Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) was released two days ago. It is safe to say that Natty was the most anticipated of all ubuntu releases and mostly because of unity – Desktop Environment developed by Ubuntu (based on GNOME 3).
Initially, I was a little doubtful of Ubuntu’s decision to nix GNOME for Unity but after having experienced Unity, I can see why they chose to do so. Here are some of my observations, opinions and minor complaints about Unity.
This is gonna be my longest post yet, so please do bear with me..!! :-)
The Dock (Launcher)
The first thing you’ll notice in Unity is the Mac OS X like dock to the left of the screen. The dock serves as both a launcher and task manager ala Windows 7 taskbar. The dock is pretty intuitive – click to launch, right click for options and drag and drop to add new launcher(s).
One thing I loved about the dock is after it hides itself, for the dock to reappear you need to point the mouse at the screen edge and hold for a second. Anyone who has used a dock before would know how irritating it is to see the dock pop up on just grazing the edge of your screen (without any intention of actually using the dock).
Tip : You can use the + shortcut to launch the items in the dock. Moreover, if you press and hold the button, you’ll see the corresponding number on the launcher icon.
For those of you, who doesn’t know what the button is, it is the one you call key :-)
Unlike GNOME 2, Unity sports only a single panel, at the top of the screen. The GNOME menu has now been replaced by a search/launcher dubbed ‘The Dash’ which appears on clicking the logo to the leftmost edge of the panel.
A major feature related to the panel is the integration of the menu bar in to the panel (more on that later). You can no longer add launchers and applets to the panel, which makes sense considering the addition of the dock.
Right-click is disabled on the panel and with that goes the option to (easily) edit the properties of the panel such as transparency and height. Now in order to modify these settings, you need to use compiz settings manager or gconf-editor :-(
Tip : Pressing the key will open up ‘The Dash’ for you.
The space utilization in Unity is very much near perfect. As i mentioned before, the menu bar has been integrated into the panel (Mac like, I’m told) and this gives you the warm feeling that no space on your screen is wasted (especially on wide screen displays)
Some of us may have a little problem accessing the menu bar this way, especially when the window is not maximized. But, believe me this feature is worth the little initial inconvenience.
Tip : The snap maximize feature ala Windows 7 is available in unity.
P.S. I think that the developers of GNOME-Do will be the ones most unhappy with the release of unity, as it seems to me that ‘The Dash’ will put GNOME-Do out of business.
With this release, people hesitant to use GNU/Linux due to so-called lack of ‘good looks’ and user experience will not have any more excuses.