Unity: a lightweight netbook interface

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Unity is geared towards a ‘light' variation of Ubuntu, which concentrates on getting the user to the web as quickly as possible. We would like Unity to be the default session for Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10 (Maverick) and we hope to present some ideas this week to show how we think we can make the transition to a mostly web-based session to a more fully-featured session for netbooks (including search, better file management, and easier window management).

Install Unity in Ubuntu

Open the terminal and run the following commands

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-dx-team/une

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install unity

Logout and then log back in selecting ‘Unity UNE Session' from your login screen.


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32 Responses

  1. Snowman says:

    Simply ugly. No fantasy in it at all. Kubuntu Remix surface has much better and more thoughts behind. Ubuntu started to disappoint me due its design compare to the nice development in the system.

  2. I’m done with the whole mantra of the UNR at this point. It disappoints so I just do regular old Ubuntu installs. I get much more use on my Acer Aspire running the regular old ubuntu 9.10 desktop than UNR. From here on out, I will not do UNR installs ever on my netbooks. Worthless IMO.

  3. Victor says:

    I don’t know, I think this looks quite nice. I wonder why Michael and Snowman dislike it so much. I especially wonder what Snowman means by “fantasy”… @Snowman, what does fantasy have to do with netbooks and why would you want it integrated into computer software? :S

    Anyways, I definitely don’t think it’s ugly, like I said it looks quite nice to me. Good job, developers!

  4. beattie says:

    Ok! kinda cute, but how do I access system configuration and utilities and what happes if my screen is too small to fit all the icons. In general how do I get more info?

  5. Dan says:

    I upgraded to the current version of Ubuntu and it seems to work well on my netbook. What’s the advantage of this desktop? If I don’t like it, how hard is it to switch back again?

  6. doughbury says:

    Well, I like the search bar in the panel, but I don’t need a launcher just sitting there taking up space. I need a UI that gets out of my way. I want to see Ubuntu do away with the whole idea of windows and desktops. I want to boot up and see a mash-up of something like Conky and my iGoogle page. I basically want my OS to be a browser that launches local apps when I need them and presents me with information only when I ask for it. Essentially, I want the love child of NBR and Chrome OS.

  7. JondalarX says:

    i tried it not bad if you want direct internet how do i switch back???

  8. arscariosus says:

    Dan, I think switching back is as simple as logging out and logging back in again with Gnome on the sessions menu. If you want to get rid of it completely I think you could sudo apt-get remove unity. Main advantage would be less clutter for small screens and more space to work on. I’ll try it later.

  9. arscariosus says:

    Just tried it on my Acer Aspire One and I must say, way to go Ubuntu! It was so sick, especially the expose-like feature found on OSX. However, I can’t seem to add things on the launcher yet, drag and drop doesn’t work yet. If anyone knows a workaround for this let me know.

    Suggestion: I hop they’ll make the launcher auto-hide in their final release to save space. 😀

  10. kaddy says:

    haha! what a piece of shit… Not only have Canonical half assed copied Mac with the button positions, the top panel icons, AND the purple default theme… now they make a cheap ripoff Osx Dock for Ubuntu…. sad sad sad… no wait…. they are putting it on the left… I guess they are not copying mac? HAHAHAHAHA… the folks at Canonical are hilarious in my mind

  11. galactus says:

    Hey kaddy, If you don’t like then don’t use it. And your ‘mind’ is hilarious mac fanboy.

  12. galactus says:

    The nice thing about Ubuntu is the community spirit. Ya see all the red sentences below each article, they are instructions on how to fix or accomplish something related to Ubuntu. I think more people should try to add to that rather than spout their nonsensical drivel about this or that opsys,desktop,etc.

  13. arscariosus says:

    Kaddy I think you’re rude without understanding the concept. Yeah Mac is good for development because of its Unix nature but if you know what you want and what you’re doing, it gets limited in the sense that you can’t mess with its source code and tweaking depends only on the pre-made system preferences. Ubuntu is free as in free beer and free as in free speech as they say.

  14. bozz says:

    I would not have even known about this had I not seen the tweet about this in the first place.

    I am really digging the launcher and interface. It is a step in the right direction IMHO from the stale UNR interface that we’ve seen around for 2 years.

    I believe someone mentioned the KDE netbook interface? I’ve played around with it and well, despite it being pretty, it is kind of slow and fairly buggy. I guess that’s what you get when the software is still in development, the same can be said for Unity in that it is a bit buggy as well.

    @arscariosus: So far the only way you can add programs to the launcher is by running your program and when it appears in the launcher you right click on it and select the option Add to Launcher. The only problem so far is that this is the only way to add items and that at about 9 icons the behaviour of the dock gets a little odd (for me I can scroll the launchbar but it starts to move up by itself and you can’t really interact with the new icons).

