Ubuntu Ups the Ante with 12.04 LTS aka Precise Pangolin

April 26, 2012
Ubuntu 12.04 aka Precise Pangolin has officially been released. This is the next LTS version of Ubuntu. One week back, I had downloaded Ubuntu 12.04 (then in final beta) with an intent to try it out. After I installed it on my machine and started using it, I was very impressed. It is my opinion that the Ubuntu team has pulled off a success here. Unity interface which many people (including yours truly) were eager to banish to the boondocks has made a comeback. It is now simple to use, efficient, and beautiful.

If what I experienced in Ubuntu 12.04 is to be believed, Ubuntu is on the right track in becoming a common peoples operating system.

Ubuntu 12.04 Unity Desktop
You can download Ubuntu in three forms namely -

  1. Desktop CD - A LiveCD that can optionally be installed on your machine.
  2. Server install CD - That installs Ubuntu sans the GUI, and
  3. Alternate install CD - That allows you to perform specialist tasks like automated deployments, setting up LVM, and so on.

This review is based on the Desktop CD which I downloaded and installed.

There are lots of new features .... improvements if you may, made in Precise Pangolin (12.04) as compared to the previous iteration of Ubuntu.

Some of the notable ones are as follows.

Launcher in Unity

The icons on the Launcher (The vertical strip on the left side of the screen) can be re-sized to your liking. You do this by opening the "Appearance" dialog via "System settings".

Launchpad Icons

In Ubuntu 11.10 Unity interface, this was not possible. More over, the Launcher was set to auto-hide.To compound matters, there was no proper way of changing this effect.For me this was a big irritation and one of the reasons for moving to GNOME Shell. Thankfully, in Ubuntu 12.04, the auto-hide feature of the Unity Launcher is disabled by default; with the option of enabling it from the "Appearance" dialog. If you are using a wide screen monitor (most people are), it fits well with your desktop.

Unity Dash Quicklist

Unity Dash Quicklist is a real time saver for end users.

Unity Dash Quicklist

Unity Dash Quicklist gives you easy access to frequently used functions of apps in the Launcher. For example, if you right click on the Home folder in the Launcher, a menu pops up that lists all the folder bookmarks you have created in Nautilus.


A very useful, albeit revolutionary feature in Ubuntu 12.04 is HUD - Head-Up Display interface.

Head-Up Display

HUD is a new way to quickly search and access any desktop application's and indicator's menu. HUD has a command line equivalent in hud-cli, which is available in the indicator-appmenu-tools package, that needs to be installed separately.

Using HUD is quite simple. While the running application is in focus, press the Alt key and the HUD menu pops up. Here you can type a query and choose from the related menu entries that show up for the application.

Video Lens

Lens is the name for customized views in Unity Dash. In Ubuntu 12.04, apart from the 3 lenses namely - Application lens, Files & Folders lens, and Music lens, you have an additional lens to search for videos online.

Unity Video Lens

Lenses are really useful for people who are online. For example, if I open the Music lens by pressing the [Super + M] shortcut keys and search for Beatles, Unity Dash will search online and display many albums of the Beatles band.

Unity Music Lens

Clicking on a specific album will open the Ubuntu One Music store in Rhythmbox, where I can preview and buy the album.

Unity Music Lens

To play the music though, I will have to first install the restricted multimedia codecs.

While on the topic of music, Rhythmbox has replaced Banshee as the default music player in Ubuntu.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Ubuntu 12.04 has good support for navigating in Unity Desktop using the keyboard. Unity makes extensive use of the Super/Windows key found on most PC keyboards. To get an idea of what I am talking about, just press and hold the Super/Win key on your keyboard to see all the keyboard shortcuts mapped to different functions in Unity.

Unity Keyboard Shortcuts

Privacy Tool

When you begin using Ubuntu 12.04, it starts recording many of your activities. Such as the websites you visit, and the files you use. This is a useful feature that will help you for instance, to find the document you have been working on without any fuss. However, you may want to fine tune the things you want to allow Ubuntu to track. This is accomplished via the Privacy tool which can be availed via the "System Settings" dialog.

Ubuntu Privacy Tool

Switching between Applications

The universal way of switching between open applications is using the [Alt + Tab] keys. It is the same in Ubuntu 12.04 as well but with one caveat, namely - [Alt + Tab] will let you cycle between open applications in the current workspace only. To switch between open applications in different workspaces, you should use the [Ctrl + Alt + Tab] keys instead.

Goodbye Mono

By removing Tomboy note taking app from the default installation, Ubuntu 12.04 is saying goodbye to everything Mono. However, all Mono based software including the popular Tomboy can be installed from the Ubuntu repositories.

Excellent trackpad support

There is good news for laptop/netbook users. Ubuntu 12.04 now includes support for ClickPads, or trackpads on which the physical button is integrated into the trackpad surface. When the button is pressed on a ClickPad device, a second finger may be used to drag the cursor. Most Synaptics brand ClickPads, and Apple MacBook trackpads are recognized out of the box in this release. Support for Apple Magic Trackpads and more Synaptics brand ClickPads will follow in the next release.

End Note

So how does Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) fare ? I will say exceptionally well. Unity is not the same ugly duckling it was made out to be. In Ubuntu 12.04, it has transformed into a beautiful swan. As Ubuntu 12.04 is a long term release, the Ubuntu team has pulled all stops to make sure the user experience is positive.

Ubuntu 12.04 aka Precise Pangolin is definitely worthy of running on your machine.