I’ve had enough of Ubuntu Unity!

I’ve had enough of Ubuntu Unity!

Summary: Everyone I know who’s used Ubuntu of late can’t stick the Unity interface. Admittedly, a dozen people does not maketh a statistically coherent sample.


Everyone I know who’s used Ubuntu of late can’t stick the Unity interface. Admittedly, a dozen people does not maketh a statistically coherent sample. But still, I feel it’s indicative of some real problems.

Unity 5.12 on Ubuntu 12.04
The much maligned Ubuntu Unity desktop interface, screenshot courtesy Wikipedia

My experience of Unity has been mercifully short: I couldn’t disable the screen-estate gobbling dock . And I couldn’t find the keyboard shortuct to launch a program (on a MacBook).

After half an hour, I gave up. User error or user-unfriendliness? I don’t care, I just want it to work.

A Drupal developer I know has Ubuntu running without the dock:

“How did you manage to get rid of it?”.
“I installed GNOME 3”

In Rupert Goodwin’s article about Android fragmentation Meet Android's patron saint: The IBM PC, he eloquently states “Fragmentation is another word for diversity, and diversity is another word for evolutionary potential.”

Diversity is the reason I could give up on Ubuntu. Indeed, diversity bakes in redundancy.

So when Unity doesn’t work for me, I’m free to try out Cinnamon, GNOME 3, KDE 4, Xfce, Enlightenment or some other desktop. You won’t have that option with Windows 8 ;)

Don’t get me wrong, Ubuntu changed the way I think about Linux, and has been a massive boost to the ease-of-use and profile of Linux. But brand loyalty will not tie me to a desktop I find counter-intuitive, and I now recommend Linux Mint rather than Ubuntu.


Topic: Software Development

Jake Rayson

About Jake Rayson

A web designer since the 20th century, I am a pragmatic advocate of Free Software and I use proprietary software when appropriate. I made the full-time switch to Linux back in 2007, and my desktop tools of choice are Linux Mint, Inkscape, GIMP and Sublime Text.

As a Front End Developer, my core skills are HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and my working life reflects my commitment to open standards and accessible websites (ie accessible by everyone, regardless of browser, platform, ability or technology).

For web publishing platforms, I use WordPress for ease of use and Drupal for more complex solutions.

I am also learning about Ruby, Rails, Sinatra and CoffeeScript. I like the minimalist Ruby Way. To this end, my personal portfolio website is built with NestaCMS.

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  • OK - I'm not a member of the set "everyone I know" quoted above, and I have to register a vote. I've been using Ubuntu as my desktop system of choice for about three years (while working professionally with Red Hat / Fedora / Centos). I haven't a problem with Unity at all, and I can't understand why anybody else has! It's different, of course but that (as this article acknowledges) is the whole point about choice.

    I'm not suggesting Unity is the only right thing, or even that anyone else should try it. Just that I can't understand all of the ire aimed at it in so many recent ZDnet posts. As you've said there are alternatives so if Unity's not your cup of tea, then use something else - just get over it!

    Anyone else want to say something positive about Unity?
    Sealand Systems
  • "I couldn’t disable the screen-estate gobbling dock . And I couldn’t find the keyboard shortuct to launch a program (on a MacBook)."

    Hiding Dash: Install MyUnity. Open MyUnity.Choose launcher behaviour hidden.
    Keyboard shortcut: For launching a programm, tap on the window button and type the name of the program. Alternatively, press Alt F2 and type the name of the program.

    If you want to find out more keyboard shortcuts: Hold down the window butt for an extended period of time. A list of short cuts should appear.
  • Note you can also reduce the Launcher icon size in System Settings - Appearance and change the Launcher behaviour from the .... Appearance - Behaviour tab.
    Keyboard shortcuts are described in the Ubuntu Help available from the Desktop menu.
    See my Ubuntu 12.04 reviews.
    Although I agree, I still don't like Unity much either.
  • Oh yes, you can go to settings appearance alternativley. If you want the launcher to be hidden permanently, then choose autohide and decrease the reveal sensitivity to zero. You won't ever see the launcher again.
  • @Jake
    If your experience of Unity is mercifully short, and your experience of a macbook is also mercifully short as you stated, why do you suddenly feel its your need to write or feel as technical charged readers, we might enjoy inane bile comments on the subject of Unity?

    In a similar and continuing theme of the blog 'Why I dislike Ubuntu Reason #37', (I get the jist of it - let's egg this topic on just a little bit more, he criticised Linux trailblazer JW, can't be doing that!).

