Ubuntu 11.04 Unity Gets in the Way of the User

ubuntu-unityUbuntu has released a new version (11.04) of its Linux operating system. Instead of going with Gnome 3, it went with Unity as the default desktop environment.

I’ve now used both Unity and Gnome 3, and it continues to confuse me who the target user is for these interfaces. If it’s meant to be easy, natural, and sexy like Mac OS X (which I don’t like by the way), I believe it fails to achieve that. It’s not at all easy nor natural, though it is sexier than previous versions (Gnome 2).

I have to echo the negative early reviews of many Linux users that Unity simply gets in the way. Some problems I have are:

  • It’s unclear how to access apps and utils that are not immediately available through the dock or app search.
  • Lack of configurability
  • Launcher hide behavior is counter-intuitive. I understand it, but it’s not natural and I can’t configure it, but even if I could, I want the default behavior to be natural. This is exactly what was upsetting to me about Ubuntu 10.10 when the window management buttons moved from top right to top left. I understood that, but it was unnatural.

The bottom line for me is that Ubuntu is trying to dumb down the Linux interface instead of making it more powerful. A perfect example of how to change drastically for the better is the improvement of Microsoft Office 2007 over 2003 with the addition of the ribbon. To me, the ribbon had an annoyingly large learning curve but in many ways it was worth it. The interface was simplified and made more powerful and it didn’t get in the way of the user.

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