Ubuntu MATE 19.10 early developement

We've started work on Ubuntu MATE 19.10 and I thought I share some of what we been working on and the plans ahead.

New team members

I'm delighted to say we've had 5 new team members join us recently:

  • 1 Developer
  • 2 QA engineers
  • 1 Forum moderator
  • 1 Merchandise administrator

The QA team have produced a list of priority bugs (based on community feedback and Launchpad issues) for the development team to focus on during the 19.10 cycle.

Ubuntu MATE Welcome & Boutique

We've been refreshing some of the applications available in the Software Boutique. Jellyfin, Sublime Text, Sublime Merge, Play on Linux, Flacon and Evolution have been added/updated. Existing users of Ubuntu MATE 18.04 and newer will automatically get those updates when we release the new version later this weekend.

Behind the scenes we've started work on a brand new version of Ubuntu MATE Welcome and Boutique. It's too early to share details on that, but it complete redesign of both is in the works.

Ubuntu MATE Artwork & Themes

A new artwork package has been uploaded for Ubuntu MATE 19.10. We've identified 7 theme related bugs which we are using money from the crowd funding to pay a theme designer to fix. We will also been adding the Ubuntu MATE themes for the common themes supported by the snap platform so snapped applications are themed correctly for Ubuntu MATE users.

MATE Desktop 1.22.1

The upstream MATE Desktop recently release 1.22.1. I have committed the required changes to Debian git which will be synced to Ubuntu in due course.

Evolution replaces Thunderbird

This is a bigger topic and has several implications. The team has discussed the pros and cons of switching the default mail client in Ubuntu MATE to Evolution. Here is a summary of our assessment:

  • Thunderbird does not integrate well with the desktop. For example, theme integration, font integration, compatibility with HUD (which are increasingly difficult to support in Thunderbird), notifications with action buttons, locale and spell checking.
  • Thunderbird & Lightning is 171MB on the ISO image, while Evolution is 46MB.
  • Evolution integrates well with MATE given that both use GTK3.
  • Evolution includes interoperability with LibreOffice, for which Ubuntu MATE is already shipping the required components.
  • Evolution has superior integration with Google Mail and Exchange, including calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos.

That last point has another benefit, it makes it possible for us to use the Date/Time Indicator, as shown in the screenshot above. It is almost fully functional and should require just two patches (one trivial, one tricky) to integrate with MATE Desktop. All the features of creating new events or opening upcoming events from the applet work. Clicking on a day in the month displays the events for the selected day in the applet.

As you can see from the screenshot this means it can replace the MATE clock applet and correct the placement of the clock/session indicators. For many people who use webmail exclusively this change will have no impact, but for those who use desktop mail we feel these productivity improvements are significant.

The Ubuntu MATE iso images have been oversized (> 2GB) for several releases and as a result of migrating to Evolution the 19.10 image is now 1.8GB, down from 2.5GB just a few weeks ago.

For those of you who love Thunderbird and wish to continue using it we will continue to offer Thunderbird in the Software Boutique for a one-click install. Likewise, Evolution is now in the Software Boutique so can be removed with one-click too.

We've got a few other projects in the works but it is too early to report on their status, so we'll save that for a future update.

Thank you all for your continued support!

Regards, Martin.

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