Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 Review, Screenshots, Download Links

It hasn't been long since we last reviewed Ubuntu Natty Alpha 2 and now, Ubuntu Natty Alpha 3 is already here. This is yet another milestone in this major build up towards the much anticipated release of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal final on April 28, 2011. As is expected, latest Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Alpha 3 comes packed with a number of new features and major bug fixes. Quick review of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3.
Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 Review

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 Review
Bulk of the changes in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 revolves around Unity launcher and Unity Dash. Like when we last reviewed, Unity's Dash is activated using the same Super/Windows key. A major difference is that, Dash now open in fullscreen mode by default.

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3

I was testing this on a 15.4" laptop and many users who tested it in desktops say, it does not open in full screen mode by default. Whatever may be the reason, opening Unity Dash in full screen mode has a clear advantage and I feel that full screen mode should be the default mode of Unity Dash even for desktops with bigger screen resolution.

Unity's New Dedicated Keyboard Shortcuts
If you ask me what is the single biggest change is this latest Ubuntu Natty release, I would say it is the inclusion of a bunch of very useful dedicated keyboard shortcuts for Unity launcher. 

Ubuntu Natty Alpha 3 Review

Did you noticed the unique numbering on applications inside Unity launcher? They are all the keyboard shortcuts you need. They get activated once you press and hold the Super/Windows key(Super + Tab combination also works). You should also note that, simple pressing Super key will open the Unity dash. I have to add that, some of the new key combinations are a bit confusing too.

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3

When you press the Super key + W combination to activate workspaces, this is what happens(above screenshot). And its very random too. May be, getting used to the new key combinations will help eventually. Activating workspaces is basically a Compiz plugin called Expo and the default Compiz shortcut for the same(Super + E) still works. All this might be a little bit confusing for a newbie IMO.

Unity's New Applications Menu

Unity's New Applications Menu

Ubuntu Natty Alpha 3 has got a really polished applications menu. It is by default available in the Unity Launcher and the shortcut is Super Key + A. Most used applications are listed on top of the menu which makes it really easier to easily sort your favorite applications from the rest. As you can see in the screenshot above, there is also a drop down menu on top to sort applications further by different categories.

Search for Files and Folders Menu

Unity's New Search for Files and Folders Menu

As with the case of application menu, Unity Dash for files and folders has also changed massively. It is available in Unity Launcher by default with a dedicated shortcut key(Super + F). Sorting has been made a lot simpler and now you can easily browse through different categories such as videos, images, folders etc.

Notification Area Remains Intact

Ubuntu Unity Notification Area

Don't mistake the top panel in Ubuntu 11.04 with the normal top panel of GNOME. They are not the same, except for the notification area. There is no "Add to Panel" option as before and even in the notification area, only a limited number of applications are supported. There were rumors that Unity will eventually ditch the notification area, but it is definitely in place for now.

What's All New in Ubuntu Natty Alpha 3?

libreoffice 3.3.1

Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 comes with Linux Kernel 2.6.38 RC6, Dpkg 1.16.0, GNOME 2.32.1, LibreOffice 3.3.1, Nautilus, Banshee 1.9.4, Firefox 4 beta 12 and Evolution 2.32.2. Among the new applications, latest Firefox 4 and LibreOffice 3.3.1 feels like the most improved of the lot.

Download Links Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3
Please do keep in mind that, Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal is not yet a finished product and don't use it on production machines. You have been warned.
Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal Alpha 3 has improved by leaps and bounds and most of the new changes are really in the right direction IMO. Apart from occasional instability of Compiz, which is to be expected from a product still under construction, I didn't find any other major issues with this latest alpha release of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. And I am really starting to adore Unity's new launcher and dash functionalities. Though, to be able to browse through Unity's dash using keyboard shortcuts will be an added advantage.