As we inch towards the first beta release of Ubuntu 11.10, the excitement is growing what's new in the upcoming version of Ubuntu. We wanted to share with you what Ubuntu would look like as the UI was frozen just two day ago. What it meant was, this is the way Ubuntu is going to look. There won't be any UI related changes, what-so-ever.
The most talked about features of Unity is Dash. While the current Dash is crippled and also looks a bit ugly, the news dash is just dashing handsome. As we covered earlier, the dash has been polished beyond perfection. It now merges with your current theme (except for the Gray Day) and corners flow along with the launcher and the top panel.
Dash now has four buttons at the bottom, called lenses, Home, Applications, Files & Folder and Music. It also comes with a feature called 'Filter results'. There are no filtering options in the home lense, but the rest of the three lenses offer some nice filters.
Applications, for example, offers filters such as Accessories, Education, System so you can narrow the search. If you are searching for Gwibber the social networking client, you can find it under 'Internet'. There are three categories for apps. The top one is the most frequently used apps so you won't have to scroll a lot to open Firefox. The second category is of Installed apps and the third is Apps available for download. Within the Application lense you can further filter the results by searching on the basis of rating. It can be useful if you are looking for a new app to be installed.
Files & Folders lens also offer three categories: Recent, Download and folders. In the filter section there are three options to refine your search -- by the modification date, file type file size.
Music Collection offers filter by Genre and Decade. So, if you are are looking for classic symphonies from 70s you should look under 70s.
I think this is what I was expecting from Dash to be. The Dash I was using with Natty was pretty much useless. But, we must not forget Natty was the introduction of Unity and Oneiric is its refinement.
Dash now offers one control. You can now maximize and minimize Dash. It is quite useful if you are searching for particular app and you have gazillions of apps installed. Hitting the maximize button will make Dash full screen and hitting on minimize will take it back to the default size.
What Dash lacks and I may want is the customization of icon size.
Ubuntu Software Center
Ubuntu Software Center is the next 'Ubuntu' specific tool which has gone through a massive makeover. The most notable is its new look. As contrary to Mac's silver theme, Ubuntu is heading towards elegant, executive black look and feel. This is what the new Ubuntu Software Center looks like. Its polished, elegant and more more user-friendly. There are reports that Microsoft will be imitating Ubuntu Software Center in its Windows 8. When was the last time Microsoft tried something new?
The Ubuntu Software Center now showcases a slideshow, banner similar to the one Android Market has. Its neither animated nor functional at the moment but we expect it to be showing a slideshow of featured apps.
The left bar gives a list of categories for appliacations. Then there are two options -- What's New and Top Rated. This is interesting as we usually install the apps we know. We never try gazillions of apps available in the Ubuntu repositories, thanks to the great great Debian. According to current figure there are 56,345 items available for download and install. Wow.
However, the Jaaz stops at the home screen. When you click on any app or search you see the old list of apps with no glitz. When you click on any app to install, that page also misses all the polish that's there on the home of USC. I would expect something as polised as the Android market. Also the version numbers are a bit pointless. I would prefer a clear version number such as GIMP 2.7.2 instead of gimp2.6.11-2ubuntu2. The GIMP under Ubuntu was infact showing the screenshot from KDE. The screen shots of the apps inside the USC are unpolished and ugly. Mark, where is the Jobsian touch of perfection?
Nautilus had got tiny bit of make-over but there is absolutely no Jaaz there. Nautilus seems to be the most under-developed component. We need more user-focussed features. There are absolutely no visible controls in Nautilus. There is not much to write about Nautilus: it is what it was and it does what it used to do. There are lesser options though.
Since Thunderbird is the default mailing client of Ubuntu, it gets the much needed integrayin. The lacunher icon now shows the number of unread mails and the Ayanta indicator shows the list of unread messages. The look and feel of Thunderbird is too dark for me. I just can't see any of the 'features' of it. I will continue to use my favrouite theme I have been using since the last three versions of Ubuntu.
User and Power Menus:
The user menu allows switching between account easy. There are no new changes in the PowerMenu.
This is yet another area where Ubuntu team is doing awesome work. You can try out this window switcher by triggering Alt+~ key. It's under heavy development at the moment.
Conclusion: Since its a preview of Ubuntu 11.10 after the UI freeze and before beta 1, we can see that Canonical's own childred such Unity, Dash and Software center have gone through massive imporvement. It looks polished and far more appealing than the Ubuntu 10.10. However, USC needs more work, Nautilus needs lot of work to become more useful -- something that KDE beats it at. The rest of the experience was a typical Debian experience, ease of install of apps. Huge repository of apps.
I have been running Ubuntu alph 3 since the day it was released. There are some issues with the iso available on the Ubuntu server. None of the ISOs are booting. I have been upgrading it from Alpha 3. There are minor issues otherwise I have been using it as my primary distro for the last couple of daya (yes, I do have 11.04 intsalled as the back-up ditro).
Why am I running a pre-beta release? It's just too hot and sexy to resist. After all, we are all humans.