Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop Review: A smooth evolution

Although there are quite a number of changes, the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop release is once more rather an evolution than a revolution. This is of course something many of us appreciate about Ubuntu, because it allows a smooth transition between the Long Term Support (LTS) releases.

Beside several usability related releases, the introduction of Snap packages and the disabling of Unity’s online search feature – something most critisised recently – are probably the most significant changes. Important to note is the quite significant step regarding the recommended system requirements and the effective resource usage. So if you run Ubuntu on an older computer with limited resources you rather stick to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for the upcoming years or you go for a lightweight alternative such as Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

Major Changes

100% less "Spyware" - Unity’s online search feature disabled
This is one among the controversial features and plenty of security specialists have criticized Canonical for revealing the user’s search terms to 3rd party firms. In Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, this feature is disabled by default, however not removed permanently.

Ubuntu software center has been replaced with GNOME
The Ubuntu software center has been dropped within the final release and has been replaced with the "good-old" GNOME software center. Hence you'll use GNOME software center for installing, updating and removing packages in Ubuntu 16.04 and the approaching versions.

Possibility to Always Show the Application Menus
Ubuntu’s global menus used to appear only if you hover your mouse over the top panel. With 16.04, that changes. If you wish your menus to be always visible, you'll have it that way. The choice is now available in the system settings. For several releases, Ubuntu has provided the choice to put menus within the titlebar instead. This modification affects that as well.

Unity launcher can be moved to the bottom of the screen
A more visual modification in 16.04 is the ability to move the Unity launcher to the bottom of the screen. This long requested tweak has actually been doable via third-party tools for some time, however there always have been some inconsistencies and odd behaviour.

Users can now drag items without holding the mouse button
Another feature that’s within the works for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is named "click lock". With this feature, users can click on an item - like a folder or file - and move it around without having to keep the button pressed. It’s certainly a nice feature for accessibility.

Ubuntu 16.04's biggest change: Snap packages
This new release brings Ubuntu Snap packages to the desktop. With Snap packages, applications are installed in their own container, and all the third-party applications are installed with them thus there aren't any version conflicts. Subsequently Snap packages make it doable to install the latest software without fear regarding whether or not Ubuntu has updated each component package you would possibly need.

Recommended Ubuntu system requirements

Apparently the recommended system requirements have change significantly from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. This is in particular critical regarding processor power and system memory. Ubuntu 16.06 LTS definitely uses significantly more system resources than its predecessors. The changes in system requirements from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS are much more significant that from Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Though we have to note that the recommended 1 GB system memory for the predecessors was rather tight anyway.

Recommended system requirements Ubuntu desktop:

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 14.04 LTS 16.04 LTS
Processor 1 GHz (Intel Celeron) Dual Core 2 GHz dual core
System memory 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB
Free hard drive space 5 GB 10 GB 25 GB
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop