Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Quick Dash

One of the recent additions to the GUI in Ubuntu 11.04 is the Unity Dash: it's a Gnome Menu replacement that allows users to search for and launch applications.

You can launch the dash window by clicking the Distributor icon (the Ubuntu logo) on the Unity Panel or hitting the super key (aka the Windows key) on your keyboard.

The first thing to notice is the search function at the top of the panel: this facilitates predictive searching - displaying the results for applications and files as you type. As more data is added to the search string, so the results are refined:

The Dash home screen also provides shortcuts to common destinations and it won't take long for users to realize that the default values are media-based applications (such as Internet, photos, email, etc) rather than productivity-based! Clicking an option displays three categories of applications:
  1. Most Frequently Used
  2. Installed
  3. Available for Download
I like this last option; it's a bit like an app-store function that introduces you to a selection of the 35,918 applications available from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

More traditional users and access a Gnome-type menu via the drop-down control to the right of the search box:

So much for function: but what of fashion?

Clearly, Ubuntu is moving towards an Android-type interface and focussing more on social use. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, there are some shortcomings!

Firstly, the Dash is dark and I find it a little depressing. Secondly, configuring Dash is as limited as configuring the Unity-Panel (see links). However, I suspect that as this release of Ubuntu (and the next) will start to rectify these issues and the Ubuntu GUI will once again become the home of eye-candy.

Sources & References
Ask Ubuntu How Can I Configure Unity?
Jorge Castro How I use the Unity Dash - video

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