Ubuntu Oneiric gets makeover

It’s still a couple of months to go to the next release of Canonical’s Ubuntu operating system but many of the changes that users can look forward to are now becoming apparent.

The most exciting of these are the changes planned for Ubuntu’s new user interface and includes features such as Scopes and Lenses.

With the last release of Ubuntu Canonical introduced a brand new user interface, a move that was widely viewed with caution by users. The primary reason for the caution was because the new interface was a radical departure from that included with previous releases.

That new interface, based on Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix interface, removes many of the traditional operating system interface elements and replaces them with a side panel and a set of overlays for managing and switching between applications.

In a recent blog post Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth outlined some of these changes.

One of the major changes in Oneiric is the introduction of Scopes and Lenses. These will eventually replace the usual “Places” which linked to items such as the user’s home directory, their documents and their hard disk.

Scopes takes this another step forward and are essentially a set of customisable filters that can search and manage data from a range of sources.

So, for example, a Scope could be used to display all games applications in the Software Centre. While Scopes manage raw data, Lenses are a way of visualising the incoming results.

Shuttleworth says that the current Places model is being updated to use the newer Scopes and Lenses model, but for now the model is still being developed.

Panel changes

Another change to the Ubuntu interface is that the panel across the top of the screen is now the permanent home of the close button for any application being used.

Shuttleworth says that this new feature is still in development and has been so for the past few releases of Ubuntu. “Even though we had a good idea where we were headed, each step needed to be taken one release at a time.

Perhaps this might make a little clearer the reasons for the move of window controls to the left – it was the only place where we could ultimately keep them consistent all the way up to a maximised window with the title bar integrated into the panel. I’m confident this part will all be settled by 12.04.”

With the previous release, Ubuntu introduced a dual model version of Unity which provided a 2D version for less powerful machines and a 3D version for the more capable ones.

Shuttleworth says that there has been much progress in this area and the 2D and 3D interfaces are now more closely aligned.

“They now share a good deal of common code and common services and … common bugs. But we’re now at the point where we can be confident that the Unity experience is available on the full range of hardware, from lightweight thin client systems made of ARM or Atom CPU’s to CADstations with oodles of GPU horsepower.”

Thunderbird, Linux 3.0

Ubuntu 11.10 will also include the Linux 3.0 kernel by default. This will add support for a broader range of wireless chipsets and expanded support for wireless drivers.

An equally welcome change for many users will be the switch to Thunderbird as the default mail client. Thunderbird will replace Evolution which has been the long-time preferred email application.

Another change will be the inclusion of Gnome 3.0. Although Canonical has decided to switch its own interfaces to the default, the Gnome project continues to press on with its Gnome 3.0 desktop which is an equally radical departure from previous releases.

The first beta release of Ubuntu is planned for September 1. The final release is scheduled for October 13.

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Ubuntu Oneiric gets makeover