For a good amount of people, Windows and Linux can both do everything that a user needs. For those who this applies to, the choice between Windows 8 and Ubuntu can primarily come down to the user experience, which is largely attributed to the desktop environment.
Windows 8 uses the Modern UI, and Ubuntu uses Unity. Let’s compare the two to see which one is better for you.
A desktop environment needs to do the following:
- Allow you to manage your windows easily and efficiently
- Allow you to launch other programs that aren’t currently running
- Search for other functions on your computer such as system settings
- Search for information online and present it clearly
- Be well designed and look great
Manage Windows Efficiently
Windows allows you to manage your open windows using a taskbar that’s along the bottom of your screen by default. However, you can move it to any other screen edge that you want. Ubuntu does something very similar, but it’s stuck to the left edge of the screen. Both also allow you to automatically hide the taskbar/panel which allows you to access these features while maximizing screen space.
Winner: Windows 8
Launching applications is also pretty similar between the two operating systems. You can pin favorites to the taskbar/panel on both. Unity shows recently opened applications by default in the Dash, and the start screen shows all installed applications. In Unity, it is possible to see all installed applications, but it’s a bit hard to find the “See all applications” button.
Winner: Windows 8
Searching Through The System
Searching for things like system settings should be easy too, as you might need to access them to enable some hardware or make it behave the way you want. In Windows 8 you have to open then right charm bar and choose Control Panel, or open up the start screen and type out “control panel” in order to get to the settings. You could also right click on any system icon in the icon tray (such as WiFi) to access those specific settings. In Ubuntu, you can access the system settings from the power menu, or you can search for specific settings within the Dash.
Search Online From Desktop
Being able to search for information online straight from the desktop can make life a whole lot easier. Ubuntu does this extremely well, as you can just search for anything straight from the Dash, and a number of different lenses offer functionality to turn all of your search queries into actual results. Wikipedia, Amazon, the weather, and so much more can be looked through straight from the Dash. Windows 8, on the other hand, doesn’t really have any of this.
Design and Looks
Both Windows 8 and Ubuntu look pretty great, so it’s hard to say whether one is “prettier” than the other. As far as design goes, I believe that Ubuntu’s makes more sense. In Windows, the start screen separates you completely from the desktop, and Metro apps do not integrate very well with regular desktop apps at all. All Ubuntu apps integrate well with each other, however, and the Dash doesn’t take you away from the desktop.
The Results: Unity Vs Modern UI
So after five rounds, it’s still a tie. And I think that’s deserved, because both desktop environments are pretty good. Sure, there are a lot of people who gripe about them too, but overall they’re fairly equal. If you choose either one out of these two choices, you won’t have anything to worry about. If you aren’t happy with a tie and need an absolute winner, then consider the winner to be Ubuntu’s Unity primarily because you can get it for free.
Additionally, don’t forget that Unity isn’t the only choice for a desktop environment on Linux — there are plenty of other Linux desktop environments to check out.