Linux

Want to Install Elementary OS? 8 Reasons Why You Should!

Bertel King Updated 17-12-2019

Many of us have watched elementary OS from a distance over the years. We’ve loved the screenshots, but the experience wasn’t quite ready.

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That isn’t the case anymore. In the newer releases, elementary OS has really come into its own. If you’re sitting on the fence wondering if now’s the time to make the switch, there are quite a few reasons the answer might be Yes.

1. elementary OS Has a Clear Identity and Vision

elementary OS 5.1 Hera comes with a new onboarding experience

The difference between most Linux operating systems (“distros”) is hard to describe to people. Fedora, openSUSE, and Ubuntu all provide largely the same software. They may not use the same package formats or provide identical default experiences, but you could spend the better part of one or two podcast episodes discussing the differences and still not walk away with a clear answer.

That isn’t the case with elementary OS. This Linux operating system has its own desktop environment (called Pantheon Pantheon Explained: A Look at the Minimalist Elementary OS Desktop Considering Elementary OS, or just want to install the Pantheon desktop on your current version of Linux? Here's everything you need to know about the most popular minimalist desktop for Linux, Pantheon. Read More , but you don’t need to know that). It has its own user interface, and it has its own apps. This all makes elementary OS instantly recognizable.

It also makes the entire project easier to explain and recommend to others.

2. elementaryOS Is Easy to Learn

elementary OS has a minimalist design

elementary OS is simple. When you fire up the desktop for the first time, it takes mere seconds to figure everything out. You launch applications from the menu in the top-left corner labeled Applications. When you do, they appear in the dock at the bottom, where you can also save your favorites.

Indicators in the top-right let you tweak volume, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and power settings. There you can also check notifications and restart your computer. At the top of the screen, you will find the date and time.

Switch between apps by clicking their icons in the dock. Open AppCenter to install more apps or updates.

That’s it. Sure, there are keyboard shortcuts you could learn and a few settings you can tweak, but you now know how to use elementary OS.

3. The Interface Is Consistent

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. When you open up an app in elementary OS, it looks and works similarly to the one you opened before. That’s because the team has not only established clear design guidelines The Differences Between Linux's Human Interface Guidelines Ever encountered a Linux app that looks ugly and seems unusable? It's why desktops have human interface guidelines. Windows and macOS have these guidelines. What about Linux? Read More , but it sticks to them.

Elementary (the company) also makes it easy for other developers to create apps that conform to the rules. App makers aren’t left wondering how many pixels should go between buttons in the toolbar.

This means once you learn how to use one elementary OS app, you’ve largely figured out how to use the next one. I find it jarring to switch from a GTK-based app to a KDE one. Even going from a GNOME app to a GTK one like GIMP or LibreOffice can be jarring. elementary OS isn’t immune to this issue, but at least all of the software designed for elementary is similar.

4. elementary OS Has Few Distractions

Thanks to a lack of distractions, elementary OS helps me stay focused. When I use the KDE Plasma desktop, for example, I spend a little time each day tweaking various aspects of the interface. I lose hours of productivity moving panels around, searching for themes, tweaking widgets, and altering applications. There’s this persistent thought that my desktop isn’t perfect yet, but with a few more tweaks…

I don’t have that problem with elementary OS. There are two (inherently subjective) reasons for this:

  1. The desktop isn’t customizable.
  2. The desktop doesn’t need to be customized.

The interface is minimalist, keeping the focus on apps. There is no dashboard. Right-clicking the panel or the desktop doesn’t bring up a context menu. Nearly every option is contained within System Settings and there aren’t all that many there. The elementary OS interface doesn’t provide much to see or do, so you might as well stay focused on what you came to your computer to do in the first place.

5. elementary OS Has Great Default Apps

elementary OS comes with a suite of apps made for this desktop

The elementary team designs and maintains quite a few of its own apps. You get a file manager, mail client, music player, photo manager, text editor, app store, and other utilities all designed specifically for elementary OS. This makes for a great initial experience.

Admittedly, it’s debatable whether default apps are all that important. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can download alternatives. But I find default apps matter a great deal on desktop environments that don’t fit the usual paradigm, such as GNOME and elementary OS’s Pantheon, where most alternatives don’t integrate well with the rest of the environment.

