Look And Feel
Ambiance And Radiance
Ubuntu 10.04 LTS has moved beyond the Human theme that has been the default for every release that I can remember. In its place is the new Ambiance theme.
What the heck is aubergine? It turns out that it's the color of an eggplant. In fact, aubergine is just another name for an eggplant. On one hand, I am so profoundly elated to see the operating system shed its brown motif. On the other hand, purple? Really?
Thankfully, Canonical kept the orange that has been around for a few years, though that too underwent a transformation. Orange remains the primary color for icons and many of the buttons. But this time around, an infusion of red radiates up into the orange that gives the color a deep, rich glow. At first, all I could think about was how hideous orange and purple look together. But once you see them in the new dark Ambiance theme, the difference between purple and aubergine, and between orange and blood orange becomes crystal clear. It looks welcoming. It looks cohesive. And most importantly, it is sets itself apart from the default look of any other OS. There will be no mistaking Ubuntu for any other GNOME desktop distribution.
Ambiance is a dark theme, so there are bound to be some applications that have font color issues. One such application is the uber-popular VoIP client Skype, which employs right-click menus with black text on a black background. Hovering over the menu box illuminates the currently-highlighted menu item.
Besides the minor occasional dark theme issue, it is one of the best implementations of a dark theme yet. For anyone who can't deal with the bugs or just don't like dark themes, Canonical as included Radiance, a light, almost cream-colored twin to Ambiance. Which is pretty nice as well, but doesn't groove with the aubergine accents like the default dark theme.
10.04 LTS is not only a departure from previous versions of Ubuntu in system theme. Canonical is completely redoing the Ubuntu branding. Below are the new logo and lettering next to the old.
Personally, I've always liked the old Ubuntu lettering and logo, but the new branding looks good as well. If you look at the implementation of the lettering and logo with the new color scheme, it comes off as very professional.
Why Is Everyone Driving On The Wrong Side!?!
No Ubuntu 10.04 review would be complete without mentioning that the window controls (minimize, maximize/restore, and close) are now on the left-hand side - like on a Mac. Is it irritating? Yes. Is there a simple way to change it? No. Is it a deal-breaker? Not really. I made moves for the upper right-hand side of windows on a near-constant basis for the first 20 minutes of using Lucid, after that I grew accustomed to it. That said, I would like to know the rationale behind the move. Are the possible future appearance of “windicators” the only reason? Or are they really that serious about converting Mac customers? By imitation?
Let's face it, no matter how much Canonical wants to convert Mac users over to Ubuntu, that's a pretty tall order. Mac users aren't known to switch brands with the regularity of their PC counterparts. After all, once you go Mac you never go back, as they say. I'm not saying that using MacOSX as the gold standard to which Ubuntu is held is a bag thing. In fact, it's probably a good idea. By many accounts, MacOSX provides a far more polished end-user experience than Windows. Go for the gold and get silver on the way. The problem is that Mac has an estimated 7% market share, while Windows has over 90%. That's well over 10 times the number of people on Windows than Mac. Why go out of your way to make things more unusual for the most people? Sure, the 7% of computer users who have Macs will feel right at home with the new positioning of the window controls - but then again, they typically aren't the type to stray. On the other hand, more than nine in ten people in the world are already accustomed to the window controls being on the right-hand side – and they are historically much less loyal to any single tech OEM. From an ease-of-use standpoint, it makes no sense.
Then there is the functional side to window placement. Again, the decision to go to the left-hand side doesn't appear to be logical. There is the obvious issue of the menu bar being right below the close button. MacOSX doesn't have this issue. In that OS, the menu bar of the currently active window becomes part of the upper panel. You also have the Applications menu to contend with right above any maximized windows. I can easily imagine a former Windows user (or Mac user, for that matter) becoming intensely frustrated when they accidentally close their current window when trying to access the Applications menu to open another app.
Also consider that the log out and shut down menu is on the far right-hand side of the upper panel. You must close the operating system from that corner of the screen, it only makes sense to close applications from there as well. This also creates a situation where non-GTK apps that use their own window controls are all on the right-hand side. A notable example being Google Chrome. Fortunately, you can fix this by right-clicking on the psudo-title-bar in Chrome, and choosing Use System Titlebar And Borders. Still other apps that have multiple works open at once, like OpenOffice.org, have the file close button in the top right corner. That's just the corner for closing things for most people and apps.
Now, about the planned “windicators”. If the future emergence of these window indicators are the sole reason for moving the window controls, then I suppose the change is a necessity. But not right now. I don't see any “windicators” in Lucid, so why move the window controls now? If the “windicators” are the why the window controls were moved, fine, I won't get into the concept. It just means that this is yet another example of Canonical jumping the gun and changing the current situation to make room for features that aren't here yet. It reminds me of the decisions to replace Pidgeon with Empathy and to replace Add/Remove Applications with the Ubuntu Software Center in 9.10. In both instances, the newer applications had less functionality than the ones being replaced. Also in these instances, the new applications had additional features and integration that were planned, but not yet realized. Since there appears to be no immediate need for this change, at the very least, Canonical needed to have a simple way to change the orientation of the window controls through the Appearances tool – yet another area where KDE has GNOME beat.