The unity shell and the top panel was always a design headache for those who behind the development. The design in its current form itself was criticized by many and was one of the reasons why many people hated unity. The daily builds of the unity 2D had a new iteration of the design apparently trying to solve some of the issues associated with the desktop shell. The new design now is now causing far more criticism than the current version.


The image above shows the Ubuntu 11.04 unity in its current incarnation. The current version have too many things going on the left hand top corner of the screen. There is the ubuntu button (BFB) with ubuntu logo, The global menu, the application title and the window controls (min,max,close buttons) for maximized applications are all crammed into that little space there.


There are too many issues pointed out by users. The window controls are out of place for maximized applications and is away from its normal position of the top-left corner. The menu is also away from the left-hand corner and do not even start after the ubuntu button. There is no indication that there is a menu out there at all. This looks and feels like a bug than a feature.


The above image shows the latest unity version that surfaced on the unity 2D daily build. This latest version tries to eliminate the issues by removing the ubuntu logo completely from the panel and replaced by a new ubuntu button at the top of the launcher. Now this has caused more criticisms. Websites like omgubuntu has comment sections filled with users criticizing and some supporting this new move. Users have pointed out many issues.

(click for a big size)

Apart from cluttering the already cluttered launcher, the issue now is that there is no ubuntu logo anywhere on the panel. The launcher is not visible all the time. This results in the logo being hidden most of the time. All operating systems including Mac and Windows have a logo used as an application starting point and is now universally recognized. This design breaks it. Another issue is that if there are many shortcuts on the launcher (most users will have), the logo will be lost in between those icons. Another issue raised is that the entire top panel space is wasted as seen from the image below.


Some users pointed out that when working with a maximized application (as in the above picture), the user has to move the mouse to the left side and ‘wait’ for the unity launcher to appear. The new position also causes the button to take more space on the launcher than it did in the panel. The new users also will have to be learned about the importance of one the many launcher icons. The worst part is even now the panel look cluttered with global menu, title, and window controls.

On the plus side, the launcher could be made movable to different locations of the screen. Other changes include a better dash with a blur and unity lenses moved to the dash itself away from the launcher.


56 responses »

  1. Larry Wilson says:

    I just disabled it. I either use Gnome Classic or KDE4, even Xubuntu, but Unity…never! I’ve also been slowly but steadily losing faith in Ubuntu since 8.04.

    • Atwas911 says:

      You have to remember.. ubuntu was originally just a bastardization of debian. After unity.. I’ve never installed anything but PURE CLEAN DEBIAN.

  2. […] Bad to worse? New ubuntu unity design ignites heated arguments The unity shell and the top panel was always a design headache for those who behind the development. The design in its current form itself was criticized by many and was one of the reasons why many people hated unity. The daily builds of the unity 2D had a new iteration of the design apparently trying to solve some of the issues associated with the desktop shell. The new design now is now causing far more criticism than the current version. […]

  3. whitey says:

    Try Pinguy OS

  4. some guy says:

    I switched to Linux Mint, shortly after Canonical introduced Unity in Ubuntu.

  5. J S says:

    Can the unity launcher ribbon be resized? I haven’t found that option yet (I’ve only tested 11.04 in a VM). I’m still missing the point with the launcher … I can just put the menu bar ‘on the side’ and get the same effects. I know Unity is also trying to get touch controls for tablets, so it will be needed. My issue is often screen real estate, and I haven’t seen how Unity gives me more work space yet, or the ability to resize.

    While I put Ubuntu Netbook Remix on my netbook, I really dislike the huge icons arrayed over my nice desktop image. I’ll probably put a conventional desktop control on there when I do finally upgrade it. Unless Unity is out of ‘beta….

    • Company says:

      Yes, but you need to do it through compiz.

    • J S says:

      I went through the overview of OS X Lion .. and they have mostly auto full screen option that hides everything except the application you’re on. It’s good, but misses the desire for a dashboard. I generally include the ‘system monitor’ in my single system menu bar so I can see cpu, memory, and bandwidth. I’m using 10.04 atm.

