The Unity Linux GUI Controversy and Linux Mint's Decision to Stick With Gnome 2

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 9, 2011 - 06:06 PM |
Tagged: OS, linux, GUI

With the release of Ubuntu 11.04, a new desktop environment called Unity was released. Unity promised to revamp the Linux operating system’s desktop GUI to be more user friendly and intuitive. There are a multitude of noticeable changes that Unity brings to Ubuntu’s GUI compared to the classic Gnome environment. A new Windows 7 like task bar stretches along the left side of the screen where small icons of running and pinned applications reside. This new application dock is used instead of the traditional Gnome task bar that ran along the bottom of the screen. Also present is a new Ubuntu button that acts as an application launcher where installed programs can be sorted and searched for. Further, there are improvements to the workspace switcher and changes in window management with new hover-to-reveal scroll bars and each application’s (context sensitive) file menus being relocated to the top of the screen. These and other minor changes in the latest Ubuntu release have caused a flood of controversy among both reviewers and users alike.

Pictured:  Unity GUI (Insert:  Ubuntu Classic GUI)

On the positive side of the issue, there are a number of new and long time users of Ubuntu that have embraced the new GUI for it’s new features and design. Many people migrating from Windows 7 or Mac OS will become accustomed to the interface quickly as it works in much the same manner. Further, users of convertible tablet PCs have an easier time of navigating to applications and windows thanks to the larger icons. Touch and digitizer controls on the Dell Latitude XT worked well out of the box without a need to much with drivers, for example.

In contrast, as a newly developed desktop environment, it is less customizable from a user standpoint than the traditional Gnome GUI. Because of this (at the time of writing) restriction on customizability, many self-proclaimed power users have called Unity a step backwards in the aspects that make Linux a desirable OS--the ability to customize. Mainly, they dislike the constraints that Unity places on their ability to customize the operating system to their liking.

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