Monday, 9 January 2017

It’s Time to Try Something New: Elementary OS Loki

Elementary OS isn’t your typical Linux distribution. Some would say it isn’t a distro at all. Elementary’s developers pitch their creation as a free and open alternative to Windows and macOS.
That description is apt, and with the latest release, version 0.4 Loki, Elementary has blossomed into something beautiful. I love it, and I highly recommend it for new and experienced Linux users alike.

What Is Elementary OS?

Elementary OS is an open source operating system that you can install in place of Windows or macOS.
Technically, Elementary OS is a Linux distribution, and there are hundreds of others that you can choose from. But the project doesn’t view itself this way, and the result is a desktop that feels vastly different.

elementaryos loki desktop
For the most part, everything just works. The default applications are functional and easy to understand. You can browse the web, check email, manage your calendar, organize photos, listen to music, and write notes without having to install additional software. When you do need more, Loki makes doing so a painless experience.

What’s Special About Version 0.4 Loki?

Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu, another distribution aimed at relatively new Linux users. Piggy-backing off another’s work is common in the open source world. This enables developers to create something new without having to start from scratch. Ubuntu itself is based on Debian.
You could use Ubuntu without having any idea what Debian is, but before now, Elementary couldn’t hide its dependency on Ubuntu. When you needed to install additional applications, you did so by opening a program called the Ubuntu Software Center. In Loki, this is no longer the case.


This is AppCenter, your new destination for installing software and managing updates.
elementaryos loki appcenter
In Linux terms, AppCenter is a package manager. Its existence goes a long way toward making Elementary OS feel like its own thing. Not only that, but AppCenter is a significant improvement over the previous solution. Software categories are easy to explore. Updates are very straightforward. If you know how to install apps on a phone, using AppCenter should be a walk in the park.

New System Indicators

Rather than using an existing desktop environment, the Elementary OS team created Pantheon. The panel at the top is called Wingpanel. The app launcher is Slingshot. The dock is Plank. But one corner of the screen relied on Ubuntu: the indicators along the top.
Loki brings new system indicators created for Elementary OS. Not only do these look better, but they make life easier. The date & time, volume, internet, Bluetooth, power, notification, and session indicators each let you open relevant system settings directly from the menu. The volume indicator includes playback controls when you have music playing.
elementaryos loki indicators

Expanded System Settings

Elementary OS is not one of the more configurable Linux desktops. The interface is meant to get out of the way, not be something you tinker with. But there are some settings that make or break whether some users can consider Elementary OS. One such change impacts dual monitor users. Now you can choose which screen the dock appears on.
A new Notifications section lists which applications show alerts. You can tweak whether these notifications appear in pop-up bubbles, play sounds, or appear under the notification indicator. Thanks to helpful illustrations and giant toggles, these settings take little work to understand.
elementaryos loki notification settings
The entire System Settings application now lets you search for keywords. This saves you from having to know which section a setting is located under. Just type in the keyword, and the option should appear.
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