I use Ubuntu at the office. I started with 10.10 and installed it half a year ago when I was stuck with Windows 2000, and there were not enough Windows 7 licenses being bought. It was a vast improvement.
My work is not really dependent on any proprietary applications. I mostly just need a text editor and FTP client. As well my company subscribes to Google Apps, so I just use that for documentation.
I upgraded to 11.04 when it came out and was greeted with Unity. I was so pissed off by how inflexible it was, I immediately changed to the “classic” environment. I actually replaced the Gnome shell with AWN and was immensely pleased with my new work environment. The aesthetics, functionality and customisation were fantastic.
Now Ubuntu 11.10 is out, and Unity is allegedly better. I have really truly tried to adapt to it, but god damn this thing is so wrong-headed. Why do I have to adapt to my computer?
The single worst feature that I just cannot get over is that the dock is permanently fixed to the left-hand side of the screen. (It hides when a window would be covered by it.)
The Ubuntu and Unity teams seem to spend more time justifying this contentious decision than coding the damn thing at this point. People rationalise it saying stupid things like, “99% of people have widescreen monitors anyway“. In a widescreen environment, yes, it would save more space. You know what are still popular? 17″ 1280×1024 5:4 monitors, which are even taller than traditional 4:3 screens. The fact that the user isn’t given a choice is what baffles me however.
Another oddity is that I cannot seem to have two windows of the same application open at the same time. For example, instead of tabbing, if I wished to work in one browser window while referencing material in another. The workaround is to just run two separate browsers. (October 29 edit: I don’t know if I uncovered a bug or something, but I cannot reproduce this … multiple windows work fine and as one would expect.)
Not tied to Unity, but another odd Ubuntu decision is to bundle Gwibber as the main Twitter/social networking client in its distribution. The programme is terrible. Why should it take 30 seconds for the damn client running in the background to pop up? Ubuntu is snappy as hell on this office Core2Duo, but that client is ludicrously slow.
All that said, and the left-hand-fixed-launcher will be enough to drive away many users, there are some great design ideas to Unity. First, the overall aesthetics are very nice and pleasing to my eye. I don’t mind the MacOS/OS X window-manager style where all programmes’ menus are located at the top of the screen — it saves some space and can be gotten used to.
I really like the subtle notification system. If you look at the screenshot, there are a few icons sitting in the tray. THEY DON’T EVER FLASH OR STEAL FOCUS! When I get new mail, that envelope turns to a pleasing shade of blue. That is it. I can click on it to check my mail, or I can ignore it and continue my coding. Simple and brilliant.
After a couple of weeks, I am slowly getting used to having the launcher on the left. I still look for the hidden panel at the bottom of the screen half the time though. I do plan on sticking with it for a while to see where Ubuntu goes with it, but I still don’t like it.