7 New Raspbian Features to Start Using on Your Raspberry Pi
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Think you know the Raspberry Pi’s default operating system, Raspbian? Think again!

Over the last few releases, a bunch of new features have been added. Here’s what to look out for, why these features are useful, and how you can start making the most of them.

1. Setup Wizard

Raspbian's new getting started feature

If you’ve ever installed Raspbian on to your Raspberry Pi’s SD card, you’ll probably know that started can be a bit of a pain. You can use the standard installation, or rely on NOOBS, but neither of these things offers an easy setup. There’s the PiBakery, for configuring your Raspbian installation before the image is written to SD card, but other than that, there’s a bit of tweaking required.

Not anymore.

With the June 2018 release of Raspbian comes the Setup Wizard, which lets you set your country and language, enter a new password, connect to a Wi-Fi network, and check for updates. Not only does this give you the best possible user experience, it also gets you online quickly, and overcomes that famous Raspberry Pi security issue: the pi/raspberry username and password combination that everyone knows.

You won’t need this on an already-setup Raspberry Pi, but if you’re curious, you can install the Setup Wizard to take a look at it:

sudo apt install piwiz

2. Pi Compatibility

Two different Raspberry Pi models

You can get hold of several different models of Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi Board Guide: Zero vs. Model A and B The Raspberry Pi Board Guide: Zero vs. Model A and B With so many different Raspberry Pi models, how do you know which one to buy? Our ultimate guide tells you everything you need to know! Read More , and thanks to the efforts of the Raspbian development team, the operating system runs well on all of them.

Due to hardware differences, however, some applications don’t run on lower-spec models. For instance, the Raspberry Pi Zero and original Raspberry Pi cannot run the Chromium browser (although several alternatives are available 8 Great Browsers You Can Run on Your Raspberry Pi 3 8 Great Browsers You Can Run on Your Raspberry Pi 3 Several browsers are available for the Raspberry Pi, but which is best? Should you stick with Chromium, or try one of the others? Let's find out! Read More ).

This means that instructions for performing tasks, building projects, whatever you’re doing, are the same regardless of Pi model.

3. Recommended Software Tool

Long ago, the Raspberry Pi Foundation introduced the Pi Store, a browser-based app store for Raspbian. Within, you could find software suitable for running on the Raspberry Pi, everything from popular third party apps to amateur creations.

For some reason, this was retired, and more and more software was bundled with each Raspbian release.

Until June 1018, however, when Raspbian’s image size was reduced. This was done by cutting the number of apps bundled with the operating system. Via the new Recommended Software tool, however, these apps can be installed if required, as long as your Pi is connected to the internet.

After updating your Raspberry Pi, you can add the Recommended Software tool with

sudo apt install rp-prefapps

You’ll find the new Recommended Software tool in Menu > Preferences.

4. Chromium-Based Help Files

Raspbian includes help files to get you started with Raspberry Pi

The latest version of Chromium is bundled into new Raspbian builds, and this now includes the arrival of some improved help files.

While older, lower-spec Raspberry Pis cannot run Chromium, the Raspberry Pi 2 and later can. Just make sure you keep the number of open tabs to a minimum! The June 2018 update of Raspbian features Chromium version 65 and some updated links to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website.

You’ll also find a new Get Started option in the desktop Help menu, linking to new help pages to help you get your Raspberry Pi up and running. Look out for tips and tricks for using the computer’s key features.

5. PDF Viewer Replaced

For a long time, the Raspberry Pi’s main operating system (many others are available 10 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi 10 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi The hardware of the Raspberry Pi alone is only one side of the story: Today I explore 10 different Operating Systems you can install. Read More ) shipped with a built in PDF viewer, Xpdf. Easy enough to use, Xpdf was first released in 1995 and hasn’t improved considerably since then. It struggles with media-heavy PDFs too. It’s more suited to text-only documents.

The solution for Raspbian users has been to employ a different PDF reader, but in 2018 a new PDF reader has been added to the operating system.