    All I'm asking is people 'step it up a gear', the days of criticising Ubuntu for a failed hardware driver/install not working have long gone, if you don't want to use, list the positives why you'd rather use something else, but don't write purile tat.

    The Ubuntu 12.04 installs nearly always without hitch - you need to see the bigger picture.

    In fairness J.A. Watson's basic reasoning that overwriting the bootloader without your permission was a fair point.

    It was undermined by the number of partitions in use on a single drive and the fact that Grub and Grub2 are separate packages which can be installed/uninstalled under Ubuntu, so to say it overwrites you're existing grub bootloader with grub2 without permission isn't strictly true. If you don't want Grub2 anywhere near your bootloader - one option is you can remove the Grub2 package from Ubuntu, and use Grub-legacy.

    Just shows the level and detail, robustness of Linux interfaces people have become used to. What they now expect as 'standard' and are willing to throw all their toys out the pram for, when it doesn't do something which they expect it should (or can't be bothered to google), thereby negating/undermining the facts of what it does do extremely well.

    Which is basically work, doesn't crash, and gives you extremely easy access to defacto office desktop, to get things done - all for free. As said, not sure what you're trying to achieve - Perfection for Ubuntu? or Maligning Ubuntu just because you can.

    This article is even more petty than JWs because you're just jumping on the bandwagon trying to get a further response - well you got one, and response is harsh because it needs to be.

    You're also likely to find this article on the telegraph extremely helpful in furthering your technical ability. I recommending writing into them to get your questions answered on how to hide/unhide the Launcher.
  • @adamjarvis

    In fairness to JW, his complaint was *not* that Grub 2 overwrote Grub Legacy. Rather that the Ubuntu boot loader, which was already written to the partition in which Ubuntu was installed, should therefore have been updated in that partition, and not the Master Boot Record where he has the Suse Grub Legacy installed as his principle preferred master boot loader, as has long been his practice.


    In support of Jake Rayson, I too have been a user of Ubuntu from the early days and, although trying other Distros, have stayed with Ubuntu as my every day OS. I would, indeed, have continued to use Ubuntu with Unity had I liked Unity but I find that I do not.

    Ultimately, when I come to a decision, I imagine that I may go forward with Gnome 3 on Ubuntu, so long as Canonical support that choice. Meantime, I’m sticking with Ubuntu 11.04 until support ends.

    Windows 8 has also chosen a similarly disruptive change where the start menu has been removed, as has Ubuntu’s familiar drop down menus. I think it is to be expected that a large body of users will not appreciate these changes. Indeed, I have read that Microsoft do not expect Windows 8 to be readily adopted by business and that they have accepted this. After all, Windows XP still has a 40% market share.
    The Former Moley
  • I "saw the light" 4 years ago when I dumped windaz and replaced it with Ubuntu 8.04. Life was great and in 2010 upgraded to 10.04 (LTS). Since then Ive heard everybody "whinging" about Unity. As 10.04 is out of date I upgraded to 12.04 with Unity.
    After about a week of "dealing" with Unity, Ive now moved to Linux Mint MATE. Now I have my PC Back (and its based on Ubuntu 12.04)
    Ubuntu, You got it sssooooo wrong
  • @adamjarvis > but don't write purile tat.

    I loved Ubuntu in the past when it just worked. Now, I have to write a blog post to find out how to hide the launcher and launch an app! (thanks to @TerryRK and Kilian Klaiber)

    > I recommending writing into them to get your questions answered on how to hide/unhide the Launcher.

    If people have to write in to the Daily Telegraph to work out how to use Unity, we are all doomed, DOOMED I tell you!

    Seriously though, criticism is necessary for change to happen. If a seasoned user like myself can't quickly work out how to hide the launcher and use a keystroke to launch an app, then something is wrong. Heck, I managed to figure it out in Windows 7 *and* OS X 10.7!

    @Moley have you tried Cinnamon, either in Linux Mint or Ubuntu 12.04?
    Jake Rayson
  • @Jake Rayson

    > I have to write a blog post to find out how to hide the launcher

    If so, your blog post would have been headlined "Help, how do I hide Ubuntu's launcher?" or something like that, wouldn't it? I suspect @adamjarvis would have responded differently to that kind of headline....
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jack Schofield > If so, your blog post would have been headlined "Help, how do I hide Ubuntu's launcher?" or something like that, wouldn't it?

