It's very easy to test the Unity 8 desktop environment
Canonical is making a really big push with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and, even if devs didn't get to integrate everything they wanted, users can still test and see some of the progress that has been made for the features that weren’t included in Ubuntu.Canonical wanted to make Ubuntu 14.04 LTS a place where users would be able to get the latest Unity8 desktop environment, but it became apparent, early on in the development cycle, that that was not going to happen.
Instead, the developers explained that Unity8 and Mir (the display server) would be pushed back until they are ready for a major release. A time frame hasn't been set yet, but users can rest assured that this change will arrive in the next versions.
To appease users who really wanted to get a glimpse of how Unity8 works on the desktop, the Ubuntu developers have managed to integrate a Desktop preview for Unity8 into the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release.
It's not available by default, but it can be installed from the official repositories very easily, with just a simple command, from a terminal:
sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir
When all the packages have been installed, you will have to log out in order to access the new desktop environment. You will be able to select it from the LightDM Greeter.
Now, you also have to understand that this is work in progress and it doesn't represent the final quality of the product. It's very likely that Unity8 on the desktop will change significantly in time, but it's enough to provide a glimpse. Ubuntu developer Oliver Grawert explained what you should be expecting from Unity8 in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS:
“First things first though… let’s look at what Unity 8 is not. The Unity 8/Desktop preview primarily is not a resurrection of Windows 8 – what you are looking at is the Ubuntu for Mobile UI running on your Desktop/Laptop. Changes to the user experience to move this UI to a Desktop/Laptop environment are coming in the next cycles.”
“It also is not at a quality level you’d expect from a LTS (hence it’s living in Universe), although it works fairly well on my 2 test machines.”
Some parts of the new environment, like the applications, can be tested in the current Unity7 desktop, also by installing them from the repositories. Just open a terminal and enter the following commands:
sudo apt-get install address-book-app webbrowser-app camera-app friends-app gallery-app notes-app share-app
You can also install some of the core apps that are found on Ubuntu Touch. It's done in the same manner, from the terminal:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-touch-coreapps-drivers/daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install calendar-app dropping-letters music-app rssreader-app sudoku-app ubuntu-calculator-app ubuntu-clock-app ubuntu-filemanager-app ubuntu-terminal-app ubuntu-weather-app reminders-app
Keep in mind that you will need the open source drivers if you have an AMD or NVIDIA video card.
All these apps work in Unity7. Enjoy!