Known as qpdfView, this is a document viewer with a tabbed interface, with search feature, configurable toolbars and keyboard shortcuts, thumbnail panes, multi-page layouts, form support, and compatibility with PostScript and DjVu documents. In short, it’s better than Xpdf.

Add qpdfView (and uninstall Xpdf) to an existing Raspbian installation with:

sudo apt install qpdfview
sudo apt purge xpdf

6. Screen Resolution and Pixel Doubling

Alter the appearance of your Raspbian desktop

As of March 2018, Raspbian has a new feature that improves support for the vast number of display types. Even standard desktop displays have a number of differences between how they display the output from your computer.

For powerful desktops with a lot of processing power and space, this is probably not a big issue… But it’s a different situation for little Raspberry Pis.

The Appearances Settings box (in Menu > Preferences) has been revised to feature a new Defaults tab. This allows screens in three categories (small, medium, and large) to have default icon size, font size, and other settings applied.

On the matter of display settings, Pixel Doubling has also been added. This is for ultra-high resolution displays, and is aimed more at Raspbian x86 rather than the Raspberry Pi version. Pixels can appear very small with UHD resolution displays, so enabling Pixel Doubling will beef things up a bit, converting every single pixel to a blockier 2×2 pixel.

Find Pixel Doubling in the Raspberry Pi Configuration tool, either on the desktop, or via:

sudo raspi-config

7. Network Booting

Raspberry Pi Model 3B+

Usually, you’ll boot your Raspberry Pi from the SD card. You might even boot from a USB device. But thanks to a new feature, it’s now possible to boot your Raspberry Pi over Ethernet, using a central server.

This utilizes Preboot eXecution Environment (or PXE, pronounced “pixie”), and is widely known as network boot. PXE has been around in desktops and servers for many years, but its addition to Raspbian makes it possible to set up one or more Raspberry Pis as thin clients.

Check our guide for the full steps on booting your Raspberry Pi from the network How to Network Boot a Raspberry Pi Without a MicroSD Card How to Network Boot a Raspberry Pi Without a MicroSD Card These days you can run your Raspberry Pi using network boot, eliminating the need for microSD cards completely. Read More .

How to Stay Up-to-Date on Raspbian

Don’t have any of these features, or want to ensure your Raspbian OS is always up-to-date 5 Reasons to Update Your Raspberry Pi and Raspbian Regularly 5 Reasons to Update Your Raspberry Pi and Raspbian Regularly Lagging behind on Raspberry Pi updates can cause a lot of frustrations in the long run. Read More ?

Well, you could simply start all over again with a fresh install. To do this, simply download a new image from raspberrypi.org/downloads and install the IMG file to your SD card How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi Here's how to get a new OS installed and running on your Pi – and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More .

If you prefer to upgrade an existing installation, however, simply open the terminal and enter:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Doing this on a weekly or monthly basis will ensure your Raspberry Pi is running the most recent version of the operating system, and all packaged software.

To sum up, Raspbian has had the following features added in 2018:

  • Setup wizard
  • Backwards compatibility
  • Recommended software tool
  • New PDF viewer, qpdfView
  • Chromium update and web-based help files
  • Screen resolution and pixel doubling
  • Network booting (PXE)

What’s more, it isn’t only for Raspberry Pi computers. There’s a version of Raspbian for x86 desktop Raspberry Pi Launches PIXEL for PC and Mac Raspberry Pi Launches PIXEL for PC and Mac The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released PIXEL on PC and Mac. This means that anyone can enjoy the same experience even when switching from a Raspberry Pi to a PC or Mac. Read More and laptop computers too!

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  1. Diogene
    July 14, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Raspian is good for beginners or educational uses for a advanced user is more similar to a trash full of junk.
    To many useless stuff sucking resources, long boot time and many more isuee .
    Use a plain Debian or a armbian and customize to your need for dedicated use of your raspberry pi.

  2. Ben
    July 14, 2018 at 10:02 am

    I know for a fact you can run Chromium (the built in browser) on a Raspberry Pi Zero. It's slow, sure but it still works. It won't work without the W model or an after, but it still works!

  3. Andrew
    July 14, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Under number 3 it says June 1018. Should be 2018.