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‘Unity set the bar in how useable, featured and polished a Linux desktop could be’
Unity is a graphical shell for the GNOME desktop environment originally developed by Canonical Ltd. for its Ubuntu operating system. Unity debuted in the netbook edition of Ubuntu 10.10. It was initially designed to make more efficient use of space given the limited screen size of netbooks, including, for example, a vertical application switcher called the launcher, and a space-saving horizontal multipurpose top menu bar.Unity is part of the Ayatana project, an initiative with the stated intention of improving the user experience within Ubuntu. In addition to Unity, there are Application Indicators and other projects such as MeMenu, the notification system and the application NotifyOSD gathered.
The most iconic part of the Unity desktop is the left-aligned launcher. An anchor point in the Unity experience, the Unity Luncher allows you to launch, manage, and interact with applications whether they’re running or not.The vertical launcher was designed to make effective use of screen space, which were often limited in terms of height than width.
The Unity HUD (Heads-up Display) is as innovative today as when it debuted in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.The HUD makes finding obscure menu entries deliciously quick. Just tap the Alt key, enter a keyword or two, select the correct result from the list and hit enter/return to action it!
The Unity Dash is part application launcher, part file search, and part search engine. It lets you find and open locally installed applications and search through your files and folders from one unified window via the Home scope.
Ubuntu’s innovative Unity Web Apps may have been short lived and quickly forgotten, but they serve as another example of Canonical being well ahead of the computing curve Unity was.The feature allowed websites in the browser to interact and relay information to the desktop.
Unity Quicklists allowed apps to quickly service certain features though a righ-click menu on the launcher. So, for example, you could quickly pause music in Rhythmbox, open a new Private tab in Firefox, or (back in the day) refresh your Gwibber client to fetch the latest tweets.
For supported apps the Unity launcher could display a badge count on launcher items to relay information, like the number of unread emails, number of new tweets, or number of concurrent downloads.Progress bars could also be placed over the launcher item to show, well, progress of downloads, exports and renders.
The global app menu in Unity is one of its signature features. It debuted in the Ubuntu Netbook Edition (netbooks had low resolution screens so saving vertical space was considered important and migrated to the desktop with the rest of the Unity shell in Ubuntu 11.04.
Many of you may not know that the Unity desktop comes with an informative list of keyboard shortcuts. This cheat sheet for keyboard enthusiasts lists Unity keyboard shortcuts so that you can learn or recap how to interact with parts of the Unity desktop without needing to take you hands off of the keyboard.
Unity Smart Scopes are context-aware search backends for the Unity Dash.On paper Unity Smart Scopes should’ve been a game changer. But, thanks to the inclusion of affiliate-linked Amazon shopping results, the feature drew the distro ire from almost every direction imaginable.
A less comprehensive forerunner to the search-centric Smart Scopes. Lenses were dedicated content-specific panels that could be added to extend the functionality of the Dash. Right-clicking on a result in the dash opens a preview pane with additional information, content snippets, and, for music files, even in-dash player controls.
A subtle Unity feature that some (surprisingly) never notice is its chameleonic tendencies. The colour of the Unity launcher, the Dash, and notification bubbles change hue based on the dominant colour in the background wallpaper.There’s presumably a very complex algorithm at play here, deciding which colour in the background is dominant and extracting a suitable hue based on it.
Unity 2D is the oft-forgotten Qt/Qml version of Unity that was aimed at lower end devices and virtual machines — but adored by desktop users anyway!Despite the lack of graphical whizz bang the shell boasted impressive feature parity with its composited sibling, including item badges, the HUD, workspaces, and right-click quick-list menus.
Top menu bar:
A multipurpose top bar, saving space, and containing the menu bar of the active application the title bar of the main window of the active application, including the maximize, minimize and exit buttons the session menu,including the global system settings, logout, and shut down .The diverse global notification indicators including the time, weather, and the state of the underlying system.
Launcher: a taskbar.
Multiple instances of an application are grouped under the same icon, with an indicator showing how many instances are open. The user has a choice whether or not to lock an application to the launcher. If it is not locked, an application may be started using the Dash or via a separately installed menu.
The accessible menu of launcher items.
A desktop search utility that enables searching for information both locally (e.g. installed applications, recent files, or bookmarks) and online (e.g. Twitter or Google Docs). It displays previews of the results.
Head-up display (HUD):
Allows hotkey searching for top menu bar items from the keyboard, without the need for using the mouse, by pressing and releasing the Alt key.
A notification area containing the clock, network status, battery status, and audio volume controls.
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