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Ubuntu 12.10: New features, new levels of user-friendliness

Ubuntu 12.10 is less than two months away from release. One feature in particular stands out as an overwhelming favorite to launch Ubuntu into new reaches of user-friendliness. The future of Ubuntu is all about web-integration.

Ubuntu 12.04 brought to the table one of the most user-friendly desktop operating systems to date. With the improvements to Unity, Ubuntu took leaps forward in usability and did so in an incredibly unique way — making something radically different work more efficiently than the standard metaphor. Well, release 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) will arrive October 18, 2012 and it promises to improve upon what 12.10 had to offer. Seeing as how that is now less than two months away, I thought it time to discuss some of the feature additions that will appear in the upcoming release.

Some of the improvements with 12.10 won't be in the way of features. Some will come by way of aesthetic improvements. For example, the default 12.10 theme and login screen will get a bit of an overhaul. But it's not the "look" of the desktop that will really stand out this time around. It's all about integration — into the web. That's right, Ubuntu has continued developing toward a highly and tightly integrated solution so the user can find and work with everything they need from within the desktop. What exactly does this entail? Let's take a look.

Integrated web apps

At first this might seem little more than the ability to open a dedicated web browser window with a web app — it's much more than that. The Ubuntu WebApps is a new API that allows web applications to tightly integrate with Unity and make use of various features. The web-based applications can take advantage of the notification system, the HUD, the Launcher, and more. This means that, for example, when you have, say, a Google Docs file open, the Google Docs menu system will be directly accessible via the HUD (Head Up Display).

Users will also have automatic integration between Google docs and the notification system (no more installing a third-party software).

There is already an impressive list of sites that support the API:

News Sites:
  • BBC News (bbc.co.uk/news)
  • CNN News (edition.cnn.co m)
  • Yahoo! News (news.yahoo.com/)
  • Google News (news.google.co m)
  • Yandex News (news.yandex.ru)
  • Google Reader (google.com/reader)
  • Reddit (reddit.com)
Mail services:
  • GMail (mail.google.co m)
  • Yahoo! Mail (mail.yahoo.com)
  • Yandex Mail (mail.yandex.ru)
  • QQ Mail (mail.qq.com)
  • Windows Live Mail (login.live.com)
  • Mail RU (mail.ru)
Social Networks:
  • Facebook (facebook.com)
  • Twitter (twitter.com)
  • Google+ (plus.google.co m)
  • VK.com (vk.com)
  • LinkedIn (linkedin.com)
  • YouTube (youtube.com)
  • Tumblr (tumblr.com)
Games:
  • Cut the Rope (cuttherope.ie)
  • Angry Birds (chrome.angrybi rds.com)
  • Lord of Ultima (lordofultima.c om)
  • Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances (alliances.comm andandconquer. com)
Office Apps:
  • Google Docs (docs.google.co m)
  • Google Calendar (google.com/calendar)
Misc
  • Launchpad (launchpad.net)
  • WordPress.com (wordpress.com)
  • Amazon (amazon.com)
  • Amazon Cloud reader (read.amazon.co m)
  • Subway IRC

For any developer that wishes to add their site to the list, go to the Ubuntu Web Apps API Documentation to get started.

Dash Previews

Another really cool feature is Dash Previews. What this feature will do is display app previews from within the Dash. This means users will have at their fingertips quick preview of apps, files and other items such as music, videos and more. These previews will be available without launching a single application. With media files, you can search for a song and right-click on it (when it appears in the Dash), and you will instantly see tag information about the music as well hear the music automatically  start playing.

Easier app installation

The developers of Ubuntu have made it incredibly easy to install applications. From the Unity Dash you can search for an application. The search results will reveal if you have the app installed and, if not, will give you a list of apps from the Ubuntu Software Center. You can click on the app you want to install, enter your sudo password, and the app will be installed on your PC — no need to open up the Ubuntu Software Center.

Other improvements

Users should also experience a noticeable performance increase (thanks to the 3.4 kernel — though I had hoped the 3.6 kernel would make it). Thanks to all of the performance optimizations being done for ARM-based systems, all Intel-based systems will be gaining a boost. Also adding a boost to performance is the OpenGL performance optimizations for Unity.

The Update Manager will also get a face lift. This was done to alleviate any confusion between the Ubuntu Software Center and the Update Manger. The UM will now be very clearly singular in purpose as well as simple to use.

You should also know that the downloadable ISO for Ubuntu 12.10 will be a single 800 MB image. What has been done is the CD and DVD images have been consolidated into a single image. So be aware your download times will be afflected.

Yes, the big deal with Ubuntu 12.10 is the web-integration — and it makes perfect sense. The world of the desktop has already become increasingly more dependent upon cloud-based tools. Having direct integration between those tools and the desktop is a wise choice and I think it will send Ubuntu even further ahead of its competition.

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.

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