Ubuntu 13.04 review

Ubuntu’s tight, six-monthly release schedule tends to bring only small updates between versions – and so it is with Ubuntu 13.04, known familiarly as the Raring Ringtail. Beyond the expected upgrades to the latest versions of bundled apps and resources, there’s no really major advance over last October’s 12.10 release.

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You do, however, get a good set of interface upgrades. Launcher icons have been updated, with the Workspaces icon now giving a helpful, at-a-glance indication of which virtual desktop you’re using. Under-the-bonnet upgrades to Unity make searching via the dash more responsive, and a new degree of “typo-tolerance” means missed or switched letters won’t necessarily mess up your search.

The dash is now faster, and returns results even if you accidentally mistype your search terms

Window handling has been spruced up, too. You can now roll the mouse wheel over a Launcher icon to scroll quickly between an application’s open windows. Drag a window to the edge of the screen and a translucent animation now shows where it will snap to. Such minor tweaks make the desktop feel slicker and more user-friendly.

Canonical has slashed the support window for non-LTS releases from 18 months to only nine

At the top of the screen, Ubuntu’s menu system hasn’t evolved, but a new Ubuntu One dropdown at the right now gives you direct Dropbox-style access to your sync folder and settings. An updated Bluetooth menu lets you make your device discoverable without having to dive into the Settings dialog. And if you select Shut Down from the main system menu, a graphical overlay prompts you to restart or power off.

The one thing missing from Ubuntu 13.04 is the Wubi installer, which previously helped you set up Ubuntu from within Windows. Thanks to a few ongoing bugs, and compatibility problems with Windows 8, Wubi isn’t included in this release, and it remains to be seen whether it will be back in 13.10. For the time being, the easiest way to install is to boot from the installation media into a live Ubuntu environment and set things up from there.

If you’ve standardised on a Long-Term Support (LTS) edition of Ubuntu, Raring Ringtail isn’t worth abandoning your stable platform for, especially since Canonical has slashed the support window for non-LTS releases from 18 months to only nine.

For everyone else, Ubuntu 13.04 feels slicker and more mature than its forebear, and as usual it’s offered as a free upgrade to existing Ubuntu users via the Software Updater – so we see no reason for users of Ubuntu 12.10 not to upgrade as a matter of course.


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