Uniting to Move Forward

Unity, as used in Oneiric Ocelot (and the two previous versions of Ubuntu Linux) is getting a lot of bad press and – as far as I can tell – not much good press. Certainly, it is somewhat more difficult to find one’s way around the Unity interface than compared to using Gnome.

To some extent this is because Unity is quite different from what we have been used to (i.e. lacks menus); however, it is also a function of some incomprehensible design decisions. For example, who came up with the idea that users setting a window size of 80% of the screen’s real estate really wanted to run the application in full-screen (100%) mode? The good news is that user complaints about such implementations can – and do – result in code changes (see No more auto-maximize). So, keep up the good work everyone. Identify the problems, and continue to call for appropriate solutions.

As work goes ahead to create the next release of Ubuntu Linux (Version 12.04, Precise Pangolin), Mark Shuttleworth at Canonical has indicated that the Unity interface will be retained in this and likely all future versions.

“Mark Shuttleworth, father of the Ubuntu operating system, announced yesterday evening, October 31st, at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, USA that Unity is here to stay and everyone should use it.”

Marius Nestor, Softpedia

So, the clear implication is that we should all learn to love Unity – because we’re going to be stuck with it in the future!

However, this isn’t strictly true. Even though access to Gnome is no longer provided as a direct option in Ubuntu 11.10, it is possible to roll back the user interface to Gnome by installing gnome-panel from the Ubuntu Software Centre. Access to the alternative desktop is then obtained by clicking on the cog-wheel icon in the login window. A drop-down menu allows selection of the system to be booted as shown below.

Login to Gnome Classic in Oneiric Ocelot

However, logging into Gnome Classic actually loads the Gnome 3 interface, rather than Gnome 2 which was used previously. The most obvious difference is that, although there are menu items in the top panel for both Applications and Places, there is no System menu located there. It turns out that one has to click on the user name in the top-right corner of the screen in order to locate the “System Settings” menu. Furthermore, the “user name” menu is also used to access the shut-down option since there is no longer a “power” icon in the top-right corner of the panel.

It’s also interesting to note that, in addition to Gnome, one can also install the XFCE interface (xfdesktop4) and/or KDE (plasma-desktop) from the Ubuntu Software Centre. I have now added all of the above-noted interfaces to my netbook and so can select between Unity, Gnome 3, XFCE and KDE. My plan is to explore each of the user interfaces over the next few months.

April, 2012 will see the release of Precise Pangolin (Version 12.04 LTS) and, since this is a long term support version, I would normally be thinking seriously about installing the new version on my production machine. However, this decision will largely be based on which, if any, of the user interfaces is going to work for me. Time will tell.


Unity is the end of Ubuntu

Ubuntu’s Unity Interface Is For Everyone

Install the Classic Desktop in Ubuntu 11.10

How-to: Run Xfce on Ubuntu 11.10 Final

Why GNOME refugees love Xfce

How to install KDE on Ubuntu


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One Response to Uniting to Move Forward

  1. althusian says:

    If “Unity is here to stay”, I’m off.

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