Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin Beta Review

Every six months, we will do a review of the latest version of Ubuntu and see what features/improvement Canonical has added to the popular distro. The next version of Ubuntu – 12.04, Precise Pangolin is now available in beta and this is particularly important since it is the next Long Term Support (LTS) version. As of all LTS version, the emphasis is always on stability over new features experimentation, so it is interesting to see how the 12.04 will perform. Let’s proceed with the review.

Note: This review is based on the Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin beta release. While most of the features are fixed, some might be improved or removed from the final version. You can get the download here.

First of all, from the bootup to the desktop, you will discover that there is little differences between this version and the current version of Ubuntu (Oneiric). The UI is pretty much the same, and the Unity 3D is still the default desktop manager (for those who computer cannot support Unity 3D, Unity 2D will be used instead).

ubuntu-precise-desktop

The differences start appearing once you delve deeper into the applications.

1. The default music player is restored to Rhythmbox, together with the Ubuntu One Music Store support.

2. The default browser is still Firefox, though there has been many discussions about using Chrome as the default. Firefox 11.0 (which is still in beta as of this post) was used instead of the stable 10.0.2. The stable release of Firefox 11.0 should be in time for the final release of Ubuntu 12.04.

3. LibreOffice has been updated to 3.5 and it is still not integrated with the global menu.

4. Ubuntu Software Center is still the default installer manager (replacing Synaptic), and a new recommendation feature is now available in the app store.

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5. Ubuntu One now comes with a new interface and allows you to add a sync folder within the application.

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6. There are a few new features in the System Settings settings. You can now configure some of the Unity setting in the Appearance option. The configuration option is pretty limited at the moment, with only one option to set the launcher autohide behavior. Hopefully, more options will be added to the list.

ubuntu-precise-unity-settings

There is also a new Privacy feature where you can remove the logging history so all your activities won’t be logged (or automatically removed after a period of time). This is almost the same as the Activity Log Manager that we reviewed sometime back.

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7. Gimp is back after its omission in Natty.

8. New video lens in Unity Dash. You can now search various video sites directly from your desktop.

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9. Remmina has replaced Vinagre as the default remote desktop client.

The above mentioned are just some of the improvement over existing features and they are not really new and revolutionary. HUD is what really makes Ubuntu 12.04 shines. HUD, stands for Heads UP Display, is an intelligent search feature that you can use to search for items in the menu bar. For example, in GIMP, rather than moving your mouse to the menu bar, navigate to “Filter -> Blur -> Blur” to select the “Blur” feature, you just have to press Alt and type “blur” to access the feature. It is definitely a more efficient way to use the application that you are most familiar with.

ubuntu-precise-hud

As of now, HUD does not work for all applications. It only works with applications that support the global menu. This means that you can’t use it in LibreOffice, since it doesn’t support global menu by default.

The ClickPad was popularised by Apple for the ability to click in the trackpad. However, most Ubuntu users will find that the clicking and gestures action don’t work really well in previous and current version of Ubuntu. In 12.04, the ClickPad support has been greatly improved. You can now click on the ClickPad and use another finger to move the cursor. This is similar to the drag and move action in a mouse. In addition, most Synaptics brand ClickPads are now recognized out of the box. Apple MacBook trackpads are recognized as well. Support for Apple Magic Trackpads will follow in the next release.

That’s all for now. Most of the changes are merely improvement and HUD is a great addition to the list. The beta version of Ubuntu 12.04 is available here. The final version will be released on April 26th.

Image credit: By PLeia2