Every new release of Ubuntu Desktop comes packed with new features and functionality to enable developers, gamers, creators and tinkerers. Ubuntu 23.04 is no exception.
Our focus, as always, has been improving quality, performance and enjoyment for all our users, whether that’s more elegant update handling for snaps, improved UI for installation and quick settings or a more accessible gaming experience.
This release also lays some strategic foundations for enterprise security, support and integration. This includes a new approach for desktop image customisation and deployment, in addition to expanded identity management solutions. As we look ahead to our next LTS release, Ubuntu 24.04, you’ll see these stories evolve and expand over time and we’re excited to have you join us on this journey!
For now, let’s see what the Lunar Lobster has to offer.
The new Ubuntu Installer
The new Ubuntu Desktop installer is definitely the star of the show in Ubuntu 23.04, delivering a streamlined and more intuitive user experience, built in Flutter. We’ve added more detailed feedback around dual boot scenarios and a new slideshow that better reflects our mission.
Our Ubuntu Desktop installation tutorial has also had a facelift to reflect the latest changes!
Take a look at the video below for a comparison between the old and new UI.
The biggest change, however, is behind the scenes. The new installer now uses the same Subiquity code-base as Ubuntu Server. This delivers a more consistent experience across versions and support for autoinstall and cloud-init scenarios that enable image customisation when deploying Ubuntu Desktop at scale.
Subiquity is already used to configure Ubuntu Desktop 22.04 LTS images starting from a base Ubuntu Server ISO. This change will significantly simplify this deployment scenario.
Some of the features available in the legacy installer have not yet made it across to Subiquity and support for features like ZFS guided install will be included in Ubuntu 23.10. In the meantime, users who wish to take advantage of this feature can download an alternative Ubuntu Desktop 23.04 ISO that uses the legacy installer.
Refreshed desktop experience
After completing their installation, users will benefit from a range of quality of life improvements to the desktop interface. The latest GNOME takes centre stage but we’ve also taken the opportunity to refresh the Ubuntu font and address the most commonly requested change to snap update behaviour. Gamers will also benefit from improved out of the box setup with the new Steam snap that has now been promoted to stable.
Ubuntu Desktop 23.04 ships with the latest version of GNOME which delivers a range of usability improvements. Highlights include the enhanced quick settings menu with support for dark mode switching and detailed bluetooth sub-menus, and the addition of thumbnail views in the GTK file picker.
Improved snap refresh
One of our biggest user experience improvements is in how we handle snap updates for Desktop applications. Previously, users would be alerted to an available update via a notification but be unable to apply it without going to the command line, Ubuntu Software or waiting for the automatic update.
With the latest update to snapd, pending updates are now downloaded in the background and immediately applied when the application is closed. Updates can also be paused for as long as desired using the new snap “hold” feature.
You can read more about this work in the latest Firefox snap update.
The Steam snap moves to stable
Over 150,000 gamers downloaded the early access Steam snap, which is now promoted to the stable channel after extensive testing. The Steam snap bundles key dependencies to run both new and older titles without the need to enable and manage additional PPAs. This includes 32-bit libraries and cutting edge Mesa drivers to deliver the latest updates without affecting the stability of your system.
We are continuing to add new features and improvements going forward and welcome your feedback.
Expanded enterprise management integration
Ubuntu Desktop is committed to delivering an enterprise-grade development experience to all users so that those that learn on Ubuntu can transfer those skills directly into the workplace. But enabling developers by providing them with an Ubuntu desktop can pose challenges to IT administrators when it comes to integrating them with an existing Windows-based ecosystem. Ensuring that Ubuntu supports existing device and identity management tooling reduces that overhead and means administrators can manage mixed OS fleets using the same workflows.
Azure AD authentication
Ubuntu Desktop 23.04 is the first and only Linux distribution to provide native user authentication with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), enabling users on Microsoft 365 (M365) Enterprise plans to authenticate Ubuntu desktops with the same credentials they use for M365 or Azure. IT administrators are encouraged to evaluate the `aad-auth` feature in this release and provide feedback for its backport to the current Ubuntu 22.04 LTS release, later this year.
To read more about our work integrating Azure AD authentication with Ubuntu check out our blog or watch the video below.
New Active Directory features
Active Directory (AD) Integration is one of the most popular Ubuntu Desktop enterprise features and Ubuntu Desktop 22.04 LTS brought Active Directory integration to the next level through ADsys, a client that enables full Group Policy support, privilege escalation and remote script executions.
In Ubuntu 23.04 we’ve added support for enterprise proxy, app confinement and network shares to further expand its functionality before backporting them to Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS later this year.
Microsoft Intune is the most popular cloud-based unified endpoint management (UEM) solution in the enterprise, counting over 135 million managed devices as of 2021. While initially designed as a management solution for mobile devices, over the years Intune has evolved to become a comprehensive cross-platform tool to perform all sorts of management activities, from installed application lifecycle management to zero trust conditional access.
At the end of last year Microsoft announced Intune support for Ubuntu. Massimiliano Gori has put together a new blog and tutorial video for those looking to get started with compliance monitoring.
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Ubuntu to your organisation please:
Systemd becomes the default for Ubuntu on WSL
Six months ago, Microsoft and Canonical announced support for systemd in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) shortly followed by an update to the way WSL is distributed to Windows developers, bringing feature parity to both Windows 10 and Windows 11 developers.
Systemd is an integral part of both developer workflows and the Ubuntu experience, enabling the use of both systemd services and snapd.
Our mission for Ubuntu on WSL is to give Linux developers an experience that’s as close to native as possible, so we’re pleased to announce that as part of this release cycle we’ve enabled systemd as the default option for both Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and the primary Ubuntu application available on the Microsoft store. Earlier LTS releases will follow suit in the next few weeks.
For more news, tutorials and videos around Ubuntu WSL check out:
Two new official flavours
Flavours are an integral part of the Ubuntu community that allow users to experience Ubuntu in their own preferred way. The diversity of our flavours are reflections of the incredible communities that empower them and Ubuntu 23.04 adds two more to our expanding roster, Ubuntu Cinnamon and Edubuntu.
Ubuntu Cinnamon combines the flagship Cinnamon desktop from the Linux Mint project with the stable and powerful base of Ubuntu. Users who enjoy customising their desktop will be pleased to find a robust selection of themes and desktop applets aptly called spices for all their workspace tailoring needs.
Learn more about this freshman flavour at ubuntucinnamon.org.
Edubuntu was once an official Ubuntu edition that sought to bring the freedom of the Linux desktop and the vast library of open source education software into the classroom. Almost a decade later, Edubuntu has been resurrected by Amy and Erich Eichmeyer to provide a fast, stable, secure and privacy conscious option for schools, universities and other learning institutions.
Keep in touch
To learn more about some of the new features available in this release, tune into our upcoming roundtable discussion between the engineering and product management teams behind Ubuntu Desktop on May the 4th.
As always you can join the discussion on the Ubuntu Discourse or Ubuntu Twitter. And to keep up to date with the latest news, blogs and tutorials related to Ubuntu Desktop, sign up to our newsletter on the side of the page.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of the Ubuntu community!