We’re just a few short weeks away from the final Ubuntu 21.10 release, but first things first: a beta.

Yes, Ubuntu 21.10 beta is now available to download. Developers and non-developers alike can go hands on with the “Impish Indri” to try it out ahead of a stable release on October 14, 2021.

Those who install the Ubuntu 21.10 beta can upgrade to the final version (when it arrives) just by installing all updates — and I do mean all — as they arrive down the chute.

Intro out of the way, let’s take a look at what’s new!

Ubuntu 21.10 Beta Features

‘Activities’ has a new look in GNOME 40

If you keep pace with Ubuntu 21.10 development by reading this site you will already have a good idea of what Ubuntu 21.10 offers. If you haven’t?

Well, you’re in for a few treats!

New dock divider and trash can

Ubuntu 21.10’s headline change is the inclusion of GNOME 40 and its new horizontal workflow.

The ‘Activities’ overview is now both a window picker and a workspace switcher. You can get to the screen by clicking the ‘activities’ label in the top bar, or by single-tapping the Super key.

The Ubuntu Dock is still present on the left-hand side of the screen at all time and it has two new items: a trash can and a separator.

The separator divides pinned apps from running apps. The trash can …Well, that shouldn’t need explaining (unless you’re very new to computers). A new setting is available in Settings > Appearance lets you choose which monitor the dock shows up on.

Clicking the grid icon at the bottom of the Ubuntu Dock opens a new-look Application Launcher. Like the Activities and workspaces screen this also pages horizontally (i.e. left/right), and includes interactive thumbnails of active workspaces:

The new horiztonal app launcher

New trackpad gestures are also available for entering/exiting the overview, switching workspaces, and moving between pages in the app launcher.

Ubuntu 21.10 wears the Yaru Light theme by default. The old ‘mixed’ version is no longer available. The theme changes are reflected in the Appearance settings panel, which offers just two choices: light or dark.

Other visual tweaks include a new default wallpaper, a pair of photos wallpapers chosen by the community, and a couple of updated app icons.

And then there were two…

Updated versions of core software are naturally included, such as Mozilla Firefox 93, Thunderbird 91, and the latest LibreOffice 7.2.1 point release.

No major surprise there; Ubuntu always carries the latest stable versions.

What may surprise some is finding out that Firefox is now a Snap app. Although the pre-beta build I tried also came with the repo version of the famed browser installed, the plan is for the Firefox Snap version to be the one and only default next month.

On the subject of Snaps, the Software Snap app (a fork of GNOME Software) has been bumped to version 40. Aside from scoring some (much needed) performance tweaks the uplift also introduces a new sidebar. I’m not 100% this works as a look (upstream GNOME Software doesn’t use a sidebar) but full marks for trying something different!

The updated Snap Store

The software quirks don’t end there, either as Ubuntu 21.10 includes a some GNOME 41 apps: Calendar, System Monitor, and GNOME Disk Utility.

Why these? I don’t know, but it’s great to have them, especially as this version of Calendar adds support for .ics importing and allows the app to be set as the default calendar app — something that previously required editing a hidden file!

A few outliers

The Nautilus file manager gains a couple of new features as part of its uplift, including built-in .zip extraction (which also supports password-protected .zip files), better file conflict resolution, and a simplified preferences panel.

Summary

Ubuntu 21.10 brings the GNOME 40 desktop more people, albeit with an Ubuntu twist. The fit isn’t perfect (the Activities screen looks off balance, and workspace pods lack their drop shadows) but it’s a solid attempt at adapting GNOME 40’s horizontal workflow to suits Ubuntu’s identity.

Complimenting the UI uplift is a fresher assortment of software, Wayland support for NVIDIA hardware users, new multi-touch gestures, and the Linux 5.13 kernel. The release may be named Impish but there’s no mischief at hand; Ubuntu 21.10 is shaping up to be a solid release.

Download Ubuntu 21.10 Beta

You can download Ubuntu 21.10 from the Ubuntu release server by clicking the big orange button. This will snag the latest beta .iso (weighing in at an iconic 3.1 GB).

Download Ubuntu 21.10 Beta (64-bit .iso)

Download News beta GNOME 40 Impish Indri Ubuntu 21.10