Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna

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.

Luna Terminal   Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna

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.

Performance

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.

System Monitor   Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna

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.

Window Buttons   Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna

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.

Default Applications

Geary Email   Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS 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:

Noise Music App   Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna

Conclusion

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.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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65 Comments -

0 votes

Snickers

I tired it long ago and they didn’t support desktop icons. Does it allow desktop icons yet?

0 votes

Lewis Goddard

No, nor is there a plan to.

0 votes
0 votes

Jan Polášek

This is their design decision and I understand it.

0 votes

Snickers

No, thank you then. I will not be trying it out again, unless there is a way to add back desktop icons. I thought Linux is about options? Desktop icons are main thing for many people. Why even have a desktop if you can’t use it?

1 votes

Elpidio S

Been using this OS since release and also ran some of the dev ISO’s. I am so happy with the OS it has become my primary OS of choice.

Also I would like to say great write up Kev!

0 votes

Caleb

@Snickers: There _are_ options. See Kev Q’s reply. I’ve used it personally, with and without desktop icons. It’s awesome. Now, they also have the ability (through 3rd party tweaks) to change the wingpanel (top bar) into a tiny tab — saving you a bit more space, and it looks pretty cool too.

0 votes

thienlh

It looks a lot like Mac OS, too much, and I don’t think It’s a good idea!

0 votes

Kev Q

When you use Luna, it doesn’t actually feel anything like OSX. The only similarities it has really is the dock, and a slightly similar theme.

I also thought this before I used it for the first time, but like I said, when you actually use it, they are nothing alike.

0 votes

Umair M

@snikers, No still not And I kinda like that way. keep the Desktop Clean. And im using Latest Luna. Great OS i will say.

0 votes

thienlh

I’m happing with Ubuntu + gtk3 plane theme, and I think it’s awesome. However, maybe I’ll give it a try one day :)

0 votes

David McMeans

A WM that enforces a clean desktop is the right direction. I’ll have to check this out.

0 votes

michel

No it’s not. Placing icons on the desktop is a feature I’ve used for decades, why would I want to give it up?

0 votes

Mark

@michel, because the desktop is a very sub-optimal window and file manager. Think about it carefully. Just because you have been doing it for 20 years doesn’t mean it is the best way.

0 votes

Vignesh

how easy is it to get apps on the OS? on compatibility? (might be a stupid question)

0 votes

Kev Q

Luna comes with the Ubuntu software centre pre-installed. So it’s exactly the same process as installing applications in Ubuntu. This can be done either via the Ubuntu Software Centre, via .deb files, or via command line using apt-get.

0 votes

dragonmouth

“Luna comes with the Ubuntu software centre pre-installed. So it’s exactly the same process as installing applications in Ubuntu.”
Then why not just use Ubuntu?
From your description Elementary is Ubuntu with some glitz and eye-candy added.

0 votes

Kev Q

@dragonmouth, it’s so much more than that. It’s about as close to Ubuntu as Ubuntu is to Debian. They use the same base code, that’s about it.

Luna has it’s own window manager, file explorer, has different packages by default, and a tonne more. I’ve personally found Luna to be a lot more stable and a hell of a lot quicker than Ubuntu.

1 votes

Vignesh

I gotta agree here with Kev, just installed it this morning… amazingly quick and looks so nice too… and to top it, it is running on my HDD and not on ssd!

Very Impressed…
Thank you

0 votes

Kev Q

Glad you agree Vignesh. It’s a great OS.

0 votes

Kev Q

Glad you agree Vignesh. It’s a great OS.

0 votes

Kev Q

Glad you agree Vignesh. It’s a great OS. :-)

0 votes

Darktux

Ubuntu 12.04 on the basis, so you have Ubuntu software center.

0 votes

Andrew

Hi Kev,
So how stable is it?
I have ubuntu 13 and it crashes atleast once in two days. Do u have the same experience with ubuntu?

0 votes

Kev Q

Hey Andrew,

I personally have found the stability of Ubuntu getting progressively worse since 12.04. I tried 13.04 on my machine and I had a very similar experience as you.

I’m finding Luna to be extremely stable. It never crashes, it’s very quick, and looks great. The only thing I have had problems with is “Noise” the music app. I replaced this with Banshee and I was good to go.

So yeah, all in all, it’s extremely stable.

0 votes

Rafael G

Is it possible to install it on Windows8 pre-installed laptops? because of all the UEFI and that stuff

0 votes
0 votes

Wilhelm V

You can boot into your bios menu and disable UEFI & enable Legacy Boot.

0 votes

Andi SBR

Why it is 0.1 and 0.2, thats not convincing number for representing stability. Is it working well with WINE? is it LTS? i mean an upgrade, that not necessarily to uninstall and make new install when 0.3 is available.