6. elementary OS Has a Steady Flow of New Apps

elementary OS has a dedicated app store called AppCenter

These days, elementary OS is enjoying a regular supply of new apps 10 Elementary OS AppCenter Apps That'll Make You More Productive Having an app store of its own has really brought Elementary OS to life with a great choice of apps. I use these AppCenter tools to improve my productivity -- perhaps you will too. Read More . Sure, the number is nothing compared to what you see in a mobile app store, Windows, or macOS. But considering the size of the elementary project, the amount of new software is impressive.

The elementary team spent years creating an app store and distribution system that was easy and enticing for developers. Now we’re seeing the fruits of that work. Whenever you check AppCenter, you might be in for a surprise.

Most of these apps are simple, and many do things that other Linux programs can already do. This isn’t that big a deal. It’s nice having choices, it’s great having a consistent interface, and it’s lovely having programs that aspire to be simple and fun.

7. Things Are Happening

elementary blog featuring various desktop update

What was the last big thing to happen in your distro? Do you even know what changes the last major release introduced? The features I look forward to most in Fedora are updates to GNOME, updates that eventually go out to every distro. Now that Canonical is less interested in the desktop, the story is the same on Ubuntu.

Meanwhile, elementary OS maintains a pay-what-you-want app store filled with specialized apps. The team has designed its own Flatpak integration, revamped the login screen, and created a welcoming onboarding experience. There’s a picture-in-picture mode and Do Not Disturb option. The panel automatically changes based on your desktop background.

While many distros focus on the technology behind the scenes, elementary is constantly tweaking the desktop itself.

8. elementary OS Now Feels Complete

elementary apps follow a consistent design language

When the Elementary project formed its own distro, elementary OS felt mainly like a themed version of Ubuntu. With each new release, that has changed. When AppCenter launched, the project really came of age. The years since then have smoothed out the edges. There are fewer reasons to open a command line or install untrusted Personal Package Archives.

From boot up to shutdown, what you see was designed specifically for elementary OS. Most things simply work. Sure, like any other desktop interface, there’s more that could be done. But elementary OS no longer feels like a half-baked attempt. This is one of the best experiences the open source world has to offer.

Is elementary OS for You?

elementary OS isn’t ideal for everyone. If your workflow depends on a number of heavy applications (e.g. image editors, video editors, IDEs), then you may be better off using a desktop where such software doesn’t look out of place.

elementary OS is great for casual use. It’s great for writing. You can even do quite a bit of gaming. But many other tasks will require you to install a number of non-curated apps.

The company working on the project is rather small. As a result, some bugs stick around for a while 6 Reasons Your Favorite Linux OS Is Plagued by Bugs You found a new Linux operating system to try, and you loved it. But then it went wrong. Sometimes Linux gets buggy after a month or two. The question is, why? Read More . The core experience tends to be stable, but apps are more hit or mess. I wouldn’t recommend elementary OS if stability is a primary concern. Yet with such a clear vision, elementary OS is lot more exciting than most Linux distros!

Explore more about: Linux Distro, Linux Elementary.

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  1. S Kris
    December 18, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I never use my credit card online, I use PayPal only. And I am quite sure I'm not the only one who does so.

    Unfortunately Elementary OS insists on a donation (which I'm more than happy to give) but they don't accept PayPal. So I don't have a chance to use this distros, sniff.

    When are they going to fix this? They don't even have a comments page so I can make this suggestion!

    • Bertel King
      December 18, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      You can change the donation to $0 to download elementary OS for free.

  2. Friar Tux
    October 29, 2019 at 12:34 am

    I tried elementaryos-5.0-stable.20181016.iso a while back. It was THE worst distro I have yet encountered. First you get badgered for money before you can even download it (I put $0.00). Then, once you have it installed, you get NO THEMES, not even a theme tab/icon in System Settings (you're stuck with the bright white 60 watt glare THEY feel you should use). And they're asking money for THIS?? And, finally, you get badgered for money every time you want to install a new app or programme. No, ElementaryOS is definitely not for me. Since it's Ubuntu based, it is not unique. I can chose from a hundred other Ubuntu based distros with the added benefit of not being badgered for money. Bertel, while I do appreciate the time you took to research and write the article, I wish you would have chosen a different distro. Anyway, keep up the great work.

  3. Hitebrata Bhainsa
    December 8, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    I have installed elementary Juno 5.0 on Dell Inspiron n5010. I5 6 GB ram.

    But it's getting heat..

