Will Unity an outstanding desktop option?

In Ubuntu 11.04, Unity would become the default desktop interface. Ubuntu 11.04 will replace its GNOME interface with Unity, a totally new interface which you can experience now with Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition.

“Orlando, Fla.–Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and the company behind it, Canonical, surprised the hundreds of Ubuntu programmers at the Ubuntu Developers Summit when he announced that in the next release of the popular Linux operating system, Ubuntu 11.04, Unity would become the default desktop interface”.

Unity is a new desktop environment designed for netbooks and touch-screen devices. It includes a new panel as well as a new vertical launcher.

Ubuntu Light is a version of Ubuntu designed to dual-boot with another operating system, and focused on getting on the web fast. Canonical is offering this  to computer manufacturers only, because it’s intended to be customized for specific computers in order to boot fast.

What is Unity?

Gnome comes with panels at the top and bottom of the display, but Unity comes with a top panel and a panel on the left side that can be utilized to launch apps as well as access already running apps.

“Unity and it’s range of technologies brings simplicity, power, and integration to both users and application developers. Unity puts design, integration, and Free Software at the heart of delivering a powerful and attractive experience”.

The experience will be different, depending upon your hardware.

Let’s see how this is installed and used:

If you are using Ubuntu 10.10 then installation instructions look like this:

1. Open up a terminal window.
2. Issue the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-dx-team/une.
3. Issue the command sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity.
4. Close the terminal window.

If you are using 10.04, your instructions will look like this:

1. Open the Ubuntu Software Center.
2. Search for “netbook” (no quotes).
3. Mark ubuntu-netbook for installation.
4. Click Apply to install.
5. Accept any dependencies necessary.

Once the installation is completed you will then need to log out and choose the Unity session (or Ubuntu Netbook Edition – depending upon your release number) at the GDM login screen.

At first glance, you will feel like a normal netbook edition GNOME panel at the top of the screen. But, with a Google search box, it replaces the window list.  There’ s also a panel on the left with colourful stack of icons.

The Launcher:

The Unity application launcher is a dock. Selecting an icon in the launcher causes it to glow while the application loads. Dragging up and down scrolls the list of applications, and dragging an icon out allows it to be repositioned.

There are some default applications which always appear. Any application that is running will also appear, along with a small indicator that it is running on the left of the icon. The currently focused application also get a indicator on the right side.
Selecting an icon in the launcher causes it to glow while the application loads. Dragging up and down scrolls the list of applications, and dragging an icon out allows it to be repositioned. Right clicking on an icon initiates a scale effect which lets you select from all the windows for that application. There’s no support for minimizing windows.
It’s not easy to access applications which are not in the launcher because there’s no main menu. One item in the launcher is a folder which will show all the installed applications.

The window manager
Unity uses the Mutter window manager from GNOME 3. It’s a compositing window manager and supports some basic animations. At this time the integration between window title bars and the panel has not been implemented. The panel and launcher are run by Mutter, so it won’t be possible to use another window manager like Compiz with Unity. [update] A Compiz developer has Compiz working inside Unity, so this may not be true after all.

The panel

Clicking the Ubuntu logo scales all the windows and lets you select one to switch to it. The search box goes to Google for now, but later it should be used to search your computer. Everything else on the panel is an indicator, which the current exception of the network manager applet. Despite it’s appearance, the panel is not based on GNOME panel, but is drawn by Mutter.
I’m pretty excited about Unity. While the current version is not complete, it does seem to be in a usable state on my netbook so I’ll continue testing it there.

Though it is under many criticism from the ubuntu users.  Hopefully with Ubuntu 11.04, some things will be tweaked to make it look a whole lot better.


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