One of the forefront advantages of Linux (Ubuntu) over proprietary operating systems is its ability to be customized and of course many other reasons. And with the latest versions of Ubuntu starting from Ubuntu 11.04 this seems to have gone since it is difficult to change your font, theme, Unity behavior etc. using default options. However, with open source you have the community rallying together to produce many excellent applications to customize Ubuntu. This article is the first of three to describe three such applications which are Ubuntu Tweak (0.6.x), Gnome Tweak Tool and MyUnity (3.0). In this article, I'll also describe a review system with which I will compare the three applications in a fair manner.
In order to fairly judge all the applications even though some are specific to customizing only Unity or only the system, we will be judging the applications in terms of the following options
- Integration with Ubuntu (quicklists, indicator support, toolkits used)
- Availability (PPA, Ubuntu Software Center, where it is hosted)
- Performance (Memory Usage, Startup time, User use cases)
- User Interface (Presentation, Ease of use, clean, simple)
- Maturity (bugs, stability)
While looks for these we will give award points (max 10 points) per category and then just sum up to get the final score. The total score will be 50 points excluding Extras which is optional and will be awarded points if the application does something much much better than expected. Sounds exciting? Well let's get started!
So as mentioned before, in this first article we are going to look at Ubuntu Tweak. Ubuntu Tweak has been in open source scene for quite some time. In fact I remember using it to tweak my Ubuntu setup for almost 2-3 years now. It has being the standard 3rd party for many Ubuntu Users. You can check their website at http://ubuntu-tweak.com/. If you have any suggestions you can contact the developer at email@example.com.
Ubuntu Tweak provides options to customize any and everything about your system. You can tweak the following using,
- System fonts, wallpaper, Theme
- Compiz settings, Unity, Unity 2D, Gnome-Shell
- Software Sources, file type associations
- Janitor (to clean your cache)
As you can see it provides a wide variety of customization option and covers a wider audience.
Integration with Ubuntu
Ubuntu Tweak is based on GTK which brings about nice integration with other applications. All the icons used in the application are default stock icons. Ubuntu Tweak also supports Unity quicklists as can be seen in the screenshot. It does not provide indicator support however, I think this is not required since it is not running all the time and is only required some times.
Points = 7
Ubuntu Tweak is available to install from the repos and hence is available to install from the Ubuntu Software Center. This is definitely an advantage as it helps users to quickly install it without much hassle. Ubuntu Tweak is also available through a PPA. Users can use the PPA to get the most recent version of Ubuntu tweak. The PPA details are provided below.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak
The PPA is available for Ubuntu versions starting from 7.10 to 12.04. So yeah it supports pretty much everything although the latest version 0.6 onwards is only available for Ubuntu 11.04 onwards. In this criteria we are also going to look at where the code is hosted. The reason being, as an open source application, it must be easy to fork it if required and also be easy to contribute to it. Ubuntu tweak is hosted in Launchpad (bzr) which is the go to for all Ubuntu development related matters and hence is definitely an advantage.
Points = 10
In this criteria we look more into the memory usage. The memory usage of Ubuntu Tweak was around 30 MB which is reasonable. The startup was fast being around 2-3 seconds though not instantly fast. So knocking off some points for this. Otherwise nothing more to add on this criteria. Ubuntu Tweak caters to a wide variety of users which makes it a very useful application. In fact it has the potential to become a default Ubuntu application.
Points = 7
The user interface is a very important aspect of an application since it can make or break the user experience. Ubuntu Tweak 0.6 brought a major overhaul to its user interface. The interface is more clean, less cluttered and is nice revamp compared to its older versions. It is easy to navigate with 4 major categories Overview, Tweaks, Admin and Janitor. This classification make it easier to quickly navigate to the customization we would like to do. However, once you reach the category you want for instance Unity, you are provided with many customization options which I believe can be difficult for the user to figure out. It would be nice to provide a short description of what that particular tweak would do or perhaps a small picture preview. Also as part of the interface, they should make better use of the more recent GTK 3.0 options like toggle buttons etc. Ubuntu Tweak has an excellent homepage and blog to provide news about upcoming releases. This gives it a more professional appearance along with its new interface. So kudos to the developer for this.
Points = 8
During my years of using this software I must say it is extremely stable. It does not happen to have issues like memory leaks or crashing often. Hence it gets a perfect score for this.
Points = 10
As mentioned before, this category provides extra points for an application which goes one step further to prove its worth. So does Ubuntu Tweak make that effort? To an extent. Ubuntu Tweak provides an option to revert back to an older version of the software sources in case you mess it up. However, Ubuntu Tweak could use a search option to search for customization options rather than having to look it up. Perhaps some nice sliding animation to provide a smooth transition from one category to the other.
Points = 3
Alright, based on the review Ubuntu Tweak receives a final score of 45 out of 50! I think it has performed really out. Try out Ubuntu Tweak on your current system or when Precise is out and you wouldn't be disappointed. Keep on eye for the upcoming reviews on MyUnity and Gnome Tweak Tool.