Earlier this year Linux PC company System76 announced plans to develop a new desktop environment for the company’s Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS operating system.
The COSMIC desktop environment is designed to be easy-to-use, but also highly customizable. And now you can take it for a spin by trying out Pop!_OS 21.04 Beta, which was released this week.
Keep in mind that this is very much a beta release – System76 notes that “bugs are expected and re-installs are likely,” and when I tried running the operating system in a virtual machine this afternoon, I had to reboot the machine several times because the OS kept locking up.
But it does give us a first look at COSMIC, which is basically a heavily customized version of the GNOME desktop environment with a Mac-like application dock, Workspaces and Applications overviews, and a text-based launcher that you can trigger from any screen by hitting the Windows/Super key and/or the search icon in the dock.
You can use the launcher to open programs, search for files, open settings, or perform actions like rebooting your computer or adjusting the volume.
Most of the features can be disabled or modified – you can open the Extensions menu and completely enable or disable COSMIC, the dock, or other features including the Pop Shell, which lets you toggle the Pop!_OS tiling window manager, launcher, and some other features.
System76 plans to release the stable version of Pop!_OS 21.04 later this month, but if you just want to see what’s new without downloading the beta, you can check out some more screenshots below, or scroll down for a video from YouTuber DorianDotSlash that shows off many of the key features of the COSMIC desktop environment.