11.04, a leap forward

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Users first, on free software. That has always been our mission: we set out to bring the joys and freedoms and innovation and performance and security that have always been part of the Linux platform, to a consumer audience. And yesterday marked the biggest leap forward in that mission that Ubuntu has ever taken, because in addition to the work we always do to make sure that the world’s best free software is polished and integrated, we brought something new to the very core of the user experience of the free platform: Unity.

We put user’s first because we committed to test and iterate Unity’s design with real users, and evolve it based on those findings. We’ve documented the process we’re following in that regard, so that other free software projects can decide for themselves if they also want to bring professional design into their process. I very much hope that this will become standard practice across all of free software, because in my view the future of free software is no longer just about inner beauty (architecture, performance, efficiency) it’s also about usability and style.

In the design of Unity we chose to be both humble and bold. Humble, because we have borrowed consciously from the work of other successful platforms, like Windows and MacOS. We borrowed what worked best, but then we took advantage of the fact that we are unconstrained by legacy and can innovate faster than they can, and took some bold leaps forward. In category indicators, the dash, overlay scrollbars and other innovations we are pioneering desktop experiences that I am sure will be emulated elsewhere, in both the free and proprietary platforms. This is the public “1.0”, there are rough points which will affect some users more than others, but we will iterate and polish them up one by one. Our goal should be to continue to set the pace and push free software to the forefront of usability and experience, growing the awesome Ubuntu and Unity community that shares those values and is excited by those ideas.

Ubuntu’s killer feature remains that community. The spirit of Ubuntu is about understanding that the measure of our own lives is in the way we improve the lives of others. Ubuntu has both economic and human dimensions: it is unique in bringing those together in a way which enables them to support one another. The fact that so many people recognise that their time, energy and expertise can have the biggest possible impact when expressed through Ubuntu is what makes their individual contributions so much more valuable. By recognising that it’s not just about bits, or licenses, or artwork, or documentation, or advocacy, or support, or assurance, or services, but that it’s about the whole of those in synthesis, we make something different to what the world has ever seen before. So to everyone who has helped bring Ubuntu 11.04 to fruition: thank you, and well done.

Of course, Ubuntu is far bigger than Unity. And the needs of the Ubuntu community, and users of Ubuntu, are far more diverse than simply Unity could address. So I’m proud of the fact that the Ubuntu community publishes the whole expression of software freedom across its archives. Kubuntu continues to improve and set a very high standard for the KDE experience. Lubuntu, the LXDE based expression of Ubuntu, is moving towards being 100% integrated. There is unique work being done in Ubuntu for users of the cloud and other server-oriented configurations. While we can be proud of what’s been achieved in Unity, we are equally proud of the efforts that go into ensuring that the full range of experiences is accommodated, to the extent possible with the effort put in by our huge community, under the Ubuntu umbrella.

We’re committed to keeping that the case. By welcoming all participants, and finding ways to accommodate and celebrate their differences rather than using them as grounds for divisiveness, we make something that is bigger than all our individual dreams.

242 Responses to “11.04, a leap forward”

  1. Jasna Says:

    Hello Mr Shuttleworth,

    We’ve met in Croatia this Monday (May 16’th) in Zagreb at DORS/CLUC (http://www.dorscluc.org/)
    I’m a girl that bothered you on your way out from auditorium, when your keynote was finished…

    Just wanted to tell you that I apologize for my clumsy intro…it’s not easy to be somebody’s fan…don’t get me wrong…What I wanted to tell you back then, that Ubuntu is the distro with which I stepped into open source waters, therefore big respect for you and your work…

    And have to admit that I love LTS versions of Ubuntu, therefore I can’t tell anything special about 11.04 release (I still use Lucid Lynx)…but I can see what you’re trying to do..Hope friends of mine will change their attitude now, when everything will be eased up for them… Although don’t understand what was so hard till now… I guess because it is something different from what they are using now (Windows)…Habits are nasty thing…Well hate to admit it, I was like that too…

    As I told you in Zagreb, since I am a future teacher of computer science (still student, final year), therefore soon I’ll be “molesting” pupils in schools 😀 hopefully..What I didn’t have chance to tell you….I’ll try to tell them that they have a choice, that they don’t live in one world, proprietary world, there’s also open source world….

    I think that they deserve to know that they have an alternative…I’m not a person who spits on one thing while raising to the stars other things…considering technology I use proprietary and open source software.. but open source much more

    It’s their choice what will they use later in life…..As long as they know that they have an option…

    Many times I’ve heard:”Open source software is recommended for the schools to use.,” What bothers me why are there so many schools not using it….Maybe that will change one day, who knows…

    Sorry for such a long post, I didn’t know where else to write to you…

    Thank you for your visit, and for the keynote in Zagreb, and visit us again,

    All the best,


  2. Emiliano Says:

    I think that if Ubuntu was rolling, it would be perfect for everybody, even for my grandma that isn’t able to install it every six months 😉

  3. Manuel Dias Says:

    Hi all,

    Just giving my 2 cents about unity controversy.

