Raspbian is a Linux-based operating system optimized to run on Raspberry Pi’s tiny, inexpensive, low-power computers. It’s not the only OS that you can run on a Raspberry Pi, but it’s one of the more popular options… especially for beginners.

And now Raspbian is getting a new look, thanks to a new desktop environment called PIXEL (Pi Improved Xwindows Environment, Lightweight).


The PIXEL desktop environment is basically a heavily modified version of LXDE with a bunch of Raspberry Pi-specific features included. Here are some of the ways it differs from the software that you saw in earlier versions of Raspbian:

  • There’s a new splash screen that displays when you boot a Raspberry Pi. It also shows the version number of the operating system.
  • 16 new desktop backgrounds are included.
  • The desktop background is also visible from the login screen.
  • A series of new icons for apps, menus, and other items have been created.
  • Application window frames look a little cleaner/more modern.
  • You can now shut down WiFi or Bluetooth when you don’t need them.

Along with the new desktop environment, Raspbian also now comes with a few new programs pre-installed. There’s a Raspberry Pi version of RealVNC for logging into remote desktops. And the default web browser has been changed from Epiphany to Chromium (the open source version of Google Chrome).

While Chromium doesn’t run all that well on the 1st-gen Raspberry Pi, it’s said to work pretty well on the newer (and more powerful) Raspberry Pi 2 and Raspberry Pi 3. This version of the browser also uses hardware acceleration for video streaming and includes plugins to block ads (and reduce associated strain on your system’s resources) and to force YouTube videos to display videos in H.264 so that a Raspberry Pi can use hardware accelerated video playback.

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