First Look At Ubuntu Linux 11.10 'Oneiric Ocelot' Beta

Like most Ubuntu updates, version 11.10 isn't a huge overhaul; rather, it improves on the big changes made in 11.04, by cleaning up the Dash, overhauling the Ubuntu Software Center, and bringing in some new default software. Here's a look at the biggest changes in the newly released beta.

Ubuntu 11.04 ushered in some grand changes to the default Ubuntu desktop, most notably the new Unity interface. 11.10 refines some of Unity's rougher edges, while adding in a few new convenience features as well. We won't go through every little change here (as there are a lot of small ones), but here are some of the bigger ones you'll notice off the bat, and (mostly) be thankful for.

The Dash, Simplified

The Dash, introduced in Ubuntu 11.04, is a nice little launcher that gives you quick access to your applications and files through a quick search. It had a few little clunks, though, that made it annoying to use in 11.04. Now, the Dash only has one button, at the top of your dock, that opens the entire Dash -- no more separate launchers for Unity Places. Instead, searching files and applications are "tabs" within the Dash itself, called "lenses", and they've added a new music lens so you can quickly start up your tunes from the Dash. In addition, the Dash has its own window controls, so you can easily maximise it if you want. It's also slightly transparent, and colours itself according to your background wallpaper, which is a nice touch.

The Ubuntu Software Center Gets an Overhaul

The new Software Center looks fantastic, and is much faster than it was before. It actually looks remarkably like the Mac App Store (I guess we shouldn't be surprised), but it's easy to browse, easy to install apps, and actually something I could see myself using now. There are still some rough edges, but overall it's a great update -- you can just tell which parts didn't get as much attention as others (browsing from the front page is great, but as soon as you enter a category, it gets a little overly plain).

Along with this overhaul is the surprising change that Synaptic is no longer included with Ubuntu by default. This may enrage some Linux veterans, but for what it's worth, you can easily install it from the Software centre first thing and move on with your life. It's just a somewhat shocking change when you boot up and search for Synaptic only to find nothing.

Thunderbird and Other New Default Programs

At long last, Ubuntu's included Thunderbird as the default mail client, and it integrates very nicely with the Ubuntu desktop. You can access it right from the messaging menu, get desktop notifications, and even compose new messages by right-clicking on its dock icon. It isn't all-encompassing -- for example, calendar integration is still missing -- but it's a very welcome change if you prefer Thunderbird to Evolution.

Deja Dup is also now the default backup tool, which should integrate with the GNOME Control centre and Ubuntu One.

Window Controls Hidden By Default

From the "really small changes that everyone's yelling about" department: When you maximise a window, the window controls disappear along with the File, Edit and other application menus, showing only the name of the app in the menu bar. Once you hover over them in the top left hand corner of the screen, they reappear, and you can minimize, restore, or close the window, they just aren't there unless your mouse is. It seems like a weird change, especially if you didn't like it when 11.04 made the application menus disappear, but that's the way it is.

A Shiny New Alt+Tab Switcher

The new Alt+Tab switcher looks much prettier than before, and even integrates window previews if you have multiple windows open for a specific app. Other than that, it doesn't work a whole lot differently than before, but like the rest of 11.10, brings a certain polish to the OS that makes it more enjoyable to use (without, you know, going overboard like Windows' Flip 3D switcher did).

New Login Screen

GDM is no longer the default login screen for Ubuntu; instead, a new login screen called LightDM (along with a pretty snazzy theme that goes with Ubuntu) will be your default greeting when you start up. It's a bit cleaner and prettier than GDM was, so it's actually a nice change, if a little surprising at first.

Those aren't the only changes in Ubuntu 11.10, but those are some of the bigger updates you'll notice off the bat. If you want to check out the beta for yourself, head to Ubuntu's beta index to download a live CD. The final version of Oneiric Ocelot is scheduled to drop on October 13.

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Comments

    It's probably worth noting that as of 11.10, they're dropping gnome 2.x as an alternative to unity. No longer will you be able to choose 'ubuntu classic' when you sign on.

      After struggling with 11 for a couple of months I gave up and swapped to Mint Debian. It seems to just work rather than faffing around trying to look good and break usability as per Ubuntu.

      If i cant get default gnome panels like in 2.3x im dropping ubuntu and going to Limux Mint or debian.

      Unity is just not a desktop i can work with. The global menu and sidebar break on my dual monitor setups, performance is bad on my netbook, and the amount of changes i make to default ubuntu make me think its probably time to find a distro that works more to my tastes.

        That's at best a stop-gap measure. In a couple of years, no distribution will support gnome 2.x, and it'll stop receiving updates upstream. I'd advice you to give either Unity or GS a chance, you'll like it. I used to have the same mentality, but once I *got* the Gnome Shell way of doing things, I find anything else I use quite clunky.

