Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) review: Solid and stable, but no big changes

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) review: Solid and stable, but no big changes

Summary: Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr is everything a Long Term Support release should be. No big changes, but a solid, stable release, with a few nips and tucks here and there.

SHARE:
  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    7.1

Pros

  • As operating systems go, Ubuntu is now pretty hard to beat
  • Ubuntu 14.04 is a polished and stable LTS release that will be supported for the next 5 years
  • Now at version 7, the Unity shell works well

Cons

  • No amazing new 'must-have' features

Long Term Support (LTS) releases, such as Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 'Trusty Tahr', are not expected to present radical changes, as these should be made in the interim releases. Instead, an LTS release should add stability and polish to interim changes. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was suggested almost three years ago by Mark Shuttleworth as the release that would see convergence across all hardware formats. In retrospect, this goal could only have been reached if the elements required for convergence — Mir and Unity 8 — had been successfully introduced in earlier releases. Although Canonical made some effort to do this, development was eventually refocused on Ubuntu for phones and tablets and convergence is now unlikely to happen until 2015. As it stands, Ubuntu 14.04 is left running X window server and the Unity 7 shell.

ubuntu-1404-desktop-2
The Ubuntu 14.04 LTS desktop. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

Here's a summary of the most obvious changes in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS:

  • Choice of application menu position
  • Application click-to-minimise from the Launcher
  • A wider range of scale for launcher icons - from 16 to 64 pixels
  • Appearance improvements for very high-resolution displays
  • Anti-aliased corners on windows
  • Borderless windows
  • New language status icon in the top menu bar
  • Harmonised appearance for the lock screen
  • System Settings (GNOME Control Centre) replaced by Unity Control Centre
  • Linux kernel incremented to version 3.13
  • Multi-task filtering by text input (see our 14.04 beta preview)
  • Opening a guest session triggers a 'changes are temporary' warning
  • Since Ubuntu One is to close in June, 14.04 will not support Ubuntu One File Services
  • First time for Ubuntu community flavours (Edbuntu, Kubuntu et al) to also be approved for LTS status
  • New Upstart — its last outing before Ubuntu switches to systemd

New UI user settings

ubuntu-1404-final-menu-position
In Ubuntu 14.04, All Settings/Appearance dialogue provides an option, under 'Show the menus for a window', to switch application menus to appear in the application window title bar. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

With the introduction of Unity as the default User Interface shell in Ubuntu 11.10, application menus, which previously appeared in the title bar of each application window, were shifted so that the menus for whichever application had the focus would appear on Unity's menu bar at the top edge of the desktop. Although originally quite firm on this new position for menus, Canonical has finally relented and a setting in Ubuntu 14.04 now offers users a choice, in the All Settings/Appearance dialogue, to switch the application menus position to appear in the title/top bar of each application window. These menus are hidden until moused over.

Part of the reason for the introduction of Unity was to provide more efficient use of the display space on smaller screens and removing the extra menus bar from the application saved space and made it easier to grab and drag application windows. However, on large displays the menu shift meant that there could be an annoyingly large distance between an application window and the top menu bar. This setting option addresses that concern.

ubuntu-1404-final-toggle
The Launcher tab in Unity Plug-ins in the CompizConfig Settings Manager, showing the setting for Minimise Single Window Applications (Unsupported). Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

From its beginning, clicking on an application in the Unity shell Launcher would either launch it, or if it was already running minimised, maximise it. A possible behaviour for the launcher icons is to act as toggles, where clicking the launcher icon of an app would alternately maximise or minimise. Despite a fair number of user requests for this feature, Canonical resisted adding this behaviour. Now, at last, it has given in — except not really. Turning this feature on is not trivial, as it requires installing the CompizConfig Settings Manager from the Software Centre — a configuration utility that's not for the inexperienced. The setting — Minimize Single Window Applications (Unsupported) — appears in Ubuntu Unity Plug-ins under the tab for Launcher. Since the Ubuntu developers have this labelled as an 'unsupported' feature, it won't be tweaked by further development and may even disappear in future.

