Ubuntu Unity 5.8 seriously impresses

Jack Wallen gives Ubuntu Unity 5.8 a go and is seriously impressed. Read about the improvements and why Jack is so willing to admit his mistake when proclaiming the Ubuntu desktop dead.

Remember back when Ubuntu switched to Unity and the world came to an end? That was pure fun times, eh? Well, the world didn't actually end and Unity continued on... and boy did it continue on. Recently Unity 5.8 was added to the daily builds of Ubuntu 12.04 so we can all peek inside to see just how well this desktop has come along.

This desktop has come a long, long way. I thought I'd give you some of the highlights here to tease you enough into downloading 12.04 yourself (daily build here) to check it out. Of course, the final release of 12.04 will hit the 'shelves' next month, so those of you with patience enough can just sit back and wait it out. If you don't have patience, I highly recommend you download the latest build and give Precise Pangolin a try... if only just to see what's new with Unity.

But let me be your guinea pig here.

Immediate reactions

Unity is fast. Much faster than it's ever been. I'm not quite sure what the developers have done under the hood, but Unity might well be one of the fastest, smoothest desktops out there now. The improvement from the last release is quite obvious.

But outside of performance, what else can you expect? Let's take a look.


If you've not seen it yet, the HUD is a sort of "intent-driven interface". I would consider it the next evolution of Microsoft's "Ribbon Interface". And in 5.8 there are some improvements. First and foremost, the HUD respects the Launcher state. What that means is that if the Launcher is visible, the HUD blends in. If the Launcher is set to auto-hide, the HUD will be displayed completely.

There is also a new animation for when the HUD is summoned.

Multi-monitor Launcher config

You can now dictate where your launcher will be displayed when multiple monitors are used. You can either have a Launcher set for a primary display, or you can have a Launcher set for both primary and secondary monitors.

The Launcher can also be set to have a sticky edge behavior when using Autohide with multiple monitors.

Massive amounts of minor visual enhancements

Some of the enhancements include:

  • Better keyboard overlay graphics
  • New Dash optimized colors
  • Properly aligned Dash items
  • Cleaner Dash icons
  • Improved Launcher color saturation
  • Better Dash fonts
  • Improved Notify appearance

Miscellaneous improvements

  • Music Lens is now fully integrated with Rhythmbox
  • Improved Launcher and better Software Center integration
  • Message now displayed when no search results are found
  • Better overlay scrollbars

I realize there are so many detractors out there for Unity. For the longest time I was one myself. But over the last year I have slowly come around to realize I was wrong to judge that book by it's first-release cover. Ubuntu Unity has come a long way in a very short time. In fact, I'd go on record to say that Unity has made more improvements over a shorter period of time than has any other desktop we've seen.

If the developers of Unity continue making such progress, there will be no doubt that Unity will become the desktop of choice for Linux users. What do you think?


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.

Editor's Picks