Some quick screenshots from Natty Narwhal which I have been tinkering with since December. Still in Alpha so only use it you are comfortable with your system self-destructing routinely, though it makes the daily updates even more exciting because you never know what will happen when you reboot. The big change this release cycle is 'Unity', the very flash new dock that is not a dock. They rolled this out on the Netbook Edition in 10.10 and I hated it. Used up too much screen space and slowed down my netbook too much, so I just installed the desktop version and 'hey presto' everything worked again. However, it is much better now, more refined and quicker, overall I have been impressed and think they are onto something now. There is much more to come from this and by time the next LTS (Long Term Release) arrives, for the end-users who want stability in April 2012, Unity will be polished to a shine.
Just to go off on a tangent, all this talk of desktop and netbook editions is no more. From 11.04 it will all just be 'Ubuntu'. Ubuntu will run on whatever you install it on, just download and go. Or as Canonical puts it;
So we are going back to our roots. From 11.04 the core product that you run on your PC will be simply, Ubuntu. Therefore the next release will be Ubuntu 11.04 and you can run that, my friend, on anything you like from a netbook to a notebook to a desktop.
Click here for the entire blog post describing the reasoning. Enough about that, here are a few screenshots of my current install:
On the left you can see the new Unity 'not a dock' dock. Overall the deskop looks cleaner with just the top panel being the only anchor to traditional desktops
This is the new window switcher view, pressing the icon once shows all your virtual desktops, double-click to select the window you want. If you have apps open they will be viewable too in this view.
Clicking the folder icon opens up a screen with your most recently used files, downloads and your favourite folders. There is a 'file manager' icon for those that prefer the traditional method of navigating
This is the applications view and the various sub sections
Clicking the Ubuntu icon in the top left opens this new space with links to take you further down the rabbit hole
And that is just a taster of were things are now but all of it is subject to change at the whims of our benevolent dictator for life Mark Shuttleworth. Yes there have been some development bumps but no show stoppers, which is a very positive sign. There is a debate beginning around having restricted extras (such as flash, mp3 support, etc.) turned on by default during the install process rather then asking the user if they want to check the box to include them. You can follow this at Bug #723831 to see how it develops.
Ubuntu, linux for human beings