11 Killer Features That Make Ubuntu 11.04 Worth the Wait
Ubuntu 11.04 dubbed Natty Narwhal will bring some major changes to the traditional Ubuntu desktop. As the conventional desktop gets a major overhaul, the spanking new Unity interface is busy preparing itself to replace the time-honored Gnome interface. Furthermore, some well-known default applications are getting replaced by newer and more feature-laden ones. While many users have welcomed these changes with open arms, a few disapproving nods have raised doubts over their success. Nevertheless, Natty promises to bring a burst of freshness to the Linux desktop along with a slew of new users. Note: Ubuntu 11.04 release date is 28th April 2011, here's a link to the official release schedule.
Here are 11 features that will make Ubuntu 11.04 worth the long wait.
1. Unity Desktop
Unity is the most conspicuous change to the Ubuntu desktop till date. To new users this means that they’ll be able to get their hands on a completely new form of desktop, replete with features competing head on with major operating systems. The UI is built upon Ubuntu’s netbook interface called UNE, and Gnome early adopters will find it quite similar to Gnome Shell. However Unity, unlike Gnome3 and UNE, will be using the Compiz window manager instead of Mutter(which many users found to be slow and buggy). Also, many new and useful indicator applets are being developed which will help users add more functionality to a fresh installation. With Unity, Ubuntu 11.04 takes a completely new direction that will surely grab attention of desktop and netbook users alike.
2. Banshee as the default music player
For a long time Rhythmbox has been the default music player for the Ubuntu desktop. However, to match up with the features provided by competitors like iTunes, Windows Media Player and even Amarok, Canonical has decided to make Banshee the default music player. Banshee offers Bookmarks, Amazon Mp3 store support, Video support, Audiobooks support for library, Metadata fix up and a few more features that Rhythmbox doesn’t. However, the decision to include Banshee has left a few users frowning as it brings along mono libraries to the Ubuntu code pool. Also, questions have been raised whether or not Banshee’s stability will match up to Rhythmbox. Even though the outcome of this move can’t be predicted as of now, the addition of several new features to the audio department will certainly help Ubuntu catch up with competitors like itunes and Windows Media Player.
3. Office gets more libre
Since Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, many doubts were raised about the future of Openoffice, as Oracle is a name which the Free Software community was reluctant to trust. This polarization led to forking of Openoffice.org, thus giving birth to a new project called Libreoffice. This newly created or rather forked office suite offers the same features as Openoffice so old users won’t have any trouble switching. Additionally, the Libreoffice team is working assiduously to clean up code that dates back to 20 years. In fact, Libreoffice’s first stable release(v 3.3) was made public recently, clearing any fears about it being a hasty inclusion.
4. Firefox 4
Firefox stays as the default web browser despite facing stiff competition from the lightweight Google Chrome. Mozilla will be releasing Firefox 4 somewhere around February and its inclusion in Ubuntu 11.04 is very certain. Not only will Firefox 4 be faster than its predecessor, it will also come with a host of new features that will make the year long wait a worthy one.
5. 2.6.38 kernel
In November 2010, the Linux kernel received a small patch that radically boosted the performance of the Linux kernel across desktops and workstations. The patch has been incorporated in the kernel 2.6.38 which will be a part of Natty. Thus, users upgrading from Maverick can expect a great deal of improvements in the overall performance.
6. 2D unity interface
Ubuntu is known for its ability to run on PCs with even the most outdated configurations. However, with the introduction of some compiz eye-candy in Natty, achieving that becomes a problem on low-end graphic cards. This is where Unity 2D steps in. A few days ago, Bill Filler, a developer working for Canonical announced a new project called Unity 2D. According to him ---“Unity 2D’s main goal is to provide a Unity environment on hardware platforms that don’t support Unity’s Open GL requirements. Many ARM platforms fall into this category, so Unity 2D expands Unity’s goodness to a whole new set of platforms.".In short, if you’re running an Ubuntu pc with an outdated graphic card, you have no reason not to upgrade to Ubuntu Natty as it will come with all the features the 3D version offers except of course some fancy animations. To find out more about this project please visit this link. https://launchpad.net/unity-2d
7. Improved Ubuntu One interface
Ubuntu One is the Ubuntu’s attempt at integrating the desktop with the cloud. Like Dropbox it provides an ample 2GB of space for keeping one’s files on the cloud; however, it is meant to do much more than that. Ubuntu One aims at providing a seamless experience for users so that they could access their contacts, notes, or bookmarks from any computer with an internet connection. Though the current version of Ubuntu comes with Ubuntu One, its user interface is in need of an overhaul. Keeping that in mind, developers are working on simplifying the UI and giving the users more control over their account without any need of the web interface. Starting Natty, users can expect a completely redesigned and more user-friendly interface for Ubuntu One.
8. Improved Software Center
The Software center was one of the major highlights of Ubuntu Jaunty. Also, it was a feature that no other Operating System possessed; well not until recently when Steve Jobs announced the Mac app Store. Apple’s Mac App Store comes with features like ratings and reviews, which Ubuntu Software Center does not yet possess. Therefore, keeping up with the competition, ratings and review will be a part of the Software store in Natty. This will help users choose better applications based on reviews and ratings submitted by other users.
9. A Qt beginning
As mentioned before, Ubuntu will feature a 2D interface for better compatibility with low-end graphic cards. The UI part of the 2D desktop is implemented using Qt/Qml. Qt(pronounced cute) is a cross-platform application framework that is used for developing application softwares like KDE desktop, Google Earth, Skype, Vlc player and Virtualbox. As Qt is much more powerful than Gtk+, users will be able to see more cross-platform applications on their Ubuntu desktop. Moreover, users can expect Qt-based applications with multi-touch capabilities on platforms like ARM, Android and even iphone.
10. Papercuts Project
During the development of Karmic Koala 9.10, the Canonical team along with Ayatana Project introduced a new project called The One Hundred Paper Cuts Project. The goal of this endeavor was to fix 100 small usability bugs that an average user would encounter in a default application. After successfully improving the Karmic’s usability, the project has been brought back to make Natty the finest version ever. Users can expect more polished applications, without those tiny usability bugs that are easy to fix but never get any attention. To find out more on how to contribute to the 100 paper cuts project please visit the following link https://wiki.ubuntu.com/PaperCut
11. More Indicator applets and applications
Indicator applets are a great addition to the Ubuntu desktop, not just because they de-clutter the notification area, but also because they provide a common interface for the user to interact with many applications at once. Since their introduction, they have received an overwhelming response from the Linux community, so much that even OpenSuse is considering incorporating them. This popularity motivated the developers to come up with simple indicator applets like cpu frequency monitor and weather indicator that are lightweight and consistent with the rest of the desktop. Furthermore, since Natty will not be supporting the traditional Gnome panel applets, users will see more and more indicator applets being developed, thus giving users more to choose from. Apart from indicator applets, many new applications are popping up in the Ubuntu Software Center, many of which are free and some are paid. Indie developers are coming up with new games, and a horde of different music players has sprung up.
Is it worth the wait?
Well, with the amount of work the Canonical team has put in, Ubuntu fanboys are in for a treat this April. However, with so many bold changes, many users are skeptical about its reception amongst new users. Despite the skepticism, Ubuntu has successfully managed to create a buzz in and out of the Linux community. What do you think?
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