      Unity is trying to fix the screen stack I have even after I try to minimize the clutter .. I have the system OS bar (one not two that defaults with Gnome), then firefox maximize button and title bar, firefox menu list, URL navigation bar, tabs bar. Then at the bottom I have firefox status bar.

      The key with Unity is to combine a lot of those features; to get the screen real estate back.

      Any links to the team actively working on the Unity UI?

  6. André says:

    After Ubuntu Unity I decided to install Debian and use Xfce.

  7. jsp722 says:

    > The launcher is not visible all the time. This results
    > in the logo being hidden most of the time. All operating
    > systems including Mac and Windows have a logo used
    > as an application starting point and is now universally
    > recognized.

    Both Windows and Unity have the logo, and in both the logo is always visible if the taskbar (or the launcher) does not self-hide, and in both the logo is not always visible if the taskbar (or the launcher) self-hides. Whether the launcher (or taksbar) self-hides is just a personal preference.

    > Another issue is that if there are many shortcuts on
    > the launcher (most users will have), the logo will be
    > lost in between those icons.

    How can the launcher be “lost” between other icons if it is the first and uppermost?

    > Another issue raised is that the entire top panel space is
    > wasted as seen from the image below.

    If there’s a logo in the top panel you complain; if the logo is removed (and its space used otherwise, rather than wasted) you complain as well. Are you married?

    > Some users pointed out that when working with a
    > maximized application (as in the above picture), the user
    > has to move the mouse to the left side and ‘wait’ for the
    > unity launcher to appear.

    This is the nature of any self-hiding taskbars, panels or launchers. Just don’t self hide them if you don’t like to wait.

    > The worst part is even now the panel look cluttered with global
    > menu, title, and window controls.

    Rather, the panel now is less cluttered, since all those thing were already there, but the logo was removed.

    Not a serious article. You just lack a point, and complain just for the sake of complaining.

    • vjjustin says:

      I think you lost the entire point of the article. The title says the central point; read it.

      The point is not that unity is now better or worse or that I am concerned. I am not using unity anyway and least worried. Its not me who is complaining but users (judging by their visit to ubuntu specific sites/blogs). Just look at the comments here or in omgubuntu or any other popular ubuntu blogs.

      In the entire article I am telling about the concerns raised by users and that the users are taking sides. I repetitively says about the users and their criticisms. Still you missed it.

      Just read the article once more.

  8. Person says:

    When will Ubuntu just accept that they aren’t good at design, come back to reality? They produced a good product up until 2009, if they don’t come down off of their pedestals soon, not only will they have no user base, but they will be broke too.

  9. wca says:

    Your title says it well. What happens in Unity matters not–silk purse, sow’s ear and all that.

  10. Rodnei says:

    I use the Unity only on the netbook and only because it uses less screen space, but thankfully I don’t use that computer much because the Unity is horrible to work. On the PC I use Ubuntu Classic.

  11. Dingus says:

    When Unity arrived, I left Ubuntu and installed Mint xfce on my desktop and #2 laptop. I’m still using ‘pre-unity’ ubuntu on my #1 laptop, but that’s about to be updated too.

    For me, it’s an accessibility issue – I have extremely poor image recall and depend on text, not graphics, to make my way around a computer. If I cannot read a button, I must wait for a tooltip to appear know what it does. Again and again and…

  12. […] daily builds of the unity 2D has a new iteration of the design now and is causing more criticism. Read more… Categories: Linux     Share | Related […]

  13. glococo says:

    I like Unity. Left more space to work, to “focus” on what im really doing.

    The people who want the useless bar are IE5 user minded :))) They love the useless bar, they focus on Punchthemonkey banner instead of your work.

    Like the useless computer user, who make move with click in the mouse instead of an “accounting user”, who make most moves with key-shortcuts.

    Poor mind pc user refuse to change, like many people who love windows for the only reason that they have the “START” button. They get loose when this button dissapear.
    Some UBUNTU users complain the same… Where is my APP button ?!! HOoooo

    Now its better, far better, and in constant with any device (netbook, notebook, desktop or tablet)

    good day.

