Ubuntu’s New Unity Interface Makes Linux Friendly For The Mainstream

A few days ago Canonical Ltd. released the newest version of the company’s popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu 11.04. featuring a completely new user interface called “Unity.” The Unity interface is aimed at mainstream computer users, not just Linux geeks. Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical founder, says that the Unity interface’s beautiful graphic design elements represent a new direction for Ubuntu and, hopefully, one other free software developers will follow. This Linux has long been one of the more aesthetically-pleasing distros, but Unity takes it up a notch. Is tempting mainstream users the only motivation, though?

The Unity interface comes to us via Ubuntu Netbook Edition (which no longer exists as a separate UI for the operating system). Originally designed to take best advantage of smaller screens, the aesthetic and usage sensibilities fit in well with the touch-centric world of tablets and convertible notebooks. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us if Unity is meant to work on both tablets and normal desktop/laptop environments without any special tweaks. We saw the first steps in this direction with the last release, and we’re eager to try the new touch features in 11.04.

Aside from the touch possibilities, what makes Unity different?

To start, previous versions of Ubuntu have mimicked the basic navigation and organizational structure of Windows and OS X. There was the equivalent of the Start or Apple button, a taskbar or dash, applications arranged in folders by theme, etc. But Unity brings in some graphical and organizational changes that have a dash of Windows 7, a pinch of OS X Lion, and a hefty dose of Honeycomb Android. Yep. The launcher remains docked on the left by default, but the Android/iOS-looking icons are persistent. Users can add, remove, and rearrange them as they wish.

The launcher includes a helpful Workspaces button, which shows all of the active spaces and the windows on them. For Linux newbies, Workspaces are just like the Home screens on Android, except instead of housing just icons, they house application windows. Mac owners will find this familiar, as it’s similar to Spaces.

The Dash is a universal search that will find apps, shortcuts, links, files and more in Ubuntu quickly.

Users can also access music and communication apps from the notification area on the upper right. This in particular reminded me of Honeycomb, though the implementation isn’t exactly the same.

There are many more slick features on offer, which you can check out at Ubuntu’s website. If you’d like to give Ubuntu a test run but you’re not comfortable installing it or dual-booting, Canonical makes it easy to try it out. You can either run the OS from a CD or USB stick or run it inside windows just like you would an app. Download your own copy of Ubuntu 11.04 to give the new OS a try.

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  1. Hans Says:

    umm… this is kind of misleading, many things you make seem copied from os X (spaces) or honeycomb (chat functionality) but in reality these features originated in ubuntu and linux.

  2. Greg Says:

    I upgraded to Natty. I am not too excited about it. I am not a heavy in Linux or Ubuntu, but it seems easy enough to get used to, but like I said, I do not like the icon thing on the left. And as for having four work spaces, gee, I only use one, why do I need 4? When I minimize my windows, I have to search out to bring it back up by finding the application button in one of the menu’s. And I dont like the whole big application window thing, slows me down.

    Whatever. I will use it for awhile, if not satisfied, I will move to the Linux Mint OS.

  3. Greg Says:

    P.S. A quick and dirty “how to” booklet would be great… the help file is okay.

  4. spartan2276 Says:

    It is an awesome operating system, it detected all the hardware on my Dell XPSm1330. And it is so smooth compare to Windows XP or 7, hands down it beats them both.. Also it is right on par with OSX and probably better. Tons of free software to choose from and they will soon at more to their software store. Hell this is the best thing since sliced bread and it is a total WIN WIN for us users.

  5. Jerry Says:

    Looks good, think I will give it a try on my Gateway M285E convertable.

  6. Bub McZombieFace Says:

    I have been playing around with ubuntu for a couple years and I love the Mac styled doc.. I’m about ready to break some “pains” in my PC life.

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