Are You Afraid Of The Dark Ubuntu Unity?
Ubuntu Natty 11.04 is officially released! Some of us have already upgraded either during the development stages of natty or now after the stable release. However there are still a few who would like to hang on to their dear old gnome 2.x.
This could be either due to fear of the new Unity interface or a general tendency to stay in the comfort zone of Maverick Meerkat. However I hope this article would help change that.
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To start of, here is a comparison of the new natty desktop on the right and the old maverick desktop on the left. There are several visual changes between the two. In fact this is the largest visual change for Ubuntu since its release in 2004.
Naturally, it could be overwhelming at first sight but after few hours you will find it easy to use. You will also have an easier way of window management, application browsing than before. So stay with me until the end and I promise you that you will at the end of this article be very comfortable using Unity.
It is best to keep an open mind and also accept the fact that you will have to learn some new tricks and habits to full take advantage of Unity. This article showcases some of the commonly used tasks like application browsing, desktop overview, viewing recently used files and programs and the Alt+F2 manager.
Note: Throughout this article, the various Unity UI elements would be addressed. It is important however to know the correct technical terms to understand this article better. You can find more info about the different Unity terms in this article Understanding Unity, Launcher & Dash Of Ubuntu 11.04.
In the previous release of Ubuntu, you could browse and launch an application by clicking the application menu at the top panel. However with Natty, you do it much quicker by using the launcher, Dash and the lenses.
Method 1 – Direct
Just click the application icons on the launcher. Pin all your favorite and commonly used applications in the Unity launcher for quick access.
Method 2 – General
You open the dash by pressing the “super” key or clicking on the BFB button at the top left. When you do that the dash is open, where you can type the first few letters of the application and the dash instantly shows you the applications. When you click the dash it also shows you the most commonly used application like your Internet browser, music player, photo manager and email client.
Method 3 – More specific
You right-click the application lens and choose the category of the application you want to launch. This is also useful if you want to see all the applications in a particular category like multimedia, accessories, graphics, internet etc.
Another striking thing you may have noticed is that the bottom panel is missing. Well the functions performed by the bottom panel like workspace switching, showing open applications (window management) are now shown by the unity launcher.
This might take some time getting used to, but the change is for the good since the Unity launcher incorporates lots of additional features.
Open applications are shown with an arrow on the left side of the application icon. This can be seen in the figure on the left.
While open applications which are currently in focus are shown with double arrows on either side of the application icon. This is seen in the figure on the right.
However if you have several applications open, then the number of arrows on the left side of the application icon shows the number of windows open.
Desktop and Application Overview
To enhance your work productivity Ubuntu comes with 4 virtual workspaces. This way you can organize your desktop, for instance have music player in one workspace, documents in the second workspace and probably internet browser on your third.
In the previous release this can be done by pressing on the workspace icon present at the bottom panel. In Natty to get an overview of all the workspaces you press the workspace switcher icon present in the launcher or pressing “Super+s” keyboard shortcut. To get an overview of all the applications currently running, you have to press “Super+w” shortcut.
Unfortunately there is no shortcut for this shown on the launcher. To move from one workspace to another press “Ctrl + Alt + up,bottom,left,right arrow”. This is unfortunately not shown in the video.
Recently used files and applications
In older releases of Ubuntu, you can view your recently used files by clicking on the Places Menu → Recent Files and Documents. In Natty, the dash presents it nicely in an ordered fashion. You can do by clicking on the application or files & folders lens. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut “Super+a” for application lens and “Super+f” for the files & folder lens. You also search for a file recently used by typing the first few letters in the dash search box.
Every Linux user would know this. The shortcut is the same as the previous releases however the interface has changed for the better. When “Alt+F2” is pressed, the dash opens showing a list of the commonly executed commands. This saves you sometime when executing the same commands again. This is shown below in the screen shot.
Enhanced Work Productivity
Unity can really help boost work productivity. This can best be shown in the video below.
This purpose of this article is to show how to perform commonly used tasks in the new Unity interface present in Ubuntu 11.04. You can always refer back to this article or the videos to quickly understand how to perform any tasks.