Ubuntu 12.04 LTS released and reviewed
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS has been released, taking the desktop (and the server) to another level, in terms of pixel-perfect polish, enhanced stability, faster experience, an overall level of high-quality precision.
What is new in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS?
Unity 5 has gone through a rigorous process of enhancements, improvements and polish, presenting itself as a solid, fast and good-looking shell.
- Dash's home view presents in Ubuntu 12.04 the recently used items (images, text, videos, folders, etc), removing Ubuntu 11.10's big shortcut icons
- the Music lens gained Sources support (Banshee and Rhythmbox), clicking a particular source will display tracks only from that particular music player
- new default lens, Unity Video lens, that gathers and displays clips from both online sources (Youtube, Dailymotion, Bing Video, VODO, Encuentro, Vimeo, TED Talks, etc), clips intelligently filtered by IP (meaning, if the user's country doesn't support playing a particular clip from a particular source, the Video Lens won't display the unplayable clip)
- the Applications lens received Sources (Local Apps and Software Center), allowing users to filter the displayed applications by local and Ubuntu Software Center (installable via USC)
- the frost effect (Dash noise) has been reduced from 100% (full state) to 30%, thus generating a fancy Dash texture, when opening it, the user definitely feels a more fresh easy-on-the-eye, lighter experience
- the "ghost" effect has been removed, the icons are now properly rendered without visual unpleasant artifacts
- massive work on icon rendering, especially when dealing with rectangular icons (the non-square icons are now bigger, properly proportioned, with a plus on visibility and the overall look&feel)
- the search field is now state-aware, meaning, if the Dash is fullscreened the search bar becomes bigger (extending its state), furthermore it gains an absolute state (from one side to the other) when no filters are available
- new highlight look with transparent bar for categories and lenses
- new fancy card view (in Unity Video lens the displayed items feature a redesigned view with improved highlight mode and proper delimitations from other items)
- massive work on polish (transparent search bar, reworked Dash corners and filter type's blocks, glow removal, etc)
- when searches return nothing, the Dash displays Sorry, there is nothing that matches your search
- improved shortcuts (the Tab key navigates between categories, Ctrl+Tab navigates through lenses)
- the Ubuntu logo/BFB gained a quicklist displaying the installed lenses
- BFB, Workspace Switcher and Trash's square highlight are chameleonic, borrowing the wallpaper's average color
- fancy redesigned tooltips with a darker texture, starting now (its arrow beginning) from inside the launcher
- setting the launcher on autohide, summons a shadowed reveal border when the mouse is pushing the left-side of the screen
- solid refactoring on its colorization method on both "regular" and active mode (when the Dash is opened)
The panel/top bar
- the minimize/maximize/close buttons have been redesigned
- the default title (when there are no focused windows on the desktop) is Ubuntu Desktop
- support to condense application titles on screens insufficient to display the full app name, thus bringing the ability to fully utilize an application that have long menus (like for instance, on screen with 800x640 resolutions)
- the Network menu is now flicker-free (as opposed to Ubuntu 11.10's, where clicking the Network Indicator;s menu produces a noticeable unpleasant flicker due to its internal refresh)
- the Sound menu gained Messaging Menu-like "distant" pointers/arrows (a plus towards consistency)
- new menu behavior (when an application is launched, the full expanded menu is shortly displayed on the panel, followed by its name)
- enhanced clickability (the Unity panel's close/minimize/maximize can be triggered not only by directly clicking on their "surface" but also near them, like for instance, clicking the very top-left corner's spot triggers the close button if the Dash is active or a window is in fullscreen mode)
- Ubuntu 12.04 is the first Ubuntu release where the HUD is present and usable (by default)
- the head-up display is a new approach when dealing with menus, meaning, by pressing the Alt key a Dash-like dialog is summoned ready to take typed commands or partially typed commands (meaning, if one types book, the HUD interprets it as Bookmarks)
- the usage is as simple as opening an application and pressing Alt, followed by various typed words and, when the typed word matches the desired intent, pressing the Enter/Return key (pressing Escape clears the typed word and takes the HUD in its initial reduced size)
- the regular menus are still present in the Unity panel, users can simply navigate them with the mouse (and ignore the HUD, meaning, the HUD, in its 12.04 release, is optional and only on-demand)
Shortcut Hints Overlay
Ubuntu 12.04 introduces a keyboard shortcut overlay, a good-looking overlay where keyboard shortcuts are exposed (in order to familiarize users with their usage).
