Linux on the desktop continues to grow in popularity. While it doesn’t enjoy the consumer market share of Android, Windows, iOS, or macOS, the open-source server-side operating system is hugely popular with large enterprises. But little by little, Linux continues to climb the market share ladder. One reason for this is Ubuntu.
For those who don’t know, Ubuntu has been one of the top 10 most popular Linux desktop distributions on the market for years. One of the many reasons for this is its remarkable user-friendliness. Ubuntu is easy to install, use and maintain, supports a wide variety of hardware, just works and is (of course) free for everyone.
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Very soon the latest version of Ubuntu Desktop will hit the metaphorical shelves. The version in question is 22.04, also known as Jammy Jellyfish. And while there aren’t any deal-breaking or making features to be found, users will find plenty of subtleties to match the stability and reliability Ubuntu is known for.
The full release of Jammy Jellyfish, which is currently in beta, should be officially available on April 21, 2022. This is a long-term support release, meaning it will be supported until April 2027 (each LTS release enjoys 5 years of support for application and security updates).
So what makes Ubuntu 22.04 worth upgrading to (or installing for the first time)? Let’s dive in and find out.
all about support
As I mentioned, Jammy Jellyfish is a long-term support release. Why is this important? First, there is a major contingency within the Linux community that only uses LTS releases. The justification for that is that you can go five years without having to install or upgrade your operating system to the next version. In a world where Windows users have become accustomed to failed upgrades, unsupported hardware, and planned obsolescence, this is a critical aspect of Ubuntu releases. Second, LTS releases tend to be more stable than the non-LTS versions.
Many of those same people skip the non-LTS releases (the odd-numbered versions, such as 21.04 and 21.10) of Ubuntu, which are not on the LTS track. So for those who choose to only use the even-numbered (LTS) releases, it’s time to upgrade or do a fresh install on bare metal. And for those who have never installed Linux before, Ubuntu 22.04 may be the perfect starting point, as Canonical (the company that maintains Ubuntu Linux) rebooted their installer using Google’s Flutter language in the previous release (21.10) and it has perfected the installation process so that anyone (of almost any skill level) can successfully install Ubuntu.
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GNOME 42 has arrived
The main change in Ubuntu 22.04 has to be the inclusion of GNOME 42. For those unfamiliar with Linux, GNOME is the desktop environment that allows you to interact with applications and services. It’s the GUI goodness on your desktop.
What makes GNOME 42 so special? This version of the desktop saw the developers make several subtle changes throughout the desktop. From a refined theme to some deliberate changes that help simplify everyday workflow (such as better app calls, improved menu layouts, and overall desktop improvement).
For most users, these changes will be almost too subtle to spot, but overall, the Ubuntu 22.04 desktop (Image A), feels cleaner and even more professional (dare I say entrepreneurial?).
Users will also find an enhanced Appearances hub in the Settings app. In this new hub (Figure B), you can then toggle between dark and light, select accent colors, configure desktop icons, and customize the Dock.
The wait is over: Libadwaita
One of the more controversial changes to come for the ride is the addition of Libadwaita (which was officially released last year). Libadwaita is the successor to the GTK3-based libhandy library, which has added several adaptive capabilities (especially in terms of theming) to the long list of GTK applications. With the change to Libadwaita, users were (rightly) concerned that they would no longer be able to theme GNOME with almost the granular control they had with libhandy.
One of the many reasons for this migration is to avoid desktop inconsistencies introduced by themes. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Libawaita adds some really cool looks and behaviors to the desktop that weren’t possible before. More importantly, though, this shift will bring a much more modern and consistent look to all GTK apps in the future.
Main app changes
Along with GNOME 42 comes some major changes to the default applications (only one of which has made it to Ubuntu 22.04 so far). Those changes replace two applications that have been part of the GNOME desktop for a while: Gedit and GNOME Terminal.
Gedit (the tried and true text editor) has been replaced by an app called TextEdit (Figure C† This new text editor is much easier to use, cleaner to look at, and even adds a feature long considered a must-have for text editors: autosave. TextEdit also includes side and bottom panels (which can be enabled from the menu’s dropdown), as well as a highlight mode (think syntax highlighting) and a plugin system to extend the feature set.
Another of the major GNOME apps that has been replaced is Console, which takes the place of GNOME Terminal. This new app follows in the same footsteps as Text Editor and offers a much cleaner and simpler experience. For whatever reason, Ubuntu 22.04 does not include the new Console app and retains GNOME Terminal.
In addition to the shine, you’ll find a few other changes/improvements in Ubuntu 22.04, including:
Performance improvement by supporting triple frame buffering (to improve GPU rendering).
Hardware accelerated rendering in the GNOME web browser.
Wayland is now the default graphics display server.
Kernel 5.15 adds a lot of new hardware support.
systemd — oomd integration for better handling of low memory.
Memory usage for tracker indexing has been reduced by 50 percent.
After using the beta version of Ubuntu 22.04 for a while, it is quite easy to conclude that this is arguably one of the best releases from Canonical. Between the extra shine, the new applications and the significant performance boost, Ubuntu Jammy Jellyfish is a release that will not only please old users but can easily regain the top spot as the best Linux distribution for new users. Simply put, Jammy Jellyfish is a great choice for longtime Linux fans and even those who have never experienced the open source operating system.
For those curious, you can download the beta now. Everyone else should hold their hats until the full release comes at the end of the month.