Rethinking Ubuntu Desktop: a more thoughtful default installation


Today, I’d like to discuss a significant shift in our approach to Ubuntu Desktop’s “Minimal” and “Full” installation options. More importantly, I want to invite you to join us in this rethink.

If you’ve installed Ubuntu Desktop before, you’re likely familiar with the Minimal and Full options in our installer. On closer inspection, you might wonder why certain packages are included and others aren’t. For those seeking a lean system, the Full installation might seem bloated. Conversely, if you’re looking for a sleek, complete experience, the Minimal installation might feel a bit bare.

Clearly, neither option perfectly suits the varied needs of our users. Tweaking the packages in the Full and Minimal configurations isn’t the answer. We shouldn’t focus on the quantity of packages but rather on meeting user requirements, like simplifying installation, and reducing the time it takes for users to go from installation to productivity.

In view of this, we’re planning to replace these not-quite-right options with a single, unified configuration. For extra apps, we plan to rely on a polished App Store experience to enable users to easily add what they need. More details on the App Store will follow soon. With widespread Internet access today, obtaining the necessary apps is no longer a hurdle. This streamlined approach could reduce ISO size, decrease testing needs, and simplify the installation process. Further down the road, we could offer app bundles, curated experiences, or even the possibility for users to provide their own list of apps. This could open up greater customisation options - in fact, adventurous users can already do a lot with tools like autoinstall and ubuntu-image.

Now, we need your input. What do you believe should be included in this unified default install? Should we include LibreOffice or Solitaire? What about gnome-clocks, gnome-weather, or gufw? Our goal is to offer a coherent, out-of-the-box experience, and your feedback is crucial in achieving that.

I’m excited to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Director of Engineering | Ubuntu Desktop


The minimal installation is the only way that allows a user to start from a minimal clean slate and build their system from there. It is one of my favorite things about Ubuntu and I sincerely hope you reconsider its removal.

I agree that the full install today is bloated however I find it hard to believe that you will manage to find one solution that fits the majority of the use cases. Enterprise users most probably don’t need office suites and will want to customize their install anyway. Developers and researchers mostly care about development and productivity software (like VScode or slack but people are opinionated on their tools), casual users have other needs. The only thing I can think of that everybody uses, is a browser :slight_smile:
At the very least, please try to avoid large office suites or software that nobody uses on the default installation.


Hi mrigaki, this is an open question for suggestions and we want to hear folks’ thoughts. I wouldn’t see this post as an announcement that we’re ‘removing minimal install’ rather this is an opportunity for you to say ‘I want the minimal install to be the default install’. And maybe you might say ‘minimal install + X app is what I’d recommend’ :slight_smile:


I agree that we should remove large office installations (I’ve been reading that they have been falling out of favor compared to cloud-based office suites) in the current default install, and I would recommend that we remove the games as well. While some may find them fun, I imagine that most desktop users only touch the games once if ever. Big thing everyone needs is a default web browser :sweat_smile:

App bundles would be awesome! One thing that I really like about the Anaconda installer (Enterprise Linux land’s, not Anaconda’s conda) is that it lets you pick the software that you want to have installed as part of the installation. If app bundles are introduced, I could definitely see minimal as the default installation, but then give users the advanced option to select what bundles they would like installed. Office tools, scientific computing, Python development, video production, etc.


given how easy generating images is supposed to become with ubuntu-image, i wonder if we shouldn’t simply keep only the minimal install as official image and additionally invest in development of a web frontend to u-image that could generate an “enhanced/personalized” one for you, allowing you to interactively add extra gui apps …


I would say that finding/ recommending apps and app bundles to personalise your installation via a GUI is the purpose of our new app store rather than an external tool. :slight_smile:

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but that indeed requires proper internet connection … in support we still see enough people that have massively limited bandwidth, are on dialup or on capped connections … i was thinking about these, after all they used to be a big portion of what made us big initially (using the canonical program)


I wish there was an option for a “Default Installation” and an option for a “Custom/Advanced Installation”, a really customized installation, that would give me the freedom to choose the packages I wanted, and even allow me to install Ubuntu without a graphic interface, or choose the graphical interface.


