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 Ubuntu hasn’t had the best reputation among Linux users over the past few years–with some even going so far as to call it “boring”. If you’ve been hesitant to try it out, then hold on to your seats–Ubuntu 16.04 “Xenial Xerus” is not only an exciting release, but one that has the potential to be a game changer for the Linux ecosystem.

Ubuntu first leaped into the Linux world in 2004 and with it, completely changing the face of Linux taking it from the days of “only usable by experienced geeks” to the era of “Linux for Human Beings”. Now, 12 years later, they just might be on the verge of repeating that lightning in a bottle that took it from a brand new small project to becoming the most popular distribution of Linux. Ubuntu 16.04 was released today, and with it comes a ton of improvements throughout the distro. There are many changes that improve the usability and experience for the end user as well as potential landmark changes that might pique the interest of even the most skeptical of developers.
The Unity Launcher Can Be Moved to the Bottom of Your Screen

Thanks to the Ubuntu Kylin team, users can now attach the Unity Launcher to the bottom of their screen instead of having to be forced to always have it on the left side. Believe it or not, it’s taken almost 6 years to get this basic feature.

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, but the easiest way is through one command in the Terminal (though admittedly a fairly long command). Open up your terminal with Ctrl+Alt+T or from the Dash and run the following:gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher launcher-position Bottom

You can also revert back to the Left side if you decide later that you don’t like it by running:gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher launcher-position Left

That’s all it takes.
Online Dash Results Are Off by Default, and Updates to the “apt” Command

There has been quite a bit of controversy for a couple of years over the online search results in Ubuntu’s Dash. Some people even went so far as to (inaccurately) call them “spyware”. Ubuntu 16.04 puts an end to that controversy by disabling the results by default.
GNOME Software Replaces Ubuntu Software Center

The Ubuntu Software Center was another blemish on Ubuntu’s name. It was slow, unreliable, and the overall user experience was lacking. Ubuntu 16.04 address this issue by replacing the Ubuntu Software Center with GNOME’s Software solution. Ubuntu adopting GNOME Software is a great sign of more community involvement from Canonical, and that they’re willing to include an alternative piece of software if it’s better overall.

Similarly, Canonical adopted a new Calendar app in Ubuntu 16.04–just another way they’re adopting better software from the GNOME project.

If you’re more of a terminal junkie, 16.04 also adds new features to the “apt” command so you can simplify your command-line package management even further than before. Ubuntu 16.04 sees the addition of apt autoremove which replaces apt-get autoremove and apt purge package(s) which replaces apt-get purge package(s).
Unity 7.4 Is the Smoothest Unity Experience Yet

I’ve been testing Ubuntu 16.04 and Unity 7.4 for quite some time now and I have to say, Unity 7.4 is by far the smoothest and best Unity experience I’ve had. I was a hold out for the days of 12.04’s Qt-based Unity, but I’m glad to see that Ubuntu 16.04 has adopted its best features. Here are the most notable changes arriving in Unity 7.4:
  • Shortcuts for Session Management such as restart, shutdown, etc from the Unity Dash
  • Icons appear in launcher while loading applications
  • Ability to move the Unity launcher to the bottom of the screen
  • Online Dash Results are disabled by default
  • App Menus can now be set to ‘Always Show’
  • New scroll bars in Unity Dash
  • External storage/Trash now display number of windows open
  • Quicklist (Jumplist) added to Workspace Switcher
  • Ability to Format a drive within a Unity Quicklist (great time saver but be careful)
  • Alt+{num} can now be used to open External storage items similar to Logo+{num} for opening applications
  • Ubuntu themes have improved Client Side Decorations support.

That’s a lot of good stuff.
ZFS Is Supported by Default in Ubuntu 16.04

ZFS is a very popular filesystem due to its reliability with large data sets, and it has been a very hot topic for the Linux community for years. Canonical has decided that ZFS support is necessary, so Ubuntu 16.04 has added support for ZFS by default. ZFS is not enabled by default, however, which is intentional. Since ZFS is not necessary for the majority of users, it fits best in large scale deployments. So while this is very cool, it’s not going to affect most people.
Ubuntu Snappy Has Potential to Change the Landscape of Linux

Finally, Ubuntu 16.04 introduces Ubuntu Snappy to the desktop, a brand new package management solution that has potential to change the landscape of Linux.

Linux-based operating systems come with many different types of release structures, but the two most common are Fixed Releases (aka stable releases) and Rolling Releases. Both of these common structures have pros and cons: Fixed Releases give you rock solid base system, but often with outdated applications that have to be supplemented with something like PPAs. Rolling Releases get you the software updated as soon as possible, whenever a new version is released–along with all of the latest bugs. Ubuntu Snappy is a new release structure that has all of the benefits of both systems combined into one.

Think of Snappy as an alternative to .deb files and PPAs. It’s a new form of app distribution that lets developers send you the latest version of their apps–in the form of “snaps”–as soon as they’re ready. They’re much easier and quicker for developers to push out, and you–the user–don’t have to go hunting for a PPA if the app isn’t included with Ubuntu’s default repository packages. And, if one release is buggy, it’s very easy to roll back to the last stable version.

In addition, snaps install differently than the traditional .deb files you’re used to. Snaps install as “read-only” mountable image based applications, which means you don’t have to worry about whether an app was packaged for Ubuntu 16.04, 16.10, or any other version–that Snap will work on any version of Ubuntu that supports Snaps.

Snappy on the Desktop is still in the early stages, so you won’t be switching to snaps entirely with Ubuntu 16.04. But the groundwork has been laid, and snaps should start to become more common over time. In fact, Ubuntu will be releasing a “Snap Store” of sorts in the future, likely using GNOME Software, making it easier to discover and install apps using Snappy.
Oh Snap! Excitement Is in the Air

I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a new release of Ubuntu since I first started using Linux, many years ago. The potential of Ubuntu Snappy alone has me smiling as I write this very paragraph, but add that to the rest of the changes coming in Ubuntu 16.04 and I’d say Ubuntu has become anything but boring. What do you think of this new release? Is my excitement contagious? Will you be giving Ubuntu 16.04 a try? Let me know in the comments thread.