Thoughts on Unity

Ubuntu Unity Interface
Ubuntu Unity Interface

Mark Shuttleworth announced (back in May) that Ubuntu is going to begin phasing over to a new user interface called “Unity”. There seems to be a lot of talk about it now for some reason — probably because it is starting to become a reality with Ubuntu 10.10 going official just weeks ago and in less than 6 weeks 11.04 will go official, which is when Unity will become the default GUI for Ubuntu.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention… Unity will work with multitouch gestures… that’s kind of a big deal ;)

Why is Unity such a big deal?

Well basically it is taking a new approach to how users interact with their operating system. Instead of following in the shadow of Windows and Mac (as Linux has for so many years), Ubuntu is taking a bold step to break free from that shadow and go a new direction.

Fanboys will love it, Haters will hate it — that is to be expected right?! But the real test will be with the rest of the world (and especially newcomers who are curious)…

What’s My Take On This?

I think it is a gutsy move and I really hope they do this right. If they really focus on getting it right, make it polished and smooth, then I think great things will follow… But if they botch this it’s not going to be pretty at all… Here’s hoping for the best!

Want a Preview?!

You can get a 1st hand preview of the Unity interface right now! Here’s a nice handy guide to get you through that: How to Install Unity in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx

I tried it out on my Netbook (running Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition) and I think it has a lot of promise, but as-is needs a lot of work before I will accept it as my main/default GUI…

After Further Review:

**Start Update**

OK after playing around with it some more, here are a few more thoughts on improving the Unity experience… (I actually wrote this section to Ubuntu devs on Facebook in response to their asking for feedback on it, hence the “you” refers to Ubuntu Developers)

1.) Whatever you do, make sure it is absolutely polished before you make it default. Any bugs or issues with it may kill any momentum you might otherwise have built…

2.) Allow some customization and make it easy to access. Make a “Unity Settings” program/app/whatever and make it easy to find.

Allow adjustments for:
– sidebar position (left/right)
– icon size in/on the bar
– icon size in the shell (or whatever you are calling the overhead menu interface)
– color / theme
– which file manager to use
– and etc.

3.) Give some options to show/hide all windows for an program/app using the launcher (perhaps double-click to show/hide, or some other method).

4.) Make sure users can easily manage the launcher — i.e. allow us to drag/drop programs to the launcher and to move them around (to change their position/order).

5.) Make sure users can view multiple windows at once without hassle and without messing up the menu. When I tested Unity it would mess up the menu bar if the window was not maximized…

I’m not sure if this last one applies or not (I have only tested Unity on my Netbook, and I have Maximus disabled because I can’t stand it)….

**End Update**

Other interesting Reads:

Article by Mark Shuttleworth (with pics)

ZDnet Article about Unity (with pics)

Digitizor Guide to Testing Unity in Ubuntu 10.04

Alex

Alex is a professional web and mobile developer. He loves spending time with his wife and kids, and is still very much a kid at heart. He enjoys reading comic books, watching TV/Movies, playing video games, playing with action figures and Legos.

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