It’s been a week since Canonical released the latest Long-Term Support (LTS) version of its Linux distribution, Ubuntu. This version will be supported for the next 5 years, so it doesn’t introduce anything radical. Muktware reviewed the latest version, 14.04, when it first rolled out but after a week with the upgrade, here are some things that I’ve noticed that you may want to take note of.
1. Don’t look for Ubuntu One
If you have been using a previous release of Ubuntu, like 13.10, booting 14.04 for the first time is not a revolutionary experience, considering the update is about as conservative as it can get. The only thing that jumps out at is the removal of Ubuntu One, the cloud file backup service from Canonical. Canonical wants to keep their focus on making a better Ubuntu, rather than maintaining servers for file storage. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for cloud file storage including Dropbox, and soon, Google Drive as well.
2. Enable menus in window’s title bar
One of the biggest nags about Ubuntu visual functionality was the fact that the context menus were always located in the top bar of the screen, no matter where the window the menus were referencing was located. Although disabled by default, the menus can be placed in the window title. This can be done by going to “System Settings”, selecting “Appearance” then the tab labelled “Behavior” and check the box labelled “In the window’s title bar.” This is especially helpful when using programs like GIMP, and enables you to keep your workflow, but unfortunately the hide-and-seek aspect of menus remains. This means the menus are auto-hidden behind the window title, and you have to hover over the title to bring them up, a forced choice than many users would like to make themselves.
3. Enable Minimize Single Window Applications
Although not officially supported, 14.04 allows for applications only open in one window to be minimized by simply clicking on the program’s icon in the launcher. You can try this by downloading the CompizConfig Settings Manager, which tweaks the compositing manager of Ubuntu. Warning: CompizConfig enables you to make changes to your system you might not want to make. Use it only when you know what you’re doing. In CompizConfig, select “Desktop” and then “Ubuntu Unity Plugin”. Select the tab labelled “Launcher” and check the box “Minimize Single Window Applications”. This allows for a more traditional functionality, as this behavior exists in windows, while the default Ubuntu behavior is to open another window for the application. The fact that these choices are not explicitly granted to the user by Ubuntu seems overbearing, but apparently Ubuntu isn’t ready for this feature.
This release introduces a number of little tweaks that have been waited for by Ubuntu users for some time. Here are some to pay attention to.
4. Check out the revamped Lock Screen
When I first started using Ubuntu, one of the first visual inconsistencies I noticed, aside from my dislike of the default icons, was the disparity between the beautiful login screen and the boring lock screen (I’ve also noticed this in Xubuntu). Now the lock screen has the same visual style as the login screen, and has added a pretty smooth fade in/ fade out effect. Also the common Super (Windows Key) + L keyboard shortcut works by default, rather than the finger-bending CTRL + ALT + L shortcut, which I had been missing since my first day with Ubuntu.
5. Utilize the window switcher spread search
Hitting Super Key + W in Unity will bring up a “spread” of all your open application windows. You can also see application-specific spread by clicking the icon of an application with multiple windows open (the hack listed in #4 won’t interfere). In the latest update, you can search the windows in the spread, which narrows your window choices with each keystroke. This is incredibly helpful when you don’t know what window to switch from; now you can just start typing and be led to the window that contains the terms you need.
There are certainly many more little tweaks here and there throughout Ubuntu 14.04, but they aren’t all remarkable to most users. For a conservative LTS release, these are probably the biggest things a user might run into, but if you find or hear about something useful, please leave a comment!
For the Ubuntu 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” release notes, see here.