Elementary OS Freya: The Next Major Update To A Rising Linux Distro

Danny Stieben 29-09-2014

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 Why I Switched From Windows 7 to Elementary OS Luna Bye bye, Windows. Hello, Linux! Here's what convinced me that eOS Luna is a better bet than Windows 7. Read More . However, the latest stable release, “Luna”, is becoming quite old Looking For A Beautiful, Easy To Use Linux Distro? Try Elementary OS Luna Elementary OS Luna is a lot more than Ubuntu with some tweaks and a nice theme. Here's what to expect. Read More . 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.

Release Schedule

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.

Updated Packages

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.

Polish-Oriented Tweaks

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 Making Linux a Genuine Windows Replacement With Windows 8 casting a long shadow over the PC industry and Valve committing to create Linux-based gaming PCs, there's never been a better time to start using Linux. For many users, the Linux desktop... Read More .

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.

Getting Freya

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!

Related topics: Linux Distro, Linux Elementary.

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  1. Mosskin Woast
    April 10, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Pantheon is entirely home-grown, it's not an implementation of Gnome Shell. Please correct this.

  2. Caleb
    January 25, 2015 at 12:33 am

    I installed Elementary OS Luna on my old computer that ran window XP 3 days ago just to give it a try after my bad week long experience with Ubuntu last year. I can now gladly say my main windows 8 machine will soon be dual booted after i finish this last game using Unity3D. When i do download it for my main pc i will also be donating somewhere in the triple digits, this OS is so fast and elegant i cannot thank the Elementary team enough!!

  3. Steven Kornegay
    January 12, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    The performance of my wife's Samsung AIO was horrific with Windows 8.1 installed. She was constantly frustrated by the click and wait. I thought that her wireless card was having issues. Now under Elementary OS Luna, it just works. She is much happier and even enjoys finding work arounds for the few tasks that are different than they were under Windows.

  4. jokakis
    January 5, 2015 at 1:37 am

    I am a converts, I converted from windows, I hate the sluggishness of windows if we use it for hours + antivirus in background... so laptop is not a super computer with bigger ram or super graphic card, I use it only for coding, so I am super happy and satisfied with eOs, I uninstalled windows and no more dualbooting, I use it in daily basis of my work...

  5. ALex
    December 21, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    It is one of the most stable Linux distros, and if you are not a game addict -- a perfect replacement for Windows with its viruses and cluttered gui. Installing a couple more apps, like Thunderbird mail manager or Open Office suite, on top of default apps won't hurt especially if you keep in mind that installing a new copy of windoze on a virgin laptop will also require manual installation of all drivers. At least it was so 5 years ago when i completely abandoned windoze for Tux.

    • Steven
      December 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      PlayOnLinux and a decent Nvidia video card removes the excuses for gamers. I installed Steam through PlayOnLinux and Skyrim plays at UltraHigh settings. Seriously, there is no excuse not to dual boot it with whatever Windows flavor you use and try it yourself.

    • Euan
      December 26, 2014 at 11:42 am

      I am just giving eOS a go from Windows 10 and am really enjoying it. Found that WPS Office is also a good Office replacement.

  6. Anna
    December 15, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I'm the perfect guinea pig and I'm guessing one of the main intended audiences for elementary OS - a life-long Windows user who is sick and tired of how slow, virus-ridden and cluncky Windows is. I just swithed to Freya a week ago. So, what is my opinion of elementary OS Freya so far?...
    1. The system boots faster than I can sit in my chair and pull out the keyboard tray (3 seconds?)
    2. It is so fast, clean, well-organized, intuitive, and easy to use
    3. I replaced a few stock apps with LibreOffice, VLN, Skype, and some back-up apps, but I'm not one of those people who minds having to install a few additional programs to get up and running
    4. It supports my new Intel NUC hardware really well
    5. This is how computing should be for the masses
    6. I will never go back to Windows !
    Thank you, elementary OS team! I will make my donation to your website now.

  7. Steven Kornegay
    December 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Downloaded Luna last week and dual boot with Windows 8.1. So far, I have not gone back into Windows. My major requirements for a Linux distro is to work with Netflix and play Skyrim. I can gladly say that both of these are achieved with elementary OS. Happy, happy, happy!

    I will probably remove the dual boot with a fresh install of Freya stable!

    • Steven Kornegay
      December 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      I removed the dual boot and am Windows free. We even removed Win 8.1 from my wife's Samsung AIO and installed Luna. She can't wait for Freya and her touchscreen access.

      Great job guys! We will be contributing!

  8. utiac
    November 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Elementary OS gets a big thumbs up from me. I'm a seasoned linux user going back to the pre 1.0 kernels and Slackware distro and I feel eOS is elegant and lightweight, yet can be made (like most linux distros) into whatever you want. For me that included updating some of the default apps and adding others that I use daily, but are not included. While lightweight in terms of its out of the box hardware requirements, there is nothing preventing you from adding any software package you need.

    Many of the complaints I read above are from people who seem unwilling to invest time into discovering the OS and its capabilities. or even simply learning how to replace a default app they don't like with one they do. Yes some other distros have more default apps, but with eOS you get a well-rounded starting point and don't have to remove a lot of unnecessary clutter.

