In the past few weeks, we have covered a lot about Ubuntu 11.04 as well as its controversial Unity interface. However now, it’s time to take a look at the future of Ubuntu, which is 11.10. Despite being a standard release, Oneiric Ocelot, the upcoming version of Ubuntu will include many important changes. With the somewhat unexciting response Ubuntu Natty received after its release, the onus is now on developers to make sure Ubuntu reaches its 200 million users goal as early as possible.

After a great Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest, developers have already started working on new features that have been outlined for Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot". Here are 11 such features that are expected to be included in the final version:


1. GNOME 3
GNOME 3 is the revolutionary new desktop from the highly revered GNOME foundation. The shell desktop, from which Unity’s interface was inspired, will be soon be seen in Fedora 15. Ubuntu users will be able to try out the new interface once Oneiric Ocelot is released by installing it from the official repositories. As of now, newbie Ubuntu users won’t be able to try out GNOME 3 considering the various compatibility issues that arise while doing so. Installing GNOME 3 however, isn’t entirely impossible. If you’re that curious, you can follow this guide and install it on your Ubuntu machine but keep in mind that it will break your Unity session.


2. LightDM replaces GDM
The GNOME Display Manager (GDM) is a graphical login program that has been welcoming millions of users ever since Ubuntu’s first release. However, as Canonical is taking steps or rather leaps into a completely new direction, the time-honored greeter will be replaced by a new login manager called LightDM. This will not only bring themability to the login screen but it will also make the startup a little faster. LightDM has a low-complexity codebase when compared to GDM or even other login managers. Although LightDM has managed to impress many developers some people are calling this decision a hasty one. For example, Matthew Garrett, a Linux developer, has slammed Ubuntu for their decision to part ways with GDM. Nevertheless, only time will tell if LightDM could match up with the trusted GDM. If you are curious about how LightDM will look and work, a live demo of the interface can be found HERE.


3. Maybe we’ll have Thunderbird
Many users who use desktop mail clients find Thunderbird to be a better mail client than Evolution. Thunderbird is faster, actively developed and allows users to install thousands of add-ons. However, when it comes to integration with the rest of the Ubuntu desktop, Evolution has the edge, and that’s why it is still the default mail client. With the release of Oneiric, if everything goes well, Thunderbird might become the default mail client. This is still a decision which is pending as Thunderbird will replace Evolution only if it manages to integrate with Ubuntu One and rest of the Ubuntu desktop. Even though many users are rooting for a change, chances of that happening are a bit slim, at least for Ocelot. To read more this topic, take a look at the Ubuntu blueprint page HERE.


4. More Unity integration
With Unity, Ubuntu has given users a desktop that can integrate nicely with various applications it comes with. While many of the applications are not quite integrated as of now, Ubuntu promises to bring more tightly integrated applications in Oneiric. Many apps will be able to take advantage of various features like launcher progress bars and pulse/wiggle notifications that the Unity desktop comes with. Also, a lot of developers have already started pushing out applications that are properly integrated with Unity, including famous apps like Chromium.


5. More lenses and quick lists
Ubuntu Natty comes with 2 lenses by default, one for Files and other for Applications. Even though some find them redundant, Lenses do a great job at extending the functionality of the desktop. Till October, that’s when Ocelot releases, developers will come out with some great third-party Lenses for Unity. For example, Lenses which let users search on Reddit, Youtube and Askubuntu are already in development. Also, the six-month window between the two releases will give developers enough time to tweak their applications to support Unity Quicklists.


6. A reliable backup solution
Ubuntu when contrasted with Windows or Mac, has always lacked a good backup application. That was also a reason why we did a whole feature on various backup solutions for Ubuntu. With Oneiric however, things are about to change. Ubuntu 11.10 will come with a simple-yet –powerful backup tool called Déjà Dup (day-ja-doop), which will allow users to backup and restore their data using an encrypted format. It comes with features like local, remote and cloud backups (Amazon S3 or Rackspace cloud). Deja Dup also allows scheduling regular backups, which makes it a competitive backup application. To install Déjà Dup on your Ubuntu desktop, just type or paste the following command in your terminal:

sudo apt-get install deja-dup


7. Improved Ubuntu Software center
Keeping up with the latest trend of Apps and App stores, Ubuntu’s Software Center continues to evolve with every release. In Oneiric Ocelot, the Software Center will (probably) see features like Unity launcher integration (progress bar support), new default icon set, faster startup and more. With Windows and Mac OS X bringing out their own App stores for the desktop, it will be interesting to see how Ubuntu’s store stacks up against them.


8. Unity 2D
If you have tried Natty and haven’t liked it so far, you can always switch back to the default GNOME 2.x desktop. With Oneiric however, you won’t be able to do so. Unity will be the default and only desktop that will come bundled with the standard installation. If your graphics card isn’t powerful enough to handle the shiny effects Unity which Compiz provides, you can fall back on a lighter Qt-based Unity desktop called Unity 2D. A look at the feather-light interface in action can be found HERE.


9. Adieu PiTiVi
PiTiVi was the default video editor for Linux aimed to compete head-on with Windows Movie Maker. Despite being easy-to-use, PiTiVi failed to gather a response that was expected from it. As far as Ubuntu’s default software set is considered, many users and developers found the application superfluous. Moreover, numerous conspicuous bugs in the application made developers reconsider its inclusion in future versions.


10. The Janitor’s fired too
Computer Janitor, the Linux equivalent of Ccleaner, was causing a lot of problems for new users. For some, it even broke properly working applications. Thus, keeping the new user in mind, Computer Janitor will not be included in Oneiric Ocelot. Also, no replacements for the application are planned.


11. Dialog sheets or Modal Dialogs
Hate it when a dialog box creates a needless entry in your taskbar or launcher? Well, in Oneiric this petty annoyance will be taken care of. Thanks to introduction of Modal Dialogs, Unity will reduce even more clutter from the interface. For starters, a dialog sheet is a dialog box or a modal screen attached to one window -- and one window only. This means that when an application opens a dialog box, it won’t create a separate window for it. The feature is already available in Mac OS X and a similar version of it will be included in Ocelot. If you’re one of those people who think that Ubuntu is going the Macintosh way, then this feature merely reaffirms the point.


Conclusion
Despite the poor response Ubuntu Natty received, Canonical has made it clear that they are aiming for the sky. With a goal of a 200 million userbase in their minds, developers are already busy preparing the next version. If Oneiric manages to ameliorate Unity and fix many of its UI flaws, the loyal Ubuntuers who have written off Ubuntu might even switch back to it. There are also users who find Unity a huge improvement over the previous desktop and they too will be looking forward to Oneiric with great intent. Finally, no matter how many of the above features manage to make it in the final version, the release, like every Ubuntu release, will be an exciting one.


Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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