Ubuntu 13.04 (codenamed Raring Ringtail), although not a Long Term Support (LTS) release, will bring along some major changes to the Ubuntu operating system. With the proposed improvements in Dash, one of Shuttleworth's major goals, that is bringing the web and the desktop together, will get a shot in the arm. Undoubtedly, Ubuntu 13.04 marks a crucial release for Canonical. 

Their new project on the other hand, which is bringing Ubuntu to smartphones, is in heavy development. But the busy developers at Canonical are making sure that their core product gets all the attention it deserves. Ubuntu 13.04, apart from bringing new features to the user, will also come with a more polished and refined look that will hopefully put it head-to-head with Microsoft's convoluted Windows 8 desktop.

Here are some of the best features that are either expected to land or have already landed in Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail):

1. A Dashing Dash

In Ubuntu 13.04 the Dash will get smarter, faster, and more integrated with the World Wide Web. One of the most important features proposed for this release is that of instant purchasing from the Dash. This means that users will not only be able to browse online music and apps, they will also be able to purchase them without opening the browser window. This will make it easier for users to buy new apps and music (from Ubuntu One store) without jumping through multiple hoops. Though as good as this feature sounds, we're pretty sure that a lot of people will be a bit averse to this idea.

2. Faster Unity

Many people complain of Unity being slow and unresponsive at times. This problem, fortunately, will not go overlooked. Unity will be snappier than it is in Ubuntu 12.10. In fact, many people who have upgraded to Ubuntu 13.04 have already noted "significant" improvements in performance.

3. New Icons

The revamping of Ubuntu is far from done. Many users are expecting a new icon set for this release. In daily builds of Ubuntu we can see subtle improvements to the existing icons with the Launcher and Dash icons being replaced already.

4. Smart Scopes

One of the most awaited (or hated by some) features is that of complete integration with the web. Scopes in Ubuntu 13.04, are about to get a huge boost with a fully online-integrated service that combines results from the desktop and the World Wide Web. A search query will give results from as many as 100 online sources, some of which include popular sites like Grooveshark, Reddit, Pandora, Wikipedia, and Amazon. To improve speed and efficiency, the results will be provided from an online server and only the scopes that are relevant to the users will be turned on. Though many see this move as an invasion of the user's privacy, Canonical sees this as an opportunity to make Ubuntu a seamless bridge between the online and the offline world.

5. Quicklist Switching

I personally love this feature. Though a small change, this method of switching windows will let you switch between an app's multiple windows by simply right clicking on its icon in the launcher. Another expected addition is the feature that allows users to switch windows by scrolling the mouse over their icons in the launcher. 

6. More Control Over Privacy

It is expected that Ubuntu 13.04 will give users more control over their privacy by allowing them to selectively turn online services on and off. This will be a huge relief for those who think that Canonical is out to invade their private life and that they're always being watched by Mark Shuttleworth and his team.

7. Usability Enhancements

Ubuntu 13.04 will, hopefully, come with a lot of usability improvements. Users can expect fewer clicks and less waiting for results. One of the biggest enhancements is the changes in Dash and Launcher. We'll also be seeing changes to Nautilus and other core applications so that the user experience is more fine-tuned and comfortable than ever. 

Note: It is, however, important to note that many of these features are subject to change or even complete removal since Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) is in heavy development. If you want to try out these features for yourself, feel free to download the daily builds HERE

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