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Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal final

After the usual 6 months of development, Ubuntu 11.04 has finally been released. I usually start these posts with "there haven't been any major or ground-breaking changes" but this time pretty much everything is new with the introduction of Unity as the default interface. Since we've been writing about the new features in Ubuntu 11.04 constantly, in this post we'll only talk about the major new features. Read on!

Here is a video demoing the most important new features in Ubuntu 11.04:

(for more videos, check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page)

Unity default

Ubuntu 11.04 doesn't come with GNOME 3 / GNOME Shell (in fact it's not even available in the repositories but only in a PPA) and instead it comes with an interface designed especially for Ubuntu called Unity (based on GNOME 2.x). Unity was already default in Ubuntu 10.10 netbook edition but besides being default for the desktop edition (the netbook edition doesn't exist anymore starting with 11.04), it was also completely re-written and now uses Compiz.

That means you can use Compiz with Unity / Ubuntu 11.04 and in fact Unity needs Compiz to run.

Unity consists on multiple parts - Dash, launcher and top panel:

- Dash - which is basically the menu and you can find it in three places: clicking the Ubuntu logo on the top left corner or clicking the Applications or Files & Folders icons on the Unity launcher and unlike a regular menu, it can be used to search for files too.




Right clicking the Applications icon:


- Launcher - the "dock" on the left on which the running applications are displayed:

Unity launcher

- the top panel (which is not a regular GNOME panel).

To configure Unity you must use CompizConfig Settings Manager which is not installed by default (search for it in the Ubuntu Software Center). In CompizConfig Settings Manager you'll find a "Unity" plugin under which you can tweak the Unity launcher reveal mode screen corner to trigger it (the Unity launcher is set to "dodge windows" by default), change some various keyboard shortcuts as well as some experimental, more advanced features like panel opacity, launcher icon size and more:

CCSM Ubuntu 11.04

CompizConfig Settings Manager Ubuntu 11.04

In Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, the notification area (systray) only works for a few applications: Skype, Wine apps, Java and about 2 more. In the future, the notification area will be removed completely and replaced with appindicators - most applications that used to use the systray already have appindicator support. And for those that don't, you can re-enable the systray for all applications if you want.

AppMenu (Global Menu)

If you use Unity (this is not default for the classic Ubuntu desktop - see below), you'll find that AppMenu (global menu) is enabled by default. This means the menu is not displayed in the application window but on the top panel and also, it comes with autohide enabled by default. You can also reveal the menu by holding the ALT key.

For an unmaximized window, the window title is displayed on the panel and hovering the window title, the AppMenu is displayed:

AppMenu Ubuntu 11.04

For maximized windows, things are a bit different: the window titlebar is removed and the panel takes over its functions as well as the AppMenu: the minimize, maximize and close buttons are displayed on the panel and the same for the window title and when hovered, the menu is displayed:

Ubuntu 11.04 appmenu

Overlay scrollbars

Overlay scrollbars

A new addition to Ubuntu 11.04 (both Unity and the classic Ubuntu desktop) is the use of overlay scrollbars by default, but not for all applications (because not all apps support it yet).

The overlay scrollbars are partially hidden scrollbars that become visible when you move your mouse over the side where the scrollbar should be.

Ubuntu classic - fallback mode for computers not able to run Unity and for those who don't want to use Unity

Don't like Unity? Fear not! The classic GNOME desktop is still available as an option in the login screen - select "Classic Ubuntu":

Ubuntu 11.04 classic desktop

Also, if your hardware cannot run Unity, you will see the classic Ubuntu desktop instead of Unity once you log in:

Classic Ubuntu 11.04 desktop

The Classic Ubuntu session in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal looks basically the same as in Ubuntu 10.10: two GNOME panels, the same menu, no AppMenu by default and so on (except for overlay scrollbars - these are default on the Classic Desktop too).

Default applications

Banshee LibreOffice Ubuntu 11.04

Two default applications have been replaced in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal: Banshee is now the default music player, replacing Rhythmbox and LibreOffice has replaced OpenOffice.

Here are the versions in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal for the important applications / packages: Nautilus 2.32.2, Firefox 4.0, Shotwell 0.9.2, Empathy 2.34.0, Banshee 2.0, LibreOffice 3.3.2, Evolution 2.32.2, Gwibber, Totem 2.32.2, Compiz 0.9.4, GDM 2.32.1, GRUB 1.99 RC1, Linux Kernel 2.6.38 (yes, with the "wonder 200 lines" patch now included by default), X.org Server 1.10 and Mesa 7.10.1 - all on top of GNOME 2.32.1.

Other changes

There lots of other changes in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. Here are a few more worth mentioning:

- You can now upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 using the Live CD (and doing so, you can keep your settings):

Ubuntu 11.04 upgrade

- Ubuntu Software Center now supports ratings and reviews:

Ubuntu Software Center ratings reviews

- Ubuntu One control panel has a brand new design:

Ubuntu one

And many many other changes that I could never cover in a single post. For more detailed insights to Ubuntu 11.04, see our previous posts: beta 2, beta 1, alpha 3, alpha 2, alpha 1.

Unity 2D (Qt)

This is not available in the default Ubuntu 11.04 installation, but it really deserves a mention: if you want to use Unity but your computer does not support it or simply want something lighter, there's a non-Compiz Unity available in the Ubuntu 11.04 repositories. This looks and behaves like the regular Unity (more or less) but it should work on any computer:

Unity 2D

Unity 2D

I didn't make a video with Unity 2D for the final Ubuntu 11.04 release but you can watch an Ubuntu 11.04 beta 2 video of Unity 2D below (recorded on my netbook):

If you want to install Unity 2D, simply search for it in Ubuntu Software Center and then select Unity 2D in the login screen session.

Download / upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal

If you've installed Ubuntu 11.04 alpha or beta and kept upgrading using the Update Manager, you already have the final Ubuntu 11.04 version.

Starting with Ubuntu 11.04, it's very easy to upgrade even if you don't have an Internet connection, as long as you have an Ubuntu 11.04 CD - see the following for both upgrading using a LIVE cd or the regular upgrade: How To Upgrade To Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal (With Or Without An Internet Connection)

Download Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal | Direct Bittorrent download links: 32bit | 64bit.

Also check out the Ubuntu homepage for download links and some info on the new release (use CTRL + R / CTRL + F5 in your browser if you still see the old layout).

Are you using Ubuntu 11.04 already? What's your impression so far?