0 votes

Kev Q

I’m not really sure what you mean by “0.1 and 0.2″? This is the stable build, and the ISO that you download is called “elementaryos-stable–.iso”.

Also, I’ve been using Luna since early beta and it has been completely stable throughout, much more so than Ubuntu (for me at least). What the Luna team would call “beta” would be a standard build for most teams. Then their stable release would be more like an LTS. The system is rock solid and I believe the base code from Ubuntu is based on 12.04, which is an LTS release.

With regards to their updates, Luna don’t really have any kind of release schedule, instead they opt for “it’s ready when it’s ready”. So if you have Luna installed, you will have perpetual updates for that version, until the next one.

Think of the update model to be more like Windows that of a typical Linux distro. In Windows you would buy Windows 7 and have updates for the entire time of that release. You will only need to re-install/upgrade when you decide to use Windows 8. Same thing with Elementary, there won’t be another version in 6 months that you need to re-install to use. You just keep running updates. When there next release comes out (probably a couple of years from now based on the time between Jupiter and Luna) then you can choose to re-install then.

If you want more information on their support life cycle then I would visit the official Elementary Q&A – http://elementaryos.org/answers.

I don’t use WINE so I don’t know how well that performs.

0 votes

dragonmouth

“With regards to their updates, Luna don’t really have any kind of release schedule, instead they opt for “it’s ready when it’s ready”.”

That’s the rolling release model. More and more distros are going to it. With rolling release, theoretically you never have to worry about installing a new version, it is installed through the update process.

0 votes

Kev Q

@dragonmouth – that’s incorrect. This isn’t a rolling release model. A rolling release model (like Arch) is when there isn’t additional versions of the operating system. Like you said, you never have to re-install – they just keep releasing the latest versions of applications etc.

For example, you have Ubuntu 10.04, 10.10, 11.04, 11.10, 12.04 etc etc. Each is it’s own version, with it’s own name. With a rolling release like Arch, you only have “Arch”, and that’s it. There isn’t different versions.

This isn’t the case with Elementary. Like I said, this is an update model similar to Windows whereby there are different versions of the operating system (currently Jupiter and Luna), but unlike other distro’s like Ubuntu, they’re not governed by a pre-determined release schedule, like every 6 months.

1 votes

Andi SBR

0.1, 0.2, and 0.3 are the number their (elementaryOS) use for stable release, i read it at elementary page at distrowatch (http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=elementary). So i’m actualy excpecting at least for 1.0, before .
then Im already download it and feel that this distro should stay at my PC with Xubuntu.

I really appreciate your enlightning answer. thats answering all my question. Now im following you at g+. .)

0 votes

Anonymous

Then why not Lubuntu? It runs super smooth on my 1gb DuoCore laptop and looks nice.

0 votes

Kev Q

I’ve actually heard on more than one occasion that people are getting as good as, if not better performance from Luna than they are from Xubuntu and/or Lubuntu. Plus it has all the eye candy.

However, Xubuntu and Lubuntu are both great distro’s, it’s all about choice.

0 votes

Timo R

I’m using elementary since it was an icon theme for gnome. I am now absolutely amazed at what has become of it. Especially considering the few developers who are super dedicated.

The workflow of developing software is super-focussed on “how would we want to use it?” and “How does that help the user?”. Thus, the elementary versions of software are mostly very close to the “Do the one thing you are supposed to do, and do it well.” Paradigm:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_philosophy

The documentation on the code is mostly A+ and not the usual over-the-top-or-non-at-all stuff every programmer wishes for. Vala being a really easy to understand and quick to get into language helps, too. There’s a bunch of help on the projects webpage as well. Organized and not hidden. http://elementaryos.org/developer

A lot of communication is in the irc channel and surprisingly often there is one or more of the actual core developers or at least a dedicated user present to answer questions as to the why and how. http://elementaryos.org/support

I hope there are a bunch of others who enjoy this distribution as much as I do. :)

As for the OSX-like: The difference is about as big as iOS and Android. So yeah, it’s got the launchers, ya know. :D

0 votes

Benjamin Stocker

Re: The window controls. An easier way to change them to your liking is by installing Elementary Tweaks. See here: http://www.elementaryupdate.com/2013/06/finally-elementary-tweaks.html

0 votes

weberc2

Elementary doesn’t make Geary. Yorba does.

0 votes

Kev Q

Yorba & the elementary team actually teamed up and worked together on Geary.

Elementary were originally working on their own email app called Postler, but in the end they teamed up with Yorba to work on Geary. More info here:

http://elementaryos.org/journal/elementary-heart-yorba

0 votes

Surficle

GUI is looking simple and clean!

0 votes

Saumyakanta S

yeah its so much fast , feels like my PC took a new birth

0 votes

Krisna V.

