Unity 2D Ported To openSUSE

Whether you like it or not, Unity is here to stay and it looks like developers from other Linux distributions want it as well. openSUSE developer Nelson Marques has announced that Unity 2D is up for inclusion in the GNOME:Ayatana repository in the openSUSE Build Service.

Marques has already got Unity 2D working on openSUSE and has posted screenshots of Unity 2D running in openSUSE.

According to Marques, many of the features of Unity 2D, such as the launcher auto-hide and the workspace selector are already working. He has also implemented transparency in Unity 2D by turning on the compositing in Metacity.

Not everything seems to be working just yet, though. The AppMenu, also called the Global Menu, is not yet working. Texts are also missing from underneath the icons in the Unity dash.

The final plan for Marques is to port Unity (not Unity 2D) to openSUSE. To achieve that the performance of Compiz in openSUSE will have to be improved.

Here are some more screenshots of Unity in openSUSE. You can see more screenshots here.

On the completion of the port, Unity and Unity 2D will be available for openSUSE users through the GNOME:Ayatana repository.

openSUSE users, do you like the idea of using Unity?

How To Change The Icon Size In The Unity Launcher

The Unity Launcher

If you have used Unity in Ubuntu 11.04, you would have noticed the large icons in the Unity launcher. The large icons are a good in larger screens since it makes it easier for the cursor to target it. But on smaller screens, like on netbooks, it could be too large and get in the way. If you want to decrease the icon size in Unity, you will be glad to know that you can do it rather easily.

Unity is basically a plugin for Compiz. So, to customize Unity, you need to install the CompizConfig Settings Manager (not that there are many  aspects of Unity that you can customize). To install CompizConfig Settings Manager, open the Terminal and execute the following commands:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

After installing, open the CompizConfig Settings Manager and look for Ubuntu Unity Plugin under Desktop.

Now go to the tab “Experimental” and you will find a slider for Launcher icon size. The default Launcher icon size is 48px. Change it to the size you desire. After changing it, close CompizConfig Settings manager. The icon size in the launcher will be the size you desire.

You can also make the panel transparent, if you want from the Experimental tab. To do it just adjust the slider – 0 means completely transparent and 1 means completely opaque. By default the panel transparency is set to 1.

Three Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu 11.04

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

What Are Mac & Windows Users Saying About Unity?

When Ubuntu 11.04 was announced, one of the announcements which sent shockwaves was the fact that Ubuntu would no longer have Gnome as the default Desktop Environment, instead settling for Unity. Last week, Canonical’s User Experience Lead Charline Poirier  ran a user experience test of Unity.


The user test sample size was rather small ( spread over 11 people) and comprised mainly of Windows and Mac users.  Each of the users were given a  Lenovo ThinkPad T410i running Ubuntu Natty (11.04) with unity 3.8.2-0ubuntu1 and asked to perform several tasks. After analysing the results, here’s what they found:

  • Everyone understood most of the launcher items, the indicator icons, used Firefox to check their mail, launched LibreOffice Writer to write a letter and found and opened an existing document.
  • Only about half the participants could easily rearrange the items in the launcher, figured out how to change the background wallpaper and were about to find and launch a game that was not present in the launcher
  • Few participants though that LibreOffice Calc is a calculator, the Me Menu icon as the close close button.
  • Two people were asked to play MP3 songs on a USB key, but none of them were actually able to accomplish the task
  • Nobody understood what Ubuntu One was. ( Ubuntu One is Canonical’s online data storage and file sync application)

During this test, the participants found some unexpected bugs:

  • About half the participants crashed Ubunty within an hour of their testing, and on double clicking Applications/Files& Folders resulted in screen flicker with no other effects.
  • None of the participants were able to understand the Intention of the Ubuntu button

The user feedback was quite positive – most found Unity very nice, clean, easy way to get their documents. Some of the participants did wish that some settings and a way to find out their hardware info placement could be a lot more prominent.

What’re your thoughts on Unity? Do you like it? Or will you go back to classic Gnome? Do drop in a comment and let us know!


Thunderbird Gets Unity Integration

Ubuntu is getting a brand new user interface, called Unity, in its next release – Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal”. As you are probably aware, Ubuntu uses Evolution as the default email client, and so Thunderbird integration for Unity is not a priority for Canonical. However, Mike Conley of Mozilla has been hard at work coming up with a way to integrate Thunderbird into the Unity Launcher and he has just released the first Thunderbird extension that does just that for testing .

The Thunderbird Unity Launcher extension provides a really cool integration of Thunderbird into Ubuntu’s Unity launcher. With the extension installed, the number of new unread messages in Thunderbird is displayed at the top-left of the Thunderbird icon in the launcher. Not only that, right clicking on the Thunderbird icon brings up a context menu item. From the context menu, users can easily open the contact list or compose a new email.

Since this is only for testing now, this feature is  available  in the form of a Thunderbird add-on. To test this feature users need to be running the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 11.04. There are no 64-bit builds available now. However, after the testing this feature will be integrated into Thunderbird and will be available to users of 64-bit versions of Ubuntu as well.

To install test the Thunderbird Unity integration, click on the link given below and install it.

Unity Launcher Integration 0.1

After installing the add-on, you will get the unread message count in the Unity launcher. However to get the context menu, you have to log off and then login again.

Remember  this is add-on is currently released for testing and you might run into bugs.  If you do encounter any bug, you can report it at  bugs.launchpad.net/unitylauncher-extension

Here is a video of the Thunderbird Unity  Integration  in action:

Thunderbird Ubuntu Unity Launcher Integration from Mozilla Messaging on Vimeo.