- the shortcuts are handy categorized in Luncher, Dash, HUD & Menu Bar, Switching, Workspaces and Windows
- to access the Shortcut Hints Overlay press&hold the Super/Meta/Windows key (releasing the presses Super key will close the overlay)
Notify OSD is the notification system that brings various system and application notification in the user's view via top-right bubbles
- the notification bubbles gained chameleonic behavior, thus borrowing the wallpaper average color (a plus towards desktop consistency), furthermore its look has been considerable improved with more vivid colors and enhanced contrast
Apps can be switched in Precise via the faster, properly optimized Alt+Tab switcher.
In Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, all of the relevant configuration options are accessible via System Settings, an application designed with easiness and proper discoverability in mind.
- Precise's System Settings features a refreshed look with bigger, properly rendered icons, fine separator lines and buttoned "addressbar"
- the categories are now iconified with monochrome icons, that are to enhance their "personality"
- Appearance is the new sub-category that "stores" the overall look&feel settings, allowing users to change wallpapers, select a GTK+ theme and also, via its sub-sub-category, Behavior, to set the launcher's hiding mode, as well as choosing the launcher's reveal location, configuration option "backed" by the Restore Default Behaviors button (clicking on it revert the settings to their initial/default state)
- one major pillar that Ubuntu is built upon is the user privacy, consequently, the developers placed under
System Settings-->Personala new option, Privacy, from where the users can fully tweak the Zeitgeist (Ubuntu's default event logger) activities as such:
System Settings-->Personal-->Privacy-->Recent Itemsdelete all the logged history (opened images, clips, music tracks, text files, folders) by hour, day, week or all;
System Settings-->Personal-->Privacy-->Filesselect what filetypes are not to be logged, as well as what folders are not be tracked (like for instance, selecting the mycustomfolder will "force" Zeitgeist to skip the file logging if the files are in the mycustomfolder folder);
System Settings-->Personal-->Privacy-->Applications/code> select applications that are to be ignored by Zeitgeist;
in order to completely stop Zeitgeist, click the Record Activity OFF
- Displays received new handy configuration options: Launcher placement (choose if the Unity launcher appears only on the main screen or on all of the available screens) and Sticky edges (support to add stickiness the the screen edges when the mouse cursor navigates between multiple screens)
- Sound panel has been redesigned with refreshed item positioning and various internal improvements, useful to present the sound managing interface into a cleaner, more easy to configure experience
- Management Service, Landscape, represents a new addition in the System Settings, tool useful to manage multiple computers from a single interface
Ubuntu Software Center is faster, especially on launch and received a two-sided recommendation approach: per-application based, labeled as People Also Installed (displays apps installed by users who also installed your about-to-install app) and per-user based (displayed in the bottom panel with general recommendation for the active user), panel that also gives, with its presence, a "full" state to USC (no more empty areas)
- new exciting install animation (clicking the Install button when on app details view "mode" moves the app icon to the launcher, action followed by the actual install process, process signaled via progressbar)
- the installed apps are automatically added to the launcher as the default behavior (in order to remove this behavior, navigate to
Ubuntu Software Center-->View-->uncheck New Applications in Launcher)
Ubuntu One has gone through a rigorous redesign process with solid modifications (with various component shifted from GTK+ to QT, including the Control Panel, the visible desktop part).
The Control Panel's look has been refreshed, adopting a gray-ish look with big orange buttons, that can be easily observed as well various modifications on text rendering, proper contrast, more vivid links, etc.
Gwibber has seen, across the Precise development cycle, a constant work on performance improvements, used resources optimizations and an overall enhancement process; its toolbar icons are now a set "borrowed" from Faenza, monochrome icons that provide a neat, slick look and feel to Ubuntu's default social client.
Nautilus received a handy, long-awaited feature, Undo support (accessible under
Nautilus-->Edit-->Undo) as well as improved selection behavior (if several files are selected at once, right-clicking on them keeps the folder selected (with orange selections) thus allowing the user to precisely act on them.
