While I use Ubuntu 8.04 Beta, the more I learn about GNOME 2.22, which is the default desktop in Ubuntu. With the Ubuntu-specialized build of GNOME, I have started to see many features that I did not know existed before.
Small features often help smooth out the user experience, as long as they are done well, and are not overwhelming. Take, for example, the clock applet in the top panel of the Ubuntu desktop:
As you can see, the clock applet in the top panel is far more than a simple clock applet. It tells not only the time and date, but the time in my hometown of Atlanta, the weather in Atlanta, and my position on the map. The applet also shows tasks and appointments as well, but since I do not have any, they are not displayed. These features are small, yet can be helpful while conducting business on an internation basis, or even finding out when you will have your next doctor appointment.
What I am seeing are features like those I described above beginning to make their way into Ubuntu. These features will improve the user experience of not only Ubuntu, but any other system that takes advantage of what the GNOME desktop environment has to offer. Linux, in itself, will become more and more pleasurable to use. Users of other systems may be surprised to see Linux, which is still thought of by many people as a command-line system, actually advancing in features that give functionality beyond that of their own system. Then, to hear that it is free?
Switching gears from GNOME to KDE (pun totally intended…), KDE 4 has many improvements over that of KDE 3. For the purpose of average users, KDE 3 had so many features that it could be overwhelming, although the usability would perhaps be familiar for ex-Windows users. KDE 4 polishes many of these features, and has even cut away at many of the unnecessary features that got in the way of actual productivity. The better focus on these small features brings a system together.
With the pace of these features, both small and large, being implemented at an exponential rate, I can only predict a bright and sunny future for Linux on the desktop. Forget “year of the desktop” and market domination; users are going to have to be won over with a superior system that provides a better user experience, better applications, and better price than what they already use.