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Ubuntu 11.04 Released, Reviewed

It’s finally here: Ubuntu 11.04 is available for download.

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The “big talking point” of this release has been the switch from the traditional GNOME desktop to Unity – Canonical’s (originally) netbook-orientated interface.

Sporting a left-sided launcher, slick new ‘lenses’ for application browsing and launching, putting ‘application menus’ in the desktop panel, and retiring the traditional notification/system tray area, it’s all too easy to feel scared or uneasy about switching to Ubuntu 11.04.

But don’t.

The interface has been designed by experts; the interface has undergone user testing and the features implemented are designed to make using your computer easier, not harder. Sure it’s different – but different doesn’t mean bad; the best thing to do is to give it a chance.

If you’re coming to Ubuntu without baggage then welcome aboard – you’re going to love your journey!

New Features

With an entirely new interface present in Ubuntu 11.04 listing all of the ‘new features’ present would be an exhaustive task. We put together a neat over-view page of Unity that better explains many of the key new features in detail.

You can read that @ omgubuntu.co.uk/natty

Software

As usual Ubuntu ships with a tonne of software pre-installed. There are a few changes to the line-up over the previous release of Ubuntu, but nothing too drastic.

For office-suite needs Ubuntu comes with the Microsoft Office compatible LibreOffice suite. This is a capable suite of applications that, whilst not blending with the native look of Ubuntu too well, remain a desktop must-have.

Shotwell photo manager and editor is present. Recently updated the application lets you ad, tag and sort your photos easily. Of note is the social network publishing support for Flickr, Facebook, etc. This works flawlessly once set up.

As with releases past all users are eligible for 2GB of free Ubuntu One cloud storage. Setting up and managing this feature is made much easier in Ubuntu 11.04 thanks to the streamlined, albeit OS X-esque ‘Ubuntu One Control Panel’.

The default music player is now the insanely popular Banshee media player. This puts integrated Amazon MP3 and 7Digital music stores right on your desktop, provides Sound Menu integration and, to be superficial, finally gifts Ubuntu with a modern, looking music player.

The Ubuntu Software Centre is available, making installation of thousands of apps available via ‘one click’. New to the store in 11.04 is the addition of user-submitted application ratings and reviews. A much longed for, and very helpful, aid in deciding whether something is worth installing or not.

The default browser has been bumped up to Firefox 4; Evolution remains the desktop e-mail application of choice; and

Conclusion

Ubuntu 11.04 with its new interface is certainly what many would call a ‘game changer’. Making better use of screen space, intuitive interface layouts and, most importantly, making a desktop that works for the user and not in spite of them.

Ubuntu was once dubbed ‘Linux for human beings’. Spend a few minutes using Unity and that slogan will never have sounded truer.