Ubuntu 21.10 was released on October 14, 2021. In this post we run through the new features and key changes the update comes with.
There’s plenty to see, including 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 more information on the Ubuntu 21.10 release cycle, 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.
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 ends July 2022, and the recommend ‘upgrade’ path will be to Ubuntu 22.04 LTS.
Fact fans will no doubt know that 21.10 is the 25th Ubuntu release since 2004 and the second version to be named after an animal beginning with the letter ‘I’. Can you recall the other Ubuntu release beginning with ‘I’? I’ll save you rummaging through your memory: it was Ubuntu 8.10 ‘Intrepid Ibex’ back in 2008.
Ubuntu 21.10: Release Date
Ubuntu 21.10 downloads went live on October 14, 2021. This date is the official release date, as listed on Launchpad, the home of Ubuntu development.
Prior to release Ubuntu 21.10 checks off a series of development milestones. These make 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
You came here to learn more about the features Ubuntu 21.10 offers, so let’s get in to it.
Ubuntu 21.10 uses GNOME 40 as its default desktop experience, and not the latest GNOME 41 release. This introduces a new horizontal workspace switcher and revamped application launcher. These changes look more dramatic than they feel; I adapted to the switch from vertical workspaces to horizontal fairly quickly.
Since logging into an upstream GNOME 40 session delivers you to the ‘activities’ screen and not the desktop, Ubuntu devs patche this behaviour out. Thus, logging in to Ubuntu 21.10 takes you straight to the desktop.
New multitouch gestures are included that make it easier to enter/exit the workspace switcher, and are only available in the Wayland session by default.
Ubuntu fans will be relieved to see Ubuntu 21.10 still includes the Ubuntu Dock on the left side of the screen. Ubuntu developers made several upstream contributions to GNOME Shell to make sure the Ubuntu Dock work well with GNOME 40.
The Ubuntu Dock in Ubuntu 21.10 now has a persistent trash can icon (it was previously included as a desktop shortcut). USB drive shortcuts now appear in the dock rather than on the desktop itself. The dock also shows a separator between pinned and running (but not pinned) apps.
Ubuntu’s community-based design team made Yaru Light the default theme in Impish, citing effort issues in maintaining the current ‘mixed’ versions. Those preferring a dark look can select it from the ‘Appearance’ panel in the Settings app:
This isn’t the only Yaru theme change shipping in this release but the rest are rather subtle, especially if you haven’t used Ubuntu before. There are a handful of updated icons, and some fine-tuning to bring the theme inline with upstream Adwaita.
Zstd compression is —years later than planned— enabled for the main archive. This makes Ubuntu 21.10 installs faster than 21.04 installs (on paper, anyhow).
Wayland can now be used on systems with proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers.
The latest version of Pipewire is included to make screensharing apps (among others) more useful with Wayland. Pipewire is still not used as the default audio system, though. Ubuntu 21.10 ships PulseAudio 15 by default for that.
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 on new installs. The regular repo version of Firefox is available in Impish and will be supported/updated for the duration of the 21.10 cycle.
Although GNOME 41 isn’t present a handful of GNOME 41 apps are, including Calendar app (which gains support for
.ics event imports and can be set as the default calendaring app), 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.