It’s not often that a brand new desktop environment can slip out under the radar, but that’s exactly what UKUI has done.
‘UKUI is developed by Ubuntu Kylin, the Chinese-language spin of Ubuntu’
UKUI is developed by Ubuntu Kylin, the official Chinese-language spin of Ubuntu. It aims to provide ‘a simpler and more enjoyable experience for browsing, searching, and managing your computer’.
UKUI saw its first release (in preview form) back in October [Chinese], where it popped out alongside the release of Unity-based Ubuntu Kylin 16.10.
Now plans are afoot to ship the desktop as default in Ubuntu Kylin 17.04, due in April.
As of writing (and some extensive Googling) it seems that no English-language blog has written about the UKUI desktop so I figured I would.
The UKUI Desktop Environment
Ubuntu Kylin have always tried to be more than just a localised version of Ubuntu. Its developers have worked hard to craft an Ubuntu spin that stands on its own merits.
It’s thanks to Kylin developers that we can move the Unity launcher to the bottom of the screen (a feature they implemented to evoke the Windows UI paradigm).
It’s perhaps no surprise that they’ve gone one step further to craft their own custom desktop environment.
What Is UKUI?
UKUI (Ubuntu Kylin User Interface) is a fork of the MATE desktop (itself a fork from the code base of GNOME 2) that has been redesigned, retuned and rejigged to resemble — sharp intake of breath — Microsoft’s Windows 7.
‘UKUI is a MATE desktop fork with custom start menu, task bar, and more’
Now, that’s not me being lazy with a comparison; the Kylin devs say the desktop is designed to provide a ‘familiar Windows-style layout’ (based specifically on Windows 7) so as to ‘cater the needs of Chinese users and enhance the user experience’.
The UKUI desktop doesn’t look like stock MATE. There’s a new start menu (app launcher) position on the left-hand side of a Windows-Inspired task bar. This launch is now an exact clone of its Windows counterpart, but does a good enough job of seeming similar enough, complete with big user avatar, live searching, and the ability to ‘pin’ popular apps to the top of the menu.
Elsewhere there’s a refined control panel to make configuring things a little easier, and the login screen and screensaver sport new, custom designs.
Pulling it all together is new desktop theme that evokes the feeling of Redmond’s latest release (and, yes, is available in a variety of bright colours).
The UKUI file manager Peony is be a customised fork of Caja that owes most of its looks to Windows Explorer:
When combined with the rest of the Kylin app suite, which includes (an optional download of) Microsoft Office clone WPS Office among others, it’s fair to say that it looks like a compelling clone experience.
The preview version the UKUI desktop looked a little more …Windows-y, with white line art system tray icons, frosted task bar accents, and better theming of the file manager.
Because most of the core dependencies and packages are forks it is possible to install UKUI on Ubuntu alongside the MATE desktop without encountering any major conflicts or issues.
Install UKUI On Ubuntu
Co-operation with MATE?
UKUI is currently pending packaging for Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zapus, though questions have been raised as to whether all of the forked packages are entirely necessary, and whether some cooperation with MATE is possible.
‘Chinese users are more familiar with interfaces similar to Windows’, say Kylin
“Most Chinese users are more familiar with interfaces similar to Windows,” Kylin’s Jianfeng ‘Handsome Feng’ Li explains.
“We reimplemented key interfaces such as menu, indicator, panel, control center and screensaver. In these packages, ukui-menu and ukui-indicator are almost rewrited (sic) by us. In Peony and the screensaver, we changed the main layout and appearance of them.“
“The rest of the packages have changed a little but we will keep developing.”
Kylin say they they’ve made ‘many many code and configuration changes from MATE’ and do not feel that these are ‘consistent with the design of MATE’
Meet the Linux desktop environment inspired by Windows 7
Download Preview Version
Want to try it out? You can.
An older version of UKUI ships as part of the Ubuntu Kylin 16.04 preview (which you need to be aware is a short-term release). This can be downloaded directly from here (but be aware that the language defaults to Chinese).
UKUI PPA for Ubunu 16.10 & 17.04
You can install the full suite of UKUI on Ubuntu 16.10 and Ubuntu 17.04 from the following PPA> Keep in mind that this PPA is not officially supported, so if anything goes wrong you’ll need to fix it yourself.
To add the PPA open a new Terminal window and run:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntukylin-members/ukui
To install the UKUI desktop run:
sudo apt update && sudo apt install ukui-desktop-environment