        I feel exactly the same way. I like unity(layout, dash, ...), but it is way too slow for my netbook. After I installed e17, my netbook looks so fast now. (but you have to configure it of course and it is like my old day using GNU/Debian)

    DockBarX + Gnome + AWN >>>> Unity
    Canonical has really gone backwards with 11.04, breaking most of the way linux works just for unity's sake, like say compiz and right click.

    There is a way to reinstall gnome 2.x quite simply i hear with apt-get.

    There are some things I don't mind about Unity but one of the things that drives me nuts is this move towards removing visibility of scrollbars, menus and window controls. It's just unnecessary and detracts greatly from the usability of the desktop.

      I agree, it's annoying because it's different. But I wouldn't say it detracts. I stopped using Ubuntu, but the idea of "see it when you need it" isn't a bad one at all. In fact, I think it opens the desktop to be more useful to actual tasks.

    I loved Ubuntu bc I started with it holdong my hand. Thanks canonical!
    But now I'm comfortable with my customized debian lxde. Bye canonical!

    the truth is that shuttleworth could have helped more by adding directly to debian resources instead of reinventing broken wheels. all this money and time seems wasted already,... but maybe thats just my opinion...

    If I cant have Gnome, to hell with Ubuntu. Never thought I'd get here though but Canonical are really pushing us too hard against the wall. We've grown with Gnome all this years, People loved Ubuntu more since the beginning(not Kubuntu - KDE or Xubuntu- XFCE but Ubuntu - Gnome,is what got people really interested since the 8.04 days,if you know what I mean),Kubuntu and Xubuntu fans,I don't have anything against you,just talking of numbers.So its like Gnome helped Ubuntu win the numbers and now they are ditching it for something that people who have worked with Linux aren't happy with? New users might find it exiting, don't they find windows XP exiting too, but experienced Linux users know exactly what they we'll be missing out on, in running a Unity shell. Mark shuttleworth, we're weren't happy with Unity before and you listened and gave us the Ubuntu classic option, now was that just for 10.10, come 11.04 you've betrayed us, watch out, because Ubuntu is certainly going to lose numbers. The only reason some of us we'll keep using it is because some guy can hack Gnome back in place of that Unity thing, which fortunately will be possible this being a Linux community and Ubuntu a Linux based OS, Otherwise we here Linux mint is based on Ubuntu meaning you are getting Ubuntu minus the Unity sh*t. Trust me, the community will move their, and you will LOOSE. Ubuntu One, your supposed source of revenue to fund Ubuntu will lack a customer base and collapse. Eventually Ubuntu will fail behind all other distro,then maybe you'll be happy and code name the then Ubuntu version a Dinosaur species, just to tell the world how extinct Ubuntu is. Hope all that doesn't happen, so keep your Unity plus our Gnome, and we'll be a happy Ubuntu community.Otherwise I plus a couple others(my bet), will be watching out on the latest stable version of Linux Mint, and maybe keep it in our ~/Downloads just in case we don't feel the unity with your Unity interface.

      Well, you can get Gnome. But it looks like you don't know how Gnome looks these days :)

    No Gnome 2 - then - No Ubuntu

    Unity = Disunity

    As an avid early adopter it really pains me to be stuck on 10.10, unable to upgrade. I did install 11.04 for a bit, but unity did not bode well with me, I even gave gnome 3 a spin. I went right back to 10.10, gnome 2.x no flashy disappearing scroll bars or buttons. A nice clean and logical interface.

    Canonical should be asking itself this question: what does this "new, imrproved" version of Ubuntu offer Mac OS X? I'm sitting before my new Macbook Pro right now (first mac for me), and while I will be running Linux on it in some capacity, it definitely won't be Ubuntu. It seems to me that the entire Unity experience is a direct ripoff of Mac OS X - those disappearing window controls look awfully similar to Lion's fullscreen feature, for example. Meanwhile, Linux (and, by extension, Unity), has awful driver support for multitouch. Maybe someone forgot to tell the Ubuntu developers that the reason Lion gets away with some of its drastic UI changes is because it has tons of gesture commands. I can't imagine using Lion wthout these multitouch gestures - and, sorry, keyboard shortcuts just aren't the same. I've used Ubuntu for 5 years, Linux for 7, and while I definitely won't stop using the latter (Linux still runs on my desktop - Kubuntu), Ubuntu has some serious user relation problems. Exactly who is Canonical trying to reach out to anyway? If users want a more Mac-like experience, I wouldn't recommend that they go halfway with Ubuntu, but rather do it properly and get a Mac. Windows users, meanwhile, are going to find the transition hard to justify than ever. It just doesn't make any sense.

