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10 features Ubuntu 12.04 will bring to the table

The improvements just keep on coming for Ubuntu. Jack Wallen runs down some of the more notable changes.

Ubuntu 12.04 is almost here (April 26, 2012). Canonical has some serious plans for its flagship platform, and Precise Pangolin has both some big changes and some minor changes that will make a huge difference in how people feel about Unity and the Linux desktop in general. Although some of the major changes won't be immediately apparent, some of the minor ones will be quickly evident and worth examining.

Let's take a look at 10 of the features and changes I believe will make a big impact on the way users view Ubuntu.

1: HUD

The Head-Up Display, to me, is a big one simply because it integrates application menus into the desktop UI. With an application open, hit the Alt key to bring up the HUD. When the HUD is open, you can search your application menus based on keywords. For example, if you have LibreOffice open, you can open the HUD, do a search for Format, and all menu entries relating to Format will appear in a list for you to select from. This means no more bouncing back and forth from keyboard to mouse to poke through application menus.

2: New privacy tool

Because the new iteration of Unity records all your recent history, the addition of a privacy tool was necessary. With this tool you can determine exactly what Unity records and what it doesn't. You can turn recording off to completely disable the feature or you can specify what files and applications it can record.

3: Launchbar

A few nice touches to the Launchbar make a difference. The first is that the Launchbar can now be set to auto-hide. When enabled, this gives Unity a bit more of a GNOME 3 look and feel. Another addition is the ability to resize icons. No more dealing with the oversize icons that make the Launchbar look like a child's toy. And finally, the Launchbar is no longer set with the dodge window behavior. This caused a lot of issues when interacting with certain applications. The default behavior now is always on top.

4: Change to Unity Dash

The Unity Dash's default home screen has changed the order in which things appear. This is not a huge change, but it will go a long way toward making Unity more efficient. Now, the Dash shows Recent Apps first, Recent Files next, and finally, Recent Downloads.

5: Quicklists

Although Quicklists aren't new, additional lists will be available. What is a Quicklist? Simple. Quicklists allow you to right-click an icon in the Launcher and select from options. For example, in the Google Chrome Quicklist, you can right-click the icon and immediately open an incognito instance of Chrome. The new Quicklists for Unity are the Dash Quicklist and the Home Folder Quicklist. The Dash Quicklist includes Dash Home, Applications, Files and Folders, Music, and Videos. The Home Folder Quicklist includes Documents, Downloads, Music, Video, Open In New Window, Home Folder, and Unlock From Launcher.

6: Video Lens

Unity Lenses enable you to easily organize items in the Unity Dash. If you open the Video Lens, you can select and play videos from a variety of sources, such as those from your local collection, YouTube movies, BBC iPlayer, and TED Talks. Open the Lens, do a search, and click on the video you want to view. Simple. Efficient.

7: Rhythmbox default

Banshee has become plagued with problems. Because of this, Ubuntu is returning to Rhythmbox as the default music player. Although there is a bigger issue (at least from the perspective of Canonical), causing the removal of Banshee (more on that in a bit), many users will be happy to use the less crash-prone Rhythmbox for their music pleasure.

8: MyUnity

Ubuntu Unity will finally include a configuration tool for the desktop. This application was developed to provide full customization of Unity features, including the Unity Launcher, Dash, Panel, Desk, and Font. This tool was available for 11.04 and 11.10, but had to be installed from the Software Center. Now, MyUnity will be installed and ready for configuration by default.

9: Mono-free

It's been a battle cry for some time now, but much of the Linux crowd will be pleased to know that with the removal of Tomboy and Banshee, Ubuntu is now Mono-free. Why is this important? Microsoft Patent Extortion. A patent deal was made between Microsoft and Novell that involved Mono. Because of this, many in the Linux community see Mono as proprietary software that should be relegated to the non-free repositories. But it goes deeper than that. If you dig into the verbiage of the agreement, you find that the only "safe" users of any Mono-dependent software are Novell customers.

10: Trackpad support

This one has been a long time coming. Owners of trackpads whose clickable button is built into the surface can now enjoy support for their device. Most new Synaptics trackpads are supported, as are Apple Macbook trackpads. Ubuntu 12.10 should also include support for Apple's Magic Trackpads.