  15. kaddy says:

    @ galactus
    Mate… I am not a Mac user… I am a Linux user… and have been fulltime for 5 years… you don’t need to give me an opensource lecture… I happily use Arch Linux….
    But c’mon… if you don’t think canonical are stealing ideas from Mac and believe they are innovating… then I guess I can call you an ubuntu fanboy…
    I use Ubuntu alongside Arch and would like to see Ubuntu steal marketshare from the big boys.. but copying ideas from them is not going to earn them any respect… They should be coming out with original ideas on how to work with the desktop… Thankfully Gnome-shell may be the answer to that… not what canonical are doing with Unity

  16. kaddy says:

    my comment was for Galactus and arscariosus

  17. galactus says:

    I am in agreement that copying Mac is not the way to go. If I wanted MacOs and a laptop with the substance of a piece of melba toast I would have spent $3,000 and bought a MacBook. So, kaddy you are right on that point. I think the regular install of Ubuntu is better than trying to make a simple interface that in the end looks more like a Fisher Price PC. I have used many distros including Ubuntu since Feisty and Mint. Nothing has worked better than Lucid. I have whole disk encryption, 64Bit friggin Gnome desktop with nuvola and oxygen themes. I couldn’t be happier!

  18. SJari says:

    well, I use Mac, and I do not give a damn if Ubuntu copy Mac, I like Ubuntu and I do recommend it to friends (even if I do not use it as my main OS), still I do respect all the good work the Dev team are doing 🙂

    keep the good work, once adobe and other multimedia Companies start release for Linux, I will use Ubuntu for sure 🙂

  19. Jason says:

    I may give this a try, but I also want a UI that “gets out of my way” as doughbury said. I don’t like the whole idea of copying Mac. I don’t like Mac. I don’t want Mac. I want Ubuntu!

  20. Richard says:

    It reminds me of Amidock

  21. Marco says:

    I think that a lot of people are missing the fact that this is only a gui for an instant on version of ubuntu, meant to check your email or google something without having to load an entire OS.
    Having said that, I believe it is pretty neat that the people at canonical want to make such an option available, sometimes i don’t need to load ubuntu in it’s whole greatness, sometimes i just wanna check my email 30 seconds before leaving home, and if I can do it with ubuntu light, then I salute it.
    On a side-note, I tried and it dowsn’t seem to be quite optimized yet, it was kinda lag-ish for me in a core2duo with 2 GB ram, sata disk and an intel integrated graphics card…

  22. Kay says:

    Installed it on my HP mini 210 netbook and it didnt work. how do i remove it now??

  23. Marco says:


    sudo aptitude remove unity

    should probably do the work.

  24. Vladicon says:

    Sorry, it’s not usable at all…

  25. Danny Boy says:

    Ok so I had the latest version of Ubuntu loaded in a vmware session on my wifes new Dell 11z and the performance of that OS was pretty good. I read about this unity so I decided to try it and perhaps it is not optimized for use in a virtual session or I might be missing something to make it a fast performer, but it actually got slower and there were even long delays when opening the applications on the side dock. It is a shame because the VM session is just for secure browsing. Unity sounded like it would hit the spot.

  26. Ed says:

    jeez, the Unity “bar” has to be the most annoying and irritating desktop addition I’ve seen in years, looks like it was designed for some crappy old Archos handheld.

  27. Dave says:

    It’s VERY slow. Also, you do NOT want to use

    sudo aptitude remove unity

    You’ll be stuck at a white screen. If you did this, log out and change to Ubuntu Desktop.

    Any other ways to revert?

  28. ade says:

    I installed Unity on my netbook, Lucid Netbook remix edition and got a plain white screen. After trawling a few forums I eventually found a way to install it using a different version of mutter (or something like that) and it did work (kind of). I found it to be very buggy (rearranging icons in the side bar didn’t work, the theme was different for windows i open versus built in Unity things like the top bar, and it seemed slow and not at all configurable.) I promptly removed it and reverted back to the normal interface.

    I still would be curious to see how it works when its more polished. I’m wondering if the Maverick version is better than installing it in Lucid?

    Reminds me a bit of Moblin and Gnome shell in terms of the way it is not at all configuarable. It would have to be very good in all other areas for me to give up the ability to reconfigure the toolbars and stuff.

  29. Jhex says:

    I tried it and after a while I liked it… I do think the work flow it presents is better suited for the tasks I normally would attempt on a netbook.

    The only drawback is that there is quite a bit of eye candy and in my old EEEPC (Celeron 900 Mhz) is just too slow (i.e. opening Rythmbox = 30 seconds, launching file browser = 45 seconds) so I reverted back to Netbook remix 10.04… snappy!

  30. Andy says:

    I don’t like the unity interface at all – it’s fiddly and clunky on my Aspire netbook. One of the most annoying things is that the fixed side-bar forces Firefox into a narrower window which requires lateral scrolling to read the full width of a web page. The UNE netbook interface as shipped with Lucid was rock solid and a pleasure to use, it’s a real shame it was changed. I’ve reverted to 10.04 UNE until I figure out how to get the UNE interface in Maverick.

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