We recently published a how to about how to install Unity 5.0 in Ubuntu 12.04. But now even the Ubuntu 11.10 users can install and test Unity 5.0, thanks to the power of PPA. You just need to remember that Unity 5.0 is not stable yet and it might break certain things. I have been using it on my systems for a while now and it is working fine. Then, Ubuntu users don't fear of trying new things, right? So, here we go.
Open the terminal and run this command
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unity-team/staging
Then update the repositories
sudo apt-get update
And now upgrade the system by running this command:
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
Once the upgrade is finished you will need to reboot the system. To get the best out of Unity, you need to install Compiz Settings Manager as there is no built-in Unity settings tool. So fire the terminal and install CSM
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Once installed open the CSM and check out the customization available for the Launcher and Global menu. If you don't like the auto hide of the launcher you can disable it by selecting 'Never' from Hide Launcher option on Behaviors page.
The Launcher will now look like a panel and you can easily pin your apps for quick access. You can also reduce the size of the Launcher if it is too big for your screen. I have set it to 32.
How to resize Unity Launcher? Just click on the experimental tab of CSM and select 32 from the launcher icon size. This is also the tab where more excitement starts. Those who are unhappy with the Global menu get some relief here. One of the main concern was about the new Ubuntu users who don't know where the menu items are as they are hidden by default. The Unity team has made a wise decision and now the menus remain visible for a certain time so a new Unity user will know where the menus are. You can also set the duration of the fade out time. Just play with the Menus Fade options in the Experimental page.
Unity 5.0 seems more responsive than the previous version, but then I have a quad core and 8GB of RAM.
Another cool feature of Unity 5.0 is the ability to change the color of Dash. Look for the top option in the Experimental and you will find 'Background Color'. So now you are not restricted to using the theme color for the Dash, you can choose your own color. Just make sure to adjust the opacity so that you can see the desired color in Dash and Launcher.
Now in Dash you can chose what you want to open by right clicking on it. It gives you four options. So if you are looking for applications just select that opens and you have all the apps there.
Another extremely useful thing that the Unity team has done is the ability to install apps from withing the dash. Well, not technically but yes. For the first time on any desktop OS, you don't have to open even the software manager to install app. Just search for desired app in the Dash and if it is in the Ubuntu repositories you will see it available there for installation. When you click on it it will open it in the Ubuntu Software center and you can easily install it.
What Leaves To Desire?
What is still missing is the ability (a simple button) to disable global menus for non-maximized windows. Global menu is an excellent feature for the maximized windows as it saves space, but it becomes a pain in (the part which you rest on your chair) if you are used to working on multiple windows, or like me, if you use multiple monitors. So a plugin which disables Global Menu for non-maximized windows will bring an end to the complains of long time Ubuntu users who dislike Unity for such lack of customization.
Let's get one thing clear before we demand. Mark Shuttleworth has made it clear that the position of Launcher will not be change, which makes sense as he want to use Unity for Ubuntu TV and wants to focus on polishing it instead of wasting resources in moving it around. We also know that you can't add a bottom panel to Unity (actually you can if you use Avant dock and expand it as panel). Once that's clear what I do want to see in the final version of Unity is the ability to disable Global Menu (removing appmenu doesn't disable it on Thunderbird and Mozilla Firefox).
My request to the team is to make Global Menus smarter. When a Windows is maximized then it should use Global Menu and when it is un-maximized then the menu should appear in the respective windows. This will solve the problem for everyone and give Ubuntu and edge over Apple's Mac from where Ubuntu borrowed the idea of Global Menu. These changes will make Ubuntu more appealing to even the hardcore Unity haters. They don't hate Unity, they hate the inability to customize it. Give them what they want and everyone will be happy ;-)
Looking at the incremental changes in the Unity 5.0 I can say that finally it has started to look like what one would want for a consumer Desktop OS. I have been dual booting between Ubuntu and openSUSE KDE and will continue to do so, but I am very happy and relieved to see that the Ubuntu team is taking things in the right direction. If you are thinking of quitting Ubuntu because of Unity I would suggest reconsidering your decision.
Finally Unity is here.