Ted Haeger discusses the changes done recently to the Main Menu. Link to the video:
I love the main menu that Anna's team designed and Jimmy implemented. The KDE folks then improved upon the design and on this new iteration some of the ideas from the KDE design are incorporated.
The code is available from Gnome's SVN
Update: Someone at the office told me story of how the "Search" input box at the top of the main menu ended up at there.
In the early days of the main menu the search bar was at the bottom of the main menu, similar in spirit to Vista, but this prototype existed before Vista integrated it.
During the routine usability tests that are conducted in the Cambridge office, one of the tasks that was part of the test was something along the lines of "Find the document that contains foo". But people would not use the built-in search, they did not notice it on the main menu. Instead people went to the file manager and started opening file by file to find the document.
When the search was moved to the top, the subjects in the usability tests immediately started using it.
Then Vista released their first menu with search integrated at the bottom of the menu. I have been wondering if the guys in the Vista team had conducted any similar tests with their start menu.
Then someone from the MacOS team weighted in and described the process used at Apple.
From Ted Haeger's video you can see that logout/shutdown also got redesigned with the new menu. I do not know the story behind how it got implemented (there are now two options: shutdown/logoff in the menu) and both bring up two dialogs with further options.
It would be interesting from someone on the Novell Desktop team to blog about that process to complement the Vista and OSX postings.