Users of Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 can now once again install the pre-Unity Ubuntu Netbook Interface thanks to some repackaging magic by Martin ‘Doctor Mo’ Owens.

netbook-launcher in ubuntu 11.04
netbook-launcher in ubuntu 11.04

Now disused, the two-pane netbook interface will likely be a familiar sight to many Linux users due to its timely development during the “boom” of the netbook era.

This “epoch of big buttoned interfaces” saw many iterations and variations olong the same theme: make maximum use of space on a small screen. It was, arguably, the final iteration of the Ubuntu Netbook Launcher that best suited this. Its simple and visually pretty layout combined with easily accessible icons and clever use of window border/task switching made it the nicest and most intuitive netbook experience around.

Martin Owens, who has once again made the launcher available for installation in post-Unity releases, is also a fan, writing: –

“I always liked the netbook-launcher, I always put it on other people’s computers (especially for the elderly who need big icons) because it filled the screen and everything was right there on the desktop.”

So what happened to it? Unity.

Unity in ideas

Ubuntu 10.10 saw a rethink about how best to provide an enjoyable computing experience whilst making the best possible use of available screen estate. The result was the Ubuntu Unity interface, and when it became the official default ‘netbook’ interface for Ubuntu 10.10. the original ‘netbook-launcher’ was retired although the enlightenment-based “2D” version of it, netbook-launcher-efl, was retained and available for installation.

Viva la yeolde-netbook-launcher

Why the sudden rebirth? It comes down to that age old thing called need.

Writing on his blog Owens gives the story: –

“It wasn’t really available in maverick until tonight, when prompted by a friend who is delivering 10 new Ubuntu computers to the local working-class community.

The plan had always been to use the netbook interface and the machines won’t run Unity. So here’s where I step in, I downloaded the Lucid code for liblauncher and netbook-launcher and have fixed the …errors and published the results on a new PPA.”


And that PPA, which publishes packages for Ubuntu 11.04 as well as Ubuntu 10.10, can be found at: –

Once added you’ll want to install the ‘yeold-netbook-launcher’ package.

As with all PPAs do not add and install from it without first understanding what you’re installing and whether or not you really need it do so.


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