  9. nayooti
    November 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I used Gnome before Elementary OS, and what freaked me out was, that it randomly deactivated all the tweaks.
    After some modifications I am more than happy with Elementary OS (luna). I had Freya on my machine for testing, but my problem was, that most themes/icon sets don't support Freya yet, and honestly, I need a little bit of eye candy.
    But I am really looking foward to the online account integration in Freya,

  10. Dunstan Nesbit
    October 4, 2014 at 1:09 am

    I've try Elementary OS in the past and it's not that much different from Gnome 3.x. It looks good but looks ain't all. Suffers from the same reason I don't use Gnome 3.x much, the primart reason being Nautilus. The Gnome team has dumb down Nautilus so much that it's practically useless for power users. Any task that requires a significant amount of file management such as system administration or programming Nautilus is a pain to use. The Elementary OS team should really consider dropping Nautilus as their default file manager pick something else. Maybe Nemo? I think this would be better for the distro in the long make it a better out of the experience for expert users and possibly increasing their market share.

    • Pol
      October 10, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Nautilus? They use Marlin.

    • Nick
      December 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Am I missing something here? I just have to ask why, if you are a sysadmin or programmer you would require anything other than a shell or your editor/IDE to do file management tasks? Not trying to be condecending, just wondering if a file manager wouldn't actually slow me down. I have used Luna for about eight months now and I love it! When I have to do hardcore anything I just use the shell...

  11. petermolnar
    October 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Gala is not a Gnome Shell variant; it's using libmutter, but not the rest.

  12. Mac
    October 3, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Freya is being reworked from the ground up to remove most if not all dependencies on ubnutu. It will be based off Debian so much more stable but with home grown apps for the most part.

  13. Patrik Andersson
    October 3, 2014 at 6:39 am

    eOS is for me a perfect blend of ease of use, stability and eye candy!)

  14. Bob
    October 3, 2014 at 2:52 am

    I tried it but was put off by the way too far out of date applications. LTS is nice but I needed the latest, proper packages of applications and not lightweight. The distro just wasn't designed for me in the end so I switched to Xubuntu which has the theming already in it that gives the OS X like looks and added the Ubuntu 14.04 ppa's for the applications I must have bleeding edge support for outside of what came with the 14.04 LTS which is a lot more up to date than Elementary. Add in the intel graphics installer package wanting to see Ubuntu 14.04 for getting the latest drivers for the embedded graphics drivers installed and Xubuntu became my daily driver replacing Mint which I could hack a bit to make the drivers installed but don't want to keep doing all the time and into the future. Latest libimobiledevice was needed to make the families iPhone and iPad devices work while I needed my Android devices supported... this also killed Elementary in my eyes and let me compromise between going fully back to Ubuntu landing halfway inbetween with Xubuntu.

  15. miah
    October 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    what do you mean "implementation of the gnome shell"?

  16. Luis A Ramos Jr
    September 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I have try out Linux Mint before but not Elementary OS yet and might put in on a old HP desktop tower computer that I got as long as it runs on old hardware that was made for Windows XP SP3.

  17. Yosua Wisnu
    September 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    I dual boot eOS Luna and Win7, spent most of my time with eOS Luna.
    Arguably best linux UI and UX implementation. Elementary OS is milestone of modern linux, i think its a role model for linux UI and UX.
    Fastest booting time of all buntus, fastest response time, its snappiest linux I've ever use.

  18. scooter
    September 30, 2014 at 12:57 am

    What sort of computer resources does this distro require? Just wondering if it might work on an old windows xp laptop with very limited resources.

    • salparadise
      October 3, 2014 at 3:51 am

      I had it installed on a Samsung 10" netbook (1Gig Atom chip and 1GIG RAM). It worked, but was rather slow and a bit crashy.

    • salparadise
      October 3, 2014 at 4:00 am

      I thought elementary Luna was rather well done. Very polished. My only ciriticism was the choice of default Apps. Geary is pretty dire as an email program and the midori browser just doesn't work properly at all.
      The latest version 'Freya' is not as consistent as Luna. Whether that's down to it not being a final release yet I'm not sure. I queried the fact that the Movie app and the Terminal app were differently themed to the rest of the OS but was told it was intentional. I stopped using eOS around that point as I discovered Voyager Linux (better than eOS for the most part IMO).
      I wish them well - making something unique amidst a sea of slightly varying distros is a herculean task.

  19. Kai M.
    September 29, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for the review Danny. I'll have to check it out. Any idea when Freya stable is due to be released?

  20. James Bruce
    September 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I'd like to know why Apple hasn't sued them yet...

    • Jeroen
      October 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Because it is not a Apple clone. You can't sue anyone for using a dock.

    • Vinicius
      November 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      In fact, I've heard that Pear OS were discontinued because of supposed threat that the developers could have had by Apple... Pear OS was really declared as an OSX clone...

    • Alejandro
      April 30, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      I'm not very on the mood of taking everybody to court because of nonsenses. It should be forbidden to patent everything, because its not good for individuals

  21. Jim from PA
    September 29, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I applaud Elementary for improving the overall look of the distro. But the applications are lightweight. I prefer to use either Firefox or Chrome browsers and Libreoffice. The Greybird theme available for all the Ubuntu forks, and looks similar to OSX. So there are less reasons to stick with Elementary. To its credit, Elementary is indeed fast. The new Ubuntu Mate distro is an exciting release combining the menu structure and navigation of GTK2 with the kernel performance of GTK3. The great thing about linux is choice, where you can get pretty much anything you want in between the light and the fully loaded distros.

  22. Adam C
    September 29, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Elementary OS is the best! This is my go-to operating system for when I don't specifically need Windows. IMHO elementary is set apart from other OSes because it is quite lovely to look at and because it is released "when it is ready" rather than on a schedule. Great article!

  23. Scott M
    September 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I was really impressed by the look of the current version, but was turned off when Netflix didn't work oob. Now that Netflix has an official working linux config, I'd be glad to try again when it comes out stable.