As most of my colleagues know, I am a KDE fan. I love using Kubuntu, despite its lack of “official” attention from Canonical.
I’ve heard all this fuss about Unity and I’ve no real idea what it’s all about, so I thought I’d give it a try. Today will be my first full day of using it (and the last for 2 weeks since I am heading out on vacation) and I will attempt to write up my experiences. It’s a bit of a brain dump, but here follows day one!
My initial impression is that it looks pretty slick, but not as pretty as KDE4. I’m clicking around a bit to see what’s what and I’ve immediately noticed a few things that I will miss from KDE:
- There doesn’t seem to be a way to put widgets on the panel – I want my CPU/MEM/SWAP meter! (Some time later I found “indicators” in the Software Centre, there’s a system load indicator, but after installing there’s no obvious way of using it)
- I am used to ctrl-F<N> to switch virtual desktops, I can’t see a way of emulating that. (Ok I found the setting an hour later, great)
I’m also not sure about the global menu thing, I’m finding it a lot more effort to mouse around to get to menus.
Right, so let’s try and configure things as I like them. First, I am a focus-follows-mouse junkie (I first used X Windows in the early 1990s with twm!) so let’s poke around in the settings. Hmmm, doesn’t seem like I can change that… Ok some quick Googling reveals I have to install a so-called compiz settings manager and run ccsm. Right, I can set it in there. That’s bizarre that I have to install something to edit more settings!
Now, focus-follows-mouse has also made the global menu even less desirable as it changes to whatever app I mouse through to get to it. Eugh. (I realise this is a concious design decision by the Unity team, rather than a shortcoming though – doesn’t mean I have to like it!)
Ok so I’ve had some more time to get used to the layout now. More thoughts:
- The icons on the left have some weird triangles on them, some solid some not. I’ve no idea what they mean, but I am sure I will find out at some point.
- It seems like I have to run an application before I can add it to the left panel as a quick launcher (by setting “Keep in Launcher”)
- The KDE file browser Dolphin is massively better than Nautilus (I’ll write more about that some other time)
- The mail indicator is a nice idea at the top right, but it wants to use Evolution. I don’t! How can I make it use kmail?
- Having a music player integrated into the volume indicator is a nice touch. I’d like to use Amarok though; it lists it but there’s no controls for it.
- Clicking on the time indicator shows a calendar, like KDE. I suspect I can’t use an arbitrary calendar app though, it seems tied to evolution.
- The logout button shows a load of seemingly arbitrary menu items. Odd.
As a KDE user I love krunner (a bit like Gnome-Do). So one my reactions is to hit alt-f2 when I want to run something. I see that it starts up a smiliar dialog as hitting the button at the top left. I started typing the name of the program I wanted to run, “kmail”, and it found it quickly. I hit “enter” to run it but nothing happened. I noticed that the kmail icon was not on the list of icons found any more! I then noticed that if I backspace my input one character, so it says “kmai”, then the kmail icon appears again. This must be a bug I guess.
I decided to have a play with the menu system a bit. It seems a bit more work to find stuff than simply mousing around the K menu but I’ll keep trying it out and see how I get on. My initial impression is that it needs some work though as it feels as though it’s trying to hide results for no reason until you click on “See N more results →”. I don’t understand why it doesn’t put a scroll bar up and show everything right away, I’m sure this would be quicker to navigate.
Dealing with windows:
- The window controls have moved to the opposite corner. Not a problem, but hard to get used to.
- alt-tab selects windows that are not on the current virtual desktop. This is *really* annoying :(
The final point to note today is that there appears to be no way to save my session and have it restored at login. This is a feature I rely on extremely heavily in KDE and I am really sad to see it not available in Unity.
I hope to write ongoing reports over the next week or so. I am actually away on holiday so it will be sporadic, but I’m sure I will find some moments.