Unity 8 Session Available at Ubuntu Login Screen

It’s now possible to login to a Unity 8 session in the latest development builds of Ubuntu 14.04.

Well, in theory that is. More on that further down.

It has long been the plan to offer a ‘developer preview’ of Unity 8, running on Canonical’s in-house display server Mir, in the next desktop release of Ubuntu. But the packages providing this feature have only been made available for users to install this week.

The optional login aims to give users of the upcoming Ubuntu release an easy way to access, evaluate and toy with the Unity 8 interface ahead of its tentative arrival by default in Ubuntu 14.10 later this year.

Preview By Name, Preview By Nature

Once the ‘unity8-desktop-session-mir‘ package is installed, users are able to login to a Unity8-Mir session from the Unity Greeter as they would any other desktop environment.

But unlike other desktop environments Unity 8 is not going to be a fantastic experience for Joe User; the word ‘preview’ in the title is a loud, cautious warning.

Whilst we have yet to get it to work, underlining the ‘Preview’ nature of the session, we’ve been able to glean a few details from those who have.

Current Drawbacks

‘Mir and Unity 8 have limited support for running regular desktop applications at present’

Firstly the big caveat is that this is the Tablet UI stretched to fit a desktop. It is not tailored to, nor optimised for, traditional desktop use. That work will only begin in the next cycle.

Both Mir and Unity 8 have, at present, limited support for running regular desktop applications.

There are also outstanding issues with traditional input devices like keyboard, trackpads and mice. Developers are advising anyone trying it out in its current incarnation to do so on a touch-enabled device.

Finally, the Unity 8 preview lacks an easy way to log out of the session. In most cases users will need to do a hard reboot of their system.

Install Unity 8 Desktop Session

The Unity 8 preview session will be available through the Ubuntu Software Centre in the coming days.

Those already running the latest builds of Ubuntu 14.04 (currently in development) with the trusty-proposed repositories enabled can opt to install it now, but should be aware of the outstanding issues listed above.

To install through the command line open a new Terminal session and run:

sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir
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