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Ubuntu 11.04 Review

Facing the barrage of recent changes, I decided to take more time to become better acquainted with the new Unity interface which was introduced in Ubuntu 11.04. Despite my first impressions, it seems Unity is coming along well, and is getting better with every update. So for all of the people still considering the switch I will try to explain as many of the changes as possible, and hopefully I can show everyone what to expect after downloading Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. The interface is sleek and quite user friendly, unfortunately the most recent themes have been leaving much to be desired. For the time being, users will have the option of logging in to Unity 3D, 2D or Gnome classic, but rumors suggest that may change.

Ubuntu 11.04 Features

  • The stable Kernel which has seen many improvements, updates, and fixes.
  • Uses 1.10.1 and Mesa 7.10.2.
  • LibreOffice has replaced OpenOffice as the default office suite in Ubuntu 11.04.
  • Banshee has also replaced Rhythmbox, and is also integrated directly into your sound options menu.
  • Available in 32 bit or 64 bit architecture.
  • Compiz has been introduced as the default window manager.

Ubuntu 11.04 Applications

  • Firefox 4.0
  • GIMP 2.6.11
  • Thunderbird 5.0
  • Empathy 2.34.0
  • PiTiVi 0.13.5
  • LibreOffice 3.3.2
  • Nautilus 3.0.2
  • Totem Movie Player 2.32.0
  • Gwibber Social Client 3.0.0
  • Shotwell 0.9.2

Ubuntu 11.04 Installation

The Ubuntu 11.04 installation process was as always flawless and even pretty fast. In recent versions the installer has offered the ability to download updates while installing which is quite convenient, it does slow things down however. You can also choose the option to install third party software like audio and video codecs. After that you can choose your partitioning options, advanced options are available. Then your installation will begin giving you time to choose your location,select your keyboard options, and enter your username and password. Then as always you can watch the updated slide show presentation while you are waiting, and then you can start having fun with Ubuntu 11.04.

Ubuntu 11.04 Desktop

The Ubuntu 11.04 desktop interface has certainly changed. Users will now see the Unity launcher and the home button on the left side of the screen, the bottom panel has also been removed. System icons are still located in the right corner of the top panel. You will find icons for your network, sound, email, chat, and more. And things are still quite configurable, although users may do some hair-pulling while getting familiar with the new interface. Be sure to download all of the available package updates so you receive all of the tweaks and fixes that have been delivered to Unity since the release. Love it, or hate it, things are getting better every day.

Ubuntu 11.04 Menus

The traditional Gnome menus have been replaced by the Dash in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. The Dash is meant to make applications easier to find and launch. The search bar at the top of the Dash will allow you to quickly find any application installed on your system, or even browse files and folders on your system. Right clicking on your system notification icons works pretty much as always. Menus for your currently highlighted applications will now always appear in your top panel next to your home button. Also right clicking on your desktop background will provide the same functions as before, still allowing you to access the appearance preferences window.

Ubuntu 11.04 Panels

Another important part of your desktop is the stylish new launcher which will appear as soon as you login to your new desktop. The launcher may be hidden if other windows are open but you can find again simply by moving your mouse pointer to the left edge of your screen. Just click on an icon in your launcher to start that application. Additional items can be added to your launcher by dragging them from your new applications menu which looks like a magnifying glass inside your launcher. Unfortunately panel and launcher options are now lacking. If you press and hold the windows key or meta key the launcher will display numbers that can be used to launch the corresponding application.

Ubuntu 11.04 Software

As always Ubuntu 11.04 offers a variety of different ways to find and install desired software for your system. The new launcher provides a shortcut icon to the Ubuntu software center for your convenience. Not much appears to have changed in regards to the software center. You can use the search bar at the top to quickly find available applications or you can simply browse the categories for more useful items, when finished you can just click install. User reviews are also available for you to read. Aside from the software center the Synaptic Package Manager is still available or you can use APT from the command line to manage your installed software as many people prefer.

Ubuntu 11.04 File Manager

The Launcher also provides a Home folder icon that you can use to open your file manager. Nautilus happens to be one of my favorite file managers, for a GUI anyways. You can expect excellent support for connecting to network servers and NAS devices.  When your file manager opens you will see a toolbar across the top of the window with several shortcuts, a places panel on the left side, and the folder display area on the right. You can create shortcuts to all of your favorite folders by dragging them into the places panel. Connected hard drives and storage devices should automatically appear in the places panel. As always Nautilus preformed flawlessly.

Ubuntu 11.04 Themes

All of the old themes are still available, with a couple of new additions. Appearance preferences can still be reached by right clicking on the desktop background and clicking change desktop background from the pop-up menu. Then click on the themes tab in the appearance preferences window. You can still install downloaded themes, or get new themes through the interface. Ubuntu 11.04 will also offer users the ability to customize the available themes and save your unique creations. Window borders, colors, buttons, icons and pointers can all be customized. There is a good variety to choose from for your controls, window borders, and icons packs so be sure to customize!

Ubuntu 11.04 Wallpapers

If you want to customize things further, Ubuntu 11.04 offers a huge selection of wallpapers to spice up your desktop. Though I didn’t find many of them thoroughly breathtaking, there are some decent scenery and nature wallpapers, and some made for Natty Narwhal. You can open your appearance preferences window again and open the backgrounds tab to see more options. You can zoom, center, tile, scale, and stretch images to your liking, and as always you can add or remove wallpapers at any time. Staying true to the latest great features, you can still click get new backgrounds online, this quickly opens a browser to many more great wallpapers available for download.

Ubuntu 11.04 Synopsis

Another feature I enjoyed about Ubuntu 11.04 is the new functionality of the workspace switcher due to the choice of Compiz as the default window manager. You can simply click on the workspace switcher in the launcher to see a fantastic panorama of all of your available workspaces and all open windows. All of your open windows will have their own icons in the launcher as well which is quite convenient. But I can’t say that I am very fond of the new Mac OS style application menus which now appear along the top panel making it virtually mandatory. But to make up for that small fault, the system and notification area in the top panel now have enhanced integration with many applications.

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