  4. Javier
    February 4, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    I really liked the article and the coverage that MUO has done to elementary OS during all this time. I appreciate specially since I love elementary OS, is my daily OS and the "distro" that stopped distro-hopping for me.

    Now, I just wanted to kindly ask, why can the writers of MUO perfectly mention and write about macOS and iOS (please notice the lowercase first letter on each of those words) but when it comes to elementary OS they always write it as Elementary OS. I haven't seen a mention to MacOS or IOS, so why is it different with elementary OS?

    I know it is nitpicking, and I really don't want to, is just that your articles are excellent and so is the website itself, and many people read it, so it would be nice that you would promote this excellent OS that you already support by calling it the way it meant to, as elementary OS.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      February 5, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for leaving a comment!

      I've debated which way to write elementary OS myself for a while now, but I defaulted to standard grammar. Many tech companies want to brand their products with weird or unconventional capitalizations, and its a judgment call which to ignore. After your comment, we discussed the matter specifically related to elementary OS and have opted to embrace writing it this way going forward.

      • Javier
        February 6, 2018 at 10:37 pm

        Thank you for answering. And thank you and the MUO team for the time and effort it took to read my quirk and actually make the changes for the future, can't wait to read your coverage of elementary OS 5.0 Juno once it comes out.

        Have a nice day :-)

  5. Mike
    November 28, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Here's a reason why you shouldn't. Loaded on my laptop to use at my mother's house over thanksgiving to help her get her bills squared away. It kept disconnecting from her Wifi every 10 seconds to three minutes. I couldn't stay connected long enough to research a solution. Not only a total exercise in frustration, but just worthless.

    Ya wanna know why Linux isn't more popular than Window$? Because Window$ just works. Linux does not. While fan boi's would like to argue that fact, they have nothing to argue. Period.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      November 30, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      I'm sorry about your experience. I've had situations where I could only get online using ethernet because the proprietary Wi-Fi driver wasn't installed yet.

      Windows "just works" because it comes pre-installed and already good to go. Computers that ship with Linux instead don't have these sorts of problems. But when you install a system yourself, whether Windows or Linux, this is the kind of risk you take. Unfortunately, it's hard to know if you even want to consider buying a computer that comes with Linux until you've tried it out first, and then you risk walking away with the kind of impression you're left with now.

      You may already know all this, but I wanted to provide other people reading this with some additional context. All the best!

      • Jduprey
        February 1, 2018 at 5:44 pm

        The G+ post on this article had a image of an Elementary OS USB dongle. Is that real and where can we purchase it?

      • David
        March 20, 2018 at 11:08 pm

        Every operating system needs drivers. Windows works cause drivers for wifi and graphic cards have a driver CD. USB wifi devices are not the best option I even had one not work in windpws 7. I recommend linlap if you use linux again its dated on the version of linux on each laptop but it will you history of laptops and verdion of linux used. Linux works if you know what you are doing. I hsve two thinkpads and a home built i3 core 3gen system running Linux mint 18.3 with not issues.

    • You're A
      February 1, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      Troll.

  6. Austin
    November 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I really want to like elementary, but of the four-ish times I've used it, only the first two years ago gave me no issues. Be it buggy interface issues, wonky app management behavior, or just things somehow breaking, it's always had something off. It kind of sucks, because the concept of a hyper-simplified user experience to streamline usage is appealing. Maybe someday it'll work itself out, or I'll have a better experience.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      November 20, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      I can relate. I used to have that experience with elementary too. It was frustration with elementary in particular that was the inspiration behind this post: //www.makeuseof.com/tag/reasons-why-linux-plagued-bugs/

      Even now, certain apps are prone to bugs, but at least the overall experience has been stable enough where I can work around the problems.

  7. Melvin Garcia
    September 28, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    I love elementary. Sadly it didn't work for me because of the work I do did not play well with it. Adding PPAs wasn't playing well with the system either so I had to move to Ubuntu Gnome.... Then out of curiosity I tried Plasma 5.10 and now I'm on Kubuntu 17.04.

    Since plasma is so flexible I basically recreated Pantheon on my system. Pantheon is such a sweet desktop. Hopefully one day I'll be able to move to elementary full time.

  8. dragonmouth
    September 27, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Was this article sponsored by the developers of Elementary? Because it sure sounds like it.

    Whatever points you made in favor of Elementary can be made in favor of any of the distros in the DistroWatch database. Any distro can be made to sound unique depending which features you accentuate and which ones you gloss over or disparage. Elementary is just a run-of-the-mill distro, which may be arguably a little easier to use for Windows refugees.

