elementary OS is an open source Ubuntu-based distro and one of the most awesome GNU/Linux distros ever. It has gained a lot of traction over years, coming in at #5 on Distro Watch’s popularity scale with 1,324 hits per day.
elementary OS is usually mentioned only in light of macOS and sometimes Windows, given that it features a beautiful and consistent UI which makes it an ideal replacement; it deserves to stand out more because its active community of developers has not only successfully delivered a unique distro, all of its apps are custom built and they are lovely!
It’s excellent for both Linux beginners and pros which is evident in how artistically comprehensive their online documentation. The team succeeded it keeping to the 3 core rules of their design philosophy which are: “concision”, “avoid configuration” and “minimal documentation”.
I recently gave elementary OS a test drive and here are my thoughts.
Elementary OS uses a beautiful KDE-like desktop environment that goes by the name Pantheon, but it is completely different from KDE. Pantheon was built from scratch using GTK3 toolkit and Vala for the elementary OS project. Its User Interface applies a minimalist design to avoid clutter and highlight only the important things.
The app launcher icon is in the top-left corner of the screen. Date & Time are indicators in the top-middle, and control icons for volume, Wi-Fi, Power, and Bluetooth are located in the top-right corner.
The Dock is at the bottom of the screen to indicate the currently running apps along with your favorite app set.
As expected, there exists multiple desktop workspaces, keyboard shortcuts, audio buttons integration, etc. You can customize your shortcuts through System Settings → Keyboard → Shortcuts → Windows; and your wallpaper through System Settings → Desktop → Wallpaper.
User Interface/User Experience
elementary OS offers easily boasts one of the most consistent UI/UX among Linux distros. Everything that you use in elementary OS is KDE and custom built and best suited to provide a conveniently consistent UI/UX. Of course, you are free to install other apps and app types of your choice.
You might think that Pantheon was just made to look like macOS but that’s not the case. It is evident that macOS design influenced elementary OS’s as is clear when you take a first look at its app window icons and dock but Pantheon’s dock behaves differently from that of macOS’. elementary OS’s design approach is also influenced by Material design with an emphasis on shadows, colors, and the use of light.
Elementary OS AppCenter
AppCenter is an open source Indie app market built in view of elementary OS’ design and security standards. AppCenter is structured in the best way to promote the best apps that might be important to you and in a way that welcomes app developers onboard.
Using AppCenter is straightforward and has 3 ways to explore – Grid, which all your apps in an alphabetized grid that you can click through. Categories, where you can view all your apps in an automatically organized pattern. And Search, which allows you to launch apps, settings panes, and run commands, among other functions, using elementary OS’ swift search view.
elementary OS does an excellent job with the apps it ships with. They include Music, Epiphany (web browser), Mail (Geary mail fork), Photos, Videos, Calendar, Files, Terminal, Scratch, and Camera – all built to work hand in hand with elementary OS’s functions.
My favorite one is Transporter – an app that allows you to send and receive files, as well as display the content of your downloads folder.
Another beautiful thing about elementary OS apps list is that they are licensed under GPL and can be repackaged and redistributed for other projects.
In as much as elementary OS comes with a beautiful and consistent desktop environment, you cannot customize it. You cannot move the panels around and there are no default themes to choose from. There is no dashboard and there is no context menu for the panel nor dock that opens when you right-click.
The hot corners and dock are tweakable but the options are limited.
With that being said, elementary OS is open source and big on security. You can use your computer without any doubts about being spied on; plus you have no ads to worry about.
If you want a Linux distro with a unique experience – elementary OS is a good choice.
What has been your experience with the OS and what do you think about the project so far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.