Unity is going to be the default UI for future Ubuntu desktop editions, starting from Ubuntu 11.04. I decided to install Unity on my system, which already has Ubuntu 10.10 desktop OS, and test the mystical Unity UI. You can easily download Unity via internet and I bet it is going to be a quite amazing desktop experience on Ubuntu, but may be not as good as GNOME Shell, I will tell you why. Lets first start with Unity installation.
How to install Unity on Ubuntu 10.10 desktop edition
#1 Go to Appilcations-> Accessories-> Terminal, and use this command to install ubuntu-netbook
$ sudo apt-get install ubuntu-netbook
(The new Ubuntu 10.10 netbook edition has Unity as default UI).
After installation gets completed, logout of the system and return to the GDM Login screen. Click on the username, it will promt for password. Have a look at the bottom of the screen, you can change the GDM Login preference. Select the "Ubuntu Netbook Edition" from the list and enter your password to Login with Netbook edition interface. Next thing you are going to notice is a new desktop interface which is so called as Unity interface.
Click on the Ubuntu Logo and enjoy the experience. I took some screenshots and you can see the left hand side application launcher and nice grid menu with search bar .You can find system applications by selecting the grey icons placed at the bottom of the vertical launcher. And I have also read that there will be a provision to set horizontal launcher for those who like horizontal applications dock. I guess they have made the launcher vertical in order to make it look different from Cairo Dock.
How to restore Old GNOME in Ubuntu 10.10
To restore normal (old GNOME UI), simply Logout of the system and select Ubuntu Desktop Edition from GDM Login Screen.
But wait a second, what I could not believe was that Ubuntu is trying to emulate the Mac desktop experience. Have a look at the third screenshot, the window buttons and other window options integrated to the top panel, it's exactly like Mac OS X. I thought Unity was going to be different. Now its clear that Unity interface is going to be a hybrid between GNOME shell and Mac OS X, thats all. May be Ubuntu founders are obsessed with Mac, but where is the originality Mark? Let's keep our finger crossed for the final release of Unity which will also support Compiz effect, where as GNOME Shell will use Mutter. Unity also supports Multi-touch, which is awesome.
I also tested GNOME Shell user interface and I honestly feel that GNOME Shell looks much better and has got really awesome desktop functionality than Unity. GNOME shell already has a nice range of themes where as Unity developers are lagging behind. I must also confess that GNOME shell has also copied some of its ideas from Windows 7. Like in Windows 7 when you bring your mouse cursor to the extreme bottom-right of the desktop , the whole desktop application become invisible or hides for a moment, something similar has been implemented in GNOME shell. Learn how to install GNOME shell in Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop edition.
Other older Linux desktop UIs are kind of dull and boring and with the inception of GNOME shell and Unity interfaces we can expect Linux to easily connect with normal human being, just like Mac and Windows. Anyway change is always good, and I'm glad Ubuntu and GNOME have realized the importance of OS design and looks.
If you are wondering how to install Unity on Ubuntu 10.04 go to Unity wiki.