    Elementary is in no way unique. It is a respin/rewrite of Ubuntu as are Zorin, Mint and about 50 other distros. Puppy is unique. KaOS is unique. Neither one is based on any other distro. Solus is another unique, developed from scratch distro AND it has a unique DE - Budgie. If you want unique DEs and WMs, try LinuxBBQ. Granted, it is debian-based but it comes with 76 DEs and WMs.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      September 27, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      No, this is not a sponsored post. I wrote it because I wanted to point out some of the reasons why I like Elementary OS and why others might find value from giving it a try.

      You're right, it's possible to make any distro sound unique depending on which features you highlight. I've written similar posts on Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, and others. Those weren't sponsored either.

      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/keep-coming-back-ubuntu/
      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-reasons-use-pure-open-source-distro-fedora/
      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-reasons-you-should-choose-opensuse-and-the-geeko/

      That said, I do feel that Elementary does provide a distinct experience compared to the vast majority of other distros, largely due its strong emphasis on visual design and the decision to exclude many aspects of traditional Linux desktop. You're focusing on the technical aspects, and in that regard, yes, Elementary is just one of many Ubuntu-based distros. Though I would say it's still worth giving the team credit for the work they've done on AppCenter and making it easier for developers to their apps out to users (compared to the traditional repo model and PPAs).

      Anyways, it's clear Elementary OS is not for you. Keep enjoying all the other Linux distros that are more your speed. Cheers!

      • dragonmouth
        September 28, 2017 at 12:22 am

        Sorry, Bertel. I did not mean to sound harsh. I should have put a smiley or a GRIN after the first paragraph.

        "I've written similar posts on Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, and others."
        Most people talk out of both sides of their mouth. You have managed to talk out of at least four sides. /GRIN/

        " it's clear Elementary OS is not for you."
        You're right. But not because I focus only on the technical. My only problem with Elementary is that it is based on Ubuntu which I consider to be the Windows of the Linux world.

        • KwaK
          September 28, 2017 at 5:57 am

          The thing with Linux based OSes is the flexibility to make multiple, sometimes radically different, distros nearly indistinguishable from one another (with just the hard-coded stuff sticking out like SE Linux support, package managers like apk, dnf or yum ... among other things) both visually and with the functionality they offer.

          Hence it's often times, for obvious reasons as I stated just now, hard to point at a single Linux based OS distro and say: "This one! This is the best distro among them all - it does everything better than the others!" .... what it comes down to is personal preference + the specific needs that one tries to meet.

        • dragonmouth
          October 5, 2017 at 11:19 pm

          @KwaK:
          You are the first one that I've come across to complain that "The thing with Linux based OSes is the flexibility to make multiple, sometimes radically different, distros nearly indistinguishable from one another ". People usually complain that there is too many different distros.

          "hard to point at a single Linux based OS distro and say: "This one! This is the best distro among them all "
          Why does there have to be an obvious "best" distro? The beauty of Linux is that anyone can customize any distro to suit their needs/tastes and make it into their "best" distro. Linux presents users with a spectrum of options. On one end there are the *buntus for Linux newbies and those that do not want to be bothered with O/S tinkering. On the other end, there is Linux from Scratch for Linux experts and those that want to control every aspect of their O/S. In between there are hundreds of distros that can be customized to a greater or a lesser degree. There is no "one size fits all' as there is with Microsoft and Apple.

        • Knighthawk5193
          October 10, 2017 at 6:41 am

          And here it was I thought I was the ONLY one who compared Ubuntu to Windows in that regard! (I guess this is why they're all "Buddy, Buddy" with Windows now?...LoL!) I have to agree with Dragonmouth on their comments below. There really IS no "Best Distro Of Them All" because:
          1 - There's WAY too many distros to determine that and
          2 - EVERYONE'S tastes are different. And while for you the minimalistic look of OpenBox or the like...might suit you....other's might find it too barren and void of what they need, and still someone else might want the simplicity of OpenSuSE with the XFCE desktop whereas someone ELSE might like Arch Linux with the Unity desktop. So, "No" there really ISN'T a Best Of Them All......but there IS a "What Works BEST For You"! And as long as threre's that "freedom" to choose the desktop....windows manager.....icons......font size....etc...etc.? Then Linux will always be the go-to operating system for those who need more than either Apple of Windows can offer!