On April 28th 2011 the latest version of my most used Linux distribution was released. Version 11.04 of Ubuntu, also known as Natty Narwhal, has brought some major changes to how the main Ubuntu distribution works and in the forms it is available in.
We bid farewell to Ubuntu Netbook Edition. There is now simply Ubuntu (available in 32bit and 64bit versions) and Ubuntu Server (available in 32bit and 64bit vesions). In a way I am sad to see the Netbook Edition cease to be. Ever since the early days of netbooks I had been running Ubuntu Netbook Remixes on a first generation Acer Aspire One and on my trusty EEE PC 900A. As time went by both the interface and the features evolved as a branch of the Ubuntu Desktop Edition, experimenting with new user interfaces and optimisations for smaller screens. Interestingly many of the developments that were experimented with in Ubuntu Netbook Remixes and Editions are now features of the unified Ubuntu.
In Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal the Unity Interface (first used in Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition) is the default one. Unity is powerful desktop and netbook environment that brings consistency and elegance to the Ubuntu experience.
Unity is designed for netbooks and related touch-based devices. It includes a new panel and application launcher that makes it fast and easy to access preferred applications, such as the browser, while removing screen elements that are rarely used in mobile and netbook computing.
Unity has a vertical task management panel on the left-hand side and a menu panel at the top of the screen. Using a sidebar for task management conserves vertical screen space, which is much more valuable on a widescreen netbook. The task panel displays icons for commonly-used applications and programs that are currently running. Clicking on an icon will give the target application focus if it is already running or launch it if it is not already running. If you click the icon of an application that already has focus, Unity will activate an Expose-style view of all the open windows associated with that application.
I really am enjoying using Ubuntu with the Unity interface. I must admit that from October last year I was quite skeptical about the shift from a Gnome interface, but now that I am used to the sidebar, the instant search services and notifications I am won over. As well as the UI changes Ubuntu 11.04 brings the usual boatload of bug fixes, more hardware support and faster boot times.
Feel free to leave any comments and/or questions.