Ubuntu has announced that full multitouch gesture-based support will arrive in Ubuntu 10.10, the next major version of the popular Linux distribution. Multitouch will be coree component of Unity UI (the netbook distro).
A new software framework called uTouch has been developed intended on simplifying gesture handling. Some of the common grammar of gestures that will be incorporated in Ubuntu 10.10 has been demonstrated in an early draft.
The uTouch wont do all this on its own. Unless and until you have a kernel that’s touch aware, user experience will suffer. That’s why Ubuntu’s multitouch relies on some of the recent improvements in the Linux kernel, the Xorg display server, and the Gtk+ toolkit. Multitouch X Input Extension is the heart of all these improvements that would enable multitouch-enhanced user experience on the desktop.
However, there is still a lot more work to do before touch will be a first-class input mechanism for the platform. The standard applications that are included in the GNOME desktop environment are not particularly touch-friendly and will need some significant user interface refactoring.
“In Maverick, quite a few Gtk applications will support gesture-based scrolling. We’ll enhance Evince to show some of the richer interactions that developers might want to add to their apps,” Shuttleworth wrote in his blog. “The roadmap beyond 10.10 will flesh out the app developer API and provide system services related to gesture processing and touch. It would be awesome to have touch-aware versions of all the major apps—browser, email, file management, chat, photo management and media playback—for 11.04, but that depends on you!”
Another problem would be to overcome hardware compatibility. Initially, it plans to support convertible notebook/tablet devices such as the Dell XT2 and HP tx2. But the Canonical, founder of Ubuntu assures this would be taken care over time as they plan to cover all touch devices including laptop touchpads and devices like Apple’s Magic Trackpad.
Canonical’s multitouch efforts could make Unity an appealing option for users to lookout for Linux and Open source projects.
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