    these comments are sickening!! what a bunch of crybabies?!the decision to kill gnome 2 belong to the gnome foundation not canonical.is that very difficult to comprehend?canonical still support gnome2 in its LTS till 2013 and officialy support lxde.xfce and kde ,was the first to embrace libreoffice and lured million of users into linux and is fighting alone.still we have a bunch of nostalgic backward thinking crybabies.linux will never move forward if it were for you.livelong ubuntu

    I've been using 11.04 along side 10.04 since the final release. Giving 11.04 a honest chance everything i did in 10.04 i then did in 11.04. 10.04 the work load, windows as usual performed flawlessly, 11.04 i always have to move the dam windows out of the way to get back to the global menu, and dig for the software that i rarely use or for that matter remember what i have installed. Ubuntu's rein is over. My 11.04 is so hacked just to get things usable that if i upgrade to 11.10 i loose yet again all functionality to a crippling degree. Its time shuttleworth steps down. There is no advantage whatsoever with unity for a desktop user. He also has thumbed his nose at us, not listening to anything we say. Clem over at LinuxMint has already openly stated that he will not become as shuttleworth has and will continue to be openly responsive the his user base. Now if that doesn't speak volumes i don't no what does in the linux community. This statement stands hand in hand with linus's comment on the ending of gnome 2 and unity. This coming from the founder of linux.......:(

      first the linux founder bashed gnome3 and complained he can't make desktop shortcuts,have wobbly windows and cube,in short he missed compiz.which was dumped in gnome 3 for the lackluster mutter.guess what the only major distro supporting compiz is ubuntu and compiz is heart of unity.so get your facts straight.

    I have tried to stick with Unity but its just to much effort!!.

    I already moved to Linux Mint 11 64 and its fine. I know of 4 others who have also moved to a Mint install.

    I can see Unity working on a tablet or a touch interface. But then I would prefer Android 3.

    Sad really as I think apart from the server platform Ubuntu is going to slip down the desktop rankings.

    BR Kimkat

      I do agree! I've even written an aricle abuot jut that:
      http://nalle.no/hendelser-og-nyheter/leaving-ubuntu-eng/

      ./nalle.

        Sorry about the spelling errors in my last post. It's early in the morning here and my spell check was set to Norwegian.

        ./nalle.

    mint guys are the most pathetic and ungrateful of all!! why don't they abandon their ubuntu luxury and try basing their distro on debian directly and will see their real strength.and are cheaply catering for unity haters,doing nothing original but more of the same old same old stuff.no guts no glory. criticizing ubuntu and then adopting its style without shame. what a shame?

      Um.... dude, perhaps you should look at http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1604 ....

    C'mon you guys, quit bickering. You don't like Unity and/or Ubuntu? That's perfectly fine, the beauty of open source is that you are completely free to change thing to your liking, remove/replace/install whatever your heart desires and move to a different distro if the current one doesn't make you 100% happy! So why do so many of you come to articles like this one just to post home much you dislike Unity? Just move on. If you haven't done so already, you have noone but yourself to be angry with! And if you have moved on, why in the world are you here? It's rather pointless.
    This also applies to people so set on defending Unity that they go railing other distro (in this case Mint). That's just ridiculous! We're all on the team, if you divide the community Linux will collapse and Microsoft will continue it's monopoly in the OS world.
    You have choices, try everything out, find something that works for you and support it - be it with code, art work or money - and if you must share your feeling about a program or OS, do it with respect. :-) I run 10.04 and Arch on two of my main machines and love how customizable they are! But this took time, I remember a time Gnome was pretty limited too. It takes time to make things run great and be customizable. That's why I'm still trying to give 11.04 a fair chance. There are many things I find unusable or just plain annoying, but that's mainly because it's a new DE. 11.10 seems like a step in the right direction. Now that the Ubuntu button is integrated into the launcher I hope they start working on making the launcher movable - I'd much rather have it on the right side. The new dash looks pretty sexy, makes sense to move the lenses. The beta feels a bit snappier too, a bit lighter on resources. LightDM was a great choice. Don't really for Thunder bird myself, but I see why they picked it over Evolution.

      @Ross - FINALLY! Someone with an ounce of sense. Folks, here's the deal; this is Linux. the OS that (for the home user) INVENTED "You don't like XYZ? Do it your self. here's the code, here's a forum...next". I detest Unity on several points, but I've not yet whined about anything, I simply sudo apt-get install desktop-I-want. end of story.

      Currently, I am using Openbox, as I am anti-mouse (I think my mouse is cheating on me with my printer. long story that is completely false) So, I too am one of the previously mentioned "backwards" people.

