A Sneak Peek at Ubuntu 11.10 'Oneiric Ocelot'

Due for release Thursday, how will the next Ubuntu Linux compare with the controversial 'Natty Narwhal'? Here's an advance tour of the key desktop features, including the revised Unity interface and built-in Deja Dup backup.

What Will Ubuntu 11.10 'Oneiric Ocelot' Look Like?

It's been six months since the launch of 11.04 “Natty Narwhal,” one of the most controversial Linux releases ever. Canonical's next free and open source OS, Ubuntu 11.10, or “Oneiric Ocelot,” is due for release Thursday, promising numerous desktop and server enhancements.

The new desktop version will include GNOME 3, a refined Unity interface, a full backup tool, and expanded access to the Ubuntu One personal cloud service. Mozilla Thunderbird, meanwhile, has become the default email package. On servers, there's Juju--a new cloud service orchestration engine--along with a preview edition for the ARM processor, among other updates.

Advanced Search

New releases of both Compiz and Unity are included in Ubuntu 11.10, offering a new alt+tab switcher and better launcher and panel performance. "Places" have been renamed to "Lenses," and they now integrate multiple sources and advanced filtering options, allowing users to search for files and applications and filter results according to characteristics such as ratings and categories.

“Over time, the sophistication of this search system will grow, but the goal is to keep it visual and immediate--something anyone can drive at first attempt,” Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth wrote in a blog post this summer.

Instant Music

Ubuntu 11.10's search-driven Dash interface includes instant access to the user's personal and online music collections through the music "Lens," which will also search the Ubuntu One Music Store. The result is virtually instant access to any music from your personal collection or online stores and services. Also included is instant access to, the Amazon MP3 store, and a large collection of free content in the public domain or under open licenses.

Windows for Apps

Ubuntu 11.10's uncluttered workspace leaves plenty of room for numerous different apps, including multiple Web pages through Firefox, which is the software's default browser.

"Ease of use, stylishness and key tasks such as safe Web surfing, document sharing, office productivity, and personal clouds for music, files, and photos are central to the Ubuntu experience," Canonical CEO Jane Silber said.

LibreOffice by Default

Like Natty Narwhal, Oneiric Ocelot will include LibreOffice as its default office productivity software suite. Included in LibreOffice--a free and open source package that has effectively replaced in most leading Linux distributions--are the Writer module for word processing, Calc for spreadsheets and Impress for presentations.

The Ubuntu Software Center

Considered by many one of Ubuntu's killer features, the Ubuntu Software Center is where users can get additional software, and Oneiric Ocelot adds new functionality to it. Specifically, it adds a "top rated" view of both the main category page and all subcategory pages, giving users a quicker way to zero in on the best software. The Software Center also lets you to edit or delete your own reviews. Recent additions to the Software Center include The World of Goo and Oil Rush.

A New Backup Tool

Of particular interest to small business users is that Ubuntu 11.10 includes Deja Dup, a comprehensive backup tool. This new addition allows you to back up your computer locally or to the Ubuntu One cloud. You can schedule backups and restore from a backup, effectively providing "time machine" capabilities.

The Personal Cloud

Ubuntu One is Ubuntu's personal cloud service, and it makes your data and content accessible from wherever you are. Whether you're on a PC or an Android or iOS device, Ubuntu One lets you stream your entire music collection to all your devices. With the newly increased 5GB of free storage that every Ubuntu One subscriber gets, you can access and share files, documents, and photos online as well with Android and Windows machines.

Thunderbird for Email

Though Evolution was long the Ubuntu email standard, Oneiric Ocelot includes Mozilla's free and open source Thunderbird package instead. Thunderbird has actually been a part of the operating system for some time already for testing purposes, but with this release Canonical has made it official--particularly nice for those already familiar with the cross-platform software. Evolution, meanwhile, is still available as an option for download.

Shotwell for Photos

Along with a newly updated Gwibber microblogging client, Ubuntu 11.10 'Oneiric Ocelot' includes the Shotwell photo manager. Also featured in the new software are version 3 of the Linux kernel, which brings enhanced wireless chipset and wifi driver support, as well as improved 32-bit compatibility, and a smaller DVD image.

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