Ubuntu 21.10 was released on October 14, 2021. In this post we run what new features and key changes the update comes with.
And there’s plenty to see!
Changes in Ubuntu 21.10 include a new layout for workspace switching, a horizontal paging application launcher, a brighter default look, refreshed software stack, updated toolchain, and — of course — a new Linux kernel too.
Below you’ll also find information about the Ubuntu 21.10 release cycle, as well as how long the new release is supported for, and where you can download it from to try it out for yourself.
Ready to learn more?
Ubuntu 21.10 ‘Impish Indri’
The Ubuntu 21.10 codename is ‘Impish Indri’. The word “impish” means to “…do slightly naughty things for fun”, while an “indri” is a lemur native to Madagascar that spends the majority of its time up off the ground and in the trees.
It’s an apt codename given some of the changes present — but more on those in a minute.
A short-term support release, Ubuntu 21.10 is supported for 9 months with major bug fixes, critical security patches, and major new app releases. Support will end in July 2022. The recommend ‘upgrade’ path after this date will be to Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, due April 2022.
Fact fans will be interested to know that Ubuntu 21.10 is the 25th Ubuntu release since 2004. It’s also the second version to be named after an animal beginning with the letter ‘I’. Can you recall the other Ubuntu release beginning with ‘I’? To save you rummaging through your memory: it was Ubuntu 8.10 ‘Intrepid Ibex’.
Ubuntu 21.10: Release Date
As mentioned at the outset, the Ubuntu 21.10 release date is October 14, 2021.
But prior to the final release of Ubuntu 21.10 there were a series of development milestones that made up the Impish Indri development cycle:
- Feature Freeze: Aug 19, 2021
- UI Freeze: Sept 9, 2021
- Ubuntu 21.10 Beta: Sept 23, 2021
- Kernel Freeze: Sept 30, 2021
- Release Candidate: Oct 7, 2021
Ubuntu 21.10: New Features
On the meat in this info sandwich — namely what new features Ubuntu 21.10 offers.
The biggest change in Ubuntu Ubuntu 21.10 is the inclusion of GNOME 40 as the default desktop experience. While this is not the latest GNOME 41 release it’s still a substantial uplift that introduces a new horizontal workspace switcher and application launcher.
Logging into an upstream GNOME 40 session takes you to the ‘activities’ screen by default, and not the desktop itself. Ubuntu devs patch this behaviour out meaning that when you log in to Ubuntu 21.10 you go straight to the desktop.
New multitouch gestures make it easy to enter/exit the workspace switcher, and open the app launcher. Three finger swipe up, and a three finger swipe down. Note: the multi-touch gestures are only available in the (default) Wayland session by default.
Longtime Ubuntu fans will be relieved to see Ubuntu 21.10 still features the Ubuntu Dock on the left side of the screen. Ubuntu developers made several contributions to GNOME Shell to ensure the Ubuntu Dock works well with GNOME 40.
Additionally, the Ubuntu Dock in Ubuntu 21.10 now has a persistent trash can icon (previously included as a desktop shortcut), and USB drive shortcuts now appear in the dock rather than on the desktop itself. The dock also shows a divider between pinned apps and running (but not pinned) apps.
Ubuntu’s community-based design team have made Yaru Light the default theme in Impish, citing effort issues in maintaining the ‘mixed’ version previous versions of Ubuntu used. Those preferring a dark look can select one from the Appearance panel in the Settings app:
Switching to a light theme isn’t the only Yaru theme change shipping in this release but it’s probably the only one you’ll really notice. Other visual changes are altogether more subtle, ranging from updated icons, a new highlight style, and tuning to bring the theme inline with GNOME’s default Adwaita theme (on which Yaru is based).
The Linux 5.13 kernel is included. This introduces initial support for Apple’s new M1 processor, a handful of tweaks to the EXT4 filesystem, as well as support for the latest Microsoft Surface laptops, the Apple Magic Mouse 2, the GK6X mechanical keyboard family, and more.
Zstd compression is —years later than planned, mind— enabled for the main archive. This makes Ubuntu 21.10 installs faster than 21.04 installs (on paper, anyhow).
Users of proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers can now use the Ubuntu on Wayland session.
The latest version of Pipewire is included to make screensharing apps (among others) more useful with Wayland. However, Pipewire is still not default. Ubuntu 21.10 ships PulseAudio 15 by default for audio, gaining improved bluetooth audio codecs in the process.
Updated software includes LibreOffice 7.2, Thunderbird 91, and the latest version of the Firefox web browser. Of note, the Firefox Snap app is now the default for new installs (and apparently upgrades too). The regular repo version of Firefox is still available in Impish and will be supported/updated for the duration of the 21.10 cycle.
Although GNOME 41 isn’t present a selection of GNOME 41 apps are. This includes a new version of the desktop Calendar app (which gains support for
.ics event imports and can be set as the default calendaring app), as well as new versions of Characters, GNOME Disk Utility, Eye of GNOME (aka Image Viewer), and GNOME System Monitor.
These and other changes in Ubuntu 21.10: –
- GNOME 40 desktop by default
- Yaru light theme by default
- Firefox Snap by default
- Zstd compression for packages
- Wayland enabled for NVIDIA driver users
- Multitouch gestures
- Linux 5.13 kernel
- Updated theme and icons
A new Ubuntu installer is being developed alongside Ubuntu 21.10, built using Google’s Flutter SDK. The new installer boasts a cleaner design than the current Ubiquity installer. By starting over Ubuntu devs are able to include some additional steps in the install process, such as picking a theme preference.
It’s not clear when the new installer will be made default, but special “canary” builds are available if you want to test it early. It’s fully functional (I successfully installed Ubuntu 21.10 using it) but it has some rough edges and missing features, such as an installation slideshow to orient new users.
Note: if you run Ubuntu 21.04 you can upgrade to Ubuntu 21.10 directly, no need to download an ISO and perform a fresh install.