A look at Elementary OS 0.4.1 – Loki

So, I’ve taken a look at a number of distributions so far, like Linux Mint, Manjaro and KDE Neon, but I figured I should show another distribution that I’d highly recommend for users who are new to GNU/Linux systems: Elementary OS.

If you’re a seasoned power user, you’ll likely find Elementary OS to be rather boring, closed off, and annoying. However, I have installed Elementary OS on machines of friends who are not very computer friendly, and they have had no problems for years now, without a single complaint.

Loki is based on Ubuntu 16.04, and so reaps the benefits of the Ubuntu repositories.


Elementary OS uses the same installer as most other Ubuntu derivatives, so if you’re comfortable installing practically any of the mainstream distros, you’ll have no issues here. I’d rather not focus on the installation process, and just say, “It went smoothly.”

User Interface

Elementary AppCenter

ElementaryOS uses their own desktop environment called Pantheon. Pantheon most closely (in my opinion) resembles Mac OS with its design, button placement, layout, even colours. If you’ve ever used a Mac before, or are looking for a cheaper alternative, you’ll find that Elementary OS may be a smoother transition than some other distributions.

There is a dock at the bottom, and the system task icons kept in the top right corner, with the applications menu station in the top left.

Elementary is laid out very simply, and somewhat minimally, while still maintaining its own little bit of eye-candy at the same time. While it’s not my preferred environment, I’ll give the dev team credit, they have made a very gorgeous and smooth flowing system in regards to the UI, and its default applications.

You’ll find however, that Elementary doesn’t include much in the way of visual customization. Unlike KDE or GNOME, you can’t really drastically alter the way Pantheon looks; which is fine, it’s nice how it is.

One thing that drives me nuts though, is the lack of minimize button. You can maximize / window an application, and close it, but by default you are unable to minimize, unless you click on the application icon in the dock. The logic, is that the main Elementary OS Applications save their state, and reopen to that state quickly when relaunching, and so there is no real need to minimize.

gsettings set org.pantheon.desktop.gala.appearance button-layout close,minimize,maximize
By using the above code in a terminal, you can get a minimize button as well, and arrange your buttons somewhat similar to Mac OS.


Elementary Applications Menu

One of the selling points of Elementary OS, especially in my opinion to Mac users who are used to having a suite of software to manage everything they need in their lives, is the customized software included in Elementary OS. Managing photos, checking email, videos, music, calendar… Elementary OS has a number of applications either forked from others or built from the ground up, with redesigned interfaces to blend in seamlessly with the Pantheon environment.

For surfing the web, the default browser is Epiphany; lightweight and decent, but unfortunately lacking in many features; such as the ability to watch Netflix without fighting with outdated plugins and packages. Users will want to install either Chrome or Firefox, to replace Epiphany, if they find themselves unable to do everything they need in their browser.

Otherwise, you’ll find that Elementary OS doesn’t actually come with much in the way of software; only what I would call the bare-bones-essentials. However, it does have a fairly decent AppCenter application, for installing new software and managing updates. One complain I do have about the AppCenter however, is the lack of support for things like Snaps. Actually, I couldn’t even install the Snap of Spotify, until I installed Snapd itself, to give Elementary OS the ability to handle Snap files.

sudo apt install snapd

snap install spotify

Sadly, snaps must be installed via terminal, and not AppCenter. But, again, overall for new users I would say that the AppCenter is well laid out, and easy to use; and has the massive Ubuntu repositories to use.

Final thoughts

Elementary OS while being a bit basic and lacking in features for more advanced users, is perfect for newcomers; runs smooth even on lighter systems, and has the support and power of Ubuntu behind it.

If you’re looking for a simple system to run without all the mucking around and changing of a million settings; Elementary OS might be for you.

Now you: What are your thoughts on Elementary OS? Good, bad? Let us know in the comments!

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