Thanks for the write up.

Does anyone know how well Luna works on older machines (like a P4 at 2.2 GHZ with only a maximum ram capacity of 1 gig)???

I currently have Bodhi Linux installed and it works REALLY well but the desktop (actually, the Enlightenment windows manager) has SO MANY options that it is kind of hard for a nOOb like myself to use.

Oh, and is there a PAE and a NON-pae version available??? It seems like the older machines (circa 2003 to 2005) have a hard time with the PAE linux distros…

0 votes

Kev Q

I can’t say how well it would work with your machine, as my machine is more powerful than this. However, I seen a lot of information about users of other lightweight distro’s like Xubuntu and Lubuntu moving to Luna because of it’s performance and looks.

I’d first of all try a live CD, to make sure you like it. If you do, then use a tool like Clonezilla to back up your machine, install Luna and away you go. If it isn’t as expected, or the performance is bad, then use Clonezilla to get Bhodi back.

This link may help if you don’t know Clonzilla:

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/free-advanced-hard-drive-cloning-solution-from-clonezilla/

0 votes

Anonymous

I have also been following this distro for quite some time and it just keeps getting better ALL the time, despite the long time it took the team to release the final release of Luna but most definitely it was worth it!

0 votes

Joey Kincaid

“If you use Linux, you’ve heard of Elementary. “
Nope, and I’ve used Linux for many years.

0 votes

Luis Caballero

I also have been following the development of Luna for quite some time and it just keeps getting better and better…Isis is on the works…I can just imagine!!!

0 votes

Leoner R

I might try this later. I’ll try to triple boot it with my other OS

0 votes

Noizemancer

I had read this article before, it made me more curious about eOS and after a really rough experience on Ubuntu 13.10, I finally decided to try it out, I wanted to believe and…

I’m a believer! I’m in love with this distro! So much clean, simple, organized and, of course, beautiful. I must say the developers and community made a great job on it and the programs native to the OS. So far I haven’t met any issue I couldn’t resolve by myself or using the forums and comprehensive guides you can find on the web with a simple search.

I must agree with this article on all points, good and bad. Midori is working ok, from time to time I miss some option or function. I plan to use it everyday, but I’m glad I have Firefox right there to save me when I want to.

0 votes

Raul Serrano

Tried it I was dissapointed doesn’t support uefi and I could installed it in my zenbook guess Ubuntu is still far ahead.. Yay I learn my lesson

0 votes

Paul

Just bought a second hand thinkpad – downloaded ubuntu 13.04 and 13.10 – been using ubuntu for years – but thought I would look around at some alternatives – don’t mind unity but find the in your face advertising annoying. Was thinking of switching to mint but then stumbled across elementary. Really impressed. Really like it. Clean, simple, fast – does what you need then gets out the way – I’m sold!

0 votes

Sam

Nice article, thanks. I recently bought a cheap core2duo vostro 230s off ebay to mess about with linux (a yearly event for me to see what I’m ‘missing’) and wasn’t happy with mint, or ubuntu, or xubuntu, or lubuntu, or pinguy, or debian… then eOS graced my virtualbox, then soon after got installed on the desktop.

Simple, clean, very fast, drivers installed perfectly (old school nvidia GT310), everything works. Of course, to be fair, I can run my stuff (sublime text 2, filezilla, lamp, python, java etc…) on other distros. However, this one to me is the whole package, rounded off with a gorgeous modern UI.

0 votes

Andrew A

Hey Kev, i plan using this OS on some slow laptops i have. Would Elementary run on an intel celeron based pc? An Intel atom? And how big of a performance boost from xp to elementary as well as Win7 starter to elementary? Thanks for your time

0 votes

Kev Q

Hi Andrew,

Elementary will most definitely run on both a celeron and atom based machine. The performance obviously won’t be as good as that of a more powerful machine, but I think you will see an improvement.

With regards to how much of an improvement, well, that’s like asking how long is a piece of string. I really don’t know, as I don’t know the system specs of your machines, what they had on them, and what kind of state the current OS is in. It literally differs from machine to machine. However, one thing is for sure, you will see a performance boost on both machines.

Here is a link to the minimum system specs for Luna, as you can see, they are pretty low, and you average Atom netbook should meet/surpass these.

http://elementaryos.org/docs/user-guide/technical-specifications

Good luck, and welcome to Linux! :-)

0 votes

Ashwin D

Interface looks good! Is it a forked version of GNOME 3?

0 votes

Kev Q

No, it’s a completely re-written desktop environment called Pantheon.