    I’ve been reading opinions all over the internet about. Some praising the bold step and some announcing ubuntu’s death.

    Well, I did not install it just because I only go for LTS but I have a VM and always install the latest version. Unfortunately Unity 3D did not work, even following the tutorials for this purpose. I heard about the Unity 2D and as far as I can see it as a similar functionality. I tried on the same VM machine successfully . From the videos that I saw about Unity 3D and from the experience that I had with to 2D I can say it both work in a very similar way.

    So, as far as I’m concerned and I’m not a Linux hard core defender (I use Windows when I need but Ubuntu is my OS of choice in all computers that I own) I must say that all my fears went immediately away, I find it easy to operate, intuitive and a good balance between design and functionality. It requires to get used to but, what the hell, so the other new OSes.

    Quite frankly I don’t understand most of the negative arguments when a stupid guy like me (who stays away from the command line – it’s like seeing the devil to me) can adapt it in about 5 minutes (not joking).

    As for the argument of new users this it would be quite simple since I tried this with people who do not understand anything about computers and found their way easily.

    So from my experience, most of what it is being said is FUD and the kind of mentality averse to changes. Changing is good even if the result is terrible (not the case here in my opinion) and assuming the risk for that is a sign of leadership.

    Mr. Shuttleworth, I only have to congratulate you once more and extend this to your team. I’m a big fan of you and your way of taking a risky investment on this business model. On top of that, it is a nerve recking handle the typical human nature and its envy to other people’s success. I know from experience that this is hard to take. However, bear in mind that there are a lot others, who appreciate what you and your team do and give it away for free.

    P:S. English is not my native language so please excuse any mistakes.

  4. Bazon Bloch Says:

    List of things which are less efficient compared to previous versions or not even possible any more in Unity:

    * Grouping windows in contexts by using workspaces
    Although workspaces are still there in Unity, they lost their function: Every window on every workspace is represented in the launcher. The launcher even lets you switch the workspace without intending it. You don’t even have a glue on which workspace you are on now, as this is not shown any more.
    launchpad 683170
    launchpad 689733

    * Starting a window in e.g. 80% screen size
    Before, a new window launched exactly the size you closed it last time. Now, when it was bigger than 75% Screen Size last time, the window is forced to open maximized. Whether you want it or not.
    launchpad 754214
    launchpad 769085

    * Using menus in different windows
    Requires one click more each time you change the window: FIRST click to focus the window, second to get to the menu. Before, focusing the window and accessing the menu was just one click.
    (don’t know whether there is a launchpad bug about this)

    * Selecting windows containing text documents
    is now very difficult, because in the shiny exposé-like view you can’t read the content and the window title:
    launchpad 734253

    * Pasting in Alt+F2
    worked before with middleclick paste, Ctrl+v or context menu and was very useful following tips from the internet. Doesn’t work any more:
    launchpad 736222

    * Quick look in a window and then minimize it again
    Worked before with pressing the window switcher two times (show – minimize) and was very useful and a very common practices. Doesn’t work any more with the Unity launcher:
    launchpad 733349

    * Minimizing a background maximized window
    Is more difficult than before, because that window has no controls: Normally, the window controls are in the top panel for maximized windows. But the top panel is now occupied by the window having focus. (Which is confusing by the way, as it looks like the menu belongs to the background maximized window)
    launchpad 762277

    Also, the evolution initial settings dialogue is too big for netbooks and not resizeable, so a basic task is only very hard accessible.
    launchpad 779911

  5. Alex Says:

    Having used the new unity interface for a few weeks now I can say I quite like it. The first few hours may be a bit frustrating if your use to the more traditional desktop interfaces but overall I like the new layer of added simplicity especially as I don’t think it is affecting productivity of “power-users” like myself.

  6. marcusklaas Says:

    I like Unity quite a bit, I think it’s a fine innovation. Don’t really dig the default theme but I suppose custom themes will start popping up soon. I’ve got to admit I haven’t tried GNOME 3 yet, so can’t really say which shell suits better. My two cents (which have been stated a million times before, I know):

    – alt-tab application switching is quite slow to popup
    – can’t really find programs that you don’t know the name of (especially system settings and sorts!)

  7. eduart Says:

    isn’t this a great idea for the dash?
    clean, simple, easy to understand and navigate through.

  8. Patrick Says:

    Okay, after giving it a second try, Unity is growing on me. It’s easier than trying to install proprietary nvidia drivers on some other distros. I trust that many issues will be ironed out on the next release. Keep up the good work and thank you.

