The desktop wars are back. Ubuntu’s new Unity desktop will make its premier later this month, and Gnome 3 is well under way. If you’re not so sure about the direction these new interfaces are taking, you might well prefer Elementary’s approach. Built on top of the classic Gnome interface with an additional dock, Elementary does all it can not to bother the user with excess information. The result is an operating system, and a series of new programs, with really clean interfaces.
You’ll find a free bittorrent download of Elementary over at ElementaryOS.org, or you can order a disk for $10. Whatever you decide to do, keep reading to see what you’ll soon have.
The main user interface will be familiar to most long time Linux users; it’s basically Gnome. The top panel and menu, for example, are fairly standard:
The difference in this distro to most can be subtle. Check out the file browser, for example:
If you’ve ever installed Nautilus Elementary this will be immediately familar to you. It’s basically the same program as Nautilus, just refined for the sack of simplicity. Most of the core apps that make up Elementary are altered in this way. A couple were created specifically for this project.
The default email program, for example, is Postler. Based on the same core as Evolution, the usual default email program for Gnome, Postler “aims to be easy, simple, clean, beautiful, and automagic” according to its creators.
The initial setup screen certainly delivers at that:
Setting up my Gmail account couldn’t have been simpler, and once I did the user interface for checking my mail was beautiful:
I hope the core Evolution team takes a few pages out of Postler’s paybook, because this is really nice. Want to learn more about Postler, or download it for your current Linux distro? Find more about Postler here.
Another change in Postler, and all core Elementary programs: there’s no top menu bar. Elementary instead tries to make use of a Chrome-style “AppMenu” in its core programs:
Whether you like this is a matter of opinion, of course, but I think it’s an improvement.
Complimenting Postler is Dexter, a very simple address book application. There’s not much else to say about this; you can import contacts from elsewhere or create your own:
This program integrates really well with Postler, so check it out in Elementary or find out more about Dexter here.
This Mac-style dock makes managing your programs easier, but it’s not for everyone. Opinion will be divided on this one.
It’s worth noting that you’re not limited in terms of your choice of applications; you have access to the Ubuntu Software Center and all the software it offers.
Also feel free to read the comments below, because our readers post great tips and questions. Come to think of it, feel free to post great tips and questions!