0 votes

Dan

Just tried eOS on an Asus eeepc 1000he (2GB ram) and found it slow and buggy. I used the latest stable 32 bit version. The main problems are: latency between clicking on an app in the dock and having the window appear (usually about 4 to 5 seconds to open) and the software centre didn’t finish 2 installs (Dropbox and Scrivener) I had to resort to sudo apt-get to finish.
Looks great though!

I have to say I was using Mint 15 (Olivia) with Mate on the eeepc and it was running fine. It also recognizes all the function keys.

0 votes

Anonymousian

I’ll try this on an HP mini (VIA processor).
One thing remains unanswered: Is this OS PRISM free?

0 votes

exfromtheleft

i just tried it and actualy liked it, but here is my problem how long this effort will go, the community around this os, seems very small, it’s an open source project and i love the open source but how long this very small team can keep this up? how can i be sure that in 6 months, the team won’t just stop the development and support of this OS?

0 votes

Salts

The simple answer is you can never be sure, that said, the more support a distro has the better chance it has of surviving, by using it you add to the user base and this gives the developers a sense of achievement and inspires them and attracts more developers.

http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=popularity shows it is growing quite well in popularity.

As it is based on Ubuntu LTS then the base OS is supported until 2017, which should give a bit more comfort.

Bottom line if you like it, use it, you will be helping the team to grow.

0 votes

Sam

It’s a tacky under-resourced effort to copy OSX, and not a very convincing copy at that. The dock, multitask switcher (launchpad) are all cribbed directly out of the latest release of Mountain Lion.

Major Issues:

1) The difference is in the details, as always, the fonts in elementary are beyond hideous and make you long for Windows 7 (yes, they’re that bad,they don’t even look proportionally spaced).

2) The removal of desktop icons is a dumb idea, period. it was a dumb idea when gnome 3 tried it, it’s a dumb idea here, and breaks a very common workflow for literally millions and millions of users.

3) The UI is fast, but it’s also spartan. lots of menus are hidden under the corner gear, which is fine, but it’s not immediately apparent why it’s necessary, it just creates a lot of clutter on the single menu.

All in all, stick to Ubuntu, it aways has the latest kernel, and the design team is top notch always trying to innovate on UI elements (HUD, lenses, fonts, icons) and while Canonical does it’s share of borrowing from Apple, it does it in a tasteful way. ElementaryOS is a rather ham-fisted attempt to copy OSX, and does it at the expense of aesthetics and functionality.

Finally, a note on aesthetics, there’s a reason the most successful OS’ from a design perspective have an in-house UX team that’s dedicated to design and not popular opinion, the same thing that motivated Apple to simply adopt its own UI paradigms rather than the then-popular task bar, and Canonical to adopt Unity instead of the throwback Gnome 2.X UI is what is obviously missing here. They tried to make a minimal desktop, without understanding the first rule of good UX design is ALWAYS function over form. Some function can be sacrificed where it makes sense, but here they’ve sacrificed key UI elements, and the form itself (windows, fonts) are poorly drawn and totally inexcusable.

If you are a design-conscious Linux user, this isn’t what you want, what you want is Ubuntu 13.10 and up…

0 votes

exfromtheleft

yes because 13.10 is all about desktop icons right? anyway, after a long hesitation between eOs and Xubuntu, idecided to go with eOs and even donated a few bucks to support the project, that’s the best i can do for now as far as support is concerned!

will the next released based on 12.04 or the next ubuntuu LTS i.e. 14.04?

0 votes

matheus

how would i intall photoshop on it? and premiere pro? and some other adobe programs that require firewall bockege etc. i know there is wine but im not familar with any of it used ubuntu for one month i couldnt get my mouse razer deathader the program that controls sensiblity to work.
- what i would need is (1- adobe work on it; 2- my mouse sensibility and macros)

ps. im realy noob with terminal stuff very very noob

0 votes

Kev Q

The only reason you would need “firewall blockage” for any Adobe products is if you are using an illegal copy and don’t want your copy to access the Adobe authentication servers. Besides, Adobe products don’t run on Linux, if you want to use them, you could try Adobe creative suite which is a browser based, subscription service from Adobe.

As for the mouse, I can’t really provide support on specific issues, as that’s not really what I’m here for. However, you could head over to the Elementary OS forums for help. They’re usually pretty good. If that fails, then go to the Ubuntu forums as eOS is based on Ubuntu.

0 votes

Mo

Another longstanding Linux user who has only today found this OS by sheer co-incidence whilst searching for an answer to a Midori question!

Sounds awesome but can I dual boot with Ubuntu? If I load the Live CD does it give me a chance to partition the drive?

0 votes

jungle_man

Excellent review!
Goodbye ubuntu, goodbye Nadia, goodbye Petra, sorry girls but, Luna arrived!
Welcome Luna!
It was love at first sight!
All apps running fine, smooth and quickly!