When I heard that Ubuntu was going to move towards the Unity interface for Natty I was very skeptical that I would actually like it. A little over a year ago I ran one of the early versions of GNOME Shell on my laptop for a couple of months and I really liked it. I found the whole activities overlay with the unlimited workspaces to be a fantastic idea which worked well for my usual workflow. Since then I had been waiting for GNOME Shell to become standard in Ubuntu. So you can understand why I wasn't very happy when I heard it was being replaced by the buggy and slow Unity interface from 10.10 which didn't even work on my laptop!
I have no used Ubuntu Natty (11.04) for a couple of months testing out Unity and here are a couple of quick thoughts that are kinda chronological:
- Initially it was really buggy, slow, and I didn't like it (but keep reading)
- I liked the idea of the sidebar launcher, although having a 14" laptop meant I lot some of my workspace
- The overlays weren't really all that useful originally, but I could understand their future merit
- When the sidebar launcher started to auto-hide I was very happy, I got my screen back :)
- Then the NVIDIA drivers broke and I couldn't use Unity at all... I was very unhappy
- A while later the NVIDIA drivers and the new open source ones started working again, and I jumped back into Natty
- Since then I have been liking all the new features that are being added and I have been convinced that it is a good way to go
- the applications and files dashes are nice and powerful and simple to use - I really like the 'most frequently used' section!
- The global application menu has grown on me, but I still don't think it's fantastic (I haven't tried dual-screening yet)
Unity has come a long way since the start of the development period, and it has convinced me that it works and is powerful. I still find myself wanting the Launcher and the Dash when I am back in Maverick! I also recently checked out a live CD of GNOME Shell and it has changed too much since I last used it, and I don't know if I like it as much any more. I didn't spend much time with it, but it just felt more complicated and harder to use than I remember.
A curious thing though, I have been having troubles with my old desktop. Every install of Ubuntu I put on there was lagging and being pretty unresponsive. I tried 64bit and 32bit version of 10.04 LTS and 10.10. I finally decided to give Unity 2D a try to see if it would work. It was very buggy, but I booted into normal Unity and it worked really well. So now my old buggy desktop runs Unity as it's primary OS, and works beautifully - it even runs better than my laptop, which is newer than it.
I am hoping for the day when, by default, Ubuntu will ship with these four desktop formations:
- Unity (as default)
- Unity 2D (for those who want Unity but can't run it)
- GNOME Shell (for those who'd rather it)
- GNOME 2 (for old computers which can't handle anything else)
Anyway, these are just my random un-organised thoughts about Ubuntu Natty & Unity. When it is properly released, I will post a proper review about it.