New Ubuntu Returns Gnome to Front

I downloaded the newest version of Ubuntu – 17.10 – to take a look at what’s been going on in this free, open source operating system.  I have in the past dual-booted a version of Ubuntu with Windows but most of the time I run the OS in a virtual window, using VirtualBox.  The big news was that Canonical has moved off its Unity Desktop and is now using Gnome.  It felt much more like a Windows desktop interface.


I don’t always encrypt my VirtualBox drives but it seemed somehow easier in this version than it had been the last time – 16.04 – that I’d played around with Ubuntu.  The setup always prompts you to encrypt your home drive, but I took the full disk encryption.

Opening Ubuntu 17.10 screen asking for encryption/decryption password

It’s funny that this sort of arrangement – opening up Windows, starting a new app (VirtualBox) and typing in an access password to decrypt might make more sense to people than turning on a computer and having to type a decryption password.

Cloud Integration

One feature I hadn’t expected to see – and that usually involved a bit of fiddling – was integration with cloud storage and social media accounts.  Rather than having to customize each app or get under the hood, you can access a list of cloud services from the settings menu.  The connection is just like any other app connection – Gnome will be the app name in your cloud service – and it supports two factor authentication.

Connections to common cloud storage platforms are built into the operating system

I was able to successfully connect a Google and a Microsoft account.  The Google Drive mounted within my file explorer, which was nice.  I can drag and drop files from Google Drive to my hard drive just like I would with any other network drive share.  Unfortunately, I can’t find where Microsoft’s OneDrive connection is.  The online account is connected, but since there is no app or other icon, I can’t use it.  This will take a bit of digging.

Microsoft and Ubuntu

One thing Ubuntu has always done better than Windows is desktop search.  I can quickly search and bring up matching files and apps, among other things.  Sure, you can do that a bit in Windows 10 but I find it still a bit janky.  I laughed when I did a search for Microsoft – I was looking for my OneDrive – and got this:

Good use of “did you mean” but not what I was looking for

The Microsoft Word and other Office products are still not something you’ll find natively in Ubuntu.  There are similar apps but – just as with the recent Microsoft Office apps on Chromebook, a Linux-based OS– I’m not sure why anyone who need Office wouldn’t just use the web apps, now known as Microsoft Office Online.  They are less functional, free, browser-based versions of the full Microsoft Office suite.  Since there’s no installation (for the diehards, you can try CrossOver or Wine but Microsoft Office 2013 appears to be the last solid option to run Microsoft Office in Ubuntu), you just use your browser.

I’m retiring my Ubuntu 16 VirtualBox instance.  17.10 was quick to set up – adding KeePass and connecting to Windows network shares – and even easier to adapt to the new interface.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.


  1. David, thank you so much for the Ubuntu update. I have a more downlevel version of Ubuntu 17 on a spare computer at home, but I think it’s time to upgrade. It’s a pity that Linux as a whole still requires a certain amount of tinkering. I come to it as a non-techie person and have solved many of my initial problems (like playing a DRM DVD on Ubuntu) by finding advice on the various forums. Still, ‘free’ is a wonderful price-tag and because of it, I have some old computers that are nevertheless fully functional. But I digress–anyway, thanks for the update!

    1. You’re welcome!

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