For the past two months I’ve been using Fedora with Gnome Shell and it’s been great to get used to it as an interface and to become familiar with another distribution. It was like being back at home really because, prior to running Ubuntu, I’d been a RedHat user for several years. Not RHEL, but the old Red Hat Linux that existed before Red Hat went commercial.
Fedora certainly did the job for me and, apart from a few broken packages here and there, I didn’t have any problems with it. I think I always knew I would come back to Ubuntu when the final beta of 12.04 Precise Pangolin was released.
Again, an environment I’m very familiar with but one that’s now much more polished than the early days of 11.04 Natty Narwhal. It’s amazing how far Unity has come on in just a year — or 18 months if you include the 6 month development cycle for that release.
Surprisingly for this long-term support release, Ubuntu adds a new feature — the heads-up display or HUD.
I believe the long-term view is that this will replace menus. I’m not so sure about that, but it’s certainly useful. The idea is you hit the alt key, type a few characters and it will search the menus to give you a list of options you can access with keyboard or mouse.
But it’s actually more sophisticated than that description. It does fuzzy matching and also likely matches in other applications. If you look at the screenshot, I opened the gedit text editor, hit the alt key and typed “print”. Not surprisingly, it comes up with File-Print and File Print-Preview. The third option though, is the printer setup from system settings, which is feasibly something I’d want if I wanted to do some printing.
Things start to get much more interesting when you try it on your web browser. It will search menus but, because web browsers expose all sorts of things as menus, this can also mean recent tabs, history and bookmarks. It gives the browser a whole new dimension. All those bookmarks I have deeply nested in sub-menus suddenly become accessible again. It also picks up on RSS feeds if you use something like Firefox’s live bookmarks so it will pick up on the latest stories you are interested in.
It’s going to take some practice to get used to using it, but it looks like a great feature.