Ubuntu Unity: New Desktop Environment For Your Ubuntu Netbook

Are you loving your current Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE) user interface? Well, that’s going to change in the next iteration of UNE, also known as 10.10 Maverick Meerkat.

Ubuntu founder has recently unveiled a new lightweight desktop environment called Unity. This new desktop environment is designed to consume lesser resources and make lesser use of the screen space. It will comprise of a dynamic dock like launcher, a global menu and windicators on the top right corner of each app window.

The PPA is available for public testing and we took the chance to give it a spin in our Ubuntu desktop.

Installing Ubuntu Unity

For those who wish to test Unity, you can install it via the PPA. It’s only applicable for Ubuntu Lucid.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-dx-team/une
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity

After the installation, restart your system and choose the Ubuntu Netbook Edition when you are logging in.

unity-choose-session

The first thing that you will notice is the gnome-shell lookalike interface.

unity-desktop

There is a vertical dock on the left of the screen and a search bar at the top panel. The taskbar remains the same, but you can no longer add/remove applets from the panel (it is locked).

Dynamic Dock Launcher

The dock on the left is the main activities area. You can add/remove applications to the dock and arrange it in the order you prefer. It has a similar flavor to the Windows 7 taskbar, but less customizable (at this point of testing).

To add application to the dock, you will have to first launch the application (from the Applications folder). The app icon will appear in the dock. You can then right click and select Keep in Launcher.

unity-add-app-to-dock

At any time, you can identify an opened application from the arrow at the left of its icon. The right arrow (beside the icon) represent the currently active window.

unity-opened-app

To arrange the icons, you have to first drag the app out of the dock, then move it to the position you want.

unity-dock-change-position

The dock is also scrollable, making it possible for you to add many applications and still able to access them even though they are out of your screen.

Window selection in an Expo-like style

You will notice that there is no windows selector in the whole desktop. The Ctrl+tab shortcut is also not applicable. The only way to select your inactive/minimize windows is to click on the Ubuntu icon on the top left corner and get it to display all your windows in an expo style.

unity-expo

Google search bar

One distinct feature of Unity is the Google search bar at the top panel. When you perform a search, it will launch Firefox (or the default browser) and show the search result.

unity-custom-search

What Unity is lacking

Note that this Unity package is still far from completion, so there are still plenty of features not included.

Top panel is locked

Like the existing UNE, the top panel is locked. You won’t be able to add/remove any applets onto it.

No easy way to access the desktop

With Unity, your desktop has kind of become obsolete since you won’t be able to access it. If you like to place your files in your desktop, the only way to access it is to open Nautilus and navigate to the Desktop folder.

Dock launcher can’t deal with multiple launching of the same app

For example, if you want to open 2 Nautilus windows, you can’t do that with the dock launcher.

Conclusion

Apparently, the Unity package is still lacking in many areas that prevent us from using it as the default desktop environment. Nevertheless, there is still considerable potential that not only will bring a lot of value to the Ubuntu Netbook Edition, but also setting a new standard in netbook user interface.

What do you think?