  9. Avetik Topchyan Says:

    I am for unity, and for peace among all men. But no, there’s only division, no real unity. And the “Unity” desktop is just another proof of that. First thing I did was to try Unity, and I really wanted to experience its value, but found no real value, sorry. Maybe I’m a wrong kind of user, I don’t know, but it just didn’t make sense to me. I switched back to “Classic” interface (which someone on another board vowed to remove from next Ubuntu version: I’m confused as to why…) Then I removed overlay-scrollbar including its lib, which brought me back to a much more comfortable interface (not just good old, but just better usability, IMHO). Overlay scrollbars are complete nonsense (sorry for sounding negative, but believe me, there is no other way to express it). Max and min buttons were ubuntu-tweaked to _canonical_ (no pun intended) right corner. Things are now back to normal. My next distribution will probably not be Ubuntu anymore. Let’s see.

  10. Marco Says:

    Thanks Mark for this brand new version as usual it’s a pleasure to discover a new Ubuntu version. I totally agree on new regarding what you’ve said about Unity:

    “In the design of Unity we chose to be both humble and bold. Humble, because we have borrowed consciously from the work of other successful platforms, like Windows and MacOS. We borrowed what worked best, but then we took advantage of the fact that we are unconstrained by legacy and can innovate faster than they can, and took some bold leaps forward.”

    Yes Open source can innovate faster than proprietary softwares but…she evolution shouldn’t be detrimental to simplicity, bugs correction, and friendly use. I do prefer this version nevertheless there is ;ore bugs and design inconsistency regarding the Unity Dock and the dash which is still not configurable.
    Despite these remarks and bugs I do recognize that Unity is a quite a leap for Ubuntu…I look forward to Wayland and Qt implementations…then will get a cool a refreshing Ubuntu. Good job Thumbs Up For Marks and the Community.
    PS; there is one thing that I like in open source, is when so;ething goes wrong or of you have a remark, you can just write a mail a discuss with a dev or the Boss. This is Open Soucre….cool is Open so drop by1

  11. Davor Says:

    Unity is here to stay, that`s obvious. Still, it needs more polishing.

    Icons and those background colours…

    All together looks frivolous.
    Unity needs more serious look.

    Anyway – it is good path to go. So…
    Go Ubuntu! Go!

  12. tony Says:

    great post mark, i think ubuntu will just get better and better

  13. Avetik Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I understand — this is your blog and you are screening the comments, but my previous comment (which I don’t see here anymore) was not offensive or even super-negative, I just honestly shared my end-user experience. You and folks that work for you should pay attention not just to those who say “Hurray!” to anything you do (like we did in good old Soviet Union) but to those who send you constructive criticism. If I cared enough to write it to you, it is probably important. But if you are unable to listen, well, what can I do.

    Perhaps you will realize one day you are moving to the wrong direction.

  14. Bort Sarsgaard Says:

    I like to keep a lot of open windows — usually a half dozen terminals. With Gnome Shell the taskbar makes it very easy to switch between these windows. Unity has made this an utter ordeal. I have other smaller complaints, but this one is so bad that it renders Unity unusable for me.

  15. Justin Says:

    I have what I believe to be an important question about Unity.

    Will you be able to theme it with HTML/CSS/Javascript like you can with Gnome. That thought must have come up. Making the objects DOM objects so that their properties can be manipulated via ‘HCJ’. I did create a Brainstorm suggestion http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/27926/ But it was not approved, I don’t know why, I don’t understand the brainstorm process.

    Irrelevant, being able to use HCJ on the presentation layer is massive. QT5 is going that way. It is essentially the whole Windows Presentation Layer – XAML or even Mozilla’s XUL done in a far better way, that people are already familiar with. It can majorly add to accessibility as well by ensuring that the desktop isn’t just displayed, but semantically marked up instead. Currently I think that it would be crazy to miss this opportunity. But that’s my opinion. I’m sure that idea has probably already come up, but I’m still waiting to hear someone talk about it.

    Anyway, many thanks – would love to know if you actually ever manage to read this.

  16. candtalan Says:

    Mark I found your recent reported comments about the involvement of commercial companies in to the free software ecosystem, very interesting. http://lwn.net/Articles/442782/
    I hope you will be enabling an elegant debate around it over time, it seems like an area which is as important as it might be risky and uncomfortable too.

  17. Joe Linux Says:

    Unity is Canonical’s Edsel. It is one of the most user unfriendly desktop environments every developed. It’s totally unintuitive. The wiper is particularly annoying and not at all useful. There are no menus to assist the user. As a an alleged system, it is very difficult to navigate. Some sort of cheat sheet is required. Please bring back the previous three menu system. You could use the Ubuntu logo to create sort of an Apple favorites menu that possibly could bring out the wretched wiper. The taskbars need to be user friendly like in the past. A user needs to be able to right click on the taskbar to easily add applets. The bottom taskbar needs to be returned because it is so easy to see what is launched and navigate to it. Unity is very foreign, unfriendly and difficult to use. My advice is to abandon the project in favor of a much more traditional approach.