    I like Ubuntu and will continue to use it, but to be honest it will see little use, along with my tower PC and netbook. For simple day to day access and tasks I just find myself reaching for a tablet more and more instead of booting up a computer. Most use my PC sees lately is just movie ripping/converting for use on, you guessed it, the always handy tablet, which I'm currently
    using to post this as well. :-)

    I tried 11.10-beta today, and the one thing I found discouraging was that the DASH gives ALL the applications in one window, as opposed to the categories that 10.10 does with the Applications>Accessories>Terminal or Games or Office, or Graphics. The new DASH looks like someone just threw everything into a bucket and shook it up. Well at least all the applications are in alphabetical order, but is it ALL of them and it takes a lot longer to find the one you want. Until someone comes out with some documentation of all the nuances of this OS then it will be a BIG change for those of us still using 10.10 or 10.04LTS or older.
    I also found some apps just "popped" open when they were not the one I wanted. I guess I will wait to upgrade until some users post some workarounds to retain the older style usability.

    I agree with Ross. All this stupid bickering is just ridiculous. Not to mention I just see a bunch of finger-pointing and people not even realizing what is what.

    First off, 11.10 won't have classic GNOME 2.x not because Canonical feels all evil and wants to push Unity. They're not having classic GNOME 2.x because they're changing the base of Unity from GNOME 2.x to GNOME 3.x (which I feel helped speed Unity up quite a bit). Its more-so Canonical wanting to keep the Core up to date instead of them being all "evil" as people try to make them out to be.

    As for Mint, I've never been a huge fan of their Ubuntu based stuff, but their Debian based stuff really has me interested. Especially for being a rolling release distribution based upon Debian Testing.

    Honestly, the only problem I have with GNOME 3 (and with that, Unity 11.10 and after), is that it requires PulseAudio. Though, I might be able to work around that, because I've found myself to like both interfaces, as well as enjoy XFCE and KDE.

    Now onto a comment about the article. I am really loving the changes that are going into Ubuntu 11.10. I feel they're taking Unity into the right direction, and the performance boost 11.10 has is definitely noticeable over 11.04. If 11.10 is really turning out like this, I have high hopes for 12.04. And I also agree with Ross about the Ubuntu button being integrated into the Launcher instead of the panel. Now Canonical doesn't really have a huge excuse as to why they wouldn't allow people to move it, as with 11.04 they used the excuse "well, the launcher is integrated with the button on the panel." Keep up the great work Canonical! =) Even if I may end up moving to Linux Mint Debian Edition KDE in the future.

    Well I upgraded to 11.04 and it didn't install Unity at all. Just plain old Gnome classic. I also use Thunderbird and had to ad the Calender to it but I'm unable to import any of my Evolution data into Thunder Bird though. Thunder Bird does load better than Evolution and doesn't overlap the data when it loads an HTML Message which I like.Now if I only could Import my data.

    Please, stop blaming Canonical for killing GNOME 2. Nobody else is going to use GNOME 2 in the future, it is DEAD. The future of GNOME is GNOME 3, using either gnome-shell or unity.

    Sorry. I love Ubuntu, but this Unity thing has to go. It's slow, pitifully slow on my multiple systems I've tried it on, clunky, hard to use, and just not that attractive. Instead of griping about Gnome 3, why didn't Shuttleworth either buy it, or donate enough to influence the direction so it could be included in 11.** and on.

    If they have dropped the ability to select Gnome2 instead of the truly awful Unity then I shall be looking for another OS.

    I think this means canonical believes that the traditional desktop days as we see it today are numbered.
    but i won't start typing on my tablet just yet....

    I loved the lightness of Ubuntu coupled with its full functionality. I am a teacher and work on computers with teenagers all the time. Almost none of them except for one or two gravitate towards the Unity interface.

    Luckily for us, there are other distributions and some based on Ubuntu like Mint, Lubuntu and Xubuntu that dispense with the "fat". There are still tons of older PCs and notebooks out there. At home, I'm still using single-core PCs and Ubuntu (w/Gnome) runs just fine on them.

    I've tried Mint, now PinguyOS. Pinguy, in my opinion, is just a bit too big - takes longer to boot, runs a bit slower (because of the extra pre-loaded programs, etc. I guess). So, I removed some of them, including Docky and Conky.

    What's good about Pinguy is that it adds for you the stuff that you would normally have to install manually using Ubuntu.

    Anyway, thank goodness again for the many distributions to choose from. For me, functionality, speed and stability are the most important reasons in my choice of distribution.

    actually, gdm is still default if you upgrade from 11.04. get lightdm by 'sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm'

    to get gnome2 back, install gnome-session-fallback.

    So you are comfortable with Linux Mint and PinguyOS because you don't like Unity huh?
    For your information: if the Mint or Pinguy Devs does not do something spectacular they will be dead by the next year because Canonical will not port the traditional Gnome 2x desktop to GTK3.

    Is GNOME 2.x in 11.10? I heard that it will be dropped in 11.10 but I heard from a friend that Classical desktop is in 11.10 beta. What is correct?

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