elementary OS, a distribution like no other

Screenshot from 2013-08-17 20:45:27

There are a surprising number of people who hate elementary OS. They say that elementary is technically just a distribution of linux, not an OS. They say that it is too similar to OS X. They say that the developers are in over their heads. All of these things may be true, but I do not care. I am sick of ascetic desktop environments without animations. I am tired of not having a compositor. I don’t need a dozen GUI applications to hold my hand, but I hate having to fix things that don’t work out of the box. You are not Richard Stallman. Face it: modern people, whether or not they are also computer programmers, do not live in the terminal, and most of us aren’t using laptops with hardware built in 2004. And finally, I am sick of blue and black window decorations that look like they were designed by a 12 year old.

Elementary OS Luna is the first distribution of linux I’ve used where I don’t feel like changing a thing. The desktop environment defaults are excellent, and all of Ubuntu’s excellent hardware support, community of PPA’s, and familiar package manager are available. At the same time, there is a lot of graphical magic, window animation, and attention to detail that is quite similar to OS X. There is a minimal amount of hand-holding, and it’s quite easy to get used to the desktop because of the intuitive keyboard shortcuts and great application integration.

You can’t tell from just the screenshot above, but elementary OS is more than just a desktop environment. The distribution comes packaged with a bunch of custom-built applications, like the custom file manager and terminal app. Other apps like a IRC client, social media client, and system search are available in community PPA’s. I do most of my work through either the web browser, ssh, or vim. Important data on my laptop is limited to personal files on my Google Drive, and a directory of projects in active development that’s regularly backed up to my personal file server. Programs can be painlessly installed from the package manager, and configuration files are symlinked from my Google Drive. I’m not very attached to the current state of my laptop at any given moment because all the data on it is replaceable, with the exception of OS tweaks. I don’t like having to install a dozen customization packages to get my workflow to how I like it, so out-of-box experience is very important to me.

I would say that if you’re a regular linux user, you should at least give elementary OS Luna a try, even if it’s on a friend’s machine or in a VM. You may be surprised. I was.