The neat thing about Linux is you can test certain features of the distribution before they become part of an official release. Unity is such a case. You can install and play around with it before it hits the store. So to speak. Unity is the future default desktop environment for Ubuntu starting with Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. It will replace the the steady and unflappable Gnome 3.
My first impressions were not good. Although navigation and the overall feel of Unity were very positive, I had one big issue. Opening any of the new browsers (Firefox or Chrome) in full screen mode, resulted in a blank white screen. Minimizing the browser seem to work.
So, I abandoned Unity, swearing it still needed a lot of work. After all, Unity is still under development, just to be fair. A few weeks later, I came back to Unity. The full screen browser mode seems to be fixed. Now, I can really test this new desktop/netbook environment.
Working with Unity is like driving a new car, and driving on the left side of the road at the same time. It takes a whole lot to getting used to. One major impression I got with Unity is, it really is geared towards netbooks. Every application seem to start in full screen mode. This is fine if you own a netbook.
If you have a desktop, applications tend to be stretched out. I have a desktop with lots of screen real estate. I don’t need every application to start in full screen mode? And where is the minimize button when you need one?
It’s going to take a while to get use to Unity. It has its advantages. Switching applications seems to be easier. The icons of every active application are laid out on top of the bar. Clicking on any of the icons switches the user to that application. Clicking the Ubuntu icon clears the screen and displays the Unity menu.
After a few hours with Unity, I miss Gnome badly. I’m lost at times, and that happens in a new environment. I will test it for a few days, perhaps two weeks before coming down with a final verdict.