Ubuntu 11.04 ('Natty Narwhal') Revealed

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Canonical today announced the imminent availability of the latest version of its popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu. Version 11.04 of the software, nicknamed "Natty Narwhal," will be available for download on Ubuntu.com beginning April 28.
The release is notable primarily for integrating the Unity interface, which appeared in theNetbook Edition of Ubuntu 10.10, released in October. Unity is a cleaner, pared-down interface, inspired by smartphone and tablet operating systems, that is designed to maximize functionality on both smaller and touch-enabled screens.
In Unity, the program launcher is located on the left side of the screen, and configurable with whatever programs the user anticipates needing or wanting on a regular basis. Programs may be dragged to it, and locked there permanently or removed at any time. (In these ways, the launcher very much resembles the Windows 7 taskbar.)
Because Unity can be graphics-intensive, if the user does not have a supported video card, the traditional version of Ubuntu will automatically start instead.
In addition to the Unity interface, Ubuntu 11.04 also revamps search, basing it on Web-based search engines such as Google, making it quicker and easier to find applications, music, video, and other kinds of files, all from the same field.
Also the subject of improvements is the Ubuntu Software Center, which is used to download free or paid applications from the many available online. It has been integrated with the program launcher, which lets users add new applications with a minimum number of clicks, and instantly see reviews or ratings of added software. Users will also see programs they have most recently installed or most frequently used, and receive suggestions for similar apps to download.
Touch screens receive extra support in Ubuntu 11.04 as well, with gestures capable of triggering scrolling, workspace switching, and expanding and contracting screens.
Additional enhancements to Ubuntu 11.04 include a "global menu" that contains most preinstalled apps in one place at the top of the display. Menus are displayed only when needed. Switching between multiple screens (or workspaces) is even easier, and new keyboard shortcuts simplify navigation between windows and workspaces. Volume adjustments, queuing and playing files, and other music functions may be accessed from the volume indicator, without having to enter the music player. Users of the Ubuntu One cloud file-sharing service may now also access files via their Android devices, import contacts from Facebook and sync them with Gmail, and take advantage of improved music streaming with better playlist management and a wider range of supported file formats.
"This release breaks new ground for Ubuntu by offering users a PC experience that is stylish and efficient," Canonical chief executive Jane Silber said in a statemment. "With this release Ubuntu will recruit an entirely new wave of users to free software. Ubuntu 11.04 is a high watermark for what has been achieved with open-source technologies for the everyday computer user."
If you're interested in "test driving" Ubuntu 11.04, you may do so within your Web browser at ubuntu.com—no downloads required.


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