Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 21:33

(Ubuntu in 3 different releases: GNOME2 era, Unity era, and GNOME3 era)

Knowing Ubuntu releases is important to understand it better. Ubuntu is released twice a year, more precisely, every April and October, hence the number 04 and 10 in every version. It has special release called Long Term Support (LTS) released once in two years, only when the year number is even, hence all LTS version numbers are ended with 04. More importantly, you will also see 3 different periods of Ubuntu Desktop, that have been going through GNOME2, Unity, and GNOME3 eras, with and then LibreOffice as the main office suite. You will also see Ubuntu siblings like Kubuntu and Mythbuntu. I hope this will be interesting enough for everybody to read. Go ahead, and learn more about Ubuntu!

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  • 1) Windows Releases
  • 2) Ubuntu Releases
  • 3) Codenames
  • 4) Architectures
  • 5) Editions
  • 6) Periods
  • 7) Repositories
  • 8) Official Flavors
  • 9) Retired Flavors
  • 10) See Bigger Picture

1. Windows Releases

Microsoft released Windows in these versions so far:
  • Windows XP (2001)
  • Windows Vista (2007)
  • Windows 7 (2009)
  • Windows 8 (2012)
  • Windows 8.1 (2013)
  • Windows 10 (2015)

In short, Windows release schedule is not predictable (unlike Ubuntu in every 6 month); we do not see in each release different Editions based on its user interface, nor third-party variants, nor codenames; and we do not talk about repository on it. And, Windows' user interface has no name (we say the OS "Windows" and the desktop environment "Windows" as well). I hope this information can help you to understand Ubuntu better.

2. Ubuntu Releases 

Ubuntu releases its new version 2 times every year. More precisely, Ubuntu is always released in April and October, hence it has only 04 and 10 version numbers of all releases*. Based on support lifespan, releases divided into two classes, one Long Term Support (LTS), and one Regular (non-LTS). The LTS ones are released every two years when the number of year is even (see below) and the Regular ones are released every 6 month except when LTS released.

(Release announcements on website of 18.04 LTS, 18.10, and the old 7.04 versions)

  • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (2010)
  • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (2012)
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (2014)
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (2016)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (2018)

  • Ubuntu 10.10 (2010)
  • Ubuntu 11.04 (2011)
  • Ubuntu 12.10 (2012)
  • Ubuntu 13.04 (2013)
  • Ubuntu 17.04 (2017)
  • Ubuntu 19.04 (2019)

Complete list of releases is here.

What's the difference between Regular and LTS? There are two things, first, recentness of package versions, and second, time duration of the official support from Canonical.
The first one means, for example, LibreOffice on 19.04 will be newer compared to LibreOffice on 18.04 LTS, and to get that newer version, users of 18.04 should upgrade to 19.04.

The second one means security updates. LTS has 5 years time span of updates, while Regular has only 9 month. The updates are provided by professional team in Canonical to several hundreds of packages in the 'main' repository. This means, for example, if you use 19.04 and 18.04 LTS simultaneously, then the former will not supported anymore in 2020 but the latter will receive updates until 2023.

Actually there is one more fact, the third one, the secret fact behind support lifespans is, that whenever any version reached end of support, the repository will be officially deleted in the internet, so users of that version would not be able to install software anymore. This condition is called End of Life or EOL. You will still however can use the OS forever but you cannot install software from its repository and will not receive updates anymore.

*) Only one exception exists, that is 6.06 Dapper Drake, which is the only 06 ending number while Ubuntu experienced late 2 month extra to release.

3. Ubuntu Codenames

This one is the uniqueness of Ubuntu: each release is named in alphabetical fashion.

  • 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx"
  • 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"
  • 14.04 LTS "Trusty Tahr"
  • 16.04 LTS "Xenial Xerus"
  • 18.04 LTS "Bionic Beaver"

  • 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat"
  • 11.04 "Natty Narwhal"
  • 12.10 "Quantal Quetzal"
  • 13.04 "Raring Ringtail"
  • 17.04 "Zesty Zapus"
  • 19.04 "Disco Dingo"

Complete list of code names is here.

What's this means? This is important, as there are 2 things: first, you will often hear Ubuntu user says "Bionic" to mean 18.04 or "Maverick" to mean 10.10 and on and on; second, this codename is the code your repository works with. So for every release, in your system configuration, the address to get software is not notated in number, take example 18.04 and 10.10, but in name, that are "bionic" and "maverick", respectively. You cannot use "bionic" repository on maverick, for example, and vice versa.

Who decide codename of Ubuntu? Of course, Mark Shuttleworth, the father of Ubuntu, the founder of Canonical Ltd. We can see every announcement of the codenames published on his blog. See his posts for example, Yakkety and Cosmic.

4. Ubuntu Architectures

Based on architecture, Ubuntu Desktop is now only available as 64-bit (called amd64) after a decade had been available also for 32-bit (called i386). For instance, the latest release at the moment, 19.04 Disco Dingo, is 64-bit only, while 16.04 Xenial Xerus, is still available in both 32-bit and 64-bit.

5. Ubuntu Editions

Based on edition, Ubuntu is available mainly as Desktop and Server operating systems, as we could see on the download page.

 (Left: Ubuntu Desktop main page; right: Ubuntu Server main page; both screenshots taken August 2019)

6. Ubuntu Periods

Speaking in popular fashion, the time of Ubuntu Desktop up to today can be divided into 3 different eras:
  • GNOME2 era (2004-2010)
  • Unity era (2011-2017)
  • GNOME3 era (2017-now)

What's this? To speak casually, Ubuntu experienced 3 different user interfaces. This means you may find friends knowing Ubuntu from any one among those eras. Originally, it came with GNOME2 for 6 years, later it came with Unity for 6 years, and finally since 2017 it came with GNOME3 up to today. These three names are names of user interface developed for GNU/Linux Desktop. However, the desktop we see on 18.04 and 19.04 is called GNOME3.

How was GNOME2 era? In this era, Ubuntu came with double panel, top and bottom, it's a highly customizable desktop yet lightweight and usable. It shipped with, the predecessor of LibreOffice. At that time, Canonical was still sending Ubuntu CDs at no cost worldwide. Do you remember? Yes, it was the famous ShipIt program we no could not see anymore since 2010. GNOME2 itself ended by its developers in favor of the completely new GNOME3 at 2011.

 (Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope with GNOME2 desktop and on its start menu)

How was Unity era? In this era, Ubuntu came with top and side panel, with full screen menu, with Global Menu, and with HUD revealed every time Alt key being pressed. This era also changed because of its switch from to LibreOffice since Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. However, Unity was a great innovation as a reaction to people's dissatisfaction against GNOME3. Unity was not quite customizable, honestly, but people (finally) loved it at that time, for its simplicity and features it possesses. In my personal opinion, even today, I still like Unity era the most for its modernity and sleekness.

(Ubuntu with Unity desktop and the HUD running to read menubar of Mozilla Firefox)

How is GNOME3 era? This is the era when we see Ubuntu today. The layout is similar to Unity, but without HUD and Global Menu, and (unfortunately) more loads to RAM. Canonical decided to leave Unity behind and use GNOME3 instead on version 17.04 at 2017.

(Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo with GNOME version 3.30)

7. Ubuntu Repositories

What is a repository? Repository, for you coming from Windows world, more likely is not something you familiar with. Ubuntu user installs all software from repository: a place in the internet containing thousands of software built specially for a certain Ubuntu version. For Windows user, they don't work that way, instead, they visit different webs to collect different applications. In this regard, repository is a central place that collects all software for Ubuntu.

The important thing is, every release version brings its own repository, worth more than 20GB or more software packages (and still increasing!). This means 18.04 has 18.04 repository, 19.04 has 19.04 repository, and on and on. Every repository is solely for its version, meaning, repository for 18.04 is not usable on 19.04 for example, and vice versa. This means versions of software in each Ubuntu version is fixed, and this is the point distinguishing between Ubuntu and 'rolling' distro like Arch.

What's the difference to Windows? This is important, thanks to Ubuntu being free software, updating the OS means updating all software installed. This is contrast to Windows, as updating the OS only updates the OS itself, not the third-party programs you have, so you must update everything one by one separately. For example, updating Windows doesn't update Photoshop or AutoCAD there; but updating Ubuntu does update the OS and does update GIMP and Warzone 2100 you installed there. This is related to what I mentioned before, because Ubuntu user installs all programs from central repository, but Windows user installs from different sources. Why? It's because the software Ubuntu distributes are free software, so Canonical is granted full rights to redistribute updates of them; but the software you mostly find on Windows like MATLAB or Ulead Studio are proprietary (nonfree), so even Microsoft is prohibited to redistribute updates of them.

Repository contents, viewed from inside Ubuntu:

(Synaptic Package Manager, a tool to browse, search, install thousands of software from the repository)

Repository contents, viewed from web browser:
(However, all packages are stored under 'pool' directory there and sorted alphabetically)

8. Official Flavors

On this side, Ubuntu is also different to Windows, as Ubuntu permits unlimited redistribution by user (both with and without modification) while Windows forbids it. That is why we can see Official Flavors, modified operating systems ("distros") created and maintained by users in special communities. Today, we have 7 actively developed Flavors, namely:
  • Kubuntu (2005)
  • Xubuntu (2006)
  • Ubuntu Studio (2007)
  • Lubuntu (2009)
  • Ubuntu Kylin (2013)
  • Ubuntu MATE (2014)
  • Ubuntu Budgie (2016)

 (Left:; right:; bottom:

9. Retired Flavors

With full respect and gratitude to all the developers, I also listed here Flavors that were once active but no longer available:
  • Mythbuntu (2007-2016)
  • Edubuntu (2005-2016)
  • Ubuntu GNOME (2012-2017)
We can learn much from them that each distro, even the popular one, needs enough developers and also support from us the users to maintain it. Without cooperation, we will see another distro stopped being developed like Edubuntu. This fact will eager every one of us to contribute to distro we love! I hope this section can be a contribution to them at least to attract new developers joining from among you.

(Left: Ubuntu GNOME website; right: Edubuntu website; bottom: Mythbuntu website accessed via Internet Archive from a 2016 snapshot)

10. See The Bigger Picture

Okay, so now let's see the bigger picture of all:

  1. Every 6 month, Ubuntu releases a new release. 
  2. Every release, there are 2 main Ubuntu editions (Desktop & Server), and also there are 7 Flavors (Kubuntu et. al.).
  3. Every operating system released is available in either 64-bit only or with 32-bit architecture.
  4. All of them install software from one common repository. 
  5. Each release has its own repository and new repository is not compatible with old one.
  6. Each one of them is distributed via internet as an ISO Image file typically in huge size (1GB or more). 
  7. Latest Regular and LTS versions of them are supported, except the End Of Life (EOL) version that is not supported anymore (i.e. the repository removed officially).

And finally, as real example, let's see our latest and next releases:
  • Latest Regular is 19.04 "Disco Dingo" released April 2019.
  • Latest LTS is 18.04 "Bionic Beaver" released April 2019. 
  • Next Regular will be 19.10 planned October 2019.
  • Next LTS will be 20.04 planned April 2020. 

Next One

That's all for now. According to our plan yesterday, next time I will talk about Applications on Ubuntu. I hope you enjoyed this and encouraged to try Ubuntu. Have a good time!

to be continued...

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.