With GNOME making a surprise appearance in the Ubuntu 17.10 update, you might think that Unity’s end has come early. Not so: it seems that Canonical’s desktop environment is far more popular than previously thought, with several new projects launching with the aim of keeping some aspect of Unity alive.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with Unity’s abrupt end, and don’t really want to sign up to the GNOME way of doing things, you’re in luck. These five projects will help you get the most from Canonical’s abandoned desktop environment for years to come!
1. Get Unity Features With Dash to Dock
The end of Unity’s official support from Canonical has led to popular features finding their way into other environments. Dash to Dock is a great example. Designed as a macOS-style dock for GNOME desktops, this dock can be used at the foot of the screen or along the side, and is intended for easier app launching and faster switching between any open windows and desktops.
Several projects have started that introduce Unity-style features to Dash to Dock themes. Among them are:
- Launcher Backlight — This changes the color of any apps on the dock that are currently open. It’s essentially a useful highlighting effect.
- Per App Expose — This replicates the Unity feature that allows you to see all open windows from a currently running app.
Keep in mind that these effects are separate from the Dash to Dock project. As such, they probably won’t be merged into the main project later on.
2. Unity Themes for GNOME Shell
More cosmetic changes that allow GNOME users to restyle their desktop, Unity style, are available via the b00merang project.
The b00merang project is a great way to introduce themes from other operating systems into your GNOME desktop. These might be from other Linux systems, or from proprietary desktops such as Windows 10, macOS, or Chrome.
Two themes are currently available:
- Ambiance for GNOME — Intended for Ubuntu users who are unhappy with the switch to GNOME. This is a Unity 7 theme.
- What happened to Unity 8? — Produced since Canonical announced the end of Unity, this theme reproduces the flat Unity 8 look on GNOME desktops.
We expect more and more Unity-inspired themes to appear for GNOME desktops.
3. “United Desktop” Unity Theme for KDE Plasma
What if you didn’t move to GNOME, but to KDE Plasma? Fortunately, there is a Unity theme you can take a look at. Released before Canonical’s shocking abandonment of Unity, United Desktop can be found in the KDE Store. Before installing it, make sure you’ve backed up any custom configurations on your desktop.
To install it on your system, open KDE System Settings > Workspace Theme > Look and Feel, then click Get New Looks. Wait for the list of themes to open, and select and install United.
Once this has installed, reopen Look and Feel, select United, then check Use desktop layout from theme before clicking Apply. With the Unity desktop style set, you’ll then need to enable Unity Ambiance as the desktop theme, and Blender-Ambiance for the window decoration.
4. UBports Takes Over Ubuntu Touch
When Ubuntu Touch finally launched in 2014, it was to some encouraging sounds. But even the release of several Android-first devices with Ubuntu Touch spins wasn’t enough to save it from Canonical’s axe. This was a shame, as the app-light approach had resulted in a usable alternative to Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile.
And like the latter, the last wave of Ubuntu Touch devices shipped with a desktop mode, Convergence. Forgot your laptop? Away from home or work? No problem. Simply connect your Ubuntu Touch smartphone over wireless HDMI to a TV or monitor and start working!
Fortunately, Ubuntu Touch has not stopped with the end of Unity. A trip to UBports.com reveals that the project continues, with support for existing devices. Better still, there is a renewed attempt to launch Ubuntu Touch on a trio of “Core Devices”: OnePlus One, Fairphone 2, and the 2013 variant of the Nexus 5. Installation instructions are available on the website; go on, give it a go!
5. Unity Continues Under the Yunit Project
It’s nice to see Ubuntu Touch continue. But what about Unity itself? The answer can be found in the shape of the Yunit project, which aims to continue development of Unity 8. This is a full fork of Unity, and the source code can be found at GitHub.
Of course, it’s early days yet. How far and long the project goes will depend on organizational structure and contributions.
RIP Unity? Not Quite!
When Unity arrived on Ubuntu back in 2010, the desktop shell created considerable consternation. Indeed, it is often cited as the reason for Linux Mint stealing the crown of the most popular desktop Linux distribution.
Over the years, however, the dislike of Unity has mellowed, with tweaks turning it from a jarring new experience into a friendlier desktop environment. Canonical’s announcement might have been a surprise, but in some ways so too is the love that has grown for Unity. Fans just won’t let it go!
What do you think? Are you sad to see the back of Unity? Will you be trying any of the themes or contributing to yunit or UBports? Tell us in the comments.