The light themes, Ambiance and Radiance, have been enriched on various parts:
- the titlebar gradient is more uniform, easy-on-the-eye with better integration into the overall window
- new fancy tooltips with rounded corners (like in Nautilus)
- a new behavior for unfocused windows (when a window is unfocused, its look gets an overall gray-ish look on checkboxes, progressbars, selected items, etc as well as dropping the 3D-ness of the titlebar (consequently, there is, on the desktop, a clear distinction between a focused versus and an unfocused window)
- the right-click menus are white, design based on the approach that dark sources produce dark menu and white sources generate white menus
Ubuntu's default scrollbars, Ayatana Overlay Scrollbars, are being presented in Precise with enlarged thumb and updated look, easier to spot and grab, introducing new gained properties, meaning a window can now be resized by pressing&holding&dragging the thumb.
LightDM is visually aligned with the desktop using the desktop wallpaper as a background in Unity greeter, thus being exposed on login
- the session dialog adopted a Dash-like texture, being accessible via the new Ubuntu logo icon (which acts as a session keeper)
- the session dialog is now exposed "under" the login box, which also removed the asterisks, adopting bullets, as well as various symbolic icons
Precise's default game stack has been rewritten in Vala, receiving, along with numerous under-the-hood enhancements and various visual changes.
The default virtual keyboard, Onboard features new extra themes (Model M, Typist) and numerous overall improvements (like the new monochrome appindicator), presenting itself as a full-fledged virtual keyboard application, fast, easy-to-use and highly customizable.
Precise Pangolin modified its default application stack:
- Banshee has been removed in the favor of Rhythmbox (as the default music player), app that has received numerous bug fixes and improved Ubuntu One integration
- Remmina is the new default remote desktop client
- Tomboy, the note-taking app, has been ditched (and with it the whole Mono stack from the default installation)
The default wallpaper continues its predecessors' road, taking the colored pattern to another level with an increased warmth tone; among the default wall stack, there is an abstract pangolin wallpaper with pleasant tones and interesting used patterns.
Unity launcher integration was a strong point applied in the development cycle, thus the 12.04 sees enhanced quicklist in numerous apps (Rhythmbox, Remmina, Totem, Gedit, Nautilus, Brasero, etc).
The default photo manager, Shotwell, has been enriched with a new tool, Straighten (useful to adjust image angles), as well as progressbar support (on launch, when loading pictures).
Unity 2D is the default fallback session, useful for computers unable to handle (from its hardware point-of-view) the 3D version.
Unity 2D has been developed, in the 12.04 cycle, following closely the 3D version in terms of features and bug fixes:
- refreshed minimize/maximize/close buttons
- HUD support
- improved "memory", meaning, the Dash remembers now its last state (if the user closes the Dash in a fullscreen state, next time when it will be opened, the Dash will be in a fullscreen mode)
- chameleonic behavior adoption, borrowing the wallpaper's average color
- solid work on various visual components, as well as items proper alignments
- new Dash home view, exposing the Recent Apps, Recent Files and Downloads
- handy message Sorry, there is nothing that matches your search
- improved keyboard behavior (if the user types a word in the search area, pressing Escape clears the search field, pressing Escape the second time closes the Dash)
- improved speed and stability
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is indeed a pixel-perfect desktop, with improvements, enhancements and optimizations in almost every corner, Unity is faster, more responsive and user-friendly, the panel displays menus perceivable by all kind of users (especially newcomers), the launcher is more beautiful with cleaner tooltips and enhanced quicklists.
Under-the-hood, the used resources are definitely lower (as compared to Ubuntu 11.10), everything seems faster with an overall look&fell of "just works".
The linux kernel was frozen on the 3.2 version, choice stated at UDS-P and needed to preserve and develop a solid-as-a-rock experience, with zero compromises and unpleasant bugs.
The 3.4 GNOME stack has generally landed in Ubuntu 12.04 (with few exceptions), adding a fully up-to-date yet stable software ecosystem.
Precise Pangolin has been subjected to daily automated tests with almost any issue resolved in a matter of hours, consequently, the Precise images build across the development cycle have been touched by a serious stable factor, thus making enhanced stability a first-class-citizen from the beginning to its launch.
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is available for download on http://www.ubuntu.com/