It’s just a few days to go until the next major release of Ubuntu and the developers have issued a final testing version. Released late last week the second Ubuntu Natty Narwhal Beta will be the final pre-release ahead of a planned 28 April final release.
Ubuntu Natty, also known as Ubuntu 11.04, is a significant release for Ubuntu as it breaks with many of the previous releases and introduces a number of new technologies, including the new Unity desktop environment.
The Unity interface is the major change in this release and although there was some discussion around the readiness of Unity earlier this month, Ubuntu is committed to moving ahead with Unity.
The new Unity interface is built out of the Netbook Remix interface and significantly changes the desktop experience for users. There are many early testers that have expressed unhappiness at the new interface which replaces Gnome.
Right now, however, users are stuck between two not-dissimilar options when it comes to the Ubuntu desktop: Unity or the recently released Gnome3 desktop, which itself is also a significant departure from the current Gnome look and feel. Gnome3 has also had mixed reviews from early users with many feeling unconvinced by the significant changes introduced by Gnome3.
Ubuntu has settled on Unity which offers a Launcher which can be used to house regularly used applications and switch between open applications. Unity largely does away with the traditional Gnome Panel navigation system and introduces a “Dash” start screen for launching tasks such as search and a series of “Lenses” for navigating tasks and applications.
Ubuntu ships with the most up-to-date applications including Firefox4, the now-default Banshee media player and LibreOffice, the community-based version of the OpenOffice.org office suite
Ubuntu’s Software Centre, which manages applications now includes options for rating and reviewing software in the repositories. This has been some time in the coming and is designed to add a social networking dimension to Ubuntu.
Ubuntu One, the cloud synchronisation tool, has also been improved in the Natty release. Changes include an Ubuntu One control panel and better control over file synchronisation.
The final release of Ubuntu Natty Narwhal is expected on April 28 and the current beta release can be downloaded from http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/natty/beta.
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