[via Mozilla Labs]

How To Install Unity 2D In Ubuntu 10.10 & 11.04

Yesterday, we told you that a 2D version of Unity will be available for computers which does not have hardware capable of 3D acceleration. Today a PPA containing the packages for Unity 2D has been created for early adopters to test it. The package itself is called Unity-Qt and the PPA contains packages for both Maverick and Natty.

Before you install it, keep in mind that this is an experimental package and could cause problems. So, install it only if you are willing to take that risk and cannot wait to see the new UI.

So, to install Unity 2D, open the Terminal (Applications > Accessories > Terminal). Then add the PPA with the command below:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unity-2d-team/unity-2d-daily

After that update the software list.

$ sudo apt-get update

Finally install Unity-Qt.

$ sudo apt-get install unity-qt-default-settings

After the installation, log out from your current session. In the login screen, you will see “Unity Qt” in a drop-down menu. Pick that and login again. You should have the new UI now.

And if you run into a bug, you can report it here.

Ubuntu 11.04 Will Have A 2D Version Of Unity

As you may be already aware, Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal” will have Unity as the default interface. Unity in Natty is powered by Compiz and that will requires a graphics card capable of 3D acceleration. So, there were apprehensions that the new interface will not work with older hardware. It was suggested (and generally believed) that in the older hardware, it will fall back to the normal panel based interface.

This question was raised in Ask Ubuntu and none other than Mark Shuttleworth himself answered it. According to Shuttleworth, there will be a 2D version of Unity for those systems which are not capable of 3D acceleration. He also pointed to a blog post by Bill Filler, Software Engineer and Engineering Manager at Canonical, for more details.

Curiously, the blog post has been removed now. Did Filler jump the gun on this one? We do not know yet.

Anyway, according to the blog post, the 2D version of Unity is implemented using Qt/QML. Filler also noted that the 2D version is important not just for the older computers but many ARM devices as well.

This is what Bill Filler wrote:

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.

The software is implemented using Qt/QML for the UI portions of Unity, while utilizing the existing Unity core components, like indicators, bamf, dee, uTouch and places.

This will ensure that the Ubuntu desktops maintains uniformity and should come as good new to many.

[via: OMG!UBUNTU!]

Compiz To Live On With Unity

When GNOME 3 was announced, a redesign of the desktop was proposed. It was decided that the traditional panel based desktop will be replaced by a new user interface called the GNOME Shell.

GNOME Shell is a whole new take on the concept of the desktop and Compiz, one of the most amazing Windows managers (at least in terms of eye candy), had no place in GNOME Shell. KDE SC too already have their own windows manager, KWin, to provide most of the bling that Compiz provided. It seemed that Compiz was doomed to become “a project without a cause”.

Well, Mark Shuttleworth made an announcement which ensures that Compiz will live on. In the Ubuntu Developer Summit – Natty, while announcing that Ubuntu 11.04 Desktop will come with the Unity interface, he also announced that Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 will use Compiz.

Currently, Unity is available in Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It is based on Mutter, the same technology which GNOME Shell uses. Unity in UNE 10.10 is heavily criticized for a lot of things –  from being too confusing to being slow. According to Canonical, Unity’s slowness is because of Mutter and Mutter is not capable of providing a good enough performance. So, for the next release they will replace mutter with Compiz.

It is good to know that Compiz finally has a proper backing. Although, I have never been a fan of Compiz, it is one of those things which attracts a lot of people to Linux.


Unity Gets New Application Menu – Looks Awesome!

Unity – the interface for Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10, has been undergoing a great deal of development and the testing PPA has received a new update.

This update improves the application access menu. which was non-existent before, and oh boy it looks amazing. Instead of describing it, here is a screenshot:

(Click on the image to see the full size)

There are still  some issues with the interface. For example, the search does not seem to work. However, this will be fixed in time for the final release in September.

What do you think about the new Unity application menu?

In case you want to give it a go, you can install Unity in Lucid as described here.

Unity – New Netbook Interface For Ubuntu

Today Mark Shuttleworth announced a new interface for Ubuntu Netbook Edition – Unity. The main focus of Unity are maximization of screen resource, mainly the vertical pixel, and making it suitable for touch-screen devices.

This is what Shuttleworth wrote about Unity:

The desktop screenshots we studied showed that people typically have between 3 and 10 launchers on their panels, for rapid access to key applications. We want to preserve that sense of having a few favorite applications that are instantly accessible. Rather than making it equally easy to access any installed application, we assume that almost everybody will run one of a few apps, and they need to switch between those apps and any others which might be running, very easily.

We focused on maximising screen real estate for content. In particular, we focused on maximising the available vertical pixels for web browsing. Netbooks have screens which are wide, but shallow. Notebooks in general are moving to wide screen formats. So vertical space is more precious than horizontal space.

We also want to embrace touch as a first class input. We want people to be able to launch and switch between applications using touch, so the launcher must be finger friendly.

The changes introduced in Unity are:

The bottom panel moved to the left of the screen

The bottom panel has been moved to the left of the screen and it devoted for launching and switching between applications. This frees up vertical space at the cost of horizontal space, as most netbooks nowadays uses widescreen displays.

Left-hand launcher expands so that it is touch-friendly

The left-hand launcher panel will be expanded so that it is touch-friendly. The Unity launcher will show what’s running, and support fast switching and drag-and-drop between applications.

Top-panel will use Global Menu

The top panel will use the global menu that we wrote about sometimes back.

If you want, you can  get a  preview Unity in Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx as well.