elementary OS

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elementary OS
Elementary logo.svg
ElementaryOS Loki.png
elementary OS "Loki"
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release 31 March 2011; 6 years ago (2011-03-31)
Latest release 0.4.1 "Loki" / 17 May 2017; 5 months ago (2017-05-17)[1]
Update method APT (AppCenter)
Package manager dpkg
Platforms x86-64
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux kernel)
Default user interface Pantheon[2]
Official website elementary.io

elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It is the flagship distribution to showcase the Pantheon desktop environment.[2]

Design philosophy[edit]

Human Interface Guidelines of the elementary OS project focus on immediate usability with a gentle learning curve, rather than full-fledged customization.[3] The three core rules the developers set for themselves were "concision", "avoid configuration" and "minimal documentation".[3]

Since its inception, elementary OS has received both praise and criticism for its design, which closely resembles that of macOS both visually and in terms of user experience.[4]

Pantheon's main shell is deeply integrated[citation needed] with other elementary OS applications like Plank (a dock), Epiphany (the default web browser) and Scratch (a simple text editor). This distribution uses Gala as its window manager,[5] which is based on Mutter.[5]


The Pantheon desktop environment is built on top of the GNOME software base, i.e. GTK+, GDK, Cairo, GLib (including GObject and GIO), GVfs and Tracker.

Pantheon applications are either forks of current or older GNOME applications or written from scratch:

Bryan Lunduke of Network World wrote that the Pantheon desktop environment, the centerpiece of the operating system, was among the best in 2016.[6]


The elementary OS distribution initially started as a set of themes and applications designed for Ubuntu which later turned into its own Linux distribution.[7] Being Ubuntu-based, it is compatible with its repositories and packages and uses Ubuntu's own software center to handle installation/removal of software. Its user interface aims at being intuitive for new users without consuming too many resources.[8]

elementary OS is based on Ubuntu's Long Term Support releases, which its developers actively maintain for bugs and security for years even as development continues on the next release.[9][10]

elementary OS founder Daniel Foré has said that the project is not designed to compete with existing open source projects but to expand their reach. The project also seeks to create open source jobs through developer bounties placed on specific development tasks. As of the 2016 Loki release, US$17,500 had been raised in bounties.[11]

0.1 Jupiter[edit]

The first stable version of elementary OS was Jupiter,[7] published on 31 March 2011[12] and based on Ubuntu 10.10. Since October 2012, it is no longer supported and thus no longer available for download at elementary OS official web site apart from in a historical capacity.[13][14]

0.2 Luna[edit]

elementary OS 0.2 "Luna"

In November 2012, the first beta version of elementary OS code-named Luna was released, which uses Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as a base.[15] The second beta version of Luna was released on 6 May 2013, carrying more than 300 bug fixes and several changes such as improved support for multiple localizations, multiple display support and updated applications.[15][16] On 7 August 2013, a countdown clock appeared on the official website with a countdown to 10 August 2013.[17] The second stable version of elementary OS, Luna, was released that same day, along with a complete overhaul and redesign of the elementary OS website.[18]

0.3 Freya[edit]

elementary OS 0.3 "Freya"

The name of the third stable version of elementary OS, Isis, was proposed in August 2013 by Daniel Foré, the project leader.[19] It was later changed to Freya to avoid association with the terrorist group ISIS.[20] It is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, which was released in April 2014.[19] The first beta of Freya was released on 11 August 2014.[21] The second beta of Freya was released on 8 February 2015.[22] The final version was released on 11 April 2015, after a countdown clock appeared on the website eight days before its release.[citation needed]

Freya was downloaded 1.2 million times. In line with elementary's intent to expand the reach of open source software, 73 percent of Freya downloads were from closed source operating systems.[11]

In 2015, the elementary OS developers changed the download page to default to a monetary amount before providing a direct HTTP download for the current stable release. Despite the fact that the user was able to supply any amount, or no amount at all, it sparked controversy about how such practices are typically not perceived as being in alignment with FOSS distribution philosophies.[23][24][25] The elementary OS team has defended the action stating that "Around 99.875% of those users download without paying", and that it is needed to ensure the continued development of the distribution.[25]

In a review of all Linux distributions, Linux.com gave elementary OS their "best-looking distro" superlative in early 2016. The reviewer noted its developers' design background, their influence from Mac OS X, and their philosophy of prioritizing strict design rules and applications that follow these rules.[26]

0.4 Loki[edit]

elementary OS 0.4, known by its codename, "Loki", was released on 9 September 2016.[10] Loki was built atop the Ubuntu "long-term support" version released earlier in the year[a][10] and its updated kernel (4.4). Loki revamped the operating system's notifications and added multiple new pieces of standard software. It let users set preferences for how their notifications display. Updated notification menu bar indicators began to display information from the notification—such as the title of an email—rather than a general alert. The operating system also added a system-wide integration for online accounts for Last.fm and FastMail, with other services in development.[11]

Loki replaced Freya's Midori web browser with Epiphany, a WebKit2 browser with better performance. When Yorba, the developers of the Geary email application dissolved, elementary OS forked Geary as "Mail" and added new visual and integration features. In a new calendar feature, users could describe events in natural language, which the calendar program interprets and places into the proper time and description fields when creating events.[11]

elementary OS also created its own app store that simplifies the process of installing and updating applications.[11] Project founder Daniel Foré called the AppCenter the biggest feature in the Loki release, and noted its speed improvement over other installation methods and internal development benefits for departing from Ubuntu's upgrade tools.[6] Loki developers received $9,000 in bounties during its development—nