Ubuntu 17.10 is a very special release. It is the first Ubuntu release with GNOME 3 also known as GNOME Shell. In this Ubuntu 17.10 review, I would like to share with you what I find Good, Bad and Ugly about this release.
It looks similar to Unity
When Mark Shuttleworth announced that Ubuntu 17.10 would move to GNOME, there was a lot discussion about whether Ubuntu 17.10 will use vanilla GNOME or make it look similar to Unity. Now, we can see that it has the layout that strongly resembles Unity.
This is good because it will look familiar to former Unity users. I find the position of the main panel on the left the most productive. However, if you don’t like it, luckily there is an option to move it down or to the right.
The similarities with Unity is a good thing because this layout is also strongly associated with Ubuntu distro; It is a sort of Branding of Ubuntu. So, it is good that Ubuntu has its own unique look and it sticks with it in GNOME desktop too.
It is surprisingly stable
The installation process and the overall performance was quite smooth and satisfying.
However, I need to point out here that the hardware I used to run Ubuntu 17.10 was designed for Linux. It doesn’t have a dedicated video card that requires proprietary drivers, nor it has Bluetooth or any other things that may not work correctly with Linux. So, if your hardware is more complicated, your experience may differ.
Ubuntu 17.10 works very smoothly with Wayland
I compared Ubuntu 17.10 with Fedora 26, which also uses GNOME desktop and Wayland display manager by default. I have to say Ubuntu 17.10 works much better with Wayland
It feels as good as Xorg or even better. Login is fast, all transitions and effects work properly.
On the other hand, Fedora login with Wayland display manager was slow. After entering the password in the login screen and pressing enter, there was a 5 second wait time to see the desktop. Also, some applications froze often.
Nothing like this happened with Ubuntu 17.10.
But even if Wayland doesn’t work for you, you can always change back to Xorg. There is an option to select it in the login screen.
The Night mode:
I believe that every desktop should have this feature by default. The Night mode reduces the amount of blue light in your screen after sunset.
This not only helps to reduce eye strain, but it also reduces the negative effect on the production of the hormone melatonin that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
With this feature enabled you should have less problem falling asleep after sitting in front of the computer at night. It’s easy to configure, too! Just go to the settings and set it on.
Ubuntu isn’t boring anymore
Ubuntu with the Unity desktop was quite tedious.
There were less new features in every new release with Unity. Ubuntu looked and felt the same. Ubuntu with Unity was truly lagging behind the development pace of GNOME and Plasma 5.
The Ubuntu team probably did not have enough resources to maintain and at the same time develop new features of Unity. Although, they tried to innovate with Unity 8, it didn’t work.
Now, the Ubuntu team will not do all the work alone. A larger part of the work will be done by the GNOME community and the Ubuntu team can polish, fine-tune and modify the already developed GNOME desktop.
Ubuntu has changed again
Ubuntu started to move down in Distrowatch rankings after the switch to Unity. Users usually don’t like dramatic changes. They want a familiar desktop. Ubuntu is actually even below Manjaro.
Ubuntu 17.10 is rather the downgrade
The current state of Ubuntu 17.10 GNOME desktop is rather the downgrade in comparison to what Unity delivered. And here some of these downgrades.
There is no Global Menu
There is no Global Menu by default and it seems like there is no way to add the Global Menu extension. This is because GNOME Global Menu extension doesn’t work with Wayland yet.
The only way to use this Global Menu extension is to switch to Xorg from Wayland. But it you want to use Wayland you have to live without the Global Menu and have some wasted space at the top.
No Show Desktop
Another negative thing which, is not immediately noticeable, is that there is no Show Desktop button, which gets under your skin after a few hours. Maybe it is not a popular feature nowadays and nobody uses it, but keeping the desktop clean by minimizing all apps with one click is always helpful.
No minimize on click
When you click on the icon of any app, this app doesn’t minimize. It was the most annoying drawback in Unity and it was the major reason I could not use Unity all the time.
You may say that, “There is a minimize button on the window, use it”. But it is inconvenient. It is small, not easy to aim, and if I want to check an app for a moment, I just want to click on it see what is happening in that app and click again to minimize it. But I cannot do that with this dock.
The mouse needs to be moved to this button, which is far away in the right corner, and then clicked. There is a workaround, though, assigning custom keyboard shortcuts to minimize windows, but nothing can beat the good old mouse!
The Dock shows apps from all desktops
If I open Calendar and I don’t want to take space in this dock and this desktop. I move it to another Desktop, but its app icon is still present on all desktops. And it is active. The same applies to Alt+Tab switch.
Imagine having dozens of apps open, even if you distribute them into different desktops, you would still need to scroll through all of them to find the one you need. This is a disaster!
Now let’s talk about some less critical issues, which don’t affect the use of the desktop too much, but they are still desirable to improve or change.
LibreOffice’s Maximize button
When you click on LibreOffice’s Maximize button to minimize it, it collapses to this small window.
At first, I thought it was a bug. But I quickly realized that it is just a very small window, and it can be manually expanded.
Although the Maximize button works correctly. This is a minor thing but it still could scare a new user.
Show application menu
The next negative aspect is that the show application menu is at the bottom of the screen. If you ever used Unity, you probably remember that menu button was in the top left corner. Now, you have activities here in the top left corner. And the application button at the bottom.
You can actually use activities to launch an app as well. You just need to type the name of an application and press enter. But if you want to scroll through all available apps, you will need to click on this menu.
Honestly, I think it makes some sense to separate these two options, but during my use it was confusing. I used to click on Activities pretty quickly because this is how you interact with your system most of the time.
But when I wanted to open the menu I would still click on Activities. It became a habit. Then you cannot click somewhere else to go back, you need to either select an open app or go back and click on Activities again. You may also press ESC.
And after that, I would go down and open the menu.
Maybe I need time to get used to all these features. But I prefer to have one single menu. Even the vanilla GNOME desktop was more intuitive for me in this regard.
Window Buttons are on the right.
Users coming from Windows would probably prefer it this way, but buttons on the left are way more efficient.
All the elements in this desktop on the left, the mouse pointer spends most of its time here, then why do I have to move it far to the right?
Maybe someone will disagree with me, but the position of the windows buttons on the left is what I consider a right position.
When I switched to Linux I also felt unconformable with these buttons on the left, but after some time I realized how convenient it was.
Occasional glitches with Wayland
You still may get occasional glitches with Wayland. I have seen some screen tearing issues when I open Firefox. Unfortunately, I was unable to reproduce this issue. But Wayland is still pretty new and some small problems may arise.
User Setting Dialog freeze
Another problem I faced was the User Setting Dialog froze often. I have seen the same problem in Fedora. So, probably it is a GNOME problem, not Ubuntu. The User settings are not visited often, so it is an unpleasant problem but it’s not critical.
No 32-bit version
The last small issue there is no 32-bit version anymore. I personally think it is the right time to abandon the 32 bit ISO. But I know this may affect some users. So, I decided to mention it too.
Ubuntu 17.10 brings many changes. But for the end user, these changes, unfortunately, don’t improve anything compared to the previous release of Ubuntu with Unity desktop.
Ubuntu 17.10 is a transitional release, as all Ubuntu XX.10 releases. Hence it is expected to be far from perfect.
I hope most of the downsides mentioned here will be addressed in the next release.
On a positive note, I was very impressed with Wayland’s performance in this release already.
The next release of Ubuntu 18.04 will be very exciting.
What is your opinion about Ubuntu 17.10? I am looking forward to reading your comments.