Test Drive Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal (Beta 2)

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It’s time to preview the upcoming Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, as Canonical has no plans of releasing any RCs this time around, so this Beta 2 basically is the full featured version that the users would be laying their hands on, come April 28th, of course sans several bugs, which are quite a few at this stage. If you remember we have been closely monitoring the development of Ubuntu 11.04, right from its Alpha 1 stage, which gave enough indications that Unity was going to rock the linux world. And rock it does!

Its been a long journey since the crude Alpha 1 stage and things are now slick and trendy. Here are some cool new things that one might like:

1. Starting with the installer, you would see a few tweaks and changes from the previous Maverick installer.

2. Updated version of Unity which as the name might suggest, seems like the perfect unity of all that is good about Mac OS X and Windows 7. The standard menu system for most applications have moved to the top of the screen, quite like Mac OS. I am not sure if that is the right way to go, I found it creating issues for me when I enforced following mouse cursor to select windows. All Mac wannabes are going to love it for sure. 😛

3. The new launcher / menu system is a breath of fresh air when compared to the Gnome menu that was last updated in the stone age. See screenshot below.

It would remind you of the Mac OS Dock, and it has the feature that can be compared to the Windows 7 aero peek effect. Basically if you have multiple instances of an application running, click on the corresponding icon on the launcher bar / dock would show all the instances of that application.

4. Sleek Applications Menu which allows you to search as well as launch applications. A similar menu for files and folders.

5. You also have the option to “pin” launches applications to the launcher/ sidebar / dock. Dragging and dropping of windows on left and right edges of screen produces same effect as those observed in Windows 7.

6. In full screen mode for an application, the sidebar / launcher can be easily accessed by moving the pointer to the left edge of the screen, which makes the sidebar to show up, moving the mouse away from it hides it again. Yet another neat feature.

7. Multiple workspaces, something which Mac OS took from Linux.

8. Office suit sees rechristening of Openoffice to LibreOffice?

9. Ships with Firefox 4.

All in all the re-jigged Unity looks sleek and many of the improvements are certainly going to be welcomed by the Linux community. The redesigned OS appears to be designed to exploit the greater width on offer with 16:9 and 16:10 screens which are the norm these days, at the same time it minimizes the encroachment of screen space in heightwise direction. This is something Windows 7 didn’t address. There is plenty more to talk about, so keep an eye on this space for more detailed review, howtos and hacks. Give the Beta 2 a try, but only at your own risk, it is still beta, so better not use it on a production machine!

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has written 346 posts on this blog.

Meditating towards his "nerdvana", lifehacker is a teacher by the day and a nerdy blogger by the night. He lives to learn and yearns to learn living.

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