|GNOME Main Screen|
|JAVA Session Welcome Screen|
Why Edubuntu, and not Ubuntu? As mentioned earlier, one reason will become apparent when I publish the review of Ubuntu. The other main reason is that I haven't really seen Edubuntu reviews on the Internet; that could be because of its specific target audience, but in any case, I think it deserves a review, especially given that it is an official Canonical product. For those who don't know, Edubuntu, as you might be able to guess from the name, is a packaging of Ubuntu with lots of education-related software included out-of-the-box.
Thanks to Canonical's efforts in this regard, I was able to test it in two ways: I was able to try it out online from the comfort of my current Linux Mint system, and then I tried it through a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.
To try it online, I went to the Edubuntu website, clicked "try it online" in the first news item on the homepage, created a username and password, and clicked to download the JAVA applet. The applet was downloaded, and I was greeted by a large (though not full-size, because I wanted to be able to access other applications too at the same time) window containing the Edubuntu session surprisingly quickly.
|Changing Theme in GNOME|
|YouTube in Mozilla Firefox in GNOME|
LibreOffice is also included, which is practically required because it's both an Ubuntu variant and a distribution tailored for education. Along with that, there are plenty of other education-related programs, such as the Step physics simulator, the Kalzium periodic table of the elements, and the Kig geometry tool, among many others. I was surprised by the number of KDE applications included, but I guess that's because there aren't really that many GNOME education applications, while there are a whole lot of KDE education applications. Maybe that's also why the default icon theme is an orange version of Oxygen — that would make for a much more integrated look-and-feel.
|Step + LibreOffice Writer in GNOME|
The other small issue was that the JAVA session felt pretty slow overall, but I'm fine with that because, well, it was a JAVA application running on top of other stuff running on my installed system.
At this point, I wanted to try out the Unity interface, so I logged out, intending to log back in with "Unity" selected as the desired interface at the login screen. Unfortunately, when I logged out, the session ended, and the JAVA applet closed entirely. This is when I tried out the live USB.
|Unity Main Screen|
|Unity Dash Main Screen|
|Searching in Unity Dash|
|Mozilla Firefox Menu in Unity|
Maximized windows have their window controls and titlebars integrated with the panel, which is great for saving space especially on touchscreen devices where having as much screen real estate usable as possible is paramount. However, when a window is maximized and the application menu is accessed, the menu covers up any part of the window title that goes beyond the application menu on the panel; this makes sense because it isn't necessary to see the full window title when accessing the menu, and because having the menu in a fixed horizontal position on the panel ensures that a long window title won't push the application menu way to the right where it might become unusable. Speaking of which, there were some applications where there were more submenus in the application menu than could fit on the panel, and there was no apparent way to access these rightmost submenus; that needs to be fixed as well. Finally, Mozilla Firefox 4 works with the indicator application menu (yay!), but LibreOffice does not, so it displays its own menubar (boo!).
Scrollbars are modified as well; now, the scrollbars are very thin orange lines, but hovering the cursor over those lines brings up miniature traditional scrollbars. It's good in that it saves space, and I don't think it's that unintuitive for new users either. That said, unfortunately, the scrollbar tricks only work for GTK+ applications, so Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, and the KDE applications retain their traditional scrollbars.
Finally, I tried out Unity 2D, and I could not make out any difference between it and standard Unity; even the animations in the side launcher bar were retained.
These are my initial impressions of Unity. Admittedly, I haven't used it much, but it certainly seems a lot more stable than how it was being described in many online articles. Furthermore, as open windows can be managed and new windows can be opened using the launcher bar, Unity seems a bit more usable than GNOME 3; it doesn't make any excuses about "keeping the focus on the task at hand" or anything like that. I'll need to use it more to form a more solid opinion, but right now, while I would still stick with GNOME 2.X, I would prefer Unity to GNOME 3.
Well, that's basically all I have to say about Edubuntu. So why should you use Edubuntu if it's really just Ubuntu with some education-related packages included? I mean, even the Edubuntu website gives instructions on which packages to install if you don't feel like downloading Edubuntu itself. Well, for one, Edubuntu's default desktop is classic GNOME 2.X. Although it'll probably switch to Unity as the default option for version 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot", for people who want to use Ubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" and all the latest programs but without Unity for whatever reason, Edubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" is an excellent choice. Plus, it's an official Canonical project, along with Ubuntu and Kubuntu, so if this is important, it is possible to purchase professional support for Edubuntu. And finally, though this is not specific to Edubuntu but applies to it as well as Ubuntu and Kubuntu, I wish more distribution developers could release these online trials of distributions; it really goes a long way in terms of improving user-friendliness, because there are probably plenty of people who would like to try Linux but are put off by having to download a large file and follow complicated directions to make a live medium or download and use a probably also complicated virtualization program to try out the system, so this will be a boon for those people who can just try it with two simple clicks. In short, if you want the new applications of the latest release of Ubuntu but want the familiarity of GNOME 2.X, you can't go wrong with Edubuntu. You can download it here.