Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Unity Simplify Your Life

This e-book in PDF format begins with some common computer user issues, before declaring:  

Ubuntu 11.04's Unity interface wants to turn these scenarios into problems of the past. Unity's foremost goal is to get you Simplicity. Elegance. Speed. Responsiveness. It's all here.

This is the Ubuntu Unity (11.04 edition) user guide we all needed months ago, provided by the Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo team. Not that it isn't welcome; with general chapters such as 'Unity in 15 Minutes' and 'Unity. How It All Fits Together,' you also get detailed breakdowns such as 'Personalizing the Launcher', 'Using the Dash' and introductions to Unity concepts such as 'What is a Lens?'

This is a 98-page e-book and the first fifty pages do an excellent job of explaining the Unity interface with annotated screen-shots. It is all thoughtfully presented in plain language, with plenty of whitespace on the pages giving it a clear, uncluttered layout. Vancouver LoCo (Pritpaul Bains with editors Charlene Tessier and Randall Ross) clearly know about publishing.

However, the nextsection is more of a general 'using Ubuntu' guide, under the slightly grandiose heading 'Unity. For Your Life.' This goes through all the common tasks a new Ubuntu user will want to perform; surf the Internet, play music, view photo's and so on, all illustrated in the context of Unity.

Now, some of these are very specific to individual applications - using Firefox and LibreOffice - others, such as 'Find Your Files' and searching from the Dash, right back in the specifics of Unity. You could argue that the general material belongs somewhere else and they should have confined the book to Unity operation only, but I'm prepared to go with the Vancouver team's approach that this is primarily a book for the newcomer and the old hands can pick and choose the sections they want.

There's a nod to the inquisitive, newcomers and veterans alike, in Appendix A which describes some of the underlying components of the Ubuntu Unity release; Gnome desktop, Compiz rendering, Zeitgeist event logger. I have a slight issue in that the 'Customizing Unity' section is back here in Appendix B when surely it ought to be a main chapter?

Appendix C, 'The Future' is the look forward (or 'there's more jelly tomorrow, trust us') for the skeptics like me who pick holes in the current release of Unity.

There's a Unity Keyboard Shortcuts quick reference in Appendix D that we could all find valuable.

Usefully, this is a PDF e-book which is fully search-able, but it's good to have a proper index in the back anyway. There are plenty of internal links to cross reference different sections, the annotated screen-shots are clear, with just enough illustrations, which are always relevant to a point.

It's no small undertaking to produce something of this quality so congratulations to Vancouver LoCo team. RC 

Unity: Simplify Your Life is available from