Ubuntu Raring 13.04 Beta Review: It Is Surprisingly Good

If you are not aware, the next version of Ubuntu, aka Ubuntu Raring Ringtail 13.04, will be released on the 25th April 2013. For those who are interested, the first beta is already available for testing and the final beta will be made available on 4th Apr.

Before this, there have been discussions of turning Ubuntu into a rolling release (where updates and upgrades are added incrementally) and abandon the needs for the half yearly release. This also include the culling of the Ubuntu Raring. Apparently, this has not been passed (yet) as we are seeing the beta (and possibly the final version) released on schedule. However, if the rolling release is implemented, this will be the last Ubuntu release that you will be able to download and test (and get excited/disappointed). Meanwhile, let’s see what features this new ringtail bring to you.

Nothing much has changed for the installation process. You can opt to install update and third party software during the installation. If everything goes well, the installation can be completed in less than 15 minutes.

ubuntu-raring-installation

After the installation and the restart, you will be greeted by the LightDM login screen. Other than the background, everything is pretty much the same.

ubuntu-raring-login-screen

The first thing that you will notice is the new icon theme. Some of the icons were updated. See if you can notice the differences between the Quantal and Raring icon set.

ubuntu-raring-new-icon-theme

The wallpaper has also changed, even though it looks just like a rotation of the default wallpaper in Ubuntu Quantal.

ubuntu-raring-unity-desktop

Other visual changes include:

1. A new Ubuntu One appindicator.

ubuntu-raring-ubuntuone-indicator

2. A new shutdown/restart window

ubuntu-raring-shutdown-restart

3. A more visual way to test the mouse settings.

ubuntu-raring-test-mouse

4. The software updater now lists the software/application that are going to be upgraded rather than a bunch of files that you have no idea of.

ubuntu-raring-software-updater

5. Workspace is no longer showing up in the Unity launcher. You can activate it in the “System Settings -> Appearance -> Behavior”. Yes, there is a new option to enable the “Show Desktop” icon in the launcher. I love it.

ubuntu-raring-appearance

The Nautilus File Manager went through a major makeover in Ubuntu Raring. It is now known as “Files” and comes with a modified UI. Shade of grey was added to the interface, with matching emblem for each location. The Forward/Backward icons were moved from the right to the left and the “View Layout” icons and the “Search” icon now occupied the right side of the toolbar.

ubuntu-raring-files

The status bar was removed for good and most of the settings in the menu bar were moved to under the Gear icon in the toolbar.

ubuntu-raring-files-settings

Overall, it looks cleaner and slicker, but it took me some time to get used to it though (I still prefer the status bar).

Ubuntu Quantal is the first version where it is shipped without Unity 2D. The default 3D engine was memory intensive and there were always a momentary lag when opening or switching applications. For Raring, I am surprise to see an improvement in the memory usage (less resource intensive). Everything, including the animation, just become faster and more responsive.

I am now using the beta on my working computer. While there are several crashes here and there (which is expected for a beta software), the overall performance has been very stable. In the past, the first thing I will do is to install Gnome Shell and get rid of the Unity desktop altogether. I have also installed Cinnamon and Mate desktop and find them much better to use than Unity. However, for this release, I have been using Unity for the past weeks and I am actually liking it. In actual fact, I am starting to love the Unity Launcher which is friendlier to use than its previous version.

It is obvious that the focus for Ubuntu Raring is to improve its stability and performance rather than adding new features, and I think the Canonical team has done a great job. If you were frustrated with previous version of Ubuntu, I think you will like this one. Let’s hope that it will get even better for the final release.