Network Manager GUI is extremely confusing

Bug #303426 reported by Irios
This bug affects 4 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
network-manager-applet (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

Binary package hint: network-manager

Aside of whether it does what it should do (it does, but not always), NM's GUI is extremely confusing, and changes since the version 0.6 have been for the worse. I'm sure others will add their own observations, so here is my own non-exhaustive list of misdesigns I hope could be improved.

* Right-button/Left-button click options are less than clearly separated. I routinely have to try both, because I cannot rememer where is the option I need.

+ Left-click:

* List of available wireless networks with the ability to switch among them. None are selected by default, but once I click on one, I have to go to the right-click panel if I want to deselect wireless.

* Misterious VPN entry with a secondary panel with options to turn it on and off or open the configuration panel on the VPN tab. Imaginably, it would allow switching from one VPN to another in case any were available, but that is definitely an uncommon case. Why are VPNs turned on and off here, and LANs on the right-click menu? Why not just list available VPNs, if any, after the available wired and wireless interfaces? Why show VPN options at all when no VPN is enabled? Most people don't use a VPN or know what it is, so 95% of the time this is just clutter.

* AFTER the spurious VPN entry, there are additional options to connect to hidden Wifi network or create a new one. Why are these options separated from other wireless selections?

+ Right-click:

* Activate network + activate wireless options -- why here? It would be far clearer if the header for each section in the available networks list had this option. In one place you would see if that type of networking was enabled, and which network had been selected. In any case, why is VPN separated from wired and wireless? Why can I turn wireless and VPN off but not wired?

* Information on active connections

* Open Configuration panel

* About

The idea seems to be that left-click brings "actions" and right-click brings "configuration" but in the case of NM this distinction is less than clear (switching wireless networks is an action, but bringing the network down is configuration?), so I think it would be a lot better to throw everything together, and purge redundant entries like VPN shortcut into configuration.


There are different tabs for wired, wireless, VPN, mobile wideband and DSL. Each tab offers a list of the available connections of that type, and buttons to add new ones or edit the existing.

Well, in 99.999% of the cases, most of the tabs are empty or have one entry at the most. Why not list all the existing ones together, as before? There wont be more than a couple in most cases, and very, very rarely more than four.


- Connection name
- Connect automatically
- System settings -- just what is this? what does it mean? what will it do? This option is really obscure.

- Wired:
Why again? what does it mean? are the other options not "wired"?
It is the tab shown by default, and shows MAC address and MTU settings, which I don't think are of any interest whatsoever save for some marginal cases. Oh, and wireless adapters also have MAC and MTU settings, which shows that the name is a bad choice.

- 802.1x security:
Why not just call it security? Is there another kind of security I cannot see? This excess information looks scary at best.

- IPv4 adjustments:
Again, too much information in the header. Why not call it "Network addresses" or some such? This is the only tab that is interesting in most cases, and should be shown by default instead of the whimsically named "Wired"


The same observations apply here, although "Wireless security" is a much better name for the tab.

It is not clear, in any case, what would I gain by adding networks here instead of clicking on an available one, or on the "add hidden" or "add new" which seem to accomplish the same but much more easily. In case I had to refine the parameters to access one of the offered wireless networks, the list of available networks should show the already configured ones, and then there would maybe be a reason to have dedicated tabs.


Launches a wizard. Have no mobile broadband, so no opinions here.


All options are greyed out! Don't know much about VPNs, but it seems like the VPN configuration panel is not the right place to, errr, configure a VPN. I must surely be lackin something detectable, or some such, but if that is the case, I don't know why that panel is there, or why does it not inform me of what do I need to do.


Looks better than the others. "Wired" is again a badly named tab, no clue what "system settings" is and the "point-to-point-protocol" tab might benefit of renaming (or maybe not).

This is about it, for now. Too many observations for one bug-report, but I think it is a good wishlist. I hope someone finds it at least remotely interesting and it is not instantly deemed redundant and thrown into the oblivion folder, because it has taken me quite a while to report it, and I really think that NM needs a lot of love to make it usable.

Revision history for this message
Irios (irios) wrote :

Oh, and it remains to be said that the interface for changing workgroup name is gone, so now it is necessary to go down to the command line in order to achieve this. Not the friendliest way to change workgroups when moving home from the office and back...

Revision history for this message
Bernhard (b.a.koenig) wrote :

Maybe you should really restrict yourself to a small number of key requests that are implementable in reasonable time. I also noticed that wishlists get more attention on But as I said, flesh out the key requests!

Revision history for this message
Florian Diesch (diesch) wrote :

It would be quite useful to have at least some documentation.

Revision history for this message
Irios (irios) wrote : Re: [Bug 303426] Re: Network Manager GUI is extremely confusing

I think I have described the problem quite extensively in my first message.
Have you read it? What documentation do you mean?

On Sun, Dec 28, 2008 at 9:48 PM, Florian Diesch <email address hidden>wrote:

> It would be quite useful to have at least some documentation.
> --
> Network Manager GUI is extremely confusing
> You received this bug notification because you are a direct subscriber
> of the bug.

Revision history for this message
Bernhard (b.a.koenig) wrote :

It's too long, nobody can read it all the way to the end :)

Revision history for this message
Florian Diesch (diesch) wrote :

I mean documentation for network-manager. If there was any documentation where I could read what all this mysterious options mean the GUI would be much less confusing for me. explains some things (like the "System setting" checkbox) but still isn't complete.

Revision history for this message
Buck Evan (bukzor) wrote :

Florian is adding a separate complaint...

If you could make some mock-up screenshots of what the interface "should" look like, it would probably be a lot more likely to get implemented.

In general, I agree that things are a bit scattered and jargon-laden in some cases. Since ease of wireless access is a main fear when moving to Ubuntu from Windows, it would be a good investment to spruce this up.

Great rule of thumb for UI: "Would my mom/wife be able to navigate this?"

Revision history for this message
Pedro Villavicencio (pedro) wrote :

Thanks for the report, the bug is one that needs to be send directly upstream to: , forwarding instructions are available at: , Thanks in advance.

Changed in network-manager (Ubuntu):
importance: Undecided → Low
status: New → Confirmed
Thomas Hood (jdthood)
Changed in baltix:
status: New → Invalid
affects: network-manager (Ubuntu) → network-manager-applet (Ubuntu)
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