The “Lens” concept is new to Ubuntu’s Unity interface. By default Ubuntu includes two lenses, found in the launcher: one for applications and another for programs. These are both centered around locally installed content, which makes sense. That’s what people are used to searching for on their computer. A variety of third-party lenses, however, make searching certain elements of the web really fast. By the time Ubuntu 11.10 comes out there will probably be a collection of such lenses in the Ubuntu Software Center.
Reddit; the voice of the Internet.
If you want to quickly scan the top headlines on Reddit, or search for things relevant to a particular topic, you should install the Reddit lens for Ubuntu.
In addition to the top headlines and the search functionality, this lens automatically shows you the latest headlines from the Ubuntu and Linux sub-reddits, as well as the famous IAmI subreddit.
You can find a .deb file for this lense over at Webpubupd8, so check it out. Once you’ve got everything installed and have restarted Unity, know that the new Reddit icon and the keyboard shortcut Super + R can launch the program.
Similar in many respects to our own MakeUseOf Answers, Ask Ubuntu is fast replacing the Ubuntu Forums as the place to find Ubuntu help (though the userbase seems to overlap quite a bit). The Ask Ubuntu lens makes finding answers to your Ubuntu questions faster than ever.
I’ve already found answers to three different Ubuntu questions I had with the tool; the instant search makes it easy.
You can find installation instructions, appropiately enough, over at MakeUseOf Answers. Basically you need to run these commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:askubuntu-tools/ppa sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install unity-place-askubuntu
Once you do, restart Unity. You can launch this lense with the new Ubuntu Answers icon in your launcher, or by pressing Super + U.
Instantly find exactly the book you’re looking for:
This lens searches the web’s two major book repositories: Google Books. If a given book can be downloaded for free, you’ll be taken to the Gutenberg page. If not, you can browse certain pages for free over at Google Books, or purchase the ebook if you’re so inclined.
Installation instructions for this lens can be found over at Ubuntu Answers. Basically, you need to run these commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:davidc3/books-lens sudo apt-get install unity-book-lense
Once you’ve instealled everything and restarted Unity, you can search for books by clicking the Book icon or pressing Super + B.
This one’s a little hard to explain. Basically, you can search for anything and see a list of sources of information on the topic.
“A search for a band name,” says the project’s documentation, “might list MySpace, Wikipedia, Amazon and Last.fm as results, but not individual pages thereon.”
Click any of the results and you’ll be taken to that band’s page on all of those sites. Search for MakeUseOf and you’ll see this:
One link takes you to our site; the other to our Facebook page. It’s a great way to find a company or person online, quickly.
You can install this lens but adding the Web Sources Place PPA. Basically, you need to type these commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:cscarney/unity-web-place sudo apt-get update & sudo apt-get install unity-place-websearch
Once you’ve installed the lens, restart Unity. Then you can launch it by clicking the icon in the launcher, or by pressing Super + K.
Love your social networks? You might want to install the Gwibber lens then. Built on top of Ubuntu’s default social app, this lens lets you quickly find out what any of your friends or contacts are talking about on Twitter, Facebook and more. Find installation instructions over at OMG Ubuntu.
I think this is neat. For years people have been using launchers like GnomeDo to add such functionality to Ubuntu, so it’s really cool to see such a functionality included in Ubuntu by default.
What about you? Do you like these lenses? Can you think of any other lenses that should exist? Leave your comments below, because we love them.