Elementary OS is a desktop operating system with a Mac-like user interface, but it’s a free and open source operating system based on Ubuntu Linux.
This week the developers behind the operating system released Elementary OS 5 Juno. It includes updated design, new developer tools, updated apps, and a new app store that includes both free and paid apps — but the prices for paid apps are just suggestions. Users can pay what they want for any app — or pay nothing at all.
The first thing that sets Elementary OS apart from Ubuntu is its Pantheon desktop environment. It’s built on top of GNOME, but the desktop environment was developed specifically for Elementary and many of the core apps for the operating system are tightly integrated.
Pantheon includes a toolbar at the top of the screen which lets you see the date and time, status notifications, the power menu, some quick settings for audio, power, and wireless, and an application launcher.
There’s also a Mac-like dock at the bottom of the screen.
Elementary’s been around for years: version 0.1 was released in 2011. Since then the developers have stuck with point releases, so the last major release was Elementary OS 0.4 which came out in 2016 (although there was a 0.41 update released in 2017).
In recent years the operating system has become pretty stable though, so the developers decided to call the latest release Elementary OS 5 instead of 0.5.
That said, it’s also a pretty significant update, with the addition of the new pay-what-you-want app store called AppCenter.
It’s worth noting a few things about AppCenter. First, every app in the store is open source. Second, if you can adjust the price of any paid app. If you move figure all the way to zero, the price is replaced by the word “free” and you can just download at will.
Incidentally, the Elementary OS download page works much the same way: you can pay for the operating system if you want to. But if you enter $0.00 in the box next to the “purchase” button, the text changes to “download” and you can grab the OS for free.
There also aren’t a ton of apps in the store at the moment, but that’s OK because it’s not the only way to install apps. You can still fire up a terminal window and use commands like apt install command to install programs. For example, the image editing program GIMP wasn’t in AppCenter, so I just typed apt install GIMP to load it.
Other changes in Elementary OS 5 include:
- Elementary OS now has a night light feature to reduce blue light from your display, and it can be set to adjust automatically depending on the time of day.
- When adjusting window placements on you screen, dragging a window to the edge of the screen will bring up a blue preview of what the window will look like when you let go, letting you see how things will look and make any appropriate changes.
- Picture in Picture mode lets you keep watching a video or any other app while viewing a different program in the foreground. Just hit ⌘+F or Win+F when viewing the app you want to see in a PiP window, then maximize other apps. You can also move or resize the Picture in Picture window.
- The Files app now has smart breadcrumbs and location entry information and it uses manila folders instead of blue ones.
- The Music and Photos apps have received a fresh coat of paint (there’s a new dark style for Photos, for example).
- The Terminal app picks up an undo close tab option, process completion notifications, find, and smart copy/paste among other improvements. There are also new color scheme options.
- The Epiphany web browser supports Firefox Sync.
- The developer-centric coding app Scratch app has been updated and renamed Code.