Ubuntu’s convergent goal is to have one OS running across multiple devices. No separate forks; no custom remixes, just one Ubuntu, with different faces depending on the screen it’s being viewed on.
As evidence of that goal the daily builds of Ubuntu 13.10 have welcomed some new applications into the Ubuntu Software Store: Ubuntu Touch Core Apps.
Gallery, Media Player, Notes & the webkit Web Browser are available to install and run on the Ubuntu 13.10 desktop.
All of the applications are in various stages of development (work on Ubuntu Touch and its core apps is ongoing) so don’t expect too much too soon.
That said, let’s take a look at what’s being offered.
The webkit-based web-browser for Ubuntu Touch is fairly basic thus far, but also fairly stable.
The address field, and back/forwards buttons are part of the toolbar (swipe up to show) placed at the bottom.
Tabbed browsing is already supported, and tabs can be launched and closed from a toolbar item. Clicking on a tab and dragging it to the left closes it.
Running on the desktop the browser is fully resizable, and responsive websites – e.g. like ours – adapt seamlessly during this.
If you’re already using Ubuntu 13.10 you can install the web-browser app by clicking the button below.
If you’ve tried out one of the developer preview builds of Ubuntu Touch then you may have already played with the Notes app.
It’s nothing special; it lets you add and remove notes.
The Gallery application is the app I am most impressed by already.
Again, if you’ve played with the developer builds on the phone or tablet then nothing you see here will be unfamiliar: you can view your Photo library by event, album or alone.
Individual images can be opened and edited. At the time of writing both Rotate and Crop work fine, but Auto-Enhance does not.
Are they usable as desktop apps? Kind of.
As you’d expect, the interfaces of applications designed around digit input are not particularly mouse and keyboard friendly. Useable? Yes. Ideal? No.
For example, accessing the toolbar (drag up from the bottom) is hard to do with something as precise as a mouse pointer. Overshooting by a pixel or two and you accidentally end up resizing the window.
That and a lack of keyboard navigation are the only real user experience hurdles one comes up against when trialling these touch apps on the desktop.
In fact, if the toolbars were to remain visible when an app was in desktop mode then I’d probably find myself reaching for something like the Gallery app more often than Shotwell.
The important thing to remember is that its early days for these apps, and for touch apps on the desktop.
You’ll be able to go hands on with more than just touch apps in 13.10 – developers are hoping to include a separate Unity 8 session powered by the new display compositor Mir for willing testers to play with.