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article imageUbuntu's new desktop will have an always-visible dock

By James Walker     Aug 16, 2017 in Technology
Canonical, the makers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, has started to release details of the upcoming desktop environment shift in Ubuntu 17.10. Months after the decision to drop its own Unity desktop was announced, the new GNOME look is taking shape.
Canonical stunned the Linux community back in April by abruptly announcing the end of Unity 8 development. Unity was Canonical's own Linux desktop environment, installed by default on all Linux installations. It's not unanimously accepted in the Linux community though and progress on new features has been slow of late. Canonical's now dropping its own desktop to focus on the Internet of Things and the cloud.
Ubuntu will now ship with the GNOME desktop environment instead. Canonical is making some changes to simplify the transition from Unity to GNOME. These include minor tweaks, such as the use of the Ubuntu font, but also some more significant changes to GNOME's basic installation.
This week, Canonical confirmed its GNOME shell will come with an always-visible dock akin to the one present in Unity. It's based on the existing dash to dock GNOME extension which already unifies some common design choices in Unity and GNOME. Canonical stressed that the default environment won't have all the features of the extension on which it's based, ensuring it doesn't diverge from the operating system's code too much.
Canonical will also be including its own Ambiance theme as the default look and feel of the desktop. This will keep things looking distinctly Ubuntu in terms of colours and fonts. Most of the old Unity experience has been thrown out though with many of its unique areas reverted to GNOME defaults.
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This includes the return of the minimise, maximise and close buttons to the right of window title bars. They were moved to the left in Unity back in 2010. Ubuntu will also lose its trashcan icon in the old Unity dock. Because it doesn't feature in GNOME's standard shell, it will be relegated to the desktop like the Windows Recycle Bin.
Most of the old features will be available as optional extensions, giving users a way to keep using the more popular areas of Unity. The strength of the Linux community means no desktop experience can really break away from its past. The community will repackage areas of Unity as add-ons for the new GNOME shell.
Canonical's still got a lot of decisions to make before GNOME becomes the default desktop. These include which apps should be installed by default, the features of Unity to try to incorporate into GNOME and any Ubuntu-specific theme tweaks to make the new desktop feel more familiar to users upgrading for the first time.
Ubuntu 17.10, due to land around October, will be the first version of Ubuntu to ship with GNOME installed. The work won't be fully complete until next year's 18.04 long-term support release, at which point the full transition from Unity will be made.
More about Linux, Ubuntu, Operating systems, canonical, Gnome
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