Ubuntu's Missing Link
Ubuntu has a program installation problem. To be fair, nearly all Linux distributions have the same issue, but I'll pick on Ubuntu because its popular and is the choice for many users switching from Windows. The problem I am referring to is the missing menu link after many graphical apps are installed. If you spend any time browsing Ubuntu Forums it won't take long to run across the post of a frustrated user who doesn't know how to launch the application they just installed. While Ubuntu can't control what isn't in the repositories, I'd like to see them put a greater focus on getting all programs in the repositories to include menu entries.
And it's about more than just adding the menu entries themselves. Ubuntu could be a very loud voice to help educate the community on freedesktop.org standards and improving ease of use. Mark Shuttleworth recently posted to his blog on the subject of consistent packaging across distributions. I agree with him that a common method would be very valuable, but I hope we look at more than just the wrapper and make sure user visible attributes like menu entries aren't overlooked.
There is some good news to report. Ubuntu started making some strides in a positive direction when they added the Add/Remove Programs feature in the Dapper release. In case you've ever wondered why some programs can be found through that feature and others can't, it's because the Ubuntu team had to create a .desktop file for each application listed. You can find them all in the /usr/share/app-install/desktop directory. I mention this because a .desktop file is exactly what gets used to create a link in the main menu.
I picked a number of packages that had already been added to Add/Remove Programs and checked them to see if they would show up in the menu. Fortunately many of them do, but not all. Enigma is one example. A couple others are GnomerMind and Terraform. Both of those actually have .desktop files already, but they are in the /usr/share/gnome directory and not in /usr/share/applications, where they should be according to the freedesktop.org standard. Ubuntu packagers could easily correct this and provide feedback to the developers to educate them why the change was made.
The three apps I mentioned are just some of the low hanging fruit that Ubuntu already has .desktop files for elsewhere. There are many more programs that don't have them at all. I hope this is one area where the Ubuntu team decides to help out. Users shouldn't have to think about how to launch an application, they should only have to learn how to use it.