Ubuntu released 'Quantal Quetzal', the next iteration of its well-regarded Linux distribution, today,Here's what you'll find in the new version.
Quantal is the first release after a long term service (LTS) release, which means we're getting the first look at new features Canonical will polish up through the next two years for incorporation into subsequent versions. Here are some of the new, cool things Ubuntu has baked in.
Webapps On Your Desktop
A lot of us have switched to webapps such as Gmail, Google Docs and Twitter for our day-to-day needs. Ubuntu's new webapp feature puts these tools on your desktop as if they were standalone apps, and integrates them in the OS. For example, after you visit Gmail for the first time in Firefox or Chromium, you'll get a prompt asking you if you want to integrate it with your system. If you say yes, you'll see Gmail show up in Ubuntu's launcher, and you can click on it to bring it up in its own window. You can also right-click on it to perform actions such as composing a new message.
These webapps also integrate with the menu bar. For example, Gmail will notify you when you have new mail via Ubuntu's indicator icon. Other apps, such as Grooveshark or Pandora, will show up in the Sound menu. You can add any webapp to the launcher, but only some have OS integration baked in — Ubuntu has built in some popular choices already, and webapp developers can integrate their own apps if they want, so you should see more options supported as time goes on.
Online Search And File Previews In The Dash
The Dash has become Ubuntu's one-stop-shop for anything on your system over the past few releases. Whatever you're looking for, whether it's an application, a document on your system or a music file in your library, you can probably find it via the Dash.
In this release, the Dash searches not just your system but your online accounts for anything you might be looking for. That means if you use Google Docs, the Dash will search your local documents and Google Drive when you pop it up and start searching. You can sign into these accounts from the new Settings > Accounts menu, and you'll see them elsewhere in the system, including Shotwell and other apps.
However, this feature does have one controversial component: it also shows items from Amazon that may match your search, which is just a really fancy way of saying Ubuntu now has ads from Amazon in the Dash. You can turn this off in Settings > Privacy > Search Results, but unfortunately, your only choice is to turn off online search results altogether, which is a really poor decision. It's up to you whether Google Docs searching is worth Amazon ads plaguing your supposedly "free" operating system.
The Dash also has a new preview feature that lets you see the contents of a file before opening it. If you search for a document, you can right-click on it to see a quick preview of what's inside. This makes searching a little bit more useful, since you don't have to open up every file in an app just to see exactly what it is.
A New Photo Lens In The Dash
Another tweak in the Dash is that a new lens has been added for photos. Like the other lenses, it allows for easy, advanced searches through your photo library. You can search by name, tag and even EXIF data, and integrate it with your Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa accounts through the Accounts pane in the settings.
Ubuntu One Adds File Sharing And A Mac Client
If you're using Ubuntu One, Ubuntu's Dropbox-like cloud syncing service, you now have a few new handy features. From the desktop client, you can now copy shareable links of any of your files so you can send them to your friends. You can also search through your files, which is great, and long overdue.
Ubuntu One also has a new client for the Mac, which means Mac and Linux users (and we know there are a few of you) can get in on all the synchronised goodness. You can download the Mac client, currently in beta, from Ubuntu's site.
No More Unity 2D For Low-Power Devices
Lastly, those of you on netbooks and other low powered devices will notice that Unity 2D no longer exists. Instead, Ubuntu now has one version of Unity, which means installing a separate version and getting everything working is far less of a hassle. Now, if you have a low-powered system, Unity will recognise that and switch to the CPU for all your graphics handling. We wish it ran a little bit better on slower machines (it doesn't seem to be as fast as the old Unity 2D was), but the unified system is a nice change nonetheless.
These aren't the only changes in Ubuntu 12.10, of course. You'll also see a few changes in the Ubuntu default theme, updates to all the default apps, and some new wallpapers as usual. Check out Ubuntu's Download page to access 12.10 for yourself, or just head to Software Updates on your current Ubuntu box.