Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal': A First Look at the OS

The April 28 release of the open-source operating system update may be the most exciting yet for Ubuntu Linux. Here's an advance tour of the features, including the Unity desktop and the Compiz window manager.

A Sneak Peek: Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' OS

Perhaps the most widely anticipated Linux release ever, Canonical's Ubuntu 11.04--also known as "Natty Narwhal"--is due for official release on April 28. Among the highlights of the new release will be the Unity desktop interface, LibreOffice for productivity software, and the Compiz window manager.

Natty Narwhal--named for the whale that lives year-round in the Arctic--represents a big departure for Ubuntu in its switch away from the GNOME desktop shell as a default. Also new in Natty is Ubuntu's elimination of a separate netbook version and new capabilities to let users try the open-source operating system in the cloud, without downloading or installing it.

Canonical just released the details Thursday. Keep reading to see what's inside, and read more about the countdown to Natty Narwhal here.

Windows for Apps

Ubuntu 11.04's new workspace offers windows to accommodate numerous apps.

"Ubuntu 11.04 offers exciting opportunities for businesses to improve the reliability, security, and manageability of desktop, cloud, and server deployments, challenging the traditional license or subscription-fee model and embracing open-source technology," says Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical.

Media Player

With Ubuntu 11.04, the media player has been integrated into the volume control, allowing users to perform tasks like skipping tracks or changing albums from the same place.

"This release comes at a time of accelerating corporate adoption of Ubuntu, and delivers a range of improvements specifically relevant to the corporate environment," says Canonical CEO Silber.

Reducing Clutter

Ubuntu 11.04's interface features a desktop that's clutter-free by design.

Photos, Shotwell

Shotwell is the default photo manager in Ubuntu 11.04.

Staying in Sync

With the free version of Ubuntu One, users get 2GB of storage capacity to sync files, contacts, bookmarks, and notes between their computer and their personal cloud.

Firefox by Default

Mozilla's new, market-leading Firefox 4 is the default Web browser in Ubuntu 11.04.

Unity or Classic

For desktop deployments, Ubuntu 11.04 offers a choice of either moving to Unity--the new, multitouch-enabled, simplified interface--or retaining the "classic" Ubuntu interface.

For older PCs, Ubuntu will automatically determine if the included graphics card supports Unity. If it doesn't, the software will provide the "classic" experience. For machines that support it, Unity lets you personalize a PC with free and paid apps, similar to what has become standard with smartphones and tablets.

Search Applications

Here's what it looks like to search applications. Natty Narwhal differs from its predecessors in that search is integrated directly into the main workings of the OS, giving you an easier way to find files, folders, and applications. With Ubuntu's Dash feature, you need only to enter a few letters into the top search bar and it will display a list of items used today, yesterday, and recently. Can't remember the name of a particular file? Simply search by category instead.

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