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Unity 2D Removed from Ubuntu 12.10

Unity 2D, the light-weight counterpart to Ubuntu’s Unity interface, has been retired from Ubuntu 12.10.

In an update released yesterday Unity 2D was removed and users set to auto-login to the session transitioned over to regular Unity.

The 2D version of Unity has been used as a fallback for users whose computers lack sufficient graphical grunt to run the ‘3D’ version.

The Same Unity for Everyone

So why the change? And what does it mean for you?

In Ubuntu 12.10 everyone* will be able to use ‘regular’ Unity – Unity 3D.

Those lacking sufficient graphic grunt will get a hardware accelerated interface powered by the OpenGL rasterizer LLVMpipe, whilst anyone with a capable graphics card will see that utilised.

LLVMPipe makes Unity 2D surplus to requirements; if everyone can run regular Unity then there is no need to invest energy in maintaining a separate version.

But there’s more to this move than simply seeking to ‘cut the cruft': it’s about unifying the desktop experience for everyone.

Unity 2D – Great While it Lasted

For the last few releases of Ubuntu Unity 2D has been used as a fallback for computers lacking sufficient graphical grunt to run the ‘3D’ version.

This was a great idea: it allowed lower-specc’d computers (and the battery conscious) to use Unity and many of its features without needing to upgrade their laptop (or battery!)

But note that I said ‘many of its features‘ and not ‘all of its features‘.

Unity 2D, for all its brilliance, was more than a lighter version of Unity built in Qt: it was an entirely standalone version. The launcher could be run under GNOME-Shell; the panel could be used in LXDE, etc.

And this modularity meant that the user experiences between the two versions weren’t always identical. Whilst it had many of Unity’s features – like the Dash and Quicklists – it wasn’t able to have them all. 

But this change solves that.

In Ubuntu 12.10 onwards there will no longer be disparity between the two Unity camps. Developers won’t need to worry about breakage in their apps between the two version; and users can look forward to getting the same experience, the same features, and the same Unity regardless of whether their graphics card is a dedicated wonder or an anaemic integrated chip.

*As long as Ubuntu’s minimum system requirements are met.

How will this impact on performance? Does Unity work as well on lower spec computers as Unity 2D did? We’ll be taking a look at that in the coming weeks…