Elementary OS is a Linux distribution that has been making waves as of late. For a lot of people, including our own Akshata, it made them switch to Elementary OS full-time from Windows. However, the latest stable release, “Luna”, is becoming quite old. Now, we’re getting a glimpse at the first beta of the next release, codenamed “Freya”.
What’s new in Freya, and is it worth upgrading or switching to it from other distributions? Let’s take a look.
Elementary OS appears to only make new releases each time there is a new LTS release of Ubuntu. However, it’s been several months since a new Ubuntu LTS release came out, so Freya is long overdue. I was curious to try Luna out on my computer, but the software and kernel that it included were too old to support my MacBook Pro Retina.
First of all, Freya comes with all of the latest package versions across the board. This includes a much newer kernel, updated desktop environment (primarily the updated Gnome backend), and included applications have been updated as well. Of course, anyone who’s been using Linux for a while can assume this. However, some users of the distribution may have switched over from Windows or Mac OS X and may not have been aware of this.
This reason alone is enough for current users of Elementary OS to upgrade to the new release. Current Luna users are using software that’s 2 years old now, and there have been a massive amount of improvements since then. Upgrading to the new release will provide more features, better performance, and better power savings.
Unique Desktop Environment
Other improvements found in Freya make the distribution even easier to use. I really enjoy its implementation of Gnome Shell which is called Pantheon — it keeps the same design on the desktop, but adds a dock to the bottom so that you can manage your open windows (and favorite applications) more traditionally instead of Gnome Shell’s vision of using an unlimited amount of virtual desktops.
There are also some other tweaks added, such as a translucent top panel, and an Applications menu they call “Slingshot” instead of the Activities view. The menu is also quite nice — it shows you your most recently used applications and you can simply search for what you want to open, or you can easily switch to a more familiar menu-driven application launcher.
Overall, there are just a lot of tweaks in every corner of the distribution. These tweaks are meant to make the distribution look nice and to keep things simple. The theme, Granite, received a lot of updates and also now uses the latest GTK 3.12 framework. However, there aren’t any major, drastic changes to the distribution — anyone who’s gotten comfortable using Luna can upgrade to Freya and get right to work. Instead, these changes are a lot more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This is all to make the distribution up-to-date and polished, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Besides that, there really isn’t a whole lot different when compared to Luna. As I’ve mentioned, Freya is more evolution (toward updated packages) rather than revolution with any large changes that may throw users off.
Who’s It For?
Elementary OS, while capable of handling power users, isn’t focusing on them; instead, the distribution’s focus is all about beginners and people who just want a simple system they can use without any fuss. Therefore, there are lots of reasons for people to switch to Elementary OS Freya. These reasons include:
- Current Luna users can upgrade to take advantage of the updated software (seriously, please upgrade)
- Users of other distributions can switch to a prettier or easier distribution
- Users of Windows or Mac OS X can switch to an easy-to-learn-and-use Linux distribution
For new converts, I’d probably still recommend using Linux Mint with either Cinnamon or MATE, but Elementary OS seems to work wonders for some people so I wouldn’t hesitate one bit to recommend it as well. However, Linux in general can definitely become a genuine replacement for your current proprietary operating system.
If you’re happy with your current distribution or operating system, then there’s no need to switch. Freya is really only best for the above three reasons.
If you’re interested in getting Freya, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the official stable release. You can, however, go ahead and grab the current beta (scroll down to the bottom of the page, above the comments, for the download links) and try it out in a live environment or virtual machine. Heck, even though the developers warn that it’s unstable, it’s been very stable in my experience after installing all of the latest updates, so I’d say that it’s safe to install on your computer (unless you depend on it to do critical work).
Freya Is Worth It
Freya continues to be an excellent release of Elementary OS, even though there aren’t really any major new features to talk about. It’s polished, it’s clean, and it works well. That’s exactly what the developers are going for with it, in hopes of attracting potential Linux users with a pleasant first-time experience. That’s a big reason why it’s been making a wave this year as anticipation for this new release grows. If that’s something that appeals to you, you should definitely try it out.
What’s your opinion of Elementary OS? Is it a good approach for a Linux desktop or do you dislike certain aspects? Let us know in the comments!