Ubuntu 12.04 is finally released. This is the 4th LTS released and the 16th normal release for Ubuntu. There are some exciting features introduced with 12.04. Let's go through some of the changes that have been introduced since 11.10 and other new features.
Applications dependent on mono such as Banshee, Tomboy and Gbrainy have been removed. They can however be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center. Rhythmbox is now the default music player of Ubuntu 12.04. Firefox and Thunderbird have been updated to their latest version 11.0. Although at the time of writing this post, Firefox 12.0 is available, this will land as an update soon.
The Ubuntu login screen is now more personalized by using the same wallpaper background as the user. It is possible to change between different desktop environments using the ubuntu button which is seen on the right of the username.
Keyboard Shortcut Overlay
With Ubuntu 12.04, a keyboard shortcut overlay is shown when you hold on to the Super button. The overlay shows commonly used keyboard shortcuts allowing for better discoverability for new users.
The heads-up-display is a new revolutionary menu system. In Ubuntu 12.04, it is meant to be complimentary to the regular menus. It provides a new radical way of accessing menu items. Instead having to hunt through the menu item, you can quickly access it using HUD. In the future, it is expected to incorporate voice support. HUD is supported by most applications in Ubuntu except for Java applications.
Ubuntu Software Center
The Ubuntu Software Center has received its fair share of improvements. The most noteworthy improvement is the start up time which has been drastically reduced to 2-3 seconds compared 10+ seconds in 11.10. It also features a new application recommendations feature which provides recommendations based on the applications you already have installed on your system. Installation is now better indicated through the launcher icons.
Gnome Control Center
Gnome Control Center (System settings) has received quite a number of updates. You can notice right away the visual improvement of the system settings. New setting options are now present such as the Privacy manager, management service and other changes to existing settings option such as Appearance, Sound and Power.
The new Privacy lets you control what data is shown in the dash by providing more control over what is data-logged by zeitgeist. If you wish, you can disable data-logging altogether.
Sound settings and power settings have also been revamped as can be seen in the screenshots below.
The multi-monitor support has also been improved with the new improved display settings. Options like which monitor you would like the launcher to appear, sticky edges have been newly introduced.
The personal cloud offered by Ubuntu One has gone through lot of changes. Starting with the Ubuntu One Control Panel has been revamped to match the experience and consistency on other operating systems such as Windows. The settings wizard has also been improvement and looks more professional.New features such as as an updated Android app, Send to Ubuntu One make Ubuntu One a viable alternative to other cloud based applications such as dropbox, Skydrive, Google Drive etc.
Better Battery Life
Many Compiz and Unity performance improvements have landed in this release. In the case of Compiz, some of the improvements have led to a 40% reduced CPU usage by Compiz. This in addition to the Linux Kernel power saving features should provide better battery life compared to older Ubuntu releases.
Unity is now more precise, polished and stable than ever before. The focus of this cycle has been to correct some visual flaws and this has resulted in a professional looking dash and launcher. The icons in the Unity dash are more clear, crisp and no longer have the ghost effect. The icon rendering has also been improved to provide better support for non-square icons. The spacing of the icons has also been improved. The Unity dash is more user friendly by providing meaning full messages as shown below.
Keyboard navigation between the lenses has also been improved. You can use Tab to switch between the different categories shown in the dash. You can use Ctrl+Tab to navigate between lenses that are installed.
Lenses and categories are better highlighted now. Switching between lenses using the mouse and keyboard has been improved. It is now easier to click on a lens, and also see the currently focused lens with the help of the white triangle on top of it.
The home lens has been completely revamped to provide more useful information such as the recently used applications, files and folders instead of the previously large icons.
Improved default lenses
The file and folder lens can now search through your entire system for a file rather than just through the recently used files and folders.
The video lens is a new addition to the default lens collection. The default lens collection provides a more wholesome experience now. video lens supports searching through both local videos and popular online sources such as dailymotion, youtube movies, Bing video etc. It also has the capability to intelligently display only those online sources which are available for your country based on your IP address.
The music lens now has better support for various sources such as Rhythmbox and Banshee by default. Additional sources can be installed like spotify scope, gmusicbrowser, grooveshark and many more.
Better Unity integration
Many default applications by default support Unity by providing static quicklists. Applications include Totem, Firefox, Thunderbird, Remmina, Rhythmbox, Empathy, Nautilus and the dash button etc.
Chameleonic Behavior of the notifications and other launcher icons
Notifications now show the same behavior as the Unity dash by using the average background color.
The dash, workspace and the trash icon also exhibit the same behavior.
Other subtle improvements
Ambiance and Radiance themes have been improved. The nautilus file manager sidebar is now better distinguished.
The differentiation between focused and unfocused states are more prominent now.
Ayatana scrollbars are now more bigger, have a nice texture and are easier to use.
As you can see from the huge list of changes above (there are lot more minor changes) it has all been about polishing the existing features except for the addition of HUD. You can read about the review of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS here where we carefully examine the Precise release.