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Canonical LTD maintains two discrete versions of Unity which are almost indistinguishable from a visual standpoint but very different on the technical level.

Unity is written as a plugin for Compiz and is written in the programming languages C++ and Vala and is utilizing an uncommon OpenGL toolkit called Nux. Being a plugin for Compiz gives Unity GPU-accelerated performance on compatible systems.
Unity 2D is a set of individual applications. They are written in the GUI building language QML from the widespread Qt framework. By default Unity 2D uses the non-compositing Metacity window manager but can also use accelerated window managers like Compiz or KWin.

Since Unity 2D does not talk to a composition manager for transparency effects, some views such as the application launcher are not displayed as semi-transparent window but in full screen applying fake transparency.

Unity 2D will replace the classic GNOME desktop as the fall-back for users whose hardware cannot run Unity 3D, starting with Ubuntu 11.10.


This article or parts of this article are based on the Wikipedia article Unity (user interface) licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2 or later. A list of the authors can be found here: (user interface)&action=history. You can help to improve the article.