Thoughts on Ubuntu 11.04 (with Unity)

Earlier tonight, I gave Ubuntu 11.04 (“Natty Narwhal”) a go. This was “beta 2”—which actually booted, unlike the first beta.

Pros

  • Unlike GNOME 3, Unity seems to keep some of the same aspects and customization, as GNOME 2/previous versions of Ubuntu.
  • Window-shading is present, as is spatial browsing.
  • Minimize and maximize buttons are still present.

Neutral

  • Ubuntu 11.04 feels like it wants to ape OS X badly… the windows now take on the Mac OS style (the top menu bar contains the menus for the open windows). A bit of a throwback to how I was used to working on my old Mac days.

Cons

  • Unity’s interface being geared toward the netbooks it was originally created for (and probably for some future tablet version as well).
  • As noted before, Ubuntu 11.04 feels like it wants to ape OS X badly. A particular example of this is 11.04 now adds a Dock-like launcher that can’t be turned off/deleted. Making it worse is that it doesn’t work as well as the real OS X Dock does. Trying to drag a folder to the Ubuntu launcher to create a shortcut (like in OS X) didn’t do anything.
  • There didn’t seem to be an option to add applets or otherwise easily customize the top (and now only) menu bar.
  • Like GNOME 3, a lot more mouse movements are required to do things that were simpler/less eye-candy-laden in previous versions of Ubuntu.
  • Merging the applications menu into the launcher and the resulting new menu layout didn’t do much for me.
  • Like in GNOME 3, some of the icons that appear in the new menus don’t seem very polished (blown-up versions of small icons).

Overall, I while I liked Unity more than GNOME 3, that isn’t saying much. I appreciated some of the previous customization being kept, but I still don’t like the Dock-like launcher, nor the interface feeling more geared toward netbooks/tablets than my laptop. All in all, I think I’ll be moving to XFCE, probably with the release of Xubuntu 11.04, which will have the newest version of XFCE (4.8).

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