User experience

Last month the Ubuntu 18.04 Linux distribution was released. If you are a Linux user you will be aware that there are various different desktop environments that can be installed on an operating system. If you are not a Linux user, the concept of a desktop environment may initially cause some confusion – I know that when I first started learning about Linux, I also had to learn about the different components that make up an operating system (even Windows 10 or Mac OSX). The difference with the proprietary operating systems is that these components are chosen for you and hidden from the user – you get what you buy. Which is fair enough.

Anyway, a desktop environment is effectively the interface that a user interacts with on the screen, plus some bundled software and some other bits-and-bobs. The oh-so-great controversy with Ubuntu 18.04 is that it moved from the Unity desktop environment (which it has had for a few years, and caused controversy itself when first introduced) to the Gnome desktop environment. I can see why some people get exercised by this – it is a change in the interface to their computer.

However, I had installed Gnome on my previous incarnation of Ubuntu (the joy of Linux and open-source is that you can choose what you want to run and how!) so the change wasn’t so big for me. There were some small interface differences between vanilla Gnome and Ubuntu’s Gnome, but they were not difficult to deal with. I really like Gnome – it’s clean and modern, and is very simplified. I don’t need to be messing around configuring window border widths etc. and I just want to get things done. There are time saving and efficiency functions embedded in the interface that aren’t always present in other desktop environments and in general it just gets out of the way to let you work. It took some getting used to when trying to find certain options when I was first using it but there’s great online support.

If you haven’t tried Gnome before (or Linux) then I recommend creating a Live version (with either a DVD or USB thumb drive) and giving it a go. Once you get the open source bug you won’t go back!