Our Very Existence

Random. And incoherent.

Unity Shell: Mixed Reactions.

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First of all, I rarely use Ubuntu. I use Arch, and have never switched back to any operating system for quite a long time already. The reason why I decided to download the latest Ubuntu release (11.04, Natty Narwhal) is because consolekit and policykit on Arch Linux and Aptosid were both trying to raise my blood pressure. I’m staying here until I get an update that would fix the issues. Another reason is that my friend’s internet connection is reasonably fast, so I downloaded Ubuntu for fun.

EDIT: I’ve figured it’s not consolekit and/or policykit’s fault. It’s something else that doesn’t matter. Also, this install survived for a whopping 20 hours.

So I installed it.

The moment I saw the desktop, I thought it was actually pretty good and Unity was “the way to go”. It looked like it saves a lot of screen space, and it does.

Here’s a screenshot of the desktop with no maximized windows:

And here’s another screenshot with a maximized Firefox window:

In case you haven’t noticed, the panels and the menu bar are gone.

To those used to using docks, this isn’t really much of a problem. What they did was use a dock to “manage” window switching and application launching. The panels were replaced with one universal panel that would serve as the notification area on the right, a shortcut to the stuff at the left, and between them, the focused window’s title bar, which also doubles as the menus (like File, Help, etc).

Here’s what I’m talking about (notice the top portion):

Sorry. Forgot to minimize the terminal.

Anyway, the problem with this setup is that window switching is significantly slower than before. To switch windows, you have two options:

  • Hover your mouse at the left portion of your screen. Wait for the dock to appear and click the program/window you want to switch to.
  • Hit Alt+Tab.

I don’t like waiting for some dock time delays and stuff, so I resort to alt-tabs. Still too slow. Compare that to only clicking the corresponding item in some panel in other desktop environments / shells.

Another problem I have discovered with this shell is concerned with window focus. Sometimes I have to click 1 more time on the window to have it properly focus on that. It’s extremely annoying.

Other than those, I think that replacing the shell with this one is a good move (looks a bit Mac-ey though). It saves so much screen space, but sacrifices some other functions in favor of maximizing screen usage. Or maybe it’s just me. The menu bar thingy is a nice change too. It just takes a little getting used to.

Time will tell whether this install is going to survive or not. It wasn’t meant to, since I’ve installed it on a test partition, and I didn’t even install the bootloader to the MBR. However, if I get the hang of Unity Shell, I might ditch everything else until someone on Arch uploads a decent enough Unity package to install 🙂


Written by kpbotbot

May 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

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