I have picked up a new hobby: Checking out less popular distributions to see what they add to the Linux landscape.
I discovered elementary OS earlier this week and decided to give it a try after seeing the trailer of their newest release, Luna. Being only version 0.2, I guess we should not expect too much, but the trailer gave me the impression that the guys at elementary OS are putting serious effort in creating a professional Linux desktop environment. The focus lies on providing the community with the best possible experience and being both beautiful and usable. Elementary OS uses Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as its base.
So let’s take a peek then! I will not get into the details of the installation. Installers are more or less the same nowadays, so I will not bother you with it. It works well and does the job. You start the live-cd (I used Unetbootin with a USB-stick) and can start the installer by pressing the right icon on the right of the dock at the bottom of the screen.
After the installation and the reboot you get a responsive system. It performs really well on my dual core laptop. Elementary OS focuses on being a lightweight distribution. It features its own desktop environment called Pantheon. It resembles Gnome and borrows parts of Gnome and Xfce, combined with self developed parts. The default desktop looks like this, giving it an Apple-ish look:
Elementary OS comes with the Ubuntu Software center, which makes it easy to install new software. You will need this, because after the installation elementary OS only has a handful of applications installed. For example: It lacks an office suite. I do not see this as a problem, because I prefer my own set of programs anyway. It may be confusing for user new to Linux, that do not know the Linux counterparts for windows software.
When I use a computer, I want to be able to use a double-click to open a program (one click to select it). Unfortunately, I was unable to find this option in the system settings of elementary OS. I decided to use IRC, and went to the distro’s channel on freenode. There someone kindly pointed me to Elementary Tweaks. This plug-in for the system settings allows you to change many elementary setting, including using double-click with my mouse. I also used it to move the window buttons from left to the right, where I prefer them. Elementary tweaks came too late to be added to release 0.2, but I am sure it will be added to future releases.
I have been using elementary OS for a few days now on my laptop and I have to say that, although I usually use KDE, I like working with it. I have not experienced problems so far. I have written this article using elementary OS, I have played music, surfed the internet and watched videos without a hassle.
I like working with elementary OS. It is mature, also because of the Ubuntu base, even if it has only reached release 0.2. The desktop looks good and everything works like you would expect. It is user friendly and the people on IRC are nice and helpful. Not being a Gnome-user, I cannot tell you exactly how many differences there are with Gnome, but I find the desktop environment pleasant and intuitive to use. It is difficult to say what makes this distribution different from other Ubuntu-derived distros, but I am curious to see how Pantheon will develop. I will certainly follow the progress elementary OS makes and for now, elementary OS will stay on this laptop. I suggest you give elementary a try. I am sure you will be delighted.