The next version Ubuntu Linux is about to get a major face lift with the release of Ubuntu 11.04. The code name for new Ubuntu release is Natty Narwhal. Ubuntu’s development website hints at few under the hood changes with the next Ubuntu release, as they geared towards integrating a new X server called Wayland for a future release. But Ubuntu 11.04, due out in April 2011 will get a big change in the desktop interface. The powers that be at Canonical decided drop the Gnome desktop, and will make the default desktop interface for the next Ubuntu operating system based on Unity. Unity is the same desktop interface that is currently used by Ubuntu Netbook Remix.
Unity features an application menu bar similar to the Mac OSX Dock. However the Unity version reside along the left hand side of the screen. Current ‘alpha’ versions of Ubuntu Natty Narwhal have fixed sizes for the Unity application menu bar, and configuration options will be few and far between. Mark Shuttleworth has commented that the location of the Unity Launcher will remain fixed, with an autohide feature. The autohide feature will open up some screen real estate.
Ubuntu developers are banking on increased use of touch screens in the future. They see the Unity launcher and desktop as a better interface to use over the traditional Ubuntu Gnome based desktop. This is the main reason for the shift away from the traditional Gnome Desktop towards the Unity interface.
For the Ubuntu user that feels a touch of nostalgia, the old way of using the Ubuntu interface will still be available. Users will be able to opt out of using the new Unity interface, in favor of the traditional Ubuntu Gnome Desktop when they log into the system. This option can be changed at the login screen via a menu.
Other Changes to Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Minor
Natty Narwhal is shipping with a beta version of Firefox 4. The final release for Firefox for should be available in the April time frame when Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal is shipped. Therefore, when you download and try out Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, you can also take Firefox 4 for a test drive.
You may be wondering if it would be wiser for the Ubuntu developers to switch over to Google’s Chrome browser since it has been gaining in popularity in recent months. But, after playing around with Firefox 4, I can readily see why the Ubuntu Developers have decided to stick with the new version of Firefox. The new Firefox browser has a redesigned interface that brings it into closer alignment with the Chrome interface and brings in some new features like the “TaskFox” bar which may re-invigorate how people surf the Internet. From the TaskFox bar you can run applications from within the Firefox browser address bar that extends the functionality of your browser.
Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal will eventually be released with Kernel 2.6.38, which will bring performance improvements to desktop applications.