February 19, 2013

Unity Launcher: a little bit of Ubuntu flair on your device

Canonical has laid out its plans to release Ubuntu phones at some point in 2014 -- but you don't have to wait that long to get a little bit of Ubuntu flair on your current Android device. Unity Launcher brings Ubuntu's interesting swipe-in sliding app selector to your device without changing your current launcher setup.
Android Central Android Central
If you haven't seen the demos of Ubuntu's interface, the main app selection paradigm is anchored in a sliding menu that is revealed from the edge of the screen with a swipe -- bringing in a vertically scrolling list of your recently used applications. Unity Launcher brings this exact paradigm to your Android device, and does so extremely smoothly. The name is a bit of a misnomer though, as you don't actually replace your current launcher with it but rather use both in conjunction. Installing and configuring Unity Launcher simply puts the slide-in app selector functionality on top of whatever else you're using.

When you first open up the settings of Unity Launcher, you need to set the sizing and position of the swipe area before you can use it. You have to edit the "edge width", which essentially tells the app how much of the screen to have "reserved" to recognize when you're swiping. As the app indicates, the smaller the area the better because it will make that portion of the screen unresponsive to normal UI touches. I made the area on my Nexus 4 almost as small as the slider goes without any ill effect on the functionality of Unity Launcher or other apps I was using. It does take some getting used to once you make the area so small, but it quickly becomes a natural gesture.

Beyond the width of the swipe recognition area, you can also change how high the area is, it's color, sensitivity and position on screen - left, right, top bottom and everywhere in between. Once you've got it set up and working as you'd like, you can edit how long to have the tray visible when you swipe it in (default 1200 worked fine for me), the animation delay and the background styles of both the tray and individual app icons themselves.

There's a free version of the app with very limited functionality, but luckily the paid version is only $1.99 to unlock all of the bells and whistles. If you're interested in trying out a little slice of the Ubuntu phone OS on your current device, it's certainly worth a try. Download here.

[via Android Central]

Ubuntu Gearing up For Tablet Announcement Tomorrow

The Ubuntu website is once again displaying a countdown - similar to the one shown ahead of January’s Ubuntu Phone announcement.

Next to the clock sits a not-so-subtle clue about the purpose of the countdown that reads: ‘Tick, tock, tablet time!‘

Unless Canonical decide to throw a curveball into the mix here by announcing the release of an Ubuntu-powered graphics tablet I think we can all safely assume that the reveal will concern the next step in Canonical’s ‘multi-device strategy’ – namely, tablets.

Aside from the presence of a countdown there is, for now at least, little else to go on.

If Canonical are announcing a tablet version of Unity then what form is it likely to take? Will it be based on the Ubuntu Phone OS code? Or will it be some form of rejigged Compiz-powered Unity?

My money is on the former.

In the same way that Android powers both smartphones and tablets (albeit with marginal interface differences between the two) so too do I imagine that the ‘Ubuntu Phone OS’ – more accurately known as Ubuntu Touch – will.

It makes sense, after all. Ubuntu Touch has been designed from the ground up to be gesture-centric. Confining such an experience solely to small smartphone screens would be a waste.

The timing of the tomorrows announcement is also curious. It’s being made just days before the source code for “Ubuntu Phone OS” is released alongside installable images for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Nexus 4.

With the Nexus 7 already having history with Ubuntu development could it be likely that an install image for it, and even it’s older sibling the Nexus 10, also see released on that date?

[via OMG! Ubuntu!]