Ubuntu 21.10 is just around the corner and it’s small changes for big improvements

Jack Wallen finishes using Ubuntu 21.10 with the conclusion that Impish Indri is not only the most polished version of Canonical, but also the most powerful.

Image: Canonical

The official release of Ubuntu 21.10 is on October 14th. This is a non-LTS version, so it won’t get nearly the attention that the LTS versions will get. This is a shame because although 21.10 (Impish Indri) doesn’t seem like much of a change at first glance, it eventually brings a big change to Ubuntu that should make users very happy.

This shift gets in the way of GNOME 40. Yes, this iteration of the GNOME desktop has been around for a while, and many other distributions have shipped with the G40 for some time. So GNOME 40 is old news in the Linux community. I covered GNOME 40 in a little more detail in “GNOME 40 Takes A Bold Steps To Make Your Desktop Better”.

But for the Ubuntu community, GNOME 40 will be a welcome treat.

SEE: 5 Linux Server Distributions You Should Use (TechRepublic Premium)

What does GNOME 40 bring?

If you’ve been paying attention, you know GNOME 40 changed the workflow with a horizontal activity map. You might think that’s not that big of a deal. It is. The best thing about the horizontal workflow is that it makes managing multiple workspaces a lot easier. With this new design (Figure A.), users can simply drag and drop applications into the desired workspace and quickly switch between them to organize their work.

Figure A.


The new GNOME 40 horizontal workflow in Ubuntu 21.10.

Click the Activities button (top left corner of the desktop) to see all of your workspaces. You can then use the mouse wheel to scroll through each workspace and select the one you want. It’s a vastly improved way of working with workspaces. And you should use workspaces as this makes organizing your desktop a breeze.

This is not the only way to choose a workspace. Click the applications grid icon (bottom left) to view the installed applications (Figure B.). This view also serves as a place to start applications. Dragging an application icon onto a specific workspace eliminates the need to open the application, switch to the primary workspace, and then move the application to the desired workspace.

Figure B.


The overview of the GNOME 40 applications in action.

Trackpad gestures

Integrated trackpad gestures come from the “It’s about time” office. Before getting your hopes up, let’s not talk about multi-touch gestures at the Apple level. There’s still no built-in swipe right or left to go back or forward in a browser. There’s also no pinch to zoom in. The gestures included are:

  • Swipe left or right with three fingers to switch between workspaces.
  • Switch the overview with three fingers up or down.

That’s pretty much it. It’s a very small step forward for gestures. Hopefully, at some point, GNOME will get a full range of touchpad gestures (which will benefit the majority of users, not just those who use workspaces).

Applications included

Ubuntu 21.10 has the usual bevy of applications, including:

  • LibreOffice 7.2
  • Firefox 93
  • Thunderbird 91
  • Kernel

It is important to note that GNOME software, known as Ubuntu software, is now a Snap app in itself and seamlessly integrates with Snap applications with regular applications. The version of Firefox included with Ubuntu 21.10 is itself a snap app. The first time you run Ubuntu software, you’ll need to give it time to download the full catalog. Depending on the network connection, this can take up to 2-5 minutes. If you browse Ubuntu software, you will find a good mix of uses, from open source to proprietary. You can even find snaps for Spotify and Slack. Surprisingly, the snap for zoom is missing. Fortunately, you can still install Zoom from the official site .deb version.

Speaking of applications, the performance you’ll see in 10/21 is pretty amazing. Applications open almost instantly. This is probably the most powerful version of Ubuntu I’ve ever experienced. That performance boost comes from Wayland enhancements and GNOME 40. These two pieces of the puzzle make a noticeable difference in the performance of Ubuntu (even when it’s running as a guest virtual machine).

What’s interesting is that Ubuntu 21.10 doesn’t include the usual collection of GNOME apps like Maps and Weather. If you want these apps, you can install them from within the software. I’m just surprised that they aren’t included by default. The weather app for the desktop is particularly nice. I use this app regularly on Pop! _OS, so excluding it on Ubuntu’s GNOME-based desktop is a curiosity.

Who is the target group?

Ubuntu has been known as the Linux desktop for new users for years, and it still holds true. Anyone could log into Ubuntu 21.10 and start using it right away. However, that doesn’t mean that they would use all of the features. Dare I say most new users don’t understand the concept of multiple workspaces in the first place. But with GNOME 40, it shouldn’t be a challenge for many to become familiar with this feature.

The reality of Ubuntu 21.10 is that it is a perfectly capable desktop operating system for any user of any skill level. From new users to advanced users, everyone would do well with this version. And with the incredible power of GNOME and Wayland, it will delight those who are always hungry for more and more performance on their desktops.

No, Ubuntu 21.10 is not a major release or a long term support release. None of these facts should stop you from giving the mischievous Indri a chance. Though it won’t dissuade me Pop! _OS, it is certainly a worthy contender for my best distribution of 2021. It is one of the most polished and high-performance releases from Canonical to date.

If you can’t wait for the full release on October 14th, you can anytime Download a daily build and step on the tires.

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