  18. Andres Says:

    I updated to ubuntu Natty and I love unity.
    At first time I hated it, because your use to the more traditional desktop interfaces.
    It is very easy to use and configure, it still needs some improvement but at the time it’s good.
    I think the area of my desktop y better and i can find the installed software very easy.

  19. pete Says:

    Finally the geeks realised that “software is no longer just about inner beauty (architecture, performance, efficiency) it’s also about usability and style.”.. Mark, you are on the money, as much as it grates, its true – Ubu still has a long way to to become “Mum friendly” but your getting there guys… fantastic work, and yes it makes me feel all safe and warm inside, and thats a bonus, not the reason im using it.

    (Non techie).. Its not all great though, there is still a long way to go, but you guys seem to be setting the banchmark.

    just my 2 cents 😉

  20. juancarlospaco Says:

    We miss you on Twitter 🙂

  21. mark Says:


    I sometimes take a few weeks to circle back here and clear the queue of comments Akismet has flagged for moderation. Don’t hold it against me, it’s the only way I know how to keep the comments clean of spam. I generally do publish critical comments, especially if they come with a full name.

  22. mark Says:

    @Sarah, who posted anonymously and wanted a reply:

    I know that some of my views are controversial. My role is to lead, and while I am not perfect nor do I have a crystal ball, I do have the privilege of a very broad exposure to the whole free and proprietary software ecosystem.

    A long time ago, I felt upset that the free software ecosystem was not producing something that would change the world the way I believed FLOSS could. I realised that holding opinions was easy, but if I wanted to do something about it I would need to climb in, put myself at risk and build that vision, for better or worse. The result is Ubuntu. Today, I’m again looking forward and asking the question “how can we make free software the de facto standard way people do software”. And the answer, to me, is jujitsu: not to deny the value of proprietary software or semi-proprietary strategies, but to figure out how we can leverage them for our own purposes. So, while it is always dangerous to dance with the devil, and while I recognise the risks of doing so, I remain convinced we need a more mature relationship with that world than the FLOSS community has today.

    You and I are both obliged to stay true to ourselves. I hope we’ll find plenty of ways to get good stuff done, despite our differences.


  23. Jose Says:

    Hi Mark, my feedback as a power user:

    I installed Ubuntu 11.04 on two computers, my old laptop(three years old) and my netbook Asus One.

    On the laptop it said something like: “The graphic chip does not support Unity”, it has proprietary NVIDIA drivers that works.

    The netbook Asus Aspire One works with Unity. I went mad looking for the computer preferences and wasted a lot of time doing that. Unity could work over time but you need some changes:

    The first and more important one is educate you users, this is a marketing design flaw that I honestly did not expect from you with your experience making companies. If you change every single way of doing things people should have an option to learn the new stuff. As someone wrote before, you need a guided tour for windows, mac and linux or newbie users. If you can make it a video or sound with a python script, better because sound is extremely cheap on memory and power resources.

    You are frustrating every single user right now, you only have a very limited window of time to convince users to change, if they do not they will go away and justify the change talking s*h*t about Ubuntu and Unity. No good.

    I have a beautiful backgrounds on Windows and mac. Eye candy is important, period, but the standard background is an ugly abstract of colors, a little improvement from the mud wallpaper times. Are you going to let Steve Jobs use beautiful and powerful Lions while your distro displays a mess or mixture of nothingness. WHO IS THE SOUTHAFRICAN GUY HERE?? As my Aquarells teacher(who sells it for a good living) use to say “people care first about other people(faces), then animals, and then human things like boats and houses, that is where the eye goes first, those are the heroes of the picture” Steve Jobs knows that, you seem to ignore it.

    Solve the multiple windows issue for those that need it(giant screens like my imac and multiple screens users), and the majority of the people that are hating Unity right now will be able to coexist with it. With time they will be able to slowly get used to it, humans are habit creatures, they can not change too much in a small period of time. Wow, just imagine if the Wayland transition is made on the next Ubuntu version, so many changes and bugs to digest.

    Keep the great work!!

  24. Jose Says:

    Oh I see they are new wallpapers now, but the standard statup one could be improved a lot.

  25. SpamSpamSpamSpam Says:

    Thank you for your response. I’m relieved to hear that you do understand what you are doing to an extent. It seems silly to think that you wouldn’t, but I actually was concerned about that. I’m still not sure you understand why Free software is so precious, but I do kind of see what you are trying to do. Not the approach I would take, but, we are different people.

    >You and I are both obliged to stay true to ourselves

    This is very true and, although your methods are impacting something I hold dear, I do wish you luck in achieving your core goal 🙂

  26. Paulo Says:

    Maybe you should start this article with the words “this is an opinion article and not necessarily the real truth”. And that’s what it is: your opinion about how things work, from your point of view. Maybe you should openly discuss your ideas with some other people with different views of this matter.


  27. mark Says:


    This blog is quite clearly my personal opinion, there’s nothing to suggest otherwise.

