The new long-term support (LTS) release of Ubuntu has arrived—big news in the Ubuntu community. New versions may come every six months, but LTS releases land only once every two years, and they can receive updates from Canonical for up to a decade. That means the features on display below represent what many people will see on their computers for years to come.
So what separates Ubuntu 22.04 from Ubuntu 20.04? Is it worth an upgrade, and is this the release you might stick with for the long haul? Here are some of the most enticing changes.
1. GNOME 42
Version 42 brings major changes to the GNOME desktop, and much of that finds its way into Ubuntu 22.04. Many of these have to do with GNOME’s look and feel, which impacts Ubuntu despite Canonical’s theming.
Ubuntu looks a bit flatter, apps are rounder, and the panel loses arrows that point toward open menus. Plus there are light and dark themes, with a slick animation that accompanies switching between one and the other.
Other changes include the ability to take screenshots and record screencasts whenever you press Print Screen. Plus you can change the power profile to extend battery life or increase performance, all from the status menu. For a full rundown of the GNOME-specific changes, check out our look at the new features in GNOME 42.
If you’re making the upgrade from the previous LTS version, then you’re also experiencing all the changes that came as part of the transition to GNOME 40. So when you dive into the Settings app, you will now find options to disable the hot corner in the top left and turn off the ability to resize windows by dragging them to the screen edge.
You can also switch between having a dynamic or static number of workspaces. Speaking of workspaces, those are now arranged horizontally above the app drawer.
2. Accent Colors
In the last few years, the ability to personalize your desktop by adding a splash of color to various user interface elements has become commonplace across various desktops. Windows and macOS both let you change accent colors and so do both elementary OS and KDE Plasma. Now you can change colors in Ubuntu as well.
While there is talk of adding this functionality into GNOME directly, the code isn’t ready yet, so Canonical has added its own implementation for Ubuntu 22.04. You have 10 colors to pick from, most of which complement the Ubuntu color palette. When you change accent colors, folder colors in your file manager change as well, as do highlights throughout GNOME Shell.
3. A New Logo and Updated Theme
Ubuntu has received a new logo, though this won’t impact your experience all that much. You can find the logo when signing in to your computer and on the About page under Settings. The core design isn’t a substantial departure from what came before, but the background has changed from a circle to a tall rectangle.
The Ubuntu Yaru theme has been updated and better complements the new version of Adwaita in GNOME 42. Changes to the GNOME Shell theme mean that menus are white when you use the light Yaru theme and dark when you use the dark theme, a difference from upstream GNOME where the shell defaults to being dark regardless of the theme.
4. Linux Kernel 5.15
Ubuntu 22.04 uses Linux kernel 5.15, which is a long-term support version of the Linux kernel. This Linux kernel will be maintained for many years to come, just like Ubuntu 22.04.
This particular kernel release has improved support for Intel Alder Lake processors, plus more compatibility with the Apple M1 processor. There’s also support for various AMD hardware released by the end of 2021.
But don’t worry if your computer isn’t supported by this version of the Linux kernel, for Ubuntu also offers its Hardware Enablement stack to keep LTS releases running on newer hardware. Kernel 5.17 already landed by the time 22.04 launched, and it’s easy for you to make the upgrade.
5. Firefox as a Snap
Mozilla began making Firefox available as a snap package in 2018. In 2021, with the release of Ubuntu 21.10, this version of Firefox came pre-installed on Ubuntu desktops. 22.04 is the first Ubuntu LTS release with Firefox shipped as a snap instead of a DEB.
This comes with some security benefits, as snap packages are isolated from more parts of your computer. You can also expect faster, automatic updates. But there are also a few downsides, such as a longer load time at first launch and incompatibility with various third-party add-ons.
6. Wayland by Default
Wayland is now the default display server on Ubuntu for everyone. This is not a noticeable change for most people, but it means the code responsible for rendering pixels on your screen is now more modern and secure.
The previous Ubuntu LTS stuck to the X display server that Linux distributions had used for decades. With this switch, most Linux users will now use Wayland by default. Millions of Ubuntu users will now try out Wayland, discover issues, and increase the incentive to fix whichever problems remain. This results in a better display server for everyone.
7. Configurable Dock and Desktop Icons
One of the primary differences between Ubuntu and upstream GNOME is the inclusion of an always-visible dock and support for desktop icons. Both see changes in this release.
In Ubuntu 22.04, you can now change the dock’s position on the screen and whether it expands across the full side of the screen or not. If you prefer your dock to occupy the center of the bottom of the screen, for example, that is now an option.
As for desktop icons, they now appear in the bottom-right corner by default. You can change this setting to suit your preferences.
Ubuntu 22.04 Is More Than Worth an Upgrade
For people who like the Ubuntu experience, there isn’t much here not to like. While shipping Firefox as a snap remains a cause of frustration for many people, the rest is a polished combination of GNOME and Canonical’s vision.
Is there anything here to attract people to Ubuntu from other distros? Well, in Ubuntu you can have an always-visible dock, minimize/maximize buttons, and desktop icons without having to fuss around with third-party extensions. If you wish GNOME felt a bit more traditional, then Canonical’s desktop may be what you’re after.