification in Evolution doesn't work - there is currently no sound (and it will be fixed)
  • GNOME system sounds preferences don't have a new mail preference
  • GAIM sounds are intrusive, and are usually turned off by users
  • Xchat currently has no default sounds set, it should use the same sound scheme as gaim

Things to be considered:

  • default sound format: *.ogg, *.mp3, *.wav or *.mid,
  • 8 or 44kHz,
  • mono or stereo,
  • maximum length limit (1 sec or less),
  • categories:
    • for Info (!) messages like "3 min. left to save your data, the battery is going down", critical error or intruder warning - exclamation,

    • for (?) messages like pop-up dialog boxes with question (give password or question to close program without saving),
    • for (i) messages like your battery is low, you need an update or you friend goes off/on line,
    • for (@) messages like new email arrives,
    • for (m) messages, instant messengers like GAIM/xIRC - new message,
    • do we need more categories?

Implementation Plan

  • Engineer to create new sounds that are appropriate for certain events and to replace mentioned sounds that need revision
  • Gaim sounds need to be re-engineered for 'message received', 'someone mentioned users name in chat' and 'buddy logs in' / 'buddy logs out'
  • Evolution and Thunderbird need mail notification sounds
  • ubuntu-sounds should include a generic mail notification sound that can be used by a number of mail client applications.

  • we need to assign sounds to battery status for battery low
  • have all affected packages refer to ubuntu-sounds

GAIM sounds

These are the only sounds we want and this is what we want to do with them. All other sound events should be disabled.

  • message received. Notification for now but ideally its own
  • buddy logs in (really subtle sound to indicate something has happened)
  • buddy logs out (really subtle sound to indicate something has happened)
  • name mentioned

X-Chat sounds

  • on /msg we should be using the gaim message received sound
  • on 'name mentioned in chat' we should be using the equivalent sound from gaim.

Techniques to employ for engineering sound events

  • pitch shapes for different functions
  • percussive techniques for different events of similar nature
  • no more than four beats for the most intrusive sounds


  • While we intend to, as a short term solution, use some of the existing sounds in ubuntu-sounds to replace some of the more obnoxious sounds mentioned above (and to introduce new sounds, like mail notification), ideally we should have each and every one engineered from scratch, so we don't get confusion ("Was that the 'error bloop', or the identical 'you have a new message bloop'?")

  • Sounds which need to be (re)engineered are:
    • GAIM/X-Chat "message recieved" sound. Needs to be very non-intrusive, unlike the current irritating default.
    • GAIM/X-Chat "name mentioned in chat". Should be even more subtle than the message recieved sound, as you hear it a lot.
    • GAIM "buddy logs in" and "buddy logs out" sounds. These should be subtle, and they should also play off each other (reversed pitch, reversed rhtyhm, those sorts of ideas, use your imagination)
    • Global new mail notification sound. This will be used by all GUI mail clients in main (and most likely many in universe, if they can be customised to use it)
  • These sounds all need to fit the current "tribal/percussive" feel of the sounds in the current ubuntu-sounds package. Ideally, they should be engineered to fit in perfectly (including appropriate volume levels, clip removal, etc) with the current sound scheme's theme.

  • Keep the sounds short. This bears repeating: keep the sounds SHORT. People don't use a computer to hear cool sounds, they want short and unintrusive feedback to what they're currently doing (or what they need to be alerted about). Anything over half a second is too long (except for the "desktop login" and "desktop logout" sounds, which aren't listed above as "needed sounds")
  • The sounds must be in WAV/RIFF format, as that's the easiest thing to play from any and all desktop applications (and it's the only format some application support). 44.1 kHz, 16-bit, stereo would be best, as some sound applications and/or drivers still have whacky issues downmixing 48/96 kHz samples to 44.1 kHz, while no hardware that supports 48/96 has problems playing at 44.1. Obviously, if you do sounds that don't make use of stereo envelope effects, you can downmix them to mono, which saves half the disk space.
  • If you feel like adding even more sounds to the scheme just out of the goodness of your heart as a concerned community volunteer, please feel free, but the above are the only sounds we currently feel we need to have re-engineered, so those are the only ones that the bounty is currently offered for.

Packages Affected

  • ubuntu-sounds
  • gaim
  • xchat
  • evolution
  • thunderbird

Outstanding Issues

If a program uses the system beep, can we intercept that and put in our own sound? (The average Windows user has not heard a system beep in 10 years!)

UbuntuDownUnder/BOFs/SoundEvents (last edited 2008-08-06 16:19:44 by localhost)