Mark Shuttleworth has announced that Ubuntu is dropping the GNOME desktop as the default and switching to it's own, in-house desktop. That desktop is the Unity desktop which was designed for the netbook environment. Whether you like this move or not, it's happening. But what is Unity? And how do you experience it now, instead of waiting for Ubuntu 110.4?
The answer to those questions, and more, will be answered here.
What is Unity?
The Unity experience will be different, depending upon your hardware. If you have hardware capable of compositing you will have a far richer experience than you would with non-compositing capable hardware. If your hardware does compositing your Unity experience will be similar to that of GNOME Shell. SIMILAR - not exact. If your hardware does not do compositing, your experience will feel very much like a netbook interface.
Now you have to understand, Unity is young. So your experience, depending upon the release of Ubuntu you are using, and your hardware, will vary. But let's see how this is installed and used.
The installation of Unity depends upon the release of Ubuntu you are using. If you are using Ubuntu 10.10 then installation instructions look like this:
If you are using 10.04, your instructions will look like this:
Once the installation is done (regardless of which method you use) 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.
What does it look like
When you first see the Unity desktop you might think how overly-simplified it is. And it can be thought of that way. Of course it is early in the development so naturally it's going to seem a bit less-than-stellar.
Figure 1 shows the full Unity desktop. This particular installation is on a laptop will full compositing support as well as RGBA support built in.
I do not know if any of the constituent pieces have been given official names, but it's pretty obvious what you are dealing with. On the right you have the launcher (which can not be hidden). At the top of the screen you have a panel that includes some fairly standard objects. The panel will change as I understand. For example, the current notification system is going to change completely.
You can add launchers to the Favorites "Tab" by searching for the launcher, right-clicking the launcher, and selecting "Add to Favorites".
As you are working in a window the entire screen fades away so you can concentrate on your work - a nice touch.
As far as configuration goes, about the only thing you can do is change your background and change the theme. To change the background right-click on the desktop and select the only option (Change Desktop Background). To change the theme open up the Gnome Control Center and change the theme as you would in GNOME. That won't be around much longer and I have no idea what will take its place.
When you have applications open you will see their icons in the upper left corner. To switch back and forth between applications, click on the icon you want to work with and that application will come back to focus. NOTE: You can have more than one application opened up on the screen.
It's a bold move but Canonical is making these bold moves with the big picture in mind. Give Unity a chance and hopefully, once it is fully matured and contains all of the elements and configuration options, Unity should be an outstanding desktop option.
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