    • Rodnei says:

      So your conclusion is that those who didn’t like Unity can only be a Windows user? It’s this kind of thinking that I dislike in most Linux users. Give me a break. The Unity is very good in concept, but in real life is full of bugs and too restrictive. Using it I was angry that I only remember having when I used Windows, 12 years ago.

  14. IBBA says:

    people hate change.. basically, that the reason for all this commotion.

    • Sam Adams says:

      Linux users hate change? Are you serious? These are people who install an entirely new distro because they don’t like the default wallpaper! They constantly tweak, twiddle and fubar their systems just trying to get “pretty” corners on their windows in a new theme, or a infinitely undetectably finer gradient in a window decoration. The COMPILE their own software from daily/nightly builds. If they didn’t like change – they’d still be using WinXP not Linux.

      The fuss isn’t about the change. It’s about stupid change. It’s about change that wasn’t thought through or user tested enough. It’s about egos the size of planets that refuse to give up the basic flawed paradigm they’ve staked their existence on.

      • Victor Barbicane says:

        Absolutely agree, Linux users not afraid of change. Change for the better is good. No matter how many times one says Unity is better, does not make it so. Say it over and over and some might be fooled. You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

        Unity and Gnome please remember “New Coke”! Do your due diligence.

        Evolution in action.

  15. Cusgie says:

    I still can’t see what all the fuss is about. Unity is modern, slick, uncluttered and I find no problem on my netbook and PC. I have my own wallpaper and a few icons on the desktop. Alt +f2 works a treat and the program search is great. Keep up with the improvements and ‘get ahead’!

  16. Andrew says:

    I like Unity too. It is fast, modern and efficient and I get my work done without any hassles. Install compizconfig and you can make the icons smaller etc. if you click on unity tab. Super/ubuntu key with keyboard shorcuts gives excellent functionality, much quicker than the old drop-down app menus (which ARE however still available if you open the app lens, then click on down arrow on the the top right).

    I agree though that they should keep the ubuntu button in to left, and just move menu items across a bit.

    Finally, I think Ubuntu should have included an easy guide for keyboard shortcuts similar to the desktop wallpaper that someone made, and had this open up after install. Would have helped users understand the changes.

    • Jon says:

      You can’t yet make the icons small enough (for me) using compizconfig. The best thing about the old Gnome interface is that it is very configurable. Until Unity allows me to configure it in a way which works for me, I’ll stay with Classic. If Canonical don’t give me one of those two options, I will have to try installing something else.

      For me, it wasn’t broken, and I didn’t want it “fixed”. If I wanted a touch screen interface, I would have chosen a touch screen device.

      • Jon says:

        I’ve given up looking for a suitable alternative to Unity. This is partly because the alternatives all had their drawbacks, and partly because Unity is now just about sufficiently configurable to be a viable option for me.

        I would still like to be able to shrink the icons in the launcher more than compiz config manager will let me, and I would still like to have my old menus back – but at least there is now a Systems Settings menu under the “cog wheel” button at the top right of the screen. My main remaining gripe is that the dash is still ugly, transparent (so whatever’s behind it confuses the view of the dash) and has huge icons – but if I could have sensible menus like in Gnome 2, I wouldn’t need to use the dash.

  17. macias says:

    And I use openSUSE with KDE3.5.10 for years now without any changes in UI (by definition), but this does not change the fact the Linux ship is sinking — instead of providing stable base (well tested kernel + reliable and ergonomic UI) and some innovative applications, all the innovation we see are buttons moved from right to left and new wallpaper.

    ( With such attitude within Apple, they wouldn’t conquer entire mobile market — hint: from nothing to major player. That’s something. )

    In coming years, we will probably see nothing else but stirring the same soup again, again, and again.

