Linux News Today: Unity 8 and Snaps Are the Future of the Ubuntu Desktop, After Ubuntu 16.10
Today, May 5, 2016, is the last day of the Ubuntu Online Summit 2016, and we’ve just attended a very exciting session where the Ubuntu developers have discussed the future of the Ubuntu Desktop after Ubuntu 16.10 (Yakkety Yak).
You can watch the entire session below if you don’t want to read the next paragraphs, but as usual, we’ll try to detail and explain a few things for you so that you know now what to expect from future versions of the Ubuntu Linux operating system, on the desktop, of course.
As the headline says, the future of the Ubuntu Desktop is Snaps (Snappy) and Unity 8 with Mir, at least according to Canonical’s Will Cooke, Ubuntu Desktop Manager. Work has already begun on pushing these new and modern technologies to the Ubuntu Desktop, as Ubuntu 16.04 LTS has just received support for installing Snaps from the Ubuntu Snappy Store.
Snappy is slowly conquering the Ubuntu Desktop, and it looks like, starting with Ubuntu 16.10, we will be able to purchase Snap apps from the Ubuntu Snappy Store through the Ubuntu Software, and various major applications like LibreOffice and Mozilla Firefox will be installed by default as Snaps in the Live ISO images. Canonical is also working on a method of upgrading various packages from the .deb file format to snap.
For example, if you now have Ubuntu 16.04 LTS installed, with LibreOffice in .deb format, and then you want to upgrade to Ubuntu 16.10 or Ubuntu 17.04 where LibreOffice is available in the snap format, the transition needs to be as smooth as possible so that you won’t lose any settings. Lastly, key applications like Chromium, LibreOffice, or Firefox will be available only as snaps.
Unity 7 enters its twilight years, Unity 8 gets all the attention now
Canonical’s Will Cooke has mentioned that the Unity 7 desktop enters its twilight years, which means that it gets fewer features and it’s being reduced to only critical and OEM work. This is because Unity 8 desktop is getting all the attention now, and it will become the default desktop session somewhere after Ubuntu 16.10 (Yakkety Yak). Looking at the slide attached below, the transition from Unity 7 to Unity 8 is happening sometime between Ubuntu 16.10 and Ubuntu 17.04.
Right now, Unity 8 is available on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) repos as a technology preview for early adopters and those who want to take it for a test drive, but it needs a lot of work. On Ubuntu 16.10 (Yakkety Yak), things will look more and more polished, and Unity 8 will be installed by default as an alternative session to Unity 7 so that you don’t have to manually install any related packages. GTK and Chromium Mir backends are also being worked on.
Among other interesting features coming to the Ubuntu Desktop later this year is the possibility of installing updates offline through the Ubuntu Software package manager, during reboots. Sync with GTK and GNOME Stack will continue for Ubuntu 16.10 just to make sure that flavors like Ubuntu GNOME work well. On the other hand, it looks like the Qt4 might be purged from the ISO images to make room for useful stuff.