  28. Maurers Says:

    to be admins, you can use this solution. You can create a group called admin, and give this group admin privileges. Then you can add all the users you want to have these privileges to this group

  29. Lars Rune Nøstdal Says:

    Thanks for the reply Mark, but out of utter desperation I decided to try the Gnome 3 PPA. However, this is how windows look like: http://i.imgur.com/8XNqc.jpg (with both the OSS and closed drivers).

    I give up. This is just stupid.

  30. Hasan Says:

    Unity looks great in screenshots. But it is very hard to get it up and running. The installation is bet is quick and easy. But I can’t find a machine both physical or virtual which can run it. So logistically, it has problems. I have a Dell Dimension which runs winxp, win vista, win7, ubuntu just fine. But when I put ubunu11 on it, it says the hardware isn’t good enough and it goes to classic ui. I tried virtualbox and unity won’t run on that earlier (running virtualbox on lastest mac). I’m not going to buy a brand new machine just to run unity. So having a technology that can’t run on reasonably backward hardware is not useful. Either the ui drivers aren’t well written. I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing linux kernel code in the IO and file system so know the issues. Imagine if using ext4 required everyone to buy new hard drives, that would be silly.

  31. Santse S. Says:

    At first glance I loved Unity, then I disliked it when I realized how little I can customize it, now I like it again when I have gotten into it. It only needs to be a little more customizable and we have a winner. The top four hopes are:

    – The top bar should be more customizable. I want to add the old work space switcher in it. It’s so slow to switch desktops nowadays!

    – Applications, file & folders and workspace switcher should be moved next to the recycle bin. It makes more sense since they are not windows like the other buttons.

    – Also they should be removable. I have found no use for the first two and I can also open them from the Ubuntu logo. Or maybe just combine both of them to the Ubuntu button. Customization is important here since people have different kinds of set-ups, screen sizes and habits.

    – The small arrow that indicates what apps are open is too easy to miss. I would remove the background rectangle from every app that is not open.

    You and everyone else in the community are doing incredible job. I hope you all the best.

  32. ArghUnity Says:

    I regard myself as almost a power user.
    Ubuntu was the best distribution, and much of Mark’s philosophy is admirable.
    But I cannot abide this Unity thing on my modern desktop. Everything moves. Animations distract and delay. Big clumsy icons. Too many clicks. Cannot customise. Global menu sucks. All the power user habits count for nothing. Feels like a big phone.
    So within a week I switched to classic.
    Will you commit to keeping that option possible, or are you saying sooner or later I will have to get used to Unity?

  33. Eric Baird Says:

    Mark, here’s the big secret about the OSX global menu.

    The reason why Apple use it isn’t because they think it’s optimal, or because it saves precious screenspace (OSX users tend to have larger desktops than average). It’s also not a “modern” Apple innovation. It’s the old-fashioned way that people used to design desktops back in the days of the Atari and Amiga, before the Windows designers decided that the new VGA screens were large enough for them to be able to repackage all of a program’s interface components into a single more logical and visually-consistent block.

    There are two main reasons why Apple stuck with the “old” method:

    Reason One is the same reason that they stuck so long with the one-button mouse. They’d invested credibility in a certain “look”, and to change that look was to lose a distinctive visual cue that set them apart from Microsoft. To change was to admit that a part of the MS design had actually been better than theirs. It was easier to stick with a non-optimal design, because the Apple brand was about being different.

    Reason Two was that the global menu creates psychological “glitches” in the user’s workflow. Apple were concerned that people using Photoshop all day would come to associate their job with the software rather then the OS, and if that happened, Adobe users would be happy to switch to the same Adobe software running under cheaper PC hardware, and Apple would lose high-value marketshare. Keeping the OSX global menu meant that the user periodically jumped out of “Adobeland” and made them keep looking at an Apple menubar with an Apple logo. If the users already liked Apple, the global menu gave them a series of subconciously-enjoyable “Apple moments” thoughout the day. It was a psychological reinforcement technique designed to make professional users finish their day thinking “Yaaay, I’ve been using an Apple product!”.

    The same thing goes for the OSX launcher bar. It’s designed to be obtrusive, and to jump out and squeak “I’m an Apple!”. A clone of the OSX launcher is available for free for Windows, and almost nobody uses it, because on the face of it, it’s a really bad piece of GUI design. But it wasn’t designed for efficient workflow, it was deliberately designed to //interrupt// workflow and create “Apple moments”. It causes the computer equivalent of an mini ad break.

    So Ubuntu 11.04 copying the OSX global menu gave Ubuntu a credibility problem, because the people who liked the global menu tended to be Apple fans who liked it because it reminded them of OSX (so their goodwill was being directed at Apple rather than Canonical), and the people who disliked the global menu, or didn’t understand where it’d come from (or knew the OSX way of doing things but didn’t like it) were narked with Canonical rather than Apple. It was lose-lose – Ubuntu got the blame (for bad design, or for unimaginatively copying rather than innovating), and Apple got any goodwill. Users tend not to mind the outright and gleeful theft of great ideas (after all, the users are the immediate beneficiaries), but in this case, Ubuntu seemed to be copying ineptly – its designers didn’t seem to understand the function of what they were copying, and were copying distinctive features that were //sub//optimal. That’s kinda the worst-case scenario – it means that your users don’t credit you either with originality //or// with technical knowledge.

