Last year’s Ubuntu 20.10 release will be followed by Ubuntu 21.04, which is due for release on April 22, 2021.

Discover when Ubuntu 21.04 will be released and what new features it will include

With development on Ubuntu 21.04 nearing its end we have a good idea of what to expect from the release Ubuntu developers have dubbed the “Hirsute Hippo”.

In this post we rundown everything we know so far, including when Ubuntu 21.04 will be released, how long it’ll be supported for, and what new features and core changes it is likely to include.

Plus, we also give you the link to download Ubuntu 21.04 daily builds if you want to try the release out ahead of its Stable release in the spring.

Ubuntu 21.04 ‘Hirsute Hippo’

A Hirsute Hippo

The Ubuntu 21.04 codename is ‘Hirsute Hippo’. There’s not an awful lot of subtext we can glean from the codename, but such a vivid and imaginative adjective + animal combo will ensure that the mascot art and new wallpapers is suitably iconic!

Ubuntu 21.04 will be supported for 9 months with on-going core bug fixes, security patches, and new app releases. Support will end in January 2022, and the recommend ‘upgrade’ path will be to Ubuntu 21.10. It is a short-term support release.

Fact fans may be interested to know that 21.04 is the 24th Ubuntu release overall, and the third version to be named after an animal beginning with the letter ‘H’ — can you name the other two? Answers in the comments, folks! 😊

Ubuntu 21.04: Release Date

The Ubuntu 21.04 release date is April 22, 2021. This date is listed on Launchpad, the home of Ubuntu development, along with dates for other key development milestones.

A quick overview of the Hirsute Hippo release schedule:

  • Feature Freeze: February 25, 2021
  • UI Freeze: March 18, 2021
  • Ubuntu 21.04 Beta: April 1, 2021
  • Kernel Freeze: April 8, 2021
  • Release Candidate: April 15, 2021

These dates are (as ever) subject to change.

Ubuntu 21.04: New Features

GNOME 40 screenshot of the app launcher
GNOME 40 Alpha

Chances are you came here to find out what new features Ubuntu 21.04 will bring — but we’re going to start with a couple of things you definitely WON’T find in Hirsute.

First up: Ubuntu 21.04 will NOT include GNOME 40. While new Ubuntu releases typically include the newest GNOME release, this time it won’t. GNOME 40 features some dramatic design changes and Ubuntu devs feel they need more time to ‘adapt’ to the changes than is available.

Secondly, there’ll be no GTK4 in Ubuntu 21.04 either, at least not by default. GTK3 will remain king. This is less of a surprise as there aren’t an awful lot of apps currently using GTK4 (at the time of writing), with the majority of the GNOME stack yet to migrate.

New versions of GNOME apps such as Nautilus (file manager), Calendar, and To-Do are not going to be bumped up from their respective 3.38.x point builds — so don’t expect any major change in this over that present in 20.10.

If you really do want to try GNOME 40 on Ubuntu 21.04 your best hope is to hold out for a PPA packaging it to appear. This is likely as it will give Ubuntu developers the chance to test and iterate on upstream changes in-situ ahead of the next Ubuntu release, Ubuntu 21.10.

We’ll (naturally) let you know the moment such GNOME 40 PPA appears, so stay tuned.

A Modest Collection of Changes

gnome shell ubuntu dark mode comparison
Light before, dark now

As we covered recently, Ubuntu 21.04 makes the home folder private by default. This long overdue change ensures new Ubuntu installs are as safe and secure as they can be for users, with non-encrypted home folders no longer ‘world readable’.

Ubuntu developers have announced that Ubuntu 21.04 will use Wayland by default to allow broader testing ahead of the next LTS.

It’s also been decided that GNOME Shell in Hirsute will default to a dark theme, though applications will continue to sport the ‘mixed’ GTK theme of light widgets and dark header bars.

These and other changes to expect in Ubuntu 21.04:

  • Wayland as default session
  • Private home directory
  • Linux 5.11 kernel
  • Dark theme by default
  • LibreOffice 7.1
  • Python 3.9 by default
  • ZFS improvements
  • New wallpaper

We update this post regularly, as often as new features are revealed and other changes occur. If there’s a change we’ve missed let us know!

Outside Hopes

Hirsute could be a great time to rectify long-standing issues within the current Ubuntu experience. For instance, the Desktop Icons extension lacks essential features like drag and drop. A superior third-party extension is available. Could Ubuntu devs switch to that instead?

Sticking with Desktop Icons, I find jarring the lack of animation/transition when opening the Activities overview or Applications grid. The desktop icons blink in/out. It looks fairly janky.

What change or improvement would you make in the next Ubuntu release?

Download Ubuntu 21.04

You can download Ubuntu 21.04 right now, though only as an unstable daily build. Daily builds of Ubuntu should are not final, stable, polished, or feature complete. They give you an easy way to check in with (and help test) upcoming releases but they should not be used as your primary OS.

Download Ubuntu 21.04 (64-bit .iso)

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