  18. […] gente já criticou fortemente o Unity, novo shell gráfico do Ubuntu. Então lá vai mais um artigo criticando o novo ambiente gráfico. Pessoalmente eu já me acostumei com ele no meu netbook, mas […]

  19. most of the comments are from people who apparently have not used unity .unity design is nothing short of amazing!! really if the old gnome menu or the stupid mint menu was so successful why then all the dockies,panel shortcuts and desktop shortcuts? simply because it was an inefficient way to launch applications. this was solved elegantly in unity. it is our only hope of conquering apple and windows ,ubuntu was right not to consider such jealous and rigid reviews,what will mint users say when unity becomes the only viable option!!!

    • Sam Adams says:

      I’ve tried to use unity. It’s a mess. To be fair, I’ve tried this in a VM. Until the recent Virtualbox, I was using VMWare. VMWare won’t report actual video hardware, so Unity doesn’t work. (2d does however) Now that I use Vbox, I get to test Unity. (if anyone thinks I’m going to test a change that big and gamechanging on a bare metal install, forget it, that’s crazy talk, I have production machines I’m dealing with)

      So far though, it takes me longer to get to what I want than before. It doesn’t save significant screen space. (I use a bottom “dock” panel with auto-hide, and a regular top panel) And unless I’m using kungfu shortcuts, which would render any GUI as moot, everything takes more clicks and crossing more screen real estate.

      Yes, Gnome 2.3 blew chunks and people customized it. (as I did) Mostly, they customized it to incorporate design solutions introduced by – wait for it – Apple. Yes I said it. But nearly every tweak I see is on that same path.

      Why Unity? Gnome was already working on Shell that addresses the same issues. (and as far as I can tell so far, missed the boat by the same amount, just in different ways.) Why did Canonical pour all that effort into Unity instead of helping upstream make better design decisions?

      Now we have two crummy implementations of two half-thought-out designs.

      Canonical will not be conquering either Apple or Microsoft with Unity. Microsoft is not in the software business, they are a licensing mobster. Their product is rot gut, with an occasional single barrel edition. They don’t sell software, they extort compatibility fees. Apple uses sex appeal and status combined with peer pressure to sell hardware. They give their OS away. (practically) People are more willing to pay 40 bucks for an OS they know will work than try a free one that might not.

      What does Linux or Canonical selling? What market are they after? HOW will they penetrate that market? Is Unity really going to do that for them?

  20. Max says:

    please, destroy this barely-netbook-worthy joke OS.

  21. Chenot says:

    Been using Ubuntu since 2005. Been using Unity since May. Love It! Simple and straight forward user interface experience. Sure, the global menu is a bit annoying, but it grows on you. Cant wait to see Unity grow and mature.

  22. otiss says:

    Slackware w/ XFCE FTW

  23. Sam Adams says:

    Apple has already solved these design problems – sorry to say for the Mac haters out there. Mac OSX doesn’t have a cluttered top left corner, and they retain a logo menu, the app name, and a global menu. They decided it was best to leave the window controls on the window. They don’t hide the global menu. (the space isn’t used otherwise on either Unity or OSX) The Application name in bold, serves not only as an indicator as to what app has focus, and thus what the menu context is, but it also doubles as a general app menu, with About, Preferences, and Quit among other items generic to all apps. (no more hunting for edit>preferences vs. tools>options) It isn’t the only solution to be sure. But it works very well.

    The apple logo menu however is NOT an Applications list. It is a system menu more like the one on the right side of the Unity/Gnome top panel. They used the top right corner for Spotlight – their equivalent of Unity Dash. They’ve stuck well with an arrangement that has all menus on the left and all widgets/indicators on the right on the top bar. It does the trick. Mixing and matching menus and indicators is messy and confusing. It’s those little things that count.

    Apple actually has a crappy “applications” menu by default. (it’s hidden under the Finder>Go menu) Most people add the Applications Folder to their Dock for easier access.

