Canonical developed a new user interface for Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition, called Unity. While GNOME has panels at the top and bottom of the screen, Unity instead has a top panel and a panel on the left side which you can use to quickly launch apps and access running apps. Unfortunately, while Unity was designed with netbooks in mind, many netbook users have panned the new UI, saying it’s sluggish and requires too much scrolling when viewing web sites and running other apps — since Unity eats up too many horizontal pixels.

That doesn’t seem to have stopped Canonical from moving forward with Unity though. Founder Mark Shuttleworth has announced that the next major release of Ubuntu will replace the GNOME user interface with Unity. GNOME applications will continue to work, and in fact the GNOME Desktop Environment will still run in the background, but Unity will be the default user interface.

Users who still want to use the GNOME desktop will be able to install a special version of Ubuntu… or download the primary installer and modify the settings yourself. After all, Ubuntu is still open source software and you can make pretty much any changes you like. But I suspect a fair number of users stick with the out-of-the-box experience when downloading a new version of a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu.

Hopefully Canonical’s increased focus on the Unity interface will lead the developers to optimize the UI for better performance on computers with slow processors and small screens such as netbooks… you know, the original target for Unity.

Ubuntu 11.04 is due out in April, 2011.

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12 replies on “Ubuntu 11.04 to replace GNOME interface with Unity”

  1. Put the new 10.10 netbook on a netbook, runs slow, buttons do not hide, less space for applications than before. So,

    Fixed this by installing the LXDE GUI instead and HIDING the application bar at the TOP. It runs a TON FASTER, and does what I want it to do, that is to be something that I can get to my applications quickly, that is it.

    Could also maybe use Lubuntu?

    Only bummer is that new LibreOffice wizard to link to database does not work, but works with the other. We shall see if this is fixed by the time that the full release of LibreOffice is ready by November (that is the date time frame that I heard last)?

    1. Yes 10.10 netbook is pointless. just revert back to 10.10 desktop interface and all is fine.

  2. I use 10.10 (and every release back to 9.04) on my Samsung NC10 netbook (1.6 Atom/2GB). I use Compiz. I run Lotus Notes for email.
    All of these things and performance is still better than Win Xp or Win 7 on the same platform.
    I do not use UNE or Unity as it is not as customisable or flexible in their current forms. I like the ability to do what I want with my environment.
    Locking the desktop down or forcing a new environment without giving the choice is not in the character of a linux environment. If we wanted a hampered UI or a locked down, what you see is what you and everyone else gets, feel then we use Windoze or Mac respectively.
    Summary: Keep the choice. My choice is Gnome.

  3. I dropped “pure” Ubuntu when 10.10 came bricked my Asus EeePC. The installl forums are clogged with “help me’s” from the 10.10 release!

    I retro’d my netbook to 10.04 using Easypeasy to get working again.

    I’ll never use “pure” Ubuntu – it’s developers go with the bleeding-edge hardware/video and no backwards support.

  4. Ack! This is not true. This is not true. This is not true. In fact, people are still trying to piece together what exactly is and is not going to happen.

    From what I understand, Canonical is developing their own shell built on the same technology that underlies their Unity shell for netbooks. It will NOT be the same as Unity. Even though Unity is quite nice for its target application, it’s not appropriate or adequate for larger desktop experiences. Canonical seems to know this.

    You are right that the Gnome software stack will still underly Ubuntu’s desktop experience, and assuming Zeitgeist and Gnome 3.0 personnel can make peace with each other, this should be an exciting desktop for Joe Sixpack.

    1. I can’t find a transcript of the news conference, but everything I’ve read suggests that Shuttleworth said Unity will replace the Gnome front end… but of course, as with any release, I’m sure that’s open to discussion by members of the developer community.

      Of course, that doesn’t mean the desktop version of Unity will look identical to the netbook version… or that the netbook version won’t change dramatically in the next 6 months.

      1. Your report was not untrue. It was inline with what others are reporting. However, the conversation that has emerged in response to these reports has elicited comments from people who are close to the situation and have a better sense about what’s going on. Those are the people who have clarified that it’s not Unity as we know it but rather a desktop equivalent built upon the same technology. It may very well be called Unity too (which would make sense, given the name).

        1. Ahh, well, you know… when you write “This is not true. This is not true. This is not true,” it kind of makes me think maybe something’s wrong with the story as reported. 🙂

          I guess we’ll find out more soon enough.

  5. Much of the criticism of UNE has been that the interface is slow. From what I’ve read, Mutter is used as the compositing engine and is being blamed for the speed issues. Ubuntu intends to replace it with Compiz going forward, and hopefully that will solve this issue. I’ve used Compiz on my Dell Mini 9 running a full GNOME desktop and the performance is more than acceptable. With Unity on newer hardware, it should be even snappier.

    Now if they can also address the issue of horizontal screen real estate, Unity might be a great new direction to differentiate Ubuntu from other popular Linux distros. I’m excited about the possibilities.

    1. Good points. Compiz is mature and efficient. Mutter isn’t.

      Between the graphical performance issues of KDE4 and the performance growing pains that will surely happen with Gnome 3.0, we’re in for tough times.

      Thankfully, there’s always Enlightenment which even has Ecomorph (compiz for Enlightenment). Despite the lack of native E17 applications, I still find Enlightenment with the Illume profile to be the superior small screen Linux setup. It is even brilliant on slates.

      1. I’ve tried a few times to get into E17, mostly by testing out elive. At this point, I’ve done away with most of the desktop effects and use LXDE almost exclusively. I especially like the implementation in Peppermint Ice ( which is a Debian/Ubuntu/Linux Mint derivative.

        1. I tend to use a different WM for different applications. If I could only have one, it would be xmonad. I’m a long time Haskell programmer (functional programming is a personal preference). However, xmonad is NOT fun on tablets. 🙂 I do some free tutoring and let students use and borrow tablets. Most are based around e17 at this point, and the kids love it.

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