For those who have been using Ubuntu up until now, Ubuntu 12.04 is mainly a performance upgrade of 11.10 but for those who may be new to Ubuntu, 12.04 is very user friendly, snappy, and productive. Let’s take a look from the inside at what will strike out most to new users and/or those who skipped Ubuntu 11.10.
Ubuntu is free and very easy to install, includes thousands of free (and paid) apps and games and to gamers, expect Steam, a popular web store for videogames, to be available on Ubuntu sometime in the near future.
So let’s start with the most used item, the Dash. The Dash is your one-stop place to find anything on your computer – or on the web. This includes files, programs, videos, and music. To assess it, press Start on your keyboard or click on the Ubuntu icon on the top of the unity bar to the left side.
The Dash includes filters for application types, Music genres, star ratings, and more which make it easy to find what you’re looking for.
Many programs in Ubuntu now include right click menus which allow you to control certain tasks and jump directly to what you need.
The Unity launcher works in a similar fashion to the Windows taskbar and OS X Dock. To pin an app, drag and drop it onto the launcher and to unpin it, right click and unlock it. If you have multiple windows of an app open, you can preview all of them using expose by clicking on the arrows to the left of the app’s icon on the Launcher. Ubuntu will also let you organize running apps by letting you sort them via four desktops. If you need to compare things, snap is available to automatically size windows whenever you drag a window to a side or top of the screen.
You now have greater control over how Unity looks and behaves, although you won’t gain all of the controls until you install MyUnity from the Software Center.
The Ubuntu Software Center hosts thousands of apps which are, for the most part, free and really easy to install. The store is separated into categories and will let you search for things. When you stumble upon an app you might like, you can get more info and reviews – along with screenshots, or just directly install it. After authenticating the install with your password, Software Center will take care of the rest, providing new animations and eye candy to let you know that everything is working.
Another great new feature in Ubuntu 12.04 has to with dealing with commands. Suppose you need to find a function within a program and don’t want to look through menus to find it. Press the Alt key within the app and you will see a search bar pop up where you can search for your command.
Now for specific tasks there are programs that are included that get the job done and many alternatives are available in the software center. Ubuntu includes the basics plus Rythmbox for music, Libre Office for work, Empathy for chatting on various networks (includes MSN, Facebook, Google Talk and more), Shotwell for pictures and you can explore the rest and find the missing pieces in the Software Center!
Overall, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is one of the fastest, most modern and most user-friendly versions yet. For a free operating system, with free software and tools, Ubuntu is starting to emerge as a real alternative to Windows and Mac OS X, however polishing is still needed and only time will tell where the course of Ubuntu will go.