With the arrival of latest Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal', I thought of writing a heads up article for those Ubuntu users who have decided to face unity with the official release of Ubuntu 11.04. This article takes you on a brief tour of Unity Interface, so fasten your seat belt guys!
How does it look like?
According to an age-old adage, “a picture worths a thousand words”, so before we even start talking about Unity, here you go...
Anyone who has used Ubuntu before can notice the strikingly unique interface that Unity offers. In this article, I will introduce you to the key components of Unity interface. So, let's dive into Unity :)
The Basic Components...
As per the old-adage, here is a snapshot of Unity with the visible components labeled for easy identification.
As soon as you log in, you will see the following four components spanning the top and left edge of your display screen.
1. Unity Panel
3. Home Button
There is one more significant component called “Dash” which is not yet visible but you'll get to see it later. Now let us consider each component one by one.
The very top grayish black bar on the screen is the Unity Panel. It replaces the previous gnome panel. Unlike the previous gnome panel, unity panel does not support adding items to it. So much so that it does not even support right click anymore. This is because it has been assigned the job of handling application menus. This is one unique feature you'll immediately notice in Unity. Menu bars from applications are ripped off of the application and displayed in the unity panel to save the precious vertical screen real estate.
The Unity panel also houses the Indicators which are discussed below.
The big grayish-black bar on the left homing various icons (now called Launcher items) is the Unity Launcher. You may consider Launcher a much more improved version of the previous bottom gnome panel.
All the windows now get minimized to the Launcher.
It also possess a very intelligent “dodge” behavior and automatically gets out of the way whenever you maximize any window and pitches back in through the left side of the screen when you minimize all the windows. This nice dodge behaviour has also been referred to as “intelli-hide”.
Whenever you desire, you can always bring the Launcher out by hitting the mouse to the left edge of the screen.
The nice Ubuntu logo button in the top left corner of the screen is the Home Button and is colloquially referred to as BFB “Big Freaking Button”. It serves some important functions as part of the unity interface.
First of all, if you press the home button, it brings up the “Dash”, one of the most important components of the unity interface. We'll talk about Dash in its own dedicated section.
Second, it displays a blue triangle on its top left corner whenever some application is demanding attention from the user.
Indicators are a series of menus which are visible on the right side of unity panel. Some of the standard indicators from left to right are
1. Network Indicator
2. Sound Menu
3. Messaging Menu
5. Me Menu
6. Session Menu
Indicators are one powerful feature and pack a lot of functionality in the little space they occupy. You can access commonly used applications like media player and chat client directly from the Indicator Menu.
Apart from these standard Indicators, various application specific Indicators are also available and they integrate very nicely with these Standard Indicators.
Dash is the key component of Unity that is not visible until you bring it up. It is the shell of unity and if you find yourself curious, this is how it looks like.
In fact, when they say, Unity is a shell, it is the dash they are talking about. Shell integrates the power of command-line into a GUI-based desktop environment.
You can bring up “Dash” either by clicking the Home Button in the top left corner or by pressing the Super key (The window button key). It's UI is reminiscent of a command-line interface. But fear not, the shell actually helps you in finding the right application or pulling out the right file in mere seconds. It shows the most recently used applications and files and also narrows down the search based on what you type in the search box.
The Dash forces you to use keyboard and it might be a bit annoying for the mouse-savvy users but it definitely saves you a lot of clicks.
I hope after going through this, you are feeling excited about trying out the interface for yourself. Be the first one to try and don't forget to drop some comments here.
Good Luck :)