    Essentially the Unity Launcher panel/bar/whatever (it’s all the same thing, changing the name is irrelevant) is nothing but a left side dock that I can’t move, change size of, color of, and until recently couldn’t even change icons on. (I think some are still fixed) Yes, the Mac Doc isn’t all that customizable either, but it can be tweaked a little with built in options, it can be moved and resized, it can change its behaviors, and you can move all the icons/launchers around, and add more. With some very simple hacks, you can even change its color. This isn’t to boast on Apple, it’s just to point out, they already solved this problem. Their solution works. It may not be the only solution, but Unity does not work. At least not in present form.

    As well, it looks like Apple is going to solve the problem of screen space, and application launching. Already they have made a strong move to entirely full screen apps. They’ve introduced Dashboard for “widgets” or less than full screen applets. They’ve had workspaces for some time now. And they have a very usable application switcher which they improved considerably in Snow Leopard and in Lion. With Lion though, it seems they settled on an application launching system – Launchpad. It mimics the iOS system. Apple saw design problems inherent in their original OS that everyone sought to imitate rather poorly. (theirs was an imitation as well of earlier GUIs) They’ve thrown out many of the old paradigms, and have reinvented the music player, phone, and now desktops. I just don’t see Unity doing anything more than trying to copy some, but fubar the rest, too little too late.

    I love Linux, I prefer Ubuntu, but Unity and Shell bite the big one. Xfce and Lxde get the job done on older hardware, but for a truly modern computing experience, Apple has it in the bag.

    I don’t see why all the effort to solve problems that have already been solved, especially with inferior and less elegant “solutions.”

  24. Stephen Sadd says:

    Ok, i gave Unity a try sometime back, there were a few bugs and things did not run smoothly on the desktop, though recently i did an upgrade to 11.04 and things seems MUCH smoother and overall i’m quiet impressed. I have never been a KDE fan, so mostly i have been using gnome, until now, and i’m feeling that i wont go back. I like the side panel, i like the the logo shortcut button, and i also like how the menu hides and reappears with the mouse, its clean its crisp, its fresh, and i am using it on a laptop (without touch).
    Desktop aside, Ubuntu really rocks, and has proven (personally) to be very secure and rock solid, and certainly has a good turn of speed. Prior to settling on Ubuntu, i tried many many linux distro, many of which were good also, others i would rather forget, i am not a command line wizzard, and moved to linux from XP due to numerous exploits encountered over a number of years, and the slowness of it overall. Linux is great, linux HAS the ability to overtake Mac and i believe will in the not to distant future. Why? Simply due to the economics facing more and more people at a Global level, do you think Mac’s are going to get cheaper? The more they corner the market, the more demand, the more it costs.
    Ubuntu HAS taken great risk in bringing Unity to the desktop, though in do so has also placed itself in a position to become a MAJOR player in the computing market, and obviously the playing arena is in the use of the touch screen, that is the future like it or not. Ubuntu HAS also really put linux onto the Global map, like no other distro before it. That’s really saying something!

  25. […] of the screen. There is the ubuntu button (BFB) with ubuntu logo, … Read this article: Bad to worse? New ubuntu unity design ignites heated arguments … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged 11-04-unity, bfb, current-version, hand-top, […]

  26. Luis says:

    I like Unity too. I miss the easy customization of gnome 2 but still like Unity and hope it will get better and easier to customize (at present it is not). Unity feels very dynamic with the keyboard shortcuts (I could never remember gnome 2 keyboard shortcuts even if I configured them myself), I get tired of the mouse when I get back to Mint (still my main OS).

    • Hein Hanssen says:

      And Unity is getting more configuration options as well I just learned at omgbuntu today. Gnome 3.0 also sucks and KDE 4.0 was also a mess, but it all got (and gets) better and better if we are constructive in stead of destructive.
      I had hard times with Unity in 11.04 and I report bugs and papercuts. Guess what Unity is getting better and is actually more stable and less ‘strange’ in 11.10. 12.04 will show even more improvements / configurability.

      Let’s face it: Gnome 2.x is dead as well as KDE 3.x. Even in Redmond they now the desktop needs to look different.

  27. Joe Linux says:

    Unity is Canonical’s Edsel. It is perhaps the worst User Interface on the planet.

