One of the main features of Ubuntu Touch (the platform powering the Ubuntu phones and Ubuntu tablets) is scopes. What are scopes? Are they different from apps? Sort of, yes. A good analogy is to consider Apps to be a book on a bookshelf that you take down when you need it, make use of it, and then put it back on your shelf when you're done. Scopes are like the pages from those books. You can take a page from one of those books and tack it up on a pegboard and read it at a glance. This way you can take multiple pages from multiple books and place them on that pegboard for at-a-glance viewing.
Out of the box, you get a handful of scopes to select from: Today, NearBy, Apps, News, Music, Video, and Photos. The scopes will automatically appear when you start the phone. If you have any app open, all you have to do is tap the Ubuntu logo button (in the Dash - Figure A) and the Scopes app will appear.
The Launcher on the bq Aquaris M10 tablet.
You will also find, in the Ubuntu Store, a number of new scopes you can install. Just open the Scopes app,
swipe left until you see the Apps scope, locate and tap the Ubuntu Store launcher, and comb through the store until you find a scope that fills a void.
On certain scopes you will see a star icon and/or a gear icon. The star icon allows you to quickly remove that scope from the Scopes app. The gear icon allows you to configure that scope (Figure B). NOTE: The one scope you cannot remove is the Apps scope.
The gear and star icons allow you to configure the scope or remove it from the app.
But wait...there's more! With a scope open, you will see an upward-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen. Drag that arrow up to reveal the Scopes Management window (Figure C).
Managing your scopes on one page.
This page doesn't allow you to configure the individual scopes. What it does allow for is batch adding/removing to/from the Scopes app as well as ordering how the scopes are displayed in the Scopes app. To add a scope to the app, simply locate that app and tap the associated star icon. To remove a scope from the app, tap the associated star icon until it is only an outline.
To reorder your scopes you must long-press one until the page shifts to only show the scopes visible to the Scope app. Here (Figure D), you can drag the scopes around (by tapping and holding the four squares icon and then dragging the scope up or down) so they display in the exact order you want.
Changing the order of displayed scopes.
The one caveat
At the moment, some of the scopes (such as the news scope) cannot be extended. Hopefully, in future releases, the developers will see to it to allow users to add/remove news sources from this particular scope. However, you will find plenty of scopes available that can be added to fill those voids (such as this handy RSS Reader scope).
Are scopes a step forward?
Once you start getting used to the idea of scopes, they actually wind up making perfect sense. Instead of having to open up multiple apps to get the information you need, all you have to do is go to the Scopes app and swipe to get your fill of data. It's actually one of the more efficient ways to interface with a mobile device that I have used in a while. I firmly believe, once scopes start to expand, they could easily propel Ubuntu Touch into relevancy.
I know the design team is planning on revamping the Scopes app, based on user feedback. Upcoming changes to scopes might well be taking a queue from Google Now Cards. This move, I believe, will also help to make scopes far more user-friendly. Also in the works is a new Scopes Store (which will eventually replace the Manage screen (to enhance the discoverability of new scopes).
Get your hands on a Ubuntu Touch device and see if the Scopes app doesn't suit your need for immediate, relevant information on the go.
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 jackwallen.com.