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Ubuntu 11.10 is important because of one major issue: Unity. When Ubuntu 11.04 arrived, the Unity shell interface for the GNOME desktop environment seemed to be a step backwards — at least on the Ubuntu front. It was buggy, based on dated libraries, and showed little promise. But with the release of 11.10, things have taken a turn for better. Here are the 10 factors that I think have given Ubuntu a fresh impetus.
1. Unity Dash
Unity Dash is a tool that opens when you click the Ubuntu icon in the top-left corner. It allows you to access applications that aren't on your favourites bar, and it opens files and search, among other things.
When Unity first arrived, Dash was as efficient as a web server without a network connection. But now, it has had a facelift that has made it work more efficiently, giving it features such as new filtering mechanisms. If the state of the Dash in 11.10 is a sign of things to come, Unity might have some serious firepower in store for end users.
2. Login screen
This point may not seem hugely significant, but the new login screen for Ubuntu 11.10 has noticeably improved. Not only have its look and feel been updated, but its ease of use has also improved. I like the way users are displayed and selected, as well as the improvements to selecting the desktop to be started. This enhancement may not be critical, but it gives Ubuntu a sleeker look.
Image credit: Ubuntugeek
2D user interface
3. 2D UI
The 2D version of Unity has finally been completed, so those whose hardware won't support the 3D version of the desktop don't have to avoid the latest version of Ubuntu. You don't have to make a choice or install anything specific because the 2D version of the desktop launches automatically if there is no 3D-supported hardware. The 2D version has been modelled closely on the 3D version, so 2D users won't miss too much.