Thursday Canonical said that Ubuntu 11.04 will be made available for public use in one week: April 28, 2011. This new version of the popular Linux OS will sport a new interface called Unity, making the Ubuntu experience easier, more visually appealing than prior builds. It will also introduce a cleaner workspace and a launcher located on the left-hand side of the screen.
"This release breaks new ground for Ubuntu by offering users a PC experience that is stylish and efficient," said Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical. "With this release Ubuntu will recruit an entirely new wave of users to free software. Ubuntu 11.04 is a high watermark for what has been achieved with open-source technologies for the everyday computer user."
Canonical said that the new Unity interface is designed for newer machines, inspired by smartphone and tablet designs. However, the new OS will automatically detect the graphics hardware and adjust accordingly, offering a "classic" version for rigs that don't have the hardware for the visually-enhanced Unity interface. Users can also manually switch from Unity to Classic, allowing for a more consistent theme across a large desktop deployment.
"Ubuntu 11.04 moves away from traditional interfaces, embracing fast and powerful search as the best way to find applications and files," the company said. "This is a trend that comes to Ubuntu from the Web, where users have come to prefer search as the starting point for most journeys. Searching is hosted in the dash. The dash brings files, applications, music and video together in a single location. It’s all searchable through the same bar."
The new build of Ubuntu will also feature a "global menu" for most pre-installed apps, support for touch screens, Ubuntu Software Center integration into the dash for adding apps to the system with just a few clicks, dozens of handy keyboard shortcuts, and a volume indicator that allows a user to adjust the volume and queue, play, switch and stop the music.
For those who are unsure whether 11.04 will be an ideal upgrade, Canonical will offer a free test-drive when the OS launches next week, accessible within a web browser. "Visitors to Ubuntu.com will be able to access a complete version of the latest product without having to download anything. All that is required is an Internet connection and an open mind," the company said.
For those who simply can't wait, 11.02 Beta 2 "Natty Narwhal" is ready for downloading here. Then again, why not wait one more week for the full-blown final release?