    You have a point, maybe a less inflammatory title would be better. But I feel so *frustrated* at the direction Unity has taken. I've tried it in various incarnations since Ubuntu Netbook Remix and each time the experience has been the opposite to what I'd associated with Ubuntu: ie it just works out of the box.
    Jake Rayson
  • @Jake Rayson

    Sure, but the point of Unity is to just work out of the box on different types and sizes of box. I wrote that piece last October:


    More recently, after talking to various Canonical staff, I posted this re 12.04:

    This is the first time Canonical has shipped the 18-month-old Unity interface on an enterprise version, but Unity has seen quite lot of "push back" from existing users, and a growing market share for, for example, the Mint distribution.
    Steve George, Canonical's vice president for Communications and Products, said "we recognise it's been a challenge". However, "we do a lot of user testing and all the testing here shows that Unity is great for new users."


    So the facts are that Canonical knows perfectly well what it is doing, it is testing the OS in depth with a couple of large enterprises, and it has a strategy for getting to a mobile device future. And whether you like it or not, those are all areas where it hopes to make money.

    With due respect, your inability to hide the launcher is pretty low down the company's list of priorities ;-)
    Jack Schofield
  • @Jake Rayson.

    I do have Cinnamon installed on Ubuntu 12.04, along with Mate and Gnome 3, in addition to Unity of course.

    So far as I can tell from limited experience Cinnamon does work well and is stable. There is no top panel and the manner of creating additional desktops is querky but effective - top left corner to add or change desktops. However I, personally, do not like the single window with all the menus and sub-menus, nevertheless, it is well done but, on a netbook, almost it runs out of vertical desk space.

    My preference is for the Gnome 3, as I have mentioned elsewhere. The combined setup in Ubuntu 12.04 with the addition of Cinnamon, Mate and Gnome 3 is stable. Mate, however, duplicates a considerable number of applications with its own nomenclature which, in Mate, creates the odd conflict and does seem to slow things down.

    I guess, in general, it's down to personal preference at the end of the day. One little irrittion which I haven't run down is the lack of spell checker function in this setup for Firefox, so if there are any uncorrected typos that's the reason.

    Meantime, for the foreseeable future, I'm probably going to stick to the familiar in Ubuntu 11.04 for at long as it's supported, I'm comfortable with it.

    Interesting that Windows and Ubunty are going through a similar hiatus just now and, apparently, both Microsoft and Canonical accept thie public backlash for their own reasons. Perhaps there's also some similarity to the KDE experience with the KDE4 Desktop which has now developed and gained general acceptance.
    The Former Moley
  • The big point to the article was to reiterate that we aren't stuck with any particular desktop manager, as long as we avoid the duopoly. My workhorse desktop managers are KDE4 and Enlightenment, although XFCE, FVWM2, and IceWM are also installed and used occasionally. Oh, there is Unity, as well. Someone was using it, and I noticed that it did look great. So, I installed and spent 3 days in hell. It's like someone took all of what makes both Macintoys and Windows PC's so irritating, rolled the irritations together, and then turned the pain-o-meter to 11. The next iteration might be different, it might not. Unity might work very well for some people, which is great. I'm just happy to have it so easy to choose what works for me, and some days I feel like using one desktop manager, while other days I feel like another.

    Oh, the guy that I saw using Unity, he's using GNOME, now.
  • I cannot agree with your recommendation of Mint. Polish is good but upgrading is simply better on the buntus and Mint is boring to death with little added value. I continue monitoring Mint on a test machine but my favourite desktop is still Kubuntu . I do not consider "Ubuntu" without the K (or X or L) as a viable desktop option, may be it is a preparation for something to come in some years, when smartphone/tablet/laptop/desktop could be seen as similar objects. This is not yet the case and for sure Unity is not yet ready to deal with all of it and it is only now starting to be usable on the desktop - by those who like it. A desktop user, one which likes to use the keyboard and to have every option handy, is penalized by this type of interface. Unity makes me angry but not as much as the recent gnome update. On my last purchase, an asus eee pc netbook with ubuntu 11.04 preinstalled I upgraded ubuntu to 11.10 and I could resist with Unity only about 2 hours. I tried Unity, after 30 minutes it was Ok. But after 1 hour I was bored to death, with no real reason it is just not my thing. Then I installed the KDE desktop and the netbook and I were friends again. Upgrade to 12.04 went fine on that machine and on 3 other Kubuntus and 1 Xubuntu. I went away from KDE only at the beginning of the 4.0 wave, it was ugly at that point, really unusable, but it was much better at 4.2 and improving steadily since then. It is now a realy beauty, functional and complete. The buntus are great for that and the freedom of choice is what really makes the difference here and Linux in general is head and shoulders above anything else out there.
  • Unity is very convenient to find what I want with just a type on the keyboard. Ever since it introduced this, Ubuntu matured profoundly to meet the Linux newcomers' tastes.