A couple of days back, Ubuntu 11.04 was released. As expected it had the new Unity user interface. Unity has divided the Ubuntu users into two groups – those who like it and those who hate it.
In all fairness, Unity is a good concept but it does not look like it is ready for prime time. But this is Linux and open-source software that we are talking about here – there are alternatives. In this post, we will list three alternatives you can try if you do not like Unity.
1. Classic GNOME Desktop
Although Unity is the default user interface in Ubuntu 11.04, the classic GNOME desktop is still available. It comes pre-installed with Ubuntu 11.04 – but it is only used as a fall-back in case the hardware does not support 3D acceleration. If you are one of those who does not like the design principle of Unity and want to stick with the old and trusted interface of old, this is what you must use.
To use the Classic GNOME Desktop, make sure that your system is not set to log you in automatically. To do that open Login Screen and make sure that “Login as <name> automatically” is not selected.
After that log off and in the login screen, you will find Ubuntu Classic in a drop down menu. Select that and login. You will get the familiar GNOME desktop now.
2. Unity 2D
If you like the design of Unity but cannot use Unity, you might want to take a look at Unity 2D. You might be unable to use Unity because either your hardware is old (and does not support 3D acceleration) or your hardware has problems with Compiz (many ATI graphics cards has problems with Compiz).
Unity 2D has basically the same features and look as Unity. The main difference is that Unity 2D has been developed using Qt while Unity runs as a Compiz plugin. Even when the hardware supports Unity, I find that Unity 2D is much faster.
Unlike the Classic GNOME Desktop, Unity 2D is not installed by default in Ubuntu 11.04. But it is available in the Ubuntu repository. So, to install it open the Terminal and execute the commands below:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install unity-2d
Once you have installed it, log off and in the login you should see Unity 2D listed like in the case of Classic GNOME desktop above. Installing Unity 2D does not affect Unity at all and you can have both installed in the same system.
3. Another Desktop Environment
If you absolutely do not like Unity at all, both the design and the implementation, switching to another desktop environment is another thing that you have to consider. Yes, you can still use Classic GNOME desktop but by the next release, that too will not be available.
Switching to another desktop environment does not mean that your favorite Gtk applications will not work. As long as you still have GNOME installed in your system, they will run even if you are using another DE.
There are two major desktop environments that you might want to consider – KDE SC and Xfce.
While many might argue that KDE is no longer as good as it was when they made the transition to KDE SC 4.x, it cannot be denied that the latest version – KDE SC 4.6 – is a huge improvement. Long time users of GNOME might feel a bit lost in KDE SC though.
Note: KDE SC requires more system resources than GNOME.
You can install KDE SC in Ubuntu 11.04 with the following commands:
$ sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
Xfce is a desktop environment that has been becoming very popular recently. It is a very light desktop environment and should run excellently on even old systems. Xfce is a little closer to GNOME than KDE SC.
You can install Xfce in Ubuntu 11.04 with the following command:
$ sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop