Until Ubuntu 11.04 I kept using the Classic GNOME desktop to avoid any changes to an interface that, honestly, worked pretty well for me. However, I recently updated to 11.10 and the option was no longer available, even GNOME 3 has totally redesigned its interface. It was time to try Unity for real.
After a couple of months using it in a daily basis I found Unity is quite functional (and way more robust than previous versions) but as a long time GNOME user there were a few things I personally missed. This is how I fixed them:
- Made the launcher always visible. This solves 2 problems for me: 1) The launcher appears when you move the mouse to the left side of the screen and disappears when you move the pointer away to focus in an app. That works well… most of the time. However, with Google Chrome the situation is darn annoying. 2) Also, I normally have like 10 windows open across the 4 virtual desktops. If the launcher disappears you can’t immediately tell which apps are running or not. And I don’t really miss the real state the launcher occupies.
- Added the System Load Indicator to the top panel. I don’t miss many applets from the old GNOME days, except this one. I like to quickly see if network is up, how much memory I’m using, or the overall system load. It’d be awesome to see this port added to 12.04.
- Learnt some new keyboard shortcuts. A new interface brings new shortcuts and few people know them. The keyboard is your friend and can make some tasks faster than the mouse. Before 11.10, for example, I was barely using the Super key (freaking Windows logo in PCs) and now I use it all the time: to get to the launcher, show all spaces, show all windows.
This brings me to a humble suggestion to the Ubuntu team. It’s fine you change the whole interface, technology is after all the industry of change. Things can always be improved as systems evolve, however you should accompany these changes with proper training. It’d be great if you could prepare two or three short videos explaining the way you envision the main features and interactions with Unity (if they exist I haven’t found them). Then make every Ubuntu user watch them, you have a gorgeous product, let everybody know.