    • Hein Hanssen says:

      The Edsel actually was a very good car. Problem was that The Press tore the Edsel apart, just because the front was odd looking and was compared to the female genitals.
      Now your doing just the same with Unity. Unity is a good initiative.

  28. omelette says:

    I tried Ubuntu 11.04 on a mini-pc, replacing a working-perfectly 10.04 as it happens, and it failed the “Pepsi Challenge” spectacularly – it detected & installed geForce drivers, but never used them, the screen-saver did not even work, the Classic-mode ‘sticks’ – I switched to Classic and it wouldn’t switch back to Unity, the ‘auto-login for keyring’ thingy didn’t work, being prompted twice at each restart – why do these wiz-coders seem completely incapable of fixing this damn thing, it been driving people to distraction for years, and to top it off, there’s a bug in the current kernel concerning ad-hoc networking. Oh yeah, and Unity itself sux imo! Having also tried out Gnome3 on Fedora, I’m left with the feeling that this rush to completely replace what wasn’t broken in the first place is somewhat ill-conceived! I’m back with 10.04 again and thanking my blessings…

  29. BreizhTux says:

    bad joke from Ubuntu,I keep my 10.10 Gnome2 to the ultimate update and after that replace my Os…big deception…

  30. Joe says:

    Moved to Linux Mint 11.04 Not looking back.

  31. jeamy says:

    It is a pointless gimmick intended to make Ubuntu look distinctive and sexy in screenshots, there is no thought for the user or usability whatsover, it’s pure marketing bullshit.

    • pascal says:

      Unity is perhaps impressive to those who don’t do any serious work but i find it distracting. I am sick of the cheap desktops effects and forceful innovation. If Ubuntu’s agenda became selling OS to PC makers, it may work for a while. I already hear the infantile CEOs clapping. But to me it feels like making a car with triangular wheels. Good luck Ubuntu.

  32. dave says:

    I like Ubuntu and use it as my primary O/S for Web access. Fast to load is what I like .

    The new desktop I could handle but the launcher blurs out on it’s own time frame and so far I cannot find a solution. Re boot solves the problem for a while but the blurring comes back.

    I like the graphical interface but this new one has been a pain for me to use. I had just got to the point I could get things done on the old one and now this new one is out.

  33. Ram says:

    What ever you say, there is no option out. Gnome itself has changed and the old gnome 2 is ultimately going to die off. So guess its better to start getting adjested. After lots and lots of sniffing around found this one –

    Seems you can use other task manager applications like Avant to bring back the convenience. It also gives the old ubuntu menu’s as well. That was what I liked the most.

  34. […] never liked the global menu system either. Global menus kill the mouse-over focus functionality which I use heavily. The global menu […]

  35. Marius says:

    Ubuntu 11.10 with Unity is amazing! I rarely use the bottom taskbar, either if it is under linux , or windows OS. My environment is : programming / development. So I use internet browsers, editor,music player, linux shell for most of time, the launch bar is great. Not to mention the messaging integration. Canonical made a great choice, it is the best linux presentation, and keeping the great linux functionality.

    That being said : Problems : configuring anything from Dual Screen to printer drivers . This is where all linux are a hassle. But once configured, it is a rock!


  36. Maybe it´s time to send the windows icons (minimize, maximize…) back to the right.

    Why did they go to the left anyway?

  37. test says:

    For my Mom or my Granny Unity is great. If you actual know how to use a computer it’s horrible.

  38. Cushie says:

    Well I’m possibly as old as your Granny and I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. If you can use a modern ‘smart’ phone you can use this too. If you want to change anything just have a play with the configuration tools, simple!

  39. E hartopp says:

    Installed this with Wubi however I would have kept it had it been able to regognise my graphics card. It just got stuck at a 50hz refresh rate and was unable to uninstall the os latter on .Having to go through command promt in windows to remove the MBR so my computer would start up correctly. It looks good but really fails…..Never had these sorts of problems with older versions.

  40. […] worst offender is the Unity shell in Ubuntu, which if you linger on a application group in the Alt-Tab selection popup for more than […]

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