Changes in the appearance of the desktop

The beta release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS showed two network status icons in the top menu bar. The rightmost showed the available networks and settings and the second allowed for switching connections on and off. Canonical has now chosen to revert to a single network status icon for the release version.

ubuntu-1404-final-wireless-indicators
The two network status indicators from the beta release, separated by the new Language indicator, in the top menu bar. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet
ubuntu-1404-final-networks
This shows the drop-down menu from the single network status indicator as it now appears in the full release. Here a wired connection is in use, as indicated by the dual arrow icons. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

The size range setting of icons in the Launcher has been expanded from 32 to 64 in Ubuntu 13.10 to 16 to 64 pixels in 14.04.

Some work has been done to improve the appearance of the desktop on ultra-high-resolution displays (in the 2,560 by 1,600 to 2,880 by 1,800 range) so that the desktop elements, the Launcher, Dash and so on, scale correctly. However, some third-party applications and icons may still have a fuzzy appearance.

Although forum posts have agitated for anti-aliasing of the rounded corners on windows for a long time this is an appearance change that may be all but invisible to many users. Similarly, the change from a one-pixel border to a no-pixel window border is not that noticeable. Even so, these changes are all part of the effort to make the Ubuntu UI a visually beautiful environment.

Although nothing has visibly changed, System Settings has been rewritten as a fork of the previous, heavily-patched, GNOME Control centre. This will only be a short-term solution, as once Ubuntu has converged this will change to Ubuntu System Settings.

The lock screen (Ctrl+Alt+L), which previously used a plain pop-up message box, has now been harmonised with the rest of the Unity theme so it resembles the initial log-on screen.

Additions and subtractions

ubuntu-1404-final-guest
This pop-up warning now appears whenever a guest session is opened. Image: Terry Relph-Knight/ZDNet

Changes made during guest sessions have always been temporary and have disappeared when a guest session is closed. Now whenever a guest session is launched users are reminded of that fact by a pop-up message. Guest users must save any work they wish to keep to external storage.

Poor revenues have led Canonical to close the Ubuntu One cloud storage service by June. Although the Ubuntu One Single Sign-on Service and the Ubuntu One Payment Service won't be affected, the closure means that Ubuntu 14.04 will not include the Ubuntu One File Services. Users with annual subscriptions will be receiving a refund and content will be available for download until 31 July.

Installed applications with 14.04

Default applications installed with this release include: version 28.0 of the Firefox browser, version 24.4 of the Thunderbird email client and the LibreOffice 4.2.3.3 office suite. Also included are Shotwell 0.18.0 (photo manager), Brasero 3.10.0 (CD/DVD burner) and Rhythmbox Music Player 3.0.2. All of these applications have been revised since the beta release. Although it's not installed by default, GIMP 2.8.10 (bitmap editor) and Inkscape 0.48 (vector editor) are available for installation from the Software Centre.

Is it worth upgrading?

tahr
The goat-like Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus). Image: Wikipedia

Although there are no amazing 'must-have' new features in Ubuntu 14.04, it is worth upgrading just to get the latest LTS release with a more recent kernel and default applications.

Although we still have Ubuntu 14.10 to come later this year and almost certainly point changes to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS over the next five years, the next big step will probably be in Ubuntu 15 — not so much because it should be the first converged version, but because, as a consequence of convergence, it should feature Unity 8 and Mir.

A DVD ISO image of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) for installation can be downloaded from the Ubuntu website, or users can update from the previous version by choosing that option from the Software Updater.

 

Editor's note  On 23 April, Mark Shuttleworth revealed the name for the 14.10 release of Ubuntu: Utopic Unicorn

Specifications

There are currently no specifications for this product.

