Ubuntu Unity Desktop Will Live Forever

Mark Shuttleworth made a shock announcement on 5th April that Canonical were abandoning mobile convergence and would therefore cease funding development of the Unity desktop Ubuntu 18

04 was to see the return of Gnome as the default desktop Some people were happy with the news, but there were quite a number of people who were rather saddened by it Despite all the criticism against Unity from the noisy minority, there was a silent majority who did enjoy using it In fact Gaming on Linux carried out a small survey and found Unity was the 3rd most popular desktop Ubuntu with Gnome desktop will be very different in terms of layout and behaviour to Unity

The Unity launcher will be gone, as will the global menu, heads up display or HUD, and the easy ability to search for files in the dash Just because funding for Unity has ended it does not mean the desktop will vanish, for example Canonical pulled funding from Kubuntu some years ago, yet the distro is going strong, having found new funding from Blue Systems However, I think getting new financial backing for Unity could be difficult, since Canonical stood the most chance of making convergence work in Linux, yet they failed to turn a profit due to lack of interest in the market But it does not mean the community can’t pick up the project and take it forward, and that is exactly what has happened for the newer Unity 8 desktop, in fact it has been forked twice, the first fork called Yunit is focusing on Desktop, and the other fork UBPorts is focusing on Mobile Both forks have significant work to carry out as Unity 8 was some way from being a finished product when Canonical pulled the funding

For one thing Unity 8 is well entwined with the Mir display server, which unfortunately never received support from any of the major Graphics card companies, and that forced Canonical to develop the entire display system themselves, which I suspect was no small undertaking As for Unity 7, the Desktop we have been used to for some years on Ubuntu Desktop and Laptop computers, well it uses Compiz and Gnome plug-ins, and there have been no forthcoming forks Although Canonical have said that Unity 7 will remain in the repositories Great, so no problem then? Well not exactly, Unity 7 with Compiz has not really been entirely stable, and thats as things stand now What happens when progression happens with Gnome, GTK, the Kernel, and X11

Oh and Compiz doesn’t work with Wayland display server, so its stuck with the ancient X11 Who can say what will happen, maybe things will be ok, but I’m going to guess at some point Unity 7 will fail with the newer versions of Ubuntu The current supported versions of Unity 7 are in Long Term Support releases of Ubuntu 1404 and 1604, which are supported until 2019 and 2021 respectively

And I suppose I should also mention that at time of recording its also supported in the interim release of Ubuntu 1704, but that is the final version So four years left with an officially supported version of Unity But won’t the system be very old and stale after so many years? Well you can upgrade the kernel using the Hardware Enablement Stack, and also utilise third party Launchpad repositories to install fresher newer software onto your computer Okay let us look at the alternative, having a Unity-like styled desktop from another distribution

For the past three years I have been using a Unity-like style in KDE and I absolutely love it I have the top panel shrunk to the right-hand side, and I allow applications to display underneath it, thereby maximising vertical space The application dashboard is very fast, responsive, and I would say superior to Unity dash It can search for both applications and documents Results for documents can be found with just one single letter or number as the search term

The left-hand panel is setup in the same style as the Unity launcher, and you have the same behaviour in launching / switching applications with the Super or Windows key and numerical keys The only thing I miss is the heads up display, but I believe that KDE Plasma will see a HUD implemented in a future version The KDE Qt applications are different to Gnome GTK applications, and at this point I will annoy Gnome users by stating that in my humble opinion the Qt applications are superior Honestly it wouldn’t be so bad if Gnome didn’t keep removing features each release Although I suppose some would say simplified

I say they are a nothing but a hollowed out husk of what they used to be Dolphin is one of the best file managers available in any OS Kate text editor comes with fancy code highlighting, and also a scrollbar which can allow you to zoom into segments of your code further down the page without actually scrolling to that point Clementine is one of the prettiest music players I could go on, but there are so many Qt applications to choose from, and development is happening at an aggressive pace

A Unity style is achievable in Gnome with the use of several add-ons At least if you did like the GTK applications from Ubuntu then they will be available and working natively in the Gnome desktop A global menu is in development, and there is also a HUD called Plotinus which is also in development When I tested out Plotinus it only worked in some GTK applications, and actually failed in Firefox and Inkscape because the activation key clashed with existing keyboard shortcuts The application launcher can find both files and documents, although in my experience it heavily favoured applications as search results, to the point that I sometimes had to type the full document name before results would appear

As I mentioned the GTK applications are the same as in Ubuntu, so won’t discuss them any further There are other desktop options, for example the Cinnamon desktop from Linux Mint, which can be turned into a very nice looking Unity style The applications look very similar to Gnome, but tend to have more features as they were forked from earlier in GTK3 development, for example Nemo file manager still retains split screen browsing and type-ahead search The application launcher in Cinnamon allows you to find both documents and applications, however there is a caveat in that the document searcher only looks for previously opened documents Unity, Plasma, and Gnome searchers will search for documents on the system regardless of whether they have been opened or not

But if its too much effort to customise a desktop then you could go for a point-and-click desktop switcher, for example Zorin, Ubuntu MATE, or LXLE I think the Unity style in Zorin was only in the pay-for version Its been a long time since I last looked at LXLE, so things might have changed with the disto Lets look more at the other option – Ubuntu MATE In my last review of Ubuntu MATE 17

04 the Mutiny (Unity styled) desktop was rather unstable, however the Ubuntu MATE developers will be investing time and resources into improving the desktop for Ubuntu 1710 I expect we will see a better functioning Global menu, HUD, and improved launcher The applications look as though they fell out of Gnome classic desktop, well put it this way if you used Ubuntu 1204 or before it will take you right back to those days

They have at least advanced on from GTK2 to GTK3, yet retained the classic look, and plentiful older features Caja file manager, like Nemo, has the split screen browsing and type-ahead search, but also has an additional feature of customising folder colours I don’t know if the launcher will be able to find documents, I’m going to guess not, but who knows how much things will change in the next few months? So what is the best option? Well unfortunately there is no perfect solution It is a shame that the Global menu in KDE doesn’t work with GTK apps, and the Plotinus Hud in Gnome does not work with Qt apps It seems both desktops fail to work properly with applications from their opposite number

This was a feature that Unity managed very well Whichever way you look at it both Gnome and KDE Plasma desktops take a bit of effort to turn into a Unity style My tutorial videos for each are a similar length, with KDE being slightly longer to demo Although it does have more features to customise, and I got distracted showing how to improve the font rendering for GTK apps Have a look at some of the videos on my channel, I’ve done reviews of Gnome, KDE Plasma, Cinnamon, and MATE desktops, as well as another 20 plus desktops that we have available in Linux

I’ll leave a few links in the video description If you like my videos then please consider being a Patreon and support Quidsup You can pledge as little as $1 a month which is just $12 a year, or you can pledge a little bit more, every little bit does help and I really do appreciate it Thank you all for watching and as always I will see you later

Source: Youtube