With Ubuntu 12.04 scheduled for release in April 2012, the Ubuntu developers have released a test version of Unity 5.0, the newest version of Ubuntu’s desktop interface.
This release is still in development and not recommended for day-to-day use, but here are a few of the things you can expect if you decide to give Unity 5.0 a spin.
One of the most welcome changes to Unity are the improvements to the Launcher. Chief among these are additional options for rearranging icons on the Launcher and setting the Launcher’s behaviour, including making the Launcher ever-present on the desktop. This was possible in previous versions but not as easily achieved as it is now.
The top panel is also improved to allow users to set the panel to a colour of their choice. Usually the panel trys to automatically match the wallpaper but this can often make the icons on the panel hard to see. Giving the option to manually set the panel colour fixes this. The most common request, to be able to relocate the panel to the bottom of the screen, has not been addressed in this version of Unity.
In early testing Unity 5.0 feels a lot more stable than many previous releases and generally feels a lot quicker. However, there have been some users that found that Unity 5.0 increased memory usage significantly.
Surprisingly, the Unity Dash appears to have had very little aesthetic work put into it and its ugly appearance lets Unity 5.0 down. This is a pity because Unity 5.0 is maturing nicely but is still not the most attractive desktop interface available for Ubuntu. For many users, Gnome3, although also still maturing, is a more appealing option.
Unity 5.0 has been released for Ubuntu 12.04 which itself is only scheduled for release in April 2012. Users that are running the current Ubuntu 11.10 release are able to install Unity 5.0 for testing.