    It’s like … suppose that this is 1966, and The Monkees bring out a hit song that goes: “Hey hey, we’re the Monkees …”, and it creates a strong brand perception for them. If you try to copy in on that success by bringing out your own song whose chorus is “Hey, hey, they’re the Monkees …”, then even if your product is technically as good or better than theirs, all you’re doing is bolstering their brand at the expense of yours. People who like the original will still buy the original rather than yours, people who don’t like the original won’t like yours either, and industry people who don’t care either way will wonder how you manged to make the mistake of copying something cheesy whose only real purpose was to emphasise someone else’s branding.

    Yes, there will be some situations where a global menu //might// save some useful space (although if the user is that concerned about space and is already using a space-optimised app like Chrome, the idea can become a bit redundant) … but if you’re going to implement it, you do it as a user-option. You have a special section for “Screen optimisation” that lets the user tick boxes for “small fonts”, “global menu” and any other space-saving tricks that spring to mind, and that way both the Windows and Mac user-communities give you credit for being more friendly than //either// MS or Apple, and you also get to make a big show about how much work you’ve put into optimising the OS for different screen formats (and different user-bases). By putting in a choice that //neither// Apple or MS offer, suddenly you become the market innovator rather than them. Putting in those sorts of easy customisation options for different situations add flexibility and might make an OS the first choice for new emerging hardware platforms.

    But by taking out flexibility it means that you’re liable to be wrong-footed every time someone brings out a new hardware format. If you’re betting the future of the OS on wide-screen small-format landscape netbooks, and the future turns out to be portrait-format tablets, or table PCs, or wall-size projected screens with gesture control, or … something else … you’re never going to have the right user-interface support for the Next Big Thing, and people wont regard the OS as either sufficiently future-proofed or sufficiently compatible with legacy hardware to invest in it. The thing needs built-in infrastructure that’s flexible enough to make as much software run as well as possible, on as many hardware platforms as possible.

    That’s Ubuntu’s niche. OSX can’t compete on that level because it’s Apple-specific, Android and iOS run well on low-powered hardware but can’t run large Office apps (yet), Win7 isn’t good on limited hardware, and WinXP is now officially dead.

    The market ought to be wide open for something like Ubuntu 10.10, if the industry reckons that this is an OS designed to cope well with a range of novel hardware configurations, and if they think that it’s a fully professional system that isn’t going to embarrass them.

    But if that’s the market that Canonical is going for, IMO it’s probably not a good idea to put out releases with “issues” of the sort that 11.04 has.

  34. christiaan_ Says:

    I would like to thank Mark and the Ubuntu team for an amazing leap forward with Ubuntu 11.04 and Unity. After reading so much negative feedback about unity and people complaining, I would like to say I personally love Unity, and have only had good installation experiences with Ubuntu 11.04 on old laptops (7 years old), on a variety of older and newer desktop machines, and even working out of the box on the latest Macbook Pro’s.

    Some background: I am an advanced user of Windows 7, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu, with 30 years of media, design and development experience. For the past 3 years I have used Ubuntu as my main operating system.

    People who dislike Unity: Guys you have choice in Ubuntu as so many have pointed out – don’t like it – don’t use it. Use Gnome 2 classic or DOS for that matter – or theme it to look like your favorite OS or as you like. That is the joy and freedom of Linux. Choice.

    Graphics Hardware issues with Unity: To be fair I have had many issues with machines and Windows 7 Aero to work, so some issues with Unity is not a big deal, it is new and will evolve. For those older machines Unity 2D works perfectly. Look at how far Unity has evolved in a few months since it’s release ! It has been pushed and polished by all the users. That is the power of the community – don’t just complain – contribute. Most issues are quickly solved by the community and posted.

    Why I like Unity more than Windows 7 or Mac OS X: My setup includes a desktop machine with high end specifications and 3 x 23″ Dell monitors running on a ATi 5770 graphics card. My input devices of choice is an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad. Not the default Ubuntu setup. Which one of the 3 operating systems desktop works best with this hardware setup ? Ubuntu Unity. On the move I use Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity on my Macbook Pro 13″.

    1. Unity is the only OS that is looking towards bridging the gap between the conventional desktop environment and mobile touch devices. New devices need a new approach. Unity is not the perfect answer – but a good one, and will evolve over time, in my opinion.
    2. Unity makes more sense to new Linux/Ubuntu users than Gnome Classic. Projects like Mint are great to migrate people from windows, but do we want more windows XP look alikes?
    3. Unity work very well on laptops and smaller devices, using the screen real estate in a much better way than OS X or Windows 7.
    4. Unity had a full screen button long before Mac OS X.

