That’s just one of many changes inside Vivid Vervet, however. The latest release of Ubuntu also features re-revamped menus, some important desktop improvements, a new version of LibreOffice, and features for developers, servers, and phones. Also worth noting is a change that isn’t included: Ubuntu 15.04 still contains the Unity 7 desktop environment. The converged version of Unity 8—which will connect Ubuntu’s mobile and desktop interfaces, switching between them dynamically when needed—scheduled for a future release.
Locally integrated menus
The first difference you’ll notice about Ubuntu’s desktop are its “locally integrated menus.” (Actually, the first thing you’ll notice is the new, purple-ish default wallpaper. You’ll notice the new menu system second.)
Despite the awkward name, this feature is easy to understand. Long ago, Ubuntu moved the in-application menus out of each application window and to the top of the screen, on the desktop-wide menu bar. Now, for usability, these menus have been moved back inside each application’s individual window. They appear in the application’s title bar, and you’ll have to hover your mouse over the left side of a window’s title bar to see them.
This does seem a bit silly, like change for the sake of change; the menus were moved up and then back down again, except they ended up in the window’s title bar this time. But hey, it’s a bit of an improvement. This arrangement does make those menus take up less screen space.
Making the desktop aware of these menus also powers Unity’s HUD. Tap the Alt key and start typing to search the current application’s menus for an option and quickly activate it, all from your keyboard.
If you prefer the old system, you can open the System Settings window, click Appearance, select the Behavior tab, and choose the “In the menu bar” option under “Show the menus for a window.” There’s also an option to always show the new menus rather than having them auto-hide inside application title bars, but it’s buried deep. You’ll have to install the Dconf Editor application, launch it, navigate to com > canonical > unity, and enable the “always show menus” option.
Vervet sees the Ubuntu Developer Tools Centre becoming “Ubuntu Make.” It’s a system for easily installing isolated development environments—like the Android NDK and SDK, Firefox Developer Edition, and many other platforms—with a single command. Like Fedora’s Developer Assistant, it’s designed to help developers get up and running quickly and easily.
Ubuntu 15.04 also brings the Snappy Ubuntu Core, a small-and-secure build of Ubuntu optimized for Internet of Things devices and cloud images.
But little of that matters to everyday Linux users. If you’re on the desktop version of Ubuntu, feel free to stick with the current long-term support release of the operating system if the new applications menus and other tweaks fail to tickle your fancy. That’s what LTS releases are for, after all.
Chris Hoffman is a tech geek who's been writing about everything technology-related for years. When he's not writing about gadgets and software, he's probably using them in his spare time.