Ubuntu / Linux news and application reviews.

The latest Unity from BZR got two very interesting new features: shortcut hints overlay and new launcher switcher.

The keyboard shortcut hints overlay (a list of Unity keyboard shortcuts that nicely blends in with the desktop by using the same Dash style) is displayed when pressing and holding the SUPER key. Here's a screenshot:

ubuntu keyboard shortcut hints overlay unity

If your computer has a very small screen (like my 10" netbook), the new keyboard shortcut hints overlay won't show up though.

Another cool new feature is a so called "launcher switcher" which you can use to switch between applications via the Unity Launcher using SUPER + TAB. Here's how it works (via Launchpad):

- Pressing SUPER+TAB opens the Launcher (if it is closed), and highlights the top icon in the Launcher.
- Each time TAB is pressed while SUPER is held down the highlight moves one icon downwards.
- Holding down SHIFT at the same time as also holding SUPER and pressing TAB moves the highlight one icon upwards (SHIFT means the direction is reversed)
- The visual style of the highlight is exactly the same as the Alt+F1 highlight.
- Releasing the SUPER key performs the equivalent action to left clicking on the highlighted Launcher icon (e.g. if the app is not running, releasing the SUPER launches that app.

The keyboard shortcuts (SUPER + TAB and SHIFT + SUPER + TAB for reverse direction) can of course be changed via CompizConfig Settings Manager. In fact, I've used ALT + TAB in the video below which lets you see both the new launcher switcher and keyboard shortcut hints overlay features in action:

There are a few issues with the new launcher switcher for now though, like Owais Lone points out in this bug report - for instance, there is no way to stop the switcher without selecting something if you initiate it -, but this feature has just been implemented so they should be fixed later on.

The launcher switcher and shortcut hints overlay only work in Unity 3D for now and haven't landed in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin yet, but are available to test via the Unity Team Staging PPA.

These two cool features were implemented by Andrea Azzarone and Marco Trevisan (thanks!)