Day two with Ubuntu Unity: Mixed impressions

It’s day two with Ubuntu Natty, and while I’m impressed, I’m also somewhat annoyed. The sum of changes that came down in 11.04 have me asking “Why?” Here’s a list of some of the pros and cons I’ve seen so far in Ubuntu Natty with Unity:


  • The Unity Launcher has ‘keep in launcher’, which can be good for apps that you want 1-click access to.
  • It seems that Unity has a great deal of respect for screen space: moving all the menu bars to a single location, making the notification area smaller, and auto-hiding the Unity launcher all help you get the last bit out of your screen real estate.
  • Holding the Windows key shows keyboard shortcuts for the items in the launcher, allowing hot-key access to them.


  • Navigation can be cumbersome. Things are not where you expect them to be, and in some cases, are simply not there anymore.
  • The context-sensitive menu bar puts menus out-of-reach on larger monitors, and potentially on multi-monitor setups.
  • Navigation seems less intuitive than Gnome 2.
  • Any 1-click ‘view desktop’ / minimize all windows functionality is gone.
  • Adding too many items to the launcher can cause it to scroll.
  • There’s no way, that I can see right now, to edit the “shortcuts” that appear in the ‘dash’.
  • Some programs do not iconify to the launcher correctly.

I’m also seeing a handful of mixed bugs in Synaptic Package Manager, Empathy, and the Unity launcher itself.

The release of Ubuntu with Unity and Firefox 4 (which causes regressions in several websites) leads me to the opinion that this is perhaps the most drastic change with the most negative user-facing experience that I’ve seen to-date with Ubuntu. I’m confident that the Ubuntu developers will work quickly to resolve these issues, but I think a lot of these issues should have been fixed prior to release.

As an alternative, the GNOME interface is still available. If you want to use the GNOME interface, you have to make a settings change at the log in screen. After selecting your user name, and before entering your password, change “Ubuntu” to “Ubuntu Classic” using the session changer at the bottom of the screen.

Also, Windows users just got Firefox 4.0.1 which includes a lot of security fixes. While some of them are Windows-specific, Firefox 4.0.1 is still not yet available for Ubuntu Natty. This is something I think should be made available as quickly as possible. UPDATE: To Ubuntu’s credit, Firefox 4.0.1 came down today via update manager. :)

These are a few of the issues and annoyances I’m having with the Unity interface. Do you have any to share?

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