    Thank you once again for doing the hard work of moving things along and getting them done. There will always be the people kicking and screaming to avoid change.

    Viva Unity, Viva Ubuntu

  35. Bazon Bloch Says:

    Eric Baird:
    Very good analysis, I couldn’t agree more.

  36. nerdsabetudo Says:

    aybe this is not the right place to tell this, but users want games in their computers, why the reason Ubuntu is never consider the first option by any users. Bring major game companies to Ubuntu linux world in fact is not to hard. If you, Mark, try talk with people from Valve to provide a version of Steam to Ubuntu, all the nice games for Windows and Mac platforms will be available in Ubuntu too. If we have Skype, a proprietary software under Ubuntu Software Center, why not Steam for gamers?

  37. Henke Says:

    RE. christiaan_ three comments above:

    1. Why would anyone want to completely bridge that gap? The gap exists for several reasons, some of them physical and very easy to recognize as opposing sides. Touchscreens vs mouse & keyboards. Single small display vs unlimited multi-head variants. Devices with a single focus at a time vs multi-purpose and multi-tasking work/gaming stations. Casual time-killing browsing and gaming on a bus vs hardcore gaming with buddies or frantic work before deadlines. Watching a cute-kitten-youtube-clip while waiting for said bus vs a fullblown movie experience with family and friends.
    No device exists, nor will exist in the near or even far future that can do all those things well.

    2. Unity is new to new Linux/Ubunut users, regardless of previous experience. What’s worse, Unity is very new to old Linux/Ubuntu users as well. What’s worst is however that it borrows things from just about every OS out there, hoping that users will recognize them as good picks – but not a single thing actually works the way they “used to”. If you want users to feel at home and be able to navigate intuitively, be like what they already know, or at least provide _defaults_ that are recognizable. It does not need to be another Win XP clone, as long as it can resemble it for new users, and it’s easy to choose something else once users feel comfy enough to want it. OS:es don’t start customized, they “earn” it by getting more and more loved by their users.
    To prove Linux/Ubuntu is about choice, let people choose! Don’t downgrade the experience by locking them inside something built for less capable devices (not much comes close to the efficiency of a keyboard and mouse yet).
    No, switching “back” to classic Gnome isn’t an option! Truly new users won’t know what Gnome is. They won’t know what a Dash is, or Lenses, or [insert-new-random-Unity-term-here-is] is. Truly new users won’t even know what Unity is, or why it works the way it does, it’s just “new Ubuntu” to them. They don’t care about programs having a unified way to show notifications, as long as they do show. They’ll just be annoyed the icons they see don’t react the way they’re supposed to, if they show up at all. They’ll be annoyed that there’s no obvious way all installed programs can be listed. They’ll be annoyed all toolbar menus are invisible and miles away from the window they belong to. They’ll be annoyed by all the media programs they don’t use bloating the (now huge) volume control. They’ll be frustrated by all missed instant messages because a single small icon now represents all communications that need attention. If they get emails every 10th minute, they’ll start ignoring that icon. They leave the desk for 30min and end up unintentionally ignoring the 3 new IMs that arrived while they were gone, as they now compete with 3 unimportant emails. They’ll be annoyed that starting programs suddenly requires multiple clicks over long distances. That is if they can still click the main menu at all, it’s more than often obscured by the “tray icons” that do show properly, albeit at random locations.
    Semi-new users with a farily high comfort levlel will likely have an even harder time adjusting. All their new customizations, panels, widgets etc got trashed without warning. All replaced by a new shiny, but unforgiving and unpersonal, monolithic construction dictating their preferences.

    Gnome, its menus and panels were recognizable and could obviously be customized if you didn’t like them. All you needed to do was to stumble across the options in the context menu. Unity has none of that, so new users have no choice but to uninstall _Ubuntu_. Yes, people discard the latest Ubuntu because of Unity, every day. Not because they don’t have a choice to switch to Gnome, but because they either don’t know they can or they think it won’t be worth battling with it after every new install. Yes, new people still see re-installation as the easiest way to fix many problems – thanks MS…
    New users aren’t idiots, but they are new so they often need something familiar. And they don’t like to feel like idiots by having a shiny new OS release put in their hands and not immediately understanding even how to see if a certain type of program is available. Easily understood categories went out the door in favor of a big pile of which you only see the top, and a useless search.
    In short; Unity makes very little sense to new users, except perhaps where no full desktop makes no sense, like 3″ displays. There people start out fresh with less expectations and are more willing to accept compromises. For that is what Unity feels like, a compromise where everything is either half done or half thought through before completion. It evolves, yes, but how far can it get from the corner it’s heading for?

