Looking at the Unity desktop in the newly released Ubuntu 12.04 I got to wondering if Unity can ever be made tolerable for those who don't immediately warm up to it. And this made me question how I might make it useful for anyone else who might not be completely married to the classic desktop paradigm.
The first thing I realized was that Unity 3D was not going to cut it. On hardware with low specs such as my netbook Unity 3D is just too heavy and runs too warm on the machine. So using google I began scouring the net trying to find ways to make Unity more tolerable and run less warm and sluggish on my computer.
The first thing I decided was to log into Unity/Ubuntu 2D, this was a no brainer, the computer automatically runs a few degrees cooler and seems a bit faster. But with 2D I lost functions and tweakability. So I found that by installing Ubuntu Tweak I could still disable HUD and enable full screen dash. And I used many tweaks found on This Page
A few things in particular might be of interest: I reduced the icons to the smallest setting using the following command in a terminal:
wget http://webupd8.googlecode.com/files/script.py chmod +x script.py sudo ./script.py 32
In Unity 3D that can be accomplished with the tweak
tools, but not in Unity 2D.
Also worth noting is that to move around the shortcuts in the Unity 2D launcher you need to left click on the icon for a few seconds until it is 'loose' then you can move it up or down to change its location.
I had an issue which has shown up in the Ubuntu 12.04 bugs, I could not get gparted to launch. Nothing I tried worked until I came across a bug report that mentioned running this in a terminal:
sudo apt-get install --reinstall libgtkmm-2.4-1c2a
That fixed the issue.
For me the global menu had to go, both across all the apps and especially in Firefox and Thunderbird:
sudo apt-get autoremove appmenu-gtk appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-qt
And in Firefox and Thunderbird you will need to go to tools-add ons-extensions to disable the global menus for those apps.
Something else I did was decide that I was not going to spend time trying to remember the name of every application I use just to be searched for in the dash, so I make a list and put all the applications I use in my launcher so I could avoid the irritation of having to search the dash as much as possible. Now everything I need is in the launcher.
My conclusion about Unity in Ubuntu 12.04? I think it can be made usable with a lot of tweaking, if one is willing to spend the time trying to convert it into a less obnoxious desktop. Remove global menu, remove overlay scrollbars, put everything you will ever need on the Unity launcher to avoid the dash and shrink the launcher down to its least obtrusive form, plus use Unity 2D to get a lighter version of the desktop, then yes, Unity in Ubuntu 12.04 can be made tolerable. Tweaked to the max Unity can be a useful desktop. It has come far from its first, most obnoxious iteration, and with the help of additional settings tools the user can begin to feel they once more have some measure of control over their desktop. Is it ideal? No, I think there are better, much more productive desktops than Unity, but it is no longer the complete PITA it was when we first met it.