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On April 25th, the newest version of one of the most popular Linux distributions was released — Ubuntu 13.04, codenamed “Raring Ringtail”. Every new release of Ubuntu warrants the question of what’s new and whether people should try it out or upgrade from an older release.
Unlike previous releases of Ubuntu, 13.04 doesn’t bring extraordinary new visual features which may make some people even more skeptical about this release than others. So what exactly is new, and should you really upgrade?
While Canonical wanted to include a major feature called Smart Scopes in Ubuntu 13.04, which would have enhanced the Unity Dash’s search capabilities to include more online sources aside from Amazon, it was delayed for 13.10. With this and other features being delayed for the next release, development on 13.04 quickly turned into a push for quality and polish. As such, plenty of software has been updated to help improve the overall quality of the release.
Although new versions of software is included in every Ubuntu release, this release especially adds some polish, with filesystem and graphics enhancements in the kernel, a faster LibreOffice, and others. Most importantly, the Unity desktop environment received plenty of love from Canonical developers, making it more stable and pleasing to use by reducing the amount of “papercut” bugs.
Because of the focus on polish in this release, the new release along with its updated software appears to run noticeably faster on a number of my systems. Startup and shutdown times have also improved quite a bit. This is pretty refreshing to see as Ubuntu’s speed has regressed over the last few releases after their strong emphasis on speed with 10.04.
There has also been a lot of tiny visual improvements here and there. Window snap animations (when you drag a window to an edge on your screen to either maximize it or make it fill half your screen) are different; the popups along the Unity dock now fade in and out; there are new Unity dash preview animations; and a new, friendly, and translucent shutdown dialog. The icons for “Files”, Ubuntu Software Center, and Software Updater have been changed, and Nautilus has been updated and slightly renovated.
If you have, as an example, multiple Chrome windows open, you can now hover your mouse over the Chrome button in the Unity dock and scroll to switch between windows. You can also now control which installed applications can use which of your online accounts, and the Bluetooth dropdown menu has been updated to include on/off toggles.
Ubuntu One has also received a new Sync menu where you can turn the service on or off, as well as access other Ubuntu One functions. If the menu weren’t packed with Ubuntu One features, it would almost appear as if Dropbox could be integrated into the Sync menu as well, provided the Dropbox application receives an update to be able to do so. The workspaces feature is now disabled, but can be re-enabled in the system settings.
Unity has also received two new lenses with 13.04 — the Photos lens and the Social lens. The Photos lens can pick up and search through images located on your online accounts or imported via Shotwell. Because Gwibber has been removed from this release (and possibly only this release), the Social lens is there to help people connect to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn directly from the dash.
While this release may seem a bit lackluster when it comes to features, Raring Ringtail is still a great release that doesn’t throw Canonical’s roadmap off track. Now that they’ve accomplished a lot of polish work, including speed improvements, they will have an easier time getting Ubuntu ready for their releases on smartphones, tablets, and TVs. Before, some core components such as Unity would have run far too slowly to be usable on a mobile device.
Should You Upgrade?
So, now that we know what’s new, should you try Ubuntu if you haven’t yet done so before? Absolutely! Ubuntu comes packed with plenty of great software, and it is now speedy enough for any user to enjoy on any system. For those already running Ubuntu, is it worth upgrading? Not necessarily. As Ubuntu 13.04 doesn’t come with a lot of new features, you may not get much out of an upgrade without having to do a lot of work and running the risk that something goes wrong during the upgrade process.
However, if you value polish and speed improvements, then I recommend that you upgrade. As there aren’t any major features, most packages will simply update to newer versions, making this upgrade relatively painless compared to previous upgrades. I went ahead and upgraded my computers without any issues, and I am definitely loving the polish and speed.
What’s your favorite feature in Ubuntu? What would you like to see Canonical do with Ubuntu 13.10? Let us know in the comments!