Better and better

The improvements just keep on coming for Ubuntu. I can honestly say I haven't been this excited for a release of a distribution in a while. The HUD alone will be worth the price of admission with Ubuntu 12.04 (although there is no price). Canonical and Ubuntu are doing some incredible things with the Linux desktop. Even if you're a naysayer, give Precise Pangolin a go and see if it doesn't change your mind.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

19 comments
SimonBudding
SimonBudding

As a Windows Man to the core, I installed 11 sometime ago and upgraded to 12... ...and... ...I like it, I like it more I use it. Its actually a very good deskop. Like it so much I have kept it and use W7 through VM's. Still someway to go. - RPD from W7 Doesn't work for me, there are verious assumptions on user levels of knowlege, Samba needs to come as standard and work on a workgroup out of the box (unless I missed something) and that may well help. - Cracking bit of kit!

yaseennoorani
yaseennoorani

IMHO HUD is one great innovation from Canonical and although I don't think Unity is really for me, I do like HUD. I wish E17 guys could bring it maybe in the Run Everything module

bobc4012
bobc4012

I downloaded 12.04 and "played with it" for a couple of evenings. To me it is still crapola. I didn't see any great difference between it and 11.10. In addition, I am constantly getting "Sorry, Ubuntu 12.034 has experienced an internal error". So much for testing. I just had another one running the Update Manager. I am running it in VirtualBox on a WIn. 7 machine. I also installed the Classic Gnome Desktop and have not found a way to move the "Min, Max, Close" icons to the top right (the ability to do it from the "Appearance" screen has disappeared and a Help search was NO help). I also tried to change the background to a solid color and it would not do it, While some change is understandable, too much looks like change for the sake of change. I'll stick with Zorin_OS for now. Maybe some day, Ubuntu (and Windows) will realize that tablets and desktops are two different animals I do sympathize with the idea to have one OS size fits all, but it is doomed to failure IMO.

VytautasB
VytautasB

Will the new version make it easier to work in a Win7/Apple netork? In the past had many difficulties finding drivers for scanners/printers and other peripherals. Main reason why I later uninstal lubuntu (since versions 8 and beyond) after trying it out for a while. Don't have the time to troubleshoot and kick out the bugs while work needs to be done.

Robynsveil
Robynsveil

@downToEarthMan: I envy you your years of expedrience and perception of what is indeed valuable in an OS. I'm just an end-user: I use Ubuntu because it is clean and stable and safe. No, it is not for everyone: those locked into Windows apps will need Windows. I run Poser 2012 and Vue 10 on my desktop. That's all that machine does. Ever. My laptop running Ubuntu does the really hardcore stuff: anything internet, all the downloading, testing, checking, whatever... it is the rock-solid safe environment.

khiatt
khiatt

I have a Win7 Home Premium x64 laptop and I used the free VMWare Player to create a VM for Ubuntu. I'm new to the Linux world (started with Ubuntu 11.04) and don't really use it for more than curiosity, but I plan on updating when I get home to see what has improved. I actually liked 11.04 better than 11.10. The launch bar at the bottom just seemed to work more easily, and the removal of the program menu (or whatever it was called in the top left) made it harder to run stuff. I'm probably doing it wrong (again, I don't really use it much) but having to open a window and search through icons or type in a box and have it find it for me, just isn't as quick as clicking on a menu, dragging down a level or two, and clicking the link. I know I can change the desktop to just about any version/format available, but being the only IT guy for a company that's Windows based, I don't have a lot of spare time to learn all this fun stuff. In fact, I chose Ubuntu because it looked to be the most user friendly, updates and installs are relatively easy and automated. I've only had to go to a terminal window once, and that was to update the VMWare tools. It's a real pain when your not from that world.

renbsr
renbsr

still those language packs...

dford
dford

But will it run on my asus 710 netbook?

gswardlow
gswardlow

I have been using ubuntu since 7.04 and 10.10 is the best so far, with 10.10 I don't even run windows anymore by the way windows xp 64bit is the best windows. I tried ububtu 11.10 several times but it would crash after a month or so and the same with kubuntu 11.10 so I am waiting for 12.04 and I hope it will be great and not crash. However I don't want to search for something when I know where it is and what it is I want a menu or an icon at my cursor to click on and get there very quickly and I don't want to talk or touch the computer, I want applications that are known to work and work well. The only problem I have had with 10.10 is that I cannot get it to OCR mixed content well I keep 10.10 on my portable drive as backup and I try the new systems on my internal drive I hope 12.04 works well and that I can configure it to my licking.

gak
gak

...makes me think that the previous version of Ubuntu had enough show stoppers to explain its adoption rate. I have no reasons to believe all have been fixed. I cannot force myself to try that which has been shipped with a known to be unstable player. Being Mono free means being safe, and that is good, but may I imply that it also means being antique compared to the MS stack?

