World’s most popular desktop Linux distribution, Ubuntu moves to version 14.04 LTS. This time around the code name for Ubuntu is ‘Trusty Tahr‘ and it’s a long term support release (LTS) geared toward providing a more polished desktop experience.
I bet you’re wondering what is exactly a Tahr right? Frankly, I’d never heard of such an animal until Ubuntu picked it as the mascot for this release. I have to give the Ubuntu developers credit for consistently finding weirdly named animals to represent each Ubuntu release. They must have a guy or gal who spends part of his or her time browsing Wikipedia to find these animals. 😀
- Linux Kernel 3.13
- Local Menus: The lack of local menus was one of the most sought after features in Ubuntu and the Ubuntu developers didn’t disappoint in this release. To use them you’ll need to open Settings then go to Appearance and then click the “In the window’s title bar” option under “Show the menus for a window.” It’s a very easy change, it takes about two seconds.
- Launcher icon size controls: Another great change in this release is the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. You can make them as small as 16 or as large as 64 pixels if you want. This is a great way of making the launcher take up less screen space if you opt for smaller icons.
- Live window resizing on by default: You’ll notice it when you resize windows in Ubuntu 14.04. It’s not technically new, but the fact that it’s the default sort of makes it new. When you resize a window you’ll see the results as you do it. This is a bit better to look at than how it was previously done. It’s not an earth-shattering feature, but it is a nice piece of refinement that adds to the desktop experience in Ubuntu 14.04.
- Keyboard filtering for Unity App Spread: If you’ve ever used Unity’s app spread then you’ll appreciate the keyboard filtering in Ubuntu 14.04. You can now start typing the name of a window after hitting the Super + W keys to narrow down the windows that appear. This can be a fast time-saver if you need to switch to a particular window.
- Super + L locks Ubuntu 14.04: You can use the Super (Windows) + L keys to lock your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop. I don’t generally keep mine locked for the most part, but this is a very helpful keyboard shortcut for those times when you want to lock down your Ubuntu desktop to prevent unauthorized access to it. This is a small but very useful addition for some users.
- Raise volume past 100%: In the true spirit of Spinal Tap, you can now make the volume go past 100 percent. Yes, you can get that little bit of extra volume if you need it. To enable this, go to Settings then Sound and click on the “Allow louder than 100%” option.
- Full menus in GNOME apps: GNOME apps have gotten full menus added back in. This affects apps like Rhythmbox and gives you the typical File, Edit, etc. selections in the menu. Given the changes in GNOME itself, this is a helpful tweak for Ubuntu users who may not be familiar with where GNOME has been headed.
- Anti-aliased windows: Another bit of refinement is the inclusion of anti-aliased window corners. I suspect that many users won’t even notice it, but I’m still glad that it has been included in this release.
Ubuntu 14.04 seems to be all about refining the Ubuntu desktop. While there are not a lot of amazing new features in this release, there are quite a few very useful and needed tweaks that add up to a much better desktop experience. Canonical’s designers seem to be listening to Ubuntu users again, and they seem willing to make the changes necessary to give the users what they want. That may be the single most important thing about Ubuntu 14.04. It could be an indication of a sea change in Canonical’s attitude toward Ubuntu users.
For me the highlights of this release are the local menus and the ability to control the size of the icons in the launcher. Both features really gave me much more control over certain aspects of the Ubuntu desktop that I had been irritated by in the past. I’m very happy indeed that Canonical decided to include them in this release, and I think those two changes alone make it worth upgrading to Ubuntu 14.04.
Ubuntu 14.04 is well suited for beginners as well as more advanced Linux users.