Ubuntu Linux 15.04 will be released in April.
There is not a lot new for the average desktop user in the new release, as far as I can tell. One good “change” is a feature called “locally integrated menus.” This is where the menus are, by default, where they are supposed to be, instead of, well, invisible until you stab at the menu bar that must reside at the top of your screen in Ubuntu with Unity. Then the menu appears and maybe you can use it. That was a bad idea, and over the last few revisions of Ubuntu with Unity, the top menu bar menus have slowly gone away, first as something you could make go away by tweaking around, then an option to make them go away, and finally, they went away (but you can have the annoying disappearing menus if you want).
Several of the various “flavors” of Ubuntu are getting upgrades to the newer version of the pertaining desktop. There will be a newer version of Gnome, a newer version of KDE, etc. in each of those flavors.
I downloaded the Mate Beta and tried it out on my test computer, and liked it. It seemed to work OK so I simply installed it, and the installation went fine. It is now running and I’ve got no problems. There may be some bugs out there but I’ve not had a problem.
Mate is a desktop that forked form Gnome 2.0. Gnome 2.0 was the best desktop of its day for many users. There is an old saying in software development. Once you’ve perfected your software, further development simply breaks it. This happened to Windows years ago, somewhere around XP or before. And it happened in Linux, in my opinion, when Gnome dropped the Gnome 2.0 paradigm and went all Unity on us, and of course, Unity is a broken desktop as every one knows. Expect it to evolve back towards a Gnome 2.0 like framework.
Anyway, Mate is Gnome 2.0 forked and improved, but that improvement is mainly under the hood and not in the overall look and feel, which is the point. I did not like earlier versions of Mate because it was a mess of older Gnome tools and newer somewhat updated Mate tools and some key stuff was simply missing or broken (like the ability to mess around with screensavers). At that time I took my “production machine” out of play for the evolving Ubuntu environment and installed plain old Debian stable. For what I use that machine for, it is great. But I wanted to have my laptop do more snazzy stuff, so I’ve been experimenting with Mate Ubuntu. And that is why I installed the Beta.
There is a handful of cool new items. Mate now has a much better interface and somewhat improved set of tools for configuring things. Among those you will find a easy way to turn off and on Compriz on the fly. The menus are better organized. The theme, icons, other visual stuff is unruined and mainly improved. I’m not going to provide details here because if you are going to mess with the Beta version, 1) you probably know more than you need to know about Mate, and 2) things may be changing somewhat. But when the final release comes out I’ll post on the details and what you may want to do after installing it.
I looked at the new Gnome Ubuntu flavor as well. Although I don’t like Unity I can appreciate Gnome 3, and have used it and I kinda like it. I think the Gnome flavor will be even better. KDE users will also probably be happy with their new flavor, from what I hear, but I’m not much of an expert on KDE.
One final thing. Going from the current version of Mate Ubuntu flavor to the Beta was easy, an in place upgrade that preserved most stuff. It did, however, wipe out some of my previously installed software but not the configuration files. So, I had to reinstall emacs, but my .emacs file was still there. I also had to re install R and RStudio, and Chrome Browser, as well as Synaptic and Deb, and a few other things.
These installations were pretty painless, but one would prefer not to. But, I was INSTALLING the Beta version, not upgrading to it. I assume that if you are using the current version of Mate Ubuntu you will be able to simply upgrade to it after doing the usual backup with no problem.