    3. Maybe. If you can live with the scrollbars being hard to see and move to absolute positions. Or that the main menu obscures the entire screen when opened. Or that the close/minimize/maximize buttons are too close to the main menu. Or that the toolbar menus of several programs don’t fit at all if you add an indicator or two. Or that the “# instances open” indicators on the sidebar don’t really tell anything about what’s in those windows. Or if you don’t mind not being able to change icon sizes in the sidebar popouts to fit a reasonable amount of icons on the screen. Or that attaching an external display gives you no explicit control over where the sidebar appears. Or that touchscreen-only devices have a really hard time interacting with the new GUI with much efficiency.

    I love Ubuntu and I don’t see myself running anything but Ubuntu (or perhaps a close derivative) in the near future. But change just for the sake of change isn’t good. Canonical claim they have done a lot of UX research on actual users when designing and working on Unity. Yet we see users having major and _fundamental_ UX problems everywhere. Even issues Gnome and KDE worked out ages ago. They also claim they want to work with the rest of the GNU/Linux community, yet we have a clear rivalry with the Gnome project. Competition is healty, but not when it becomes rivaly just for the sake of being rivals and doing what the other guy doesn’t want to do. Choice between products is good, choice within a product you already like is better!

    RE: nerdsabetudo:
    Porting Steam is certainly not enough. Steam isn’t a game engine, more like an app-store. Each individual game would still need major porting effotrs to run natively on anything but what they were originally made to run on. That’s just not going to happen. Our only hope is that new games (new game engines) are made to target multiple platforms from the start and that the platform can be adapted to run the older games (think WINE). We have Skype because the Skype people released a version specifically for Linux. We might get Steam if Valve does the same, but none of the Windows-specific games downloaded by it would run without WINE.

  38. Full Circle Podcast Episode 19: Burnt at the Stake | Full Circle Magazine Says:

    […] Unity??? Dont like Unity, Dont use it. Plenty of other Distros out there. (http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/671) […]

  39. Ubuntu 11.04 and Unity – how Mark defends the change « zen of almost all things Says:

    […] release and make it available as part of synaptic manager, there were outcries. But in this article, Mark has rightly defended why Ubuntu remains strong and how we should embrace change even if it […]

  40. Full Circle Podcast Episode 19: Burnt at the Stake « Everything Express Says:

    […] Unity??? Don’t like Unity, Don’t use it. Plenty of other Distros out there. (http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/671) […]

  41. Mario Says:

    Hi Mark. I like the work of unity, but it would be better not to rely more and rewrite the code compiz unity. Compiz has many problems. The codes graphical effects can rewritten, i think!!!

    ciao da Modena

  42. Torsten Says:


    now that I upgraded to 11.10 this weekend I am forced to use Unity, which I disabled for good reasons.
    It is a mix of the WORST of 3 worlds, contrary to the *IX – it tries a lot and gets nothing done right.

    Indeed, there is a lot of things found on other OS – but they did it better.

    I feel reminded to the Apple behavior on one hand (THEY define what the users wants and what he is allowed to do) and on the other hand to Microsoft’s chaotic menus/desktop.

    The first thing I saw on the Dash was a wrong icon for a program. No (obvious) way to correct this. “Dash” brings no results when trying to find something there, system menu also no chance. Right click (where I expect to find properties, this is still valid for icons on the desktop!) brings up nothing useful. Dash itself has no context menu. Great!

    The next thing was installing a puzzle game. Was quite easy with Software Center, I just searched for “jigsaw”. Not so easy was launching it afterwards. Puzzle? No. Jigsaw? Nothing. I had to click on Dash, select the 2nd icon on the bottom and expand “all programs”. Hey, we’re back to Windows! Rummaging through a list of more than 150 items is exactly what I want to do every day! Great!
    One of the main reasons to prefer Linux (especially Ubuntu) over Windows was its clear menu structure, making it easy to find any program with few clicks. I only missed the feature to access the menu items by keyboard ( opens the first folder starting with that letter and so on). But on Windows I’m at least able to move programs to other menus while I’m completely left alone with Unity. Also Windows 7 (even if I really do NOT like it) at least finds programs by ANY part of the program name, while in Unity you have to remember its exact spelling. What will be the next step, honoring capital letters?

    Well then, after finally finding the game it crashed somewhen. In such cases I usually start the process manager and since I have a widescreen monitor, I place it somewhere down right so it doesn’t disturb other activities. Now guess what? When I want to close other than by keyboard, I need to move the mouse across the screen to activate it and the whole way back to get to the close-button! I don’t have a tablet, but I would believe it’s a good feature for this kind of device. Anyway, as long as the majority of machines are still PCs with mice, this should be an OPTION at its best, but not a default (with no obvious possibility to change that)!

    I was not that happy with XP and consider W7 even crappier, so I’m with Ubuntu since “Dapper Drake” trying to get used to it. The plan was switching completely to Linux after support for XP will be discontinued. But now I will have to find either another Distro with a comfortable menu system or continue using Windows. Too sad, regarding all the wasted time.. 🙁