Canonical has released the next version of Ubuntu which carries the version number 11.04 and the codename Natty Narwhal. The free and open source Linux distribution, which entered beta about a month ago, is now ready for download for laptops, desktops, netbooks and servers from the project’s Web site, offering computer uses around the globe a no-cost, feature-packed alternative to Microsoft Windows and other operating systems.
The biggest change has to be a move away from Gnome as the default desktop and the introduction of Unity. It’s a decision Mark Shuttleworth announced last year as a way of reducing the amount of resources Ubuntu uses as well as maximizing screen real estate for the user.
With a new interface comes new widgets to play with and a few nuances to get used to. Not that we mind, as Canonical has reinvented the scrollbar to be a lot more intelligent and therefore takes up less screen space. There’s also a new launcher that sits on the left of the screen. It drops down to reveal your favorite tools and applications, as well as storing your bookmarks and tracking open apps. It’s also easily hidden to increase screen space.
Next to the launcher is the dash which allows easy searching for anything on your system including applications. It also forms an easy way to get to shortcuts quickly.
Canonical has also tried to make it easier to work with multiple workspaces with a new way to look at your active workspaces. This allows you to easily move between each workspace by presenting a preview of each one as demonstrated in the image below.
Some other changes have made it into the release too, including the default music player switching to Banshee, and there’s a move from OpenOffice to LibreOffice due to the recent split and uncertainty around OpenOffice.
Existing Ubuntu users will be happy to hear speed is still a major concern for Canonical and 11.04 is meant to be even quicker than previous versions, especially with Unity running.
Although Ubuntu 11.04 sets the Unity interface as a default, the OS will check to see if your system can run it first. If it can’t then the classic desktop is automatically used instead so it won’t just not work. And if it does work, but you don’t like it, you can easily switch to another desktop interface on the login screen.
You can download Ubuntu 11.04 right now free of charge with the ISO coming in at just under 700MB.