Rant on Ubuntu’s annoying Unity bar

by . Originally posted

Carrying on from my previous rant about Ubuntu’s new Ocelot release, another highly frustrating aspect of the recent major releases is their move to using Unity’s “improved user experience” shell. If you’ve used one of the major releases from the last 18 months (maybe longer), you’ll have noticed that out of the box there’s a vertical bar filled with application icons on the left hand side.

This bar, aka ‘Unity’, is meant to speed up and slip-stream the process of finding and launching applications, as well as keeping them easily accessible once they’re open. However to me it’s very slow, awkward to use, hides even the most basic controls and removes several large ‘customisable’ aspects of the older Ubuntu systems.

Here’s the fairly acceptable look of Unity running on the left hand side of my screen, click for a closer view.

Ubuntu's Unity bar

So it doesn’t look too bad, but half those icons I don’t even use… so that immediately annoys me. Plus what was wrong with pinning icons to the dead space along the top between the old drop down menus and the clock? Nothing in my opinion, especially as there’s still dead space there. More annoyance.

Plus if you look at the zoomed in image below, (taken from the top left), you can see that behind the black bar there’s another series of menus hiding there, heavily blurred by Unity’s semi opaqueness. I suppose that’s one way to maximise used space?

Ubuntu's Unity bar

Don’t get me started on where the clock, WiFi, battery or sign out icons have gone! Anyone know where these are to be found?!

Probably the biggest aspect that really makes me question who had the final say on Unity’s GUI is the sheer size (of which you can’t easily change) of the launch menus, shown below:

Unity's HUGE interfaceI mean seriously? You could land a plane on those icons. If you compare the size of those icons to the ones on the desktop behind it… you should hopefully be able to see how absurd the size of Unity’s GUI is! For the record I like my desktop icons to be 10-20% smaller than shown, but was too eager to print screen and immortalise my annoyance.

So its slow, stupidly over sized, clunky, set-in-its-ways and hides other menus… anything else? Why yes, actually there is! The windows bar (the horizontal bar that runs along most screens showing which windows are open, also in Microsoft’s OS it has the Start bar and time) has been completely removed. In its place tiny white smudges appear beside the relevant icon in Unity’s bar, hard to see at the best of time, impossible to spot if the desktop background is brightly coloured in places. So we’ve gone from being shown what windows and programs we have open, to now having to hunt through a large stack of icons in hope we can remember what ours looked like! Sounds like a dull game to me.

As you can tell by the one-sided bashing I’ve done, this post is a rant over some of the most basic problems I have with the Unity bar… it isn’t a well-balanced discussion.

Thankfully I’ve found a very easy way to remove Unity.

Am I missing some basic setting options that everyone else knows about? Can you easily reduce the GUI or bring back some of my beloved and trusty horizontal bars? Please drop me a comment and let me know.

Categories: Computing, Linux

Tags: , , ,

8 Comments

  • Dan says:

    I agree…
    after 5 years.
    Bye Ubuntu hello OpenSUSE

  • Robert says:

    The search and find approach for programs is so tiresome. I don’t usually remember the names of all the apps I use and if it doesn’t come right on top of my mind, lots of time wasted.

    I found a way to make things easier… using Avant window manager. It gives a task bar which you can fully customize at the bottom of the screen. And guess what it gives the old ubuntu menus as well. So do try it. Might become a good reason not to leave Ubuntu. If you want details, see here.

    There are also snapshots of the desktops – Customizing Ubuntu to increase productivity.

  • […] So it was only earlier this week I put together a post complaining quite openly about the ‘Unity’ shell that now comes with the latest Ubuntu releases, so I thought it was time to say how I managed to […]

  • Hans says:

    Nice rant on Ubuntu. I was thinking of installing it as a server (eventually, when I have free time).

    I think that most OS company are trying to compete with the big names. ie Windows and Mac. They are hoping to convert Windows and Mac users to their OS. Ok, probably more Windows users than Mac but still. Linux used to be all command line based, like the old dos was, and now, it’s all graphics interface. I strongly believe that that’s their main goal. To get more and more Windows and Mac users to their system.

    Hans

    • Paul Joyce says:

      Hey Hans! Glad you like my rant 🙂
      Ubuntu is a very nice operating system, much better than Windows IMO. Which is why my rants are for it are so few and infrequent (also why I deem putting the few down in words)
      I think as tech improves, all OS’s are becoming more sleek and graphical. Linux is still command line driven; although now you can get many shiny desktop environments to make an easy to use GUI. I manage several Linux servers at work all of which are pure CLI – its a steep but important learning curve.
      Keep me posted on your own Linux server, will happily share any knowledge I have with you.

  • Tim says:

    I think the whole Ubuntu push for the Unity interface, is one reason I’m seriously thinking of jumping ship for another desktop environment. LXDE is looking more attractive all the time… and as you’ll see if you leaf through my Eee netbook blog, I went for Arch Linux with Fluxbox (pauses whilst the gasps die down 😉 ).

    What is it with OS makers, which makes them introduce huge changes to their user interfaces every few years, without asking the users if they want them?

    • Paul Joyce says:

      Hi Tim,
      Yeah its very annoying they’ve made this huge change for what appears no logical reason. The whole point of Ubuntu is its ease and openness to modifcation, but Unity seems to be the first step in removing those qualities.

      Never looked too hard at Arch Linux (never even heard of Fluxbox but it looks quite lightweight); what’s Arch Linux like? Is much supported?

      Hope you enjoyed the post

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