I have decided to review the new Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Precise Pangolin’ because after hearing mixed opinions of it I was very intrigued to try it for myself, will it's apparent improvements persuade me to go back to it?
I have decided to review the new Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Precise Pangolin’ because after hearing mixed opinions of it I was very intrigued to try it for myself. I used to use Ubuntu as my main OS but changed to Linux Mint because I couldn’t get on with the Unity environment. I want to find out if the new Ubuntu has improved and if so, will it be enough to persuade me to go back to it?
The installer has not changed, it is still clear and easy to use and has an excellent graphical guide to the installation process. I find Ubuntu to have one of the easiest installers of any Linux distro. 12.04 used 343 Mb RAM on start up, which is less memory than previous versions and it is also running noticeably faster. So far an excellent start!
First up is the controversial (and the reason for my abandoning Ubuntu) Unity environment. Clicking on the Ubuntu icon in the top left hand corner will reveal the Dash. This includes a search function which makes it much easier and faster to find files and applications that are needed, the dash also displays ‘Recent apps’ and ‘Recent files’ for fast access to things you are currently using. At the bottom of the Dash there are a set of icons or ‘Lenses’. These enable the user to search within a defined category, the defaults are Home, Applications, Files and Folders, Music and Videos. The search functions are all very useful, as both novice and advanced users will find this a helpful and easy to use tool for locating items on their computer. However, the ‘Installed apps’ results that appear on the Dash are not overly helpful as they are ordered alphabetically and not by most use or recent use.
Next is the sidebar, this is fairly standard procedure, but does make the most important icons easily accessible. No customisation of where the sidebar appears is available by default, this was something I was hoping to see implemented in this release as I would have prefered the sidebar to be along the bottom of the screen. The sidebar’s location is still an issue as I often found with the last release I often accidentally clicked on an icon in the sidebar when using another program. This was the issue that moved me to Linux Mint in the first place.
The main interface also includes a menu bar at the top of the screen. When a window is maximised the top bar becomes this application’s menu in the same way as the Mac design. The menu itself includes a useful set of icons that allow easy access to various settings.
The software centre is one of the biggest selling points of Linux operating systems and it is especially well designed in Ubuntu. It includes useful ‘What’s New’ and ‘Top Rated’ sections, making it easy to find new software. The design is very user friendly and attractive to look at. The colours, icons and layout all work well to make it an excellent user experience. The packages themselves are categorised and sub categorised, with a star rating available and the highest rated appearing at the top of the list. Some of the default software included in Ubuntu has also changed, with the music player switching from Banshee to the more simple Rhythmbox and the default mail client being Thunderbird, it has been Evolution in past versions. The OS is very well integrated with Ubuntu One, Ubuntu’s Dropbox-like cloud service. This will be an extremely useful feature for many and with 5Gb free storage, it beats Dropbox’s only 2Gb as standard.
HUD, or Head-Up-Display is Ubuntu’s replacement for traditional menus. This feature is designed as being the future of controlling applications and can be invoked using the Alt key, allowing users to type commands to control programs. HUD cuts out time spent searching through multiple menus to find the options you want. It also works intelligently, remembering which items the user selects most often and prioritising these when returning search results. HUD is perfect for advanced users as it saves time and allows control using the keyboard which will be favourable to many command line users.
Overall I can see many postive improvements have been made to Ubuntu, and some excellent new features added. Only time will tell whether these new features really catch on and become a favourite with Ubuntu’s users. I am still not convinced that the sidebar won’t be irritating at times, but setting it to reveal only at top left corner does help minimise this. Ubuntu is well equipped for all user levels as it is very well packaged, everything that you need is included, but with a variety of extras available if required. The fact that this version is supported for 5 years will remove the need for reinstallation, making it perfect for those who want to stick with it once set up. Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Precise Pangolin’ is a perfect introduction to Linux for novices but is also well designed for experts, with plenty of features and shortcuts included for a slick experience.
I will continue to try out Ubuntu in the coming weeks to see whether I can be swayed in it’s favour, but for now, I’m sticking with the dependable Linux Mint.
Ubuntu – http://www.ubuntu.com/
Ubuntu Wiki – http://wiki.ubuntu.com/
OMG! Ubuntu – http://omgubuntu.co.uk/
Distrowatch, Ubuntu – http://distrowatch.com/ubuntu
Ubuntu Forums – http://ubuntuforums.org/
Ubuntu Font, Google Web Fonts – http://code.google.com/webfonts/specimen/Ubuntu