If you use Linux, you’ve heard of Elementary. They started out as a group of people that created a beautiful theme for Linux-based operating systems, but soon progressed to creating a number of small apps that were based around simplicity and beauty – like Geary, for email.
Since those days the Elementary team have progressed a lot. In fact, they just released the second version of their complete operating system, dubbed Elementary OS Luna. It’s beautiful, elegant and possibly the best Linux experience out there right now.
Back in 2011, Justin reviewed the original Elementary OS, Jupiter – which was then merely a stock version of Ubuntu 10.04 with a lot of tweaks under the hood and a make over on top. It looked good and worked great, but for Elementary OS Luna the team have done a whole lot more. This includes writing their own window manager, desktop environment, file explorer, and a number of other applications – all of which are based around this concept of beauty meets simplicity.
Elementary OS Luna is a lot more than Ubuntu with some tweaks and a nice theme. Here’s what to expect.
Just For Beginners?
The general consensus amongst the Linux community is that Elementary OS Luna is designed for Linux beginners, rather than power users. But why? Just because it looks good and is easy to use? By that logic all Linux administrators or power users should use a crappy looking OS that’s really difficult to use. Is this some sort of right of passage to allow Linux power users to earn themselves this title? I disagree with that.
The function of an operating system is to manage your apps, and then get out of the way. You shouldn’t have to waste time fixing or tweaking it. Elementary OS Luna allows me to do just that, and it looks great whilst it’s at it. Users who are new to Linux will undoubtedly like Elementary OS as they won’t be overwhelmed with a bunch of options, nor will they need to jump into a terminal window as soon as they boot up.
On the flip side, power users like me that don’t want to spend hours tweaking their system will be equally at home. But what if you are a tinkerer? What if you need to get your terminal fix every time you boot your machine? Well, that’s fine too as Elementary OS Luna is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and therefore uses the apt package manager.
So if you’re at home with your “sudo apt-get” commands, then you will be right at home in an Elementary OS Luna terminal window. Not only that but the Ubuntu Software Centre is also included by default so you can take advantage of all the great Ubuntu repo’s, and easily install software with a single click.
I’m running Elementary OS Luna on quite a modest desktop PC, with just 3GB RAM and a dual core 3.0GHz Intel Core2Duo CPU. It’s no powerhouse that’s for sure, but Elementary OS Luna runs exquisitely.
It takes around 10 seconds to boot up and there is no lag on any applications that I run. I launch an app, and it’s there within a second or two, ready and raring to go. This is far more than I can say for other Linux distributions, like Ubuntu 13.04, which have been nothing but trouble for me.
Looking at the system monitor on my machine, I can see that 1.8GB of my RAM is being used up, but around 1.3GB of that is being used by applications like LibreOffice, Google Chrome, and my Google Drive sync tool, InSync.
With my CPU also ticking along at around 15-20% usage, I still have a lot of resources left for when I want to do things like play a little Minecraft.
Look & Feel
The default look of Elementary OS Luna is simply gorgeous. It has an application dock at the bottom of the screen, and a panel at the top which features your application menu, clock, and system tray.
The theme throughout the OS is a very elegant grey and blue one that is easy on the eye. Elementary OS Luna doesn’t quite work like a “normal” operating system, in that you use the dock to manage the applications that you have open, instead of the panel like in Windows. So any applications that are open will be pinned to dock and you can minimise/maximise them by clicking the corresponding icon.
Windows users may find this way of working to be a little alien, but it does become second nature very quickly. Mac users should take to this very easily as it is a similar way of working to that of OSX.
The default window buttons are a little strange, being a close icon to the far left, and a maximise button to the far right. That’s it, no minimise button, and no cluster of buttons on either side. I personally found this the most difficult change to get used to in Elementary OS Luna, so I decided to perform a quick ‘hack’ to change the window buttons to how I like them, which is on the right like in Windows.
Quick tip: If you want to get “normal” window buttons back then install “dconf editor” from the software centre, open it and go to org > pantheon > desktop > gala > appearance, and change the button-layout option to “:minimize,maximize,close”. This will give you the familiar cluster of minimise, maximise, and close to the right of all windows. If you want them on the left then enter “close,maximize,minimize:” instead.
Apart from the window button change, the only other change to the default look & feel of Luna is the desktop wallpaper. Considering I usually hack my OS’s to pieces once they are installed, these two very small changes to be the only changes I needed to make is a testament to the work that the Elementary team have done with Luna.
There are a number in in-house application that have been created by the Elementary team, and I believe there are more to follow. Since these applications have been built in-house they have all been created with the elegant simplicity mantra that everything conforms too in Luna. Here are some of the default applications you will find in Elementary OS Luna:
- Geary – A very simple email application. It’s not as feature rich as other email apps like Thunderbird & Evolution, but it’s a great app for those that just want email without the bells and whistles.
- Maya (Calendar) – The calendar app is very simple and easy to use, but not having the ability to sync with my Google Calendar is a deal breaker for me. So I won’t be using it.
- Midori (Web Browser) – this is the web browser that is used in Luna. Although not built in-house by the Elementary team, it is still a very simple, and quick browser. However, I feel that Midori just isn’t up to par with other browsers like Google Chrome, so I chose to replace it.
- Totem (Movie Player) – Totem is a great little app that’s easy to use, and works really well, and comes with a ton of CODEC’s by default.
- Noise (Music Player) – I can’t speak highly enough of Noise. It’s a superb application that has the right amount of functionality, yet a really simple interface. I love this app.
- There are more standard apps like a text editor, PDF reader, terminal, and screen shot taking tool.
I’ve been following the development of Elementary OS Luna very closely over the last few years. It’s a great OS that is feature rich, works brilliantly and is super fast. Luna has most definitely earned itself a regular spot on my hard drive, and I won’t be removing it any time soon.
What do you guys think of it though? Is it too simple for you? Or maybe the new way of working if just too much of a change from the norm? We would love to hear your thoughts on Elementary OS Luna.