Atreyu167
Atreyu167

I currently use 4 monitors with Ubuntu 12.04. It's definitely changed a lot since 10.10 when I first starting using Ubuntu. Firstly, you (can) have the unity toolbar on all of you monitors, which I like a great deal. That way for me at least I don't have to move back 3 monitors to get to the toolbar, not a huge deal, but it's nice. I can't speak for those who have AMD/ATI gpu's but I have 2 NVIDIA 550 ti's and I have the the 4 monitors setup in xinerama so I can move programs/windows from monitor to monitor, and I have no issues thus far. The only problem with xinerama is compiz will not be fully functional as many of you probably already know. As for 2 monitors with compiz I do believe that twinview is the only answer (correct me if I'm wrong). However I was reading an artitcle a few weeks back that (forgot the link, sorry) canonical is working on a solution for the xinerama/compiz problem and have had some success but it may take til 14.04 for it to be implemented.

Robynsveil
Robynsveil

I know to most it's not a biggie, but this one had me going to Mint. Is there some sort of sub-list of other fixes/enhancements/support-improvements?

Atreyu167
Atreyu167

It is pretty stupid, but to get to minimize and maximize buttons back, you have to install a program called Advanced Settings by doing sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool after you do that you go to the program "Advanced Settings" and there is the option to pick which buttons you see and whether you want them on the top left corner or the top right corner. Hope this helps you out a bit.

downtoearthman
downtoearthman

Once I was like you. I was just trying out ubuntu. Now I only use microsoft to make sure that my websites work correctly in ie 8&9. Once you get to know linux,you will learn that it is so much easier to us, so much more sensible, so much more powerful, so much more useful, so much more versitile and everything is so much more free. Now I don't need window for anything but to check and make sure their screwed up browsers aren't jacking my and my client's web pages up. The thing to remember is that all you have to do is hit the alt key and remember something associated with the app you want to open and start typing. In other words, you don't have to lift your hands from the keyboard to do what you want. Linux users like to use the keyboard for everything they can. Actually when I say Linux users, I'm really referring to sysAdmins, developers and more advanced professional users, because they have learned to work much more faster when the can just type and never have to lift their hands from the keyboard. That is the advantage of having the search box open by hitting alt.

richardborkovec
richardborkovec

I have this running on an Acer netbook and it run flawlessly. In fact, it flies on my 2GB of RAM. There is an app for it called Jupiter (has to be installed via PPA or .deb), that works more for laptops than desktops. It also has a eee based derivative.

bobc4012
bobc4012

What do you use for OCR? I have tried various OSS OCR routines and none of them do that good a job on articles from the newspapers and magazines. The only thing that comes out decent is a crisp, double-spaced font with sufficient spacing between letters. For example, the word "after" would come out garbage because of the "ft" running together. I have tried every OCR, both free and trial versions of the "pay products". While some do a better job than others, they all fail when I need to retype over 50% and continuously retrain them. As for the 10;04/10.10 versions of Ubuntu, I was sticking with them until I found out about Zorin_OS 5.2 Core. It use Lubuntu 11.04 as a base, but the Desktop,including panels (top and bottom) work like Ubuntu 10.04/10, Gnome 2. It does take a while to download (1.1GB) because of the servers - I typically download around 10Mbps + on my broadband connection. One of its neat features is to choose a Win. 7, Win. XP or Linux Gnome 2 style Desktop (still using Linux apps). One thing it just installs Google Chrome instead of Firefox - however, in the Menu list under System Tools, you can select "Zorin Browser Manager" and install Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and/or Midori - Same place to chose the "Zorin Look Changer".

saxmon
saxmon

While I can't offer any info regarding an update to support a 2nd monitor, I must say that I am in the same camp as you in wanting it. For me it is 'a biggie'. I am new to Ubuntu. I put it on an old junk laptop to test drive and am slowly liking it. The divided workspace feature is nice. But an extended desktop combined with that feature would really bring it up a level.

bobc4012
bobc4012

Advanced Settings was installed when I installed 12.04. Under "Shell", you have 4 options - Close, Close/Minimize, Close/Maximize and All. There is nothing which indicates you can move those buttons to the top right. BTW, another bad feature is when I go to select an app (click on the icon), the cursor disappears when it gets to the selected icon. That is bad for desktop users. If Windows 8 works the same way, then it is a plot to sell tablets.

roaming
roaming

I read on another site that the multi-monitor support has been significantly improved so the answer could be yes.