It’s almost here. Ubuntu 11.04 will be arriving in less than two months and when it does, there will be reactions. Big reactions. Some of those reactions will not be so great. I took the time to install the latest Ubuntu Unity and thought I should give my reaction to how this new desktop is going to effect the crowds. My overall reaction really surprised even me.
Has it improved?
Yes. From the last time I installed Unity I have to say it has improved quite a bit. Gone are windows always opening maximized. Gone are the rampant memory leaks I found in the last release I had installed on my desktop machine. It’s smoother, it’s more refined, and it’s finally usable.
What are the problems?
Although this desktop will seem very straight-forward to first-time users of GNOME and first-time users of Linux, once you get beyond “getting to know” you will find this desktop riddled with problems that will have users scrambling to either another distribution or another desktop.
No run dialog. I run a lot of programs by hitting Alt-F2 and then typing the command. That no longer works. With Ubuntu Unity there is no run dialog. You would have to have the gnome-panel running in order to get it back (you can do this if you like, but it will not be the default behavior). This strikes me as odd, because the run dialog has been a part of GNOME (and most desktops) for years. Why would this not be included?
Another HUGE problem (at least from my perspective) is the lack of “Connect To Server”. In GNOME as we know it, if you click Places you will see the Connect To Server link. That will open the tool to help you connect to a remote machine. Guess what? No Connect To Server. You can even open up Nautilus, check in the Go menu and not find the ability to connect to a server. This is bad…especially for power users.
Speaking of menus…
It looks like Unity has gone the way of Mac and placed some application menus in the panel at the top of the screen. But not all applications will adhere to this function. For example, Firefox will retain it’s menus within it’s own window. This is inconsistent and will only serve to frustrate users. Any application that is not a GTK+ application will find it’s menus stuck in the application window.
Not a single right-click anywhere on the desktop. You can no longer right-click the desktop to change your background, you can’t right-click the panel, you can’t right-click the launcher panel. This function has become second-nature to people. When they want to configure their desktop they tend to go right-click happy. Now, from the bird’s eye view, there is no where to begin if you want to configure anything on your desktop. Sure, you’ll find it if you click Applications > System > Appearance. There you can configure your Theme, Background, Fonts, and (supposedly) Visual effects. Of course you can’t actually configure your visual effects because, as it stands now, Mutter controls the visual effects. And guess what? There’s no way to configure Mutter.
From the looks of it as of right at this moment, Unity is going to tank. When I first heard of this desktop replacement I was on the side of Ubuntu. I assumed they were going to bring something user-friendly and worthwhile to the fore. They did not. Unity is going to do quite the opposite of its title for Ubuntu.