Ubuntu 13.04 'Raring Ringtail' gives some, takes some

It’s no secret that Ubuntu is heading for desktop/ mobile convergence, with a runs-everywhere build expected within a year. But while 13.04 (“Raring Ringtail”) shows some signs of movement in that direction, the new release isn’t exactly packed with new features: in fact, it’s taken one or two away.

Of course there’s no harm in consolidating your code base occasionally, and Canonical appear to have done that to good effect. They claim that it’s the fastest Ubuntu experience to date, with an updated kernel delivering “dramatic graphical performance enhancements”, reduced RAM requirements and more. And while this might be aimed at helping the system run on mobile devices, it’s also very welcome for regular desktop users.

And it’s a similar story with other smaller, more subtle tweaks. Like the new “fuzzy search”, for instance: if you make a typo when entering an application then that may not be an issue, as Raring Ringtail will try to figure out what you mean. This may be targeted at users with tiny on-screen keyboards, but everyone will benefit from it occasionally.

More generally, improved social networking support means you can choose which applications integrate with Facebook, Twitter and more, directly from the Online Accounts pane. You can then search photos across all your enabled accounts via a new Unity Dash Photo lens (if you turn on the “Show online results” feature, anyway).

And new task management options make it easier to switch between multiple windows; just hover over an icon in the dock and use your scroll wheel to select the folder you need.

What you won’t get this time is Gwibber, which has been removed as the developer is working on its successor. Similarly, Wubi -- the Window dual-boot tool -- has been left out of the release due to “various bugs”, while there’s no longer any option to install the Gnome classic shell.

And some much-anticipated features are also absent. In particular, Smart Scopes, which promised to extend Unity Dash with some very powerful web search capabilities, was reportedly too unstable to make the final cut.

Raring Ringtail is something of a transitional release, then; there are worthwhile improvements here, but nothing revolutionary, and the missing tools and options will annoy some. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, if only a small one, and most Ubuntu users will benefit from the new release.

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