Saturday, November 05, 2011

Unity

This is my Desktop (pretty barren, I know)

Unity is the UI base for Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) and all subsequent updates. Plenty of things wrong with it, plenty of people hate it as well, but I fucking love it.
Anyone is entitled to not like something, but it's almost taboo to love something. Even though I am a power user, I only use a handful of programs at any time, but I like to have immediate access to everything else. I mean to every program and file on my computer. In Win7 I use a combination of Launchy and Everything to access pretty much every program and file on my computer. I love Unity because it has some of this stuff integrated from the start.

I personally hate lurking through menus, sub-menus and sub-sub-menus to do something simple like open OpenOffice.org to start on a new blank document, or open Netbeans to start a new program or what have you. I also didn't like lurking through one of my four harddrives to find one obscure audio file I downloaded a year ago. Launchy and Everything got rid of those issues and Unity patches them up pretty well. The title image is my desktop with Unity. Since this is my girlfriend's computer that I don't hope to make much my own, I don't have a lot going on.

That side bar works well most of the time. Sometimes it gets a bit silly, but I heard some horror stories from 11.04, so I'm pretty comfortable with how it works now. The moment a window comes near it, it slides out of the frame to hide. It's a neat looking affect and pretty useful. I enjoy that it pops in and out on its own. I've never liked autohide, but I enjoy having the extra space and this solves both of those issues. The sidebar works a lot like the Windows 7 task bar, which I am a fan of, although it doesn't have all of the same features. The icons fold near the bottom when there become too many, but flatten out when you hover and scroll through them, which can be done with a scroll wheel or with the cursor by hovering over the bottom. Programs with open windows have a light on the left, programs in focus have a light on both sides. Each light on the left side signifies a window So if there are three lights, there are three windows. Clicking on the icon when there are two windows put's the desktop into a very Mac-like Exposé screen, where the windows line up and you choose one.

I explained the top panel in my Ubuntu post, but I'll say it again here. On the left is there is: Social clients (chat, email, facebook, twitter, etc), battery, Connectivity, audio(Banshee, the media player, is integrated to this button), clock/calendar, user accounts, and system settings/power menu. The System Options button is actually very clever. It's in a place where you'll see it often so you know where it is and the symbol is easy to figure out (it's a gear sliced with the universal power symbol). The rest of the top panel is very Mac-like. Often windows will have their toolbar (file, edit, help, etc) on the top panel, regardless of its position or state. Its name is also up there. Sometimes Unity does some silly stuff with windows.


So that last button on the left panel is probably the most important. It is the quintessential "start" menu. When the super (Windows/Apple) button is pressed, it opens. The default menu is preset shortcuts. These are the default shortcuts, I have yet to change them at all. By Shortcuts I think it means 'things you want but don't care to have on the desktop or left panel.' The name of this tab is confusing to say the least.

The next tab over (which is at the bottom, the first one is the house) is where all of your applications are stored. They don't have sub-menus like they used to, so it's a little odd. There are three sub-menus though: frequently used, installed and available (from the Ubuntu Software Center). I don't know why Unity wouldn't have sub-menus (like Games, productivity, etc) like Ubuntu had with GNOME, which would give some concession to the people who like them. It's honestly an odd thing to leave out. Ubuntu and developers already have the metadata to build these menus, why not use it? Not that I care, I just use the search box. It searches for installed and available programs, which is nice if you're looking for something but haven't installed it yet. Saves a step if it's in the Software Center.

The third tab is a File manager. By default it lists Recent files, downloads and then personal media folders like Music, videos, pictures and documents. It's a useful tab for reopening an accidentally closed window. It's also possible to search files here. The last tab is a music library, made for finding music. I haven't used it a lot, my girlfriend doesn't have a lot of music, but it indexes and searches the music files imported to Banshee. It's quick. It also lists songs available for purchase through Banshee. It's alright to find a song before opening Banshee, but using Banshee's library is far easier. I think this tab could become very awesome with a tiny amount of work.

I've said only a little on Unity, but it was made for me. I can't find much wrong with it. I know it's been buggy and many have had issues with it. I know it straight fucked heavy compiz users when they upgraded from 10.10 to 11.04, but starting from fresh has been amazing. It could use a lot of work, but I like the direction Unity is going in and I fully support Canonical for it.

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