The days of the boring Ubuntu releases are over.

The release of Ubuntu 17.10 was going to be the final iteration to include the ousted Unity desktop interface. Instead of following the pattern Ubuntu has held since it attempted to bring convergence to the Linux desktop, Canonical is going to jettison its in-house desktop earlier than originally scheduled. That means the next release of Ubuntu will be the first in years to bring about some major change. That change comes by way of the one-two punch of GNOME Shell and Wayland. You read that correctly…where Ubuntu had been pushing hard for Unity 8/Mir, they’ve scrapped them both and are going with an environment already proven to work well.

This should be exciting news to the Ubuntu faithful who jumped ship due to either a distaste for Unity or frustration over stagnant development.

The idea of replacing with Wayland is long overdue. Ubuntu 17.10 will offer the Wayland session along with an session so you can select which one, but my guess is Wayland will be the only X server with the 18.04 release. Even so, the fact that Ubuntu is bringing about these changes one release earlier than expected should be a clear sign that Canonical has finally opened its eyes to what their user base wants and needs.

SEE: Ubuntu Linux: Go from Beginner to Power User (TechRepublic Academy)

Already smooth

I’ve tested the daily build of Ubuntu 17.10, and it’s slicker than any release to come from Canonical in a long time. Why? GNOME.

I was a fan of Unity for a very long time. I truly enjoyed and relied upon a couple of features (namely the HUD and the Dash), but saw that the Unity desktop, as a whole, was quickly falling further and further behind. GNOME has managed to become one of the most solid and smooth desktops on the market–hands down. Seeing GNOME as the default Ubuntu interface makes one feel that things are as they should be in the world of Ubuntu, and that their new vision can be trusted (Figure A).

Figure A

Which version of GNOME will ship with Ubuntu 17.10?

It is unclear which version of GNOME will ship with Ubuntu 17.10. My up-to-date daily build currently runs GNOME 3.24.2. In September 2017, GNOME 3.26 will be released, and that iteration is important because it will bring really important features to GNOME, including:

  • GNOME Usage, a new app that will display the host system’s current resource usages.
  • A new sharing framework that will make use of portals for sharing files across social networks.
  • GNOME Photos will finally be able to import photos from digital cameras.
  • The Seahorse application for storing passwords and keys will be replaced by a more modern app.
  • Non-integer HiDPI scaling, which means support for Apple retina displays will be rolled in.
  • A new UI that will allow the creation of recurring events.
  • Todoist integration.
  • Control Center redesign.
  • Quarter window tiling.

My guess is GNOME 3.26 will not make its way into Ubuntu 17.10; it could arrive in the 17.10.1 update.

What GNOME means for Ubuntu

The best thing to come from Ubuntu dropping Unity and picking up GNOME is a two-way street of evolution. Not only will the Ubuntu distribution benefit from having a desktop that is developed by top-notch programmers around the globe, but GNOME will get input from the Ubuntu developers, as well as the branding that comes with Ubuntu. This is a win-win for both sides, and it’s a situation that will go a very long way to continue improving GNOME, which will have the added benefit of improving Ubuntu.

SEE: How Mark Shuttleworth became the first African in space and launched a software revolution (PDF download) (TechRepublic)

It may not seem like much, but…

We’ve seen Linux distributions released with far greater new feature lists, though I cannot think of a more important release within the last five years. Ubuntu returning to its GNOME roots will bring about a significant shift in the distribution landscape.

I’m expecting great things to come of Ubuntu. Now that Canonical can put the “boring releases” behind it, what was once the darling distribution of the Linux community can finally start to evolve at the speed of imagination.