Prices

Price
Price AUD 0
Price EUR 0
Price GBP 0
Price USD 0

Topics: Ubuntu, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The review we really need

    Thanks for your review.
    This is an LTS, and the claim to fame for and LTS is stability and lack of problems.
    Hopefully you will provide an addendum to your review sometime in the future and let us know how this version does from a perspective of being stable and trouble free. I usually only upgrade to the LTS versions, its just less trouble that way.
    dfolk2
    • Review timing

      8.0

      I understand what you are saying, but if wrote another review of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS in even one months time, first of all my editor would not commission me to write it and secondly no one would read it. These days most reviewers write their final reviews of Ubuntu releases even before the first beta. At least mine are timed to coincide with the actual release dates. That said I can tell you that I have been tracking and updating from before the beta release. Like the last few releases, 14.04 has performed well and by the time of the full release has settled into a slick and stable release.
      terry@...
  • Article: "Cons: No amazing new 'must-have' features"

    7.0

    Thanks. In this case, I will stick with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS which has three (3) years of support remaining.

    I wonder which would be better for someone sticking with Windows XP and looking to dual-boot with Ubuntu, 12.04 or 14.04? Ubuntu 12.04 includes the wubi installer which allows one to install Ubuntu from within Windows in addition to three (3) years of remaining support. The wubi installer was expressly designed for dual-boot installations of Ubuntu and makes the installation process a bit easier. Whereas Ubuntu 14.04 does not include the wubi installer (because of Windows 8 secure boot defaulting on new PCs), but has five (5) years of remaining support. Finally, is the resource usage (read CPU and RAM requirements) similar for 12.04 and 14.04? I ask this question because XP era (and even Vista era, if one downgraded to XP) specs are a bit behind those of new PCs.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • System requirements at help.ubuntu.com

      System requirements for 12.04 and 14.04, at least on "paper", appear to be the same.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Must Have is...

    8.0

    Must Have is... Five Years of Support!

    Also, works better with newer machines / hardware (no need to patch my sound / wireless that I did on 12.04). TRIM support on SSDs by default. LVM2 / encryption, though the support in the installer is still more limited than I would like. Debian / CentOS is better in this regard, in that they let you pick which partitions to separate out.

    Also, very few stability issues that I've noticed on a lot of other Ubuntu Betas.

    Upgraded a laptop and a couple of PCs. Leaving my server at 12.04 for now.

    dochood
    dochood
  • 14.04 LTS and Realtek support

    7.0

    I'll be switching to 14.04 LTS because I have had extreme difficulties with my realtek wifi support on 12.04.

    I was absolutely fine with the features of 12.04. Yes, there were a couple of serious booting issues with updates and some instability problems, but the wifi connection was a real killer.

    So, I'm hoping that the idea behind Trusty Tahr is that it will be "Trusty", stable and offer greater compatibility with software/apps that I use on it. That for me is the greatest priority, not new lock screens and volume controls.
    Gerhard303
    • Here here

      I still can't understand how WiFi support is so abysmal. This has been my number one gripe about Ubuntu going all the way back to version 6 or so.

      Of course this is more a reflection of device manufacturers willingness to work with Canonical and others. But I seriously thought this problem would have been resolved by now. It's only been an issue how long now?

      The problem for me is when you are using a laptop you don't have a lot of choice in WiFi chipsets.
      CornheadsBack
      • WiFi support

        8.0

        It is my understanding that device support, such as support for WiFi chips, is mainly provided by the Linux kernel and is therefore not Ubuntu's direct responsibility. One of the reasons for updating to new versions of Ubuntu is to get a new kernel version and therefore better device support. The Ubuntu web site does offer a help page on WiFi - https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/WirelessCardsSupported and some Realtek chipsets are supported. Wikipedia also has a page on Linux WiFi driver support http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_open-source_wireless_drivers
        terry@...
  • Unity Desktop....

    5.0

    Bring back Gnome 2. Stopped using Ubuntu at 10.10

    From the time Unity was made default its been abysmal and Gnome 3 sucks.
    5735guy
    • you know

      you can switch interface any time you want, right?
      theoilman
    • You want an unsupported desktop?

      Why?
      Michael Alan Goff
    • 4 year old review

      8.0

      I stopped using Linux in 1997 because I couldn't get it to work with my dial-up. Therefore this version must be just as bad.
      sheldonross
      • you win

        comment of the day!
        theoilman
    • 4 years is a long time in Ubuntu development

      8.0

      I also hated Unity when it was first introduced. I recommend you try Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Unity again - it has got better. However I am concerned that Unity 8 might be another - here's a prototype that gives you some idea, you'll have to wait through another 8 iterations before it is usable.
      terry@...
  • Ubuntu

    10.0

    Ubuntu has Steam now, Photoshop like applications (gimp), Libre office preinstalled, it makes Windows look irrelevant with its high licensing costs! I tried Ubuntu, it felt like Mac OSx and it was a very clean and fresh experience.
    Pollo Pazzo
    • And, yet...

      While the strides are laudable - and necessary, the elephant in the room hasn't been Ubuntu - or a few other distros - for some time. It's the office productivity applications. Once file compatibilities get sorted (really sorted!), no major OS switching will ever happen. If the typical business user can't get work done the right way, it's simply not viable.

      Anyone up on the progress on this?
      Lucky2BHere
      • Office productivity file format compatibility ?

        8.0

        Could you be more specific ? I don't have any problems with file compatibility.
        terry@...
      • Yes! and yet...

        8.0

        @Lucky2BHere. I couldn't agree with you more. I've been using Ubuntu, and basking in the user choice which linux gives, for many years, but the single biggest problem of compatibility with Windows users is the office productivity applications. I would single out MS Word. "Elephant in the room" is a very apt analogy.

        @Terry. Thanks so much for this level, informative review. An example of compatibility problems is when colleagues send me a rather more complicated MS Word document (including say tables, graphics, bullet lists etc) and ask me to send it back with tracked changes. I just cannot rely on (the otherwise excellent) LibreOffice or OpenOffice to do the job; if I do, I take the risk that what they will see will have significant rendering defects, mainly in formatting. So I bumble along with an old version of MS Word running in Wine - usable yes, but not ideal. If MS Office ran smoothly on linux, or even better, if open source office suites faithfully handled even complicated MS Office documents, I am sure I could easily convince many colleagues to swap over to linux.

        Cheers Pat
        Patbol
        • Compatibilty

          8.0

          Ah right, thanks for the elucidation Patbol, it's not that files cannot be exchanged but that files from Microsoft Office that have high complexity - for example an Excel spreadsheet that contains a lot of macros, comments and graphics - may not display correctly in LibreOffice Calc. I have found that you can usually massage such files to display correctly, but then of course, if you are working in a mixed OS environment and need to send the file back, with your changes, you have the reverse problem of it not displaying correctly in Excel.

          I am not sure this will ever be fixed because the 'owners' of the file formats, in this case Microsoft, I think regard the format as proprietary and make changes to the format at their discretion. As far as I know the LibreOffice developers have to reverse engineer the Microsoft formats in order to try and provide export and import options.

          This is not only a Windows / Linux problem. Many well known Windows applications appear to support a long list of import and export formats from and to other well known Windows applications from major companies. My experience is that these often don't work flawlessly. Even to maintain a smooth and trouble free file exchange flow in Windows requires that all parties use pretty much the same software.

          Although Ubuntu is a Linux distribution and therefore a standard installation does bundle applications such as LibreOffice, Canonical is primarily developing an operating system and therefore office file compatibilty problems are perhaps not directly their responsibily but need to be tackled by the LibreOffice developers.
          terry@...
      • Office productivity file format

        8.0

        If you want MS Office compatibility on Ubuntu (Linux) then use Kingsoft Office for Linux. Its great, a real breath of fresh air. Visit http://wps-community.org/ to learn more or download the latest beta version from http://wps-community.org/download.html.

        Enjoy
        subscribedigby-temp@...