First Look: Unity for Natty Narwhal (Ubuntu 11.04)

April 1, 2011 by



Screen image 
from Ubuntu 11.04 Unity


Wow! If you remember my First Review of Ubuntu’s Unity interface, I was very critical.

While it still needs some work, vast improvements have been made. As you can see from the image above, I was able to customise the background, and change am/pm, and put the buttons on the right hand side. NONE of which I could do in the 10.10 netbook remix. USB Flashdrives also mount correctly.

Remember we are running off the livecd here. So nothing we do here remains, once we reboot. But this is a way to look at Unity without installing.

Here’s the magic (courtesy of trism on #ubuntu+1 freenode irc channel) on how to enable Unity. (By default, you get gnome)

1. In the Synaptic Package Manager, under Settings/Repositories, I had to enable the universe repository.

2. Trying to get a terminal window was a little tricky. But if you click on the button top left, and search for “terminal” you will find it.

Alternate method: alt+f2 opens up a run window, and type in:


and you are all set.

3. Next get the updates, so:

sudo apt-get update

4. Install the Unity interface:

sudo apt-get install libgl1-mesa-dri-experimental

5. Logout/back in

and you will have the Unity interface.

6. Note that libreoffice (which IMHO is NOT ready for Primetime) comes installed standard, instead of Open Office. Firefox 4.0 is here. I could not get empathy to work, but that’s primarily due to my unfamiliarity.

This is vastly improved over what I saw. It will require a lot of patience to learn where things are. The Applications/Places/System is all gone. Instead you click on the Ubuntu Icon (top left) and navigate to the folder with the magnifying glass. NOT the magnifying glass with the square, the magnifying glass with a plus (+). There you will find most of the system/administration tasks. The one thing they did NOT change: the icons are still cryptic!

One of the most frustrating things I noticed with Unity is that the application menu: File/Edit/View/Search (see photo) is no longer a part of each application. That’s now moved to the top task bar. (you should be able to see the terminal window Menu in the photo). Not certain if I like that.

Still like they say: “There’s no place like gnome!”


6 Responses to First Look: Unity for Natty Narwhal (Ubuntu 11.04)

  1. Firefishe

    Hi, Wayne! Great and informative review! 🙂

    Unity is coming along, nicely, I see. I think it’s going to come out nicely polished when it’s out of beta.

    I should really try the live cd and see how it fairs for my own laptop hardware. I’m on 10.04 LTS still, and since my wife is using the computer more, I prefer stable to testing at this point.

    Again, nice review! Thank you for keeping up with the newness!

    Be Well,

  2. jake

    I just installed the beta and had to manually work through some rough spots. I’m seeing a straight up gnome desktop, though synaptic claims unity is installed.

    It’s snappy, I’ll say that for it. My biggest gripe is that ssh server is not even listed in the repositories. That kills any attempt to initiate any kind of file transfer or backup from outside the natty machine, so it’s pretty lame if it’s on purpose.

  3. admin Post author

    On 04/27/2011 07:33 AM, Francis wrote:

    ..on all but one computer that I tried it on.

    In all but this one exception (a high end gamer machine),I got an error message that stated that the video controller was inadequate. In most of them, it defaulted to Gnome without the error message.

    In theory, for Ubuntu 11.04, you can select between the “Unity” desktop environment and the “Gnome Classic” desktop environment at the log-in screen. See http://scottlinux.com/?p=1582

    However, I was only able to switch between Unity and Gnome for the gamer machine. On the other computers, “Gnome” was rendered even when I tried to switch to “Unity”.

    I am not complaining, since I greatly prefer “Gnome” anyway, but this adds complexity for newer Ubuntu users, since their end-user documentation does not mention this complexity.

  4. lunasspecto

    Ugh. Just upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04, and Unity fails to start up every time, leaving me with nothing but the default Ubuntu wallpaper and a cursor on my screen. Now I have to figure out the best way to get answers from the Ubuntu forums…

    Luckily I can still start in Gnome, a.k.a. “Ubuntu Classic.”

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