Ubuntu Precise: Unity multi-monitor support improved

March 12, 2012

I decided to take Ubuntu Precise Beta 1 for a spin to test out its support for multimonitors. Traditionally, this has left something to be desired. I’ve always thought of my second monitor as a monitor in its own right. By that I mean, rather than merely being a blank extension of pixels for the primary monitor, it should be considered a monitor in its own right, with the benefit of being able to drag between the two.

When Unity was first launched it met with considerable criticism. One thing I think it did right, however, was to have a task bar (which later displayed the ‘global menu’) on both monitors. Ubuntu Precise has taken this a step further, as can be seen from the image here:

Precise multimonitor image

Here we can see that there is now a dock on both monitors displayed by default. In addition, there is a slight traction of the mouse as it switches from the monitor on the right, to the one on the left. The mouse hangs just perceptively as you move over the join between the monitors. Whilst this may sound annoying, it actually alterted me to the best feature of Precise’s multimonitor support: the ‘snap’ feature - dragging to an edge to expand a window to half a monitor - now works for the inner edges of the two monitors.

This is such an improvement over Oneiric’s multi-monitor handling. At last, they are represented as two joined screens, but with the functionality of two independent outputs. This gives first-class citizenship to the second monitor, and makes it much more than merely a scratchpad for extending the primary.