Under the hood, bug fixing and performance improvements were the focus of the past six months. On the surface, Ubuntu has also undergone a major facelift since April 2010 when the last LTS (Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx) was released.
Ubuntu now comes with the controversial Unity interface by default. Although Unity is new to this LTS release, it has been thoroughly tested over the past year and a half. Unity is on version 5.10 with this release and is both stable and snappy. Ubuntu’s multi-monitor support has been improved significantly as well.
Long-term support releases are the major versions of the Ubuntu operating system and can be compared to a new version of Windows or MacOS. This Ubuntu Precise Pangolin LTS release is supported for five years on the desktop, and five years on the server.
Below we take a look at some of the visual changes users can expect in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin.
The installation process is as streamlined as ever, making tasks such as partitioning as simple as possible. The Ubuntu wallpaper, affectionately known as “Purple Salad”, now has a lot more of the Ubuntu orange in it, and in my opinion it is far more pleasant.
The login page now uses LightDM which is quicker to load and easier on the eyes. The user can use the arrow keys to select a user name. As each user is selected the background changes to reflect their chosen wallpaper. Ubuntu has also introduced the Ubuntu font which was showcased at the London Design Museum.
Ubuntu dropped the long-standing third-party Gnome desktop user interface module in favour of in-house developed Unity. This was a rather contentious move by Canonical, as the Unity interface was regarded by some as a step backwards in terms of usability. A major change for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is the switch from the Gnome 2 desktop user interface to Unity.
One of the reasons the Unity interface was unloved by some was the fact that customisability was lacking. This has been improved over time and the new Unity interface is now very theme-able, but avoids the inconsistencies of Gnome 2 themes.
Another new feature of the Unity interface is that it changes its colour according to your selected wallpaper. This is known as “chameleonic” behaviour, bringing subtle colour adaptations without having to fiddle with sliders.
Unity is a significant migration from the classic Gnome 2 desktop environment and brings with it a number of interface changes. Taking design cues from mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS, Ubuntu is now easier to use with a clean and intuitive interface.
Ubuntu is no stranger to the “App Store” paradigm but has now cleaned up the home page of the Software Centre and added in new features such as app reviews. Another new feature is the ability to opt-in for “suggested apps” which is compiled according to your currently installed apps.
Ubuntu 12.04 comes with the latest version of Firefox and LibreOffice among a host of other default apps. The Ubuntu One cloud storage app has also undergone a facelift.
Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin is due to launch on 26 April 2012.