sounds like this is exactly what @local-optimum is suggesting :wink:

Libre office is needed but games aren’t
A weather application would be nice but gnome weather still isn’t working correctly (I’m working on a flutter replacement but this needs more time)
A clock application is at least default on any phone OS so I guess this is a good choice as well and gnome clocks works fine
A music application would be good as well as podcasts as it is on Mac OS. I can recommend my application MusicPod :smiley:
The terminal is also a must have as well as the browser ofc
The rest can we removed IMO


just dont forget that anything we do should pass the “Mom test” … i.e. offering a selection between x11 and wayland or some such like @ricardosousa suggests feels a bit over the top … (at least for my mom it would be :slight_smile: )

In my household there are two types of user:

  1. Install it, use the defaults and complain if something can’t be found
  2. Install it, and heavily customise it by installing a load of specific stuff

Type 1 users

The first type of user will be put off by a minimal install that doesn’t include the things they use. (Mostly a web browser, but also an office suite and an email client.) The most I think they could cope with is some yes/no questions:

  • Do you want to install a web browser?
  • Do you want to install an office suite?

Type 2 users

The second type would happily start from a minimal install and add stuff as they need it.

Both are used to a 1st world internet connection and happily download stuff including as part of the install.

Users on the edge of the internet

We do need to consider users outside the 1st world. They likely want something usable for their needs without downloads. And that may well include office suites, email clients, and other things we, with “modern” internet connections see being replaced by websites.


Frederik, why do you believe LibreOffice needs to be installed by default for everyone?


What about the LibreOffice snap? I’ve only used LO for 20 minutes max, but when I have recently it’s been with the snap and it seemed to work fine.

But for the “mother”, there would be the default installation. However, a more advanced option that really allows you to customize the distro would satisfy more advanced users. They’re also a big slice, so they shouldn’t be disregarded. Installers of other distros have option to customize, while also being user friendly.

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As somebody who has been in the support trenches for a long time, in my experience neither assumption seems valid. So the subsequent conclusions seem suspect.

The huge numbers of non-technical folks who install Ubuntu Desktop do not complain at all in AskUbuntu nor UbuntuForums about the wide range of general-purpose software included. I cannot recall any non-technical users who have complained about bloat. Technical users do occasionally complain about bloat…until we point them to the Minimal option.

I cannot recall any Minimal users who have ever complained in the support venues that it’s not a complete experience. Quite the opposite, some folks still complain that it’s not minimal enough.

These are two very different use cases, and I don’t see a path to single “default” that will make both happy. It’s been a slow-burning issue since Ubuntu began, and the Desktop Team has tried several different approaches over the years.

I’m not saying “oh, we must stick with the current.” I’m open to improvement.

I am saying we have not seen enough data to concur in the conclusion that this particular change is the best way to satisfy everybody, since my own experience differs from the claim.

EDIT: In Post #26, @tim-hm lays out the data and a strawman. The data satisfies me, and the strawman really clarifies what’s being asked. Most of my concerns here are happily withdrawn!


well, yes and no … since what you know as default installation today will not exist anymore … it will be a bare desktop and then pop up an app store … now my mom needs to a) understand what she will eventually need b) actually know what the software is …

i.e. she knows she wants to watch videos her son sends her … but she wont know what “totem” or “vlc” are etc etc … should she install libreoffice or rather onlyoffice, or abiword to write and print letters ?

i think we are making it a lot more complicated by adding all these choices that you have to actually understand to get a proper install that suits your needs …

today an install is a matter of a few minutes, it is fire and forget … but in the future you might spend hours getting lost in browsing the store before you can finish your install …


Just in case you got a office document in your email
I know you could open it with extensions in the browser but you can’t assume the average user knows that tricks

Can’t we discuss this without invoking outdated tropes like “older women aren’t good at tech”? They’re a bit passé in 2023.


i wasnt aware that this is an old trope … but pretty please note that i am talking about my mom here and never said anything along the line of “old women are bad at tech” …

do you allow me to judge the technical skills of my mom (as being her support person) or is that an “old trope” too ?

note that in the 18y i work at canonical my mom has actually served many times as an enduser tester for me and helped a lot improving UX issues …