System76 has been selling Linux laptops and computers since 2005. A few years ago the company introduced its own Linux distribution called Pop!_OS, and now when customers buy a System76 computer they can choose between Pop!_OS and Ubuntu Linux.

There hasn’t always been a huge difference though, since Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu. But now System76 says it’s developing a new desktop environment for the operating system. It’s called COSMIC, and it’ll debut when Pop!_OS 21.04 is released in June.

If you’re scratching your head because the version number would seem to indicate an April 2021 release, that’s because the company decided to delay the release a bit in order to finalize the development of COSMIC.

According to System76, the desktop is based on GNOME, but it’s been heavily customized with the goal of making it “easier to use, yet more powerful and efficient.” Here are some of the features of COSMIC:

  • There’s an optional Dock that can be configured to be on the right, left, or bottom of the screen, auto-hide or stay visible, and more.
  • The Activities Overview has been separated into Workspaces and Applications views.
  • Hit the Super key to open a launcher for applications, commands, or even performing quick calculations. It can also be configured to open Workpaces or Application views.

COSMIC is heavily customizable so that, for example, users who prefer keyboard shortcuts to mouse interaction can use automatic window tiling, skip the dock, and navigate between applications without lifting your hands from the keyboard.

You can find more details in a System76 blog post or check out the GitHub repository for COSMIC.

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7 replies on “Linux PC maker System76 introduces the COSMIC desktop environment, coming to Pop!_OS 21.04”

  1. This looks like a nice alternative Gnome 3 desktop environment. I’ll definitely give it a try this June.

  2. I’m interested. I want to install this and try out the window tiling features.

    I’m currently using Arch Linux with i3 window manager on my Linux machine. Its a really barebones setup.

    I’ve been wanting to try something new, but nothing offers window tiling as good as i3

    1. I’ve been wanting to try something new, but nothing offers window tiling as good as i3


      1. Sorry I failed to describe what I was looking for.

        Sway seems really cool, but it looks like just a “better i3, but uses Wayland”, which is a cool concept.

        But what I am hopeful to find is a more traditional desktop environment, that ALSO offers great window tiling, in addition to being a typical desktop environment.

        Like if Xfce introduced i3-like Window tiling (along with the keyboard navigability), that would be a winning combo for me.

        I’m happy to run Arch + i3 on my linux machine, because I don’t have a need for a user-friendly OS interface on that specific machine.

        But on some of my other computers, I need a proper traditional desktop environment, and having great window tiling would be the icing on the cake. Something like this probably exists, I just haven’t put much effort into re-evaluating all of the DE’s out there since the last times I’ve tried them 😛

        1. Just a heads up. There are a ton of tiling window managers. Some easier to configure than others. Just try them out.

          Some confusion around semantics usually caused by watching youtubers/reading guides written by those who really don’t understand what “Linux” is and what it is not.
          You already have a desktop environment, it’s just something that you put together instead of pre packaged/pre configured.

          XFCE is just a DE package group includes panel, file manager, window manager with built in compositor, etc. You can replace Xfwm, XFCE’s window manager, with i3, openbox, etc. Or you can just write a script that handles tiling on XFCE, like zentile. Kwin, KDE’s window manager, also has tiling options. So many options, all on you to fully research and understand.

          Running Arch is just a meme nowadays just like running Kali to be a hoodie wearing hacker.

          btw i use arch

          1. I actually have tried swapping Xfwm for i3, I did it inside Xubuntu 14.04. I didn’t have the skills (or the time to learn) to solve lots of the little issues that came with that configuration (some UI problems, and some app-specific issues). Might be simple, but I didn’t give it much time.

            I’m just running Arch + i3 on cheap Mini PC as a way to learn more advanced things in Linux. Been using various distros since 2000/2001ish (started with Red Hat). Just recently been trying to get good.

        2. I use ‘screen’ because I already have the muscle-memory for most commands, and I would only use it for CLI apps anyways. Also it runs on pretty much anything, including some 40 years old IBM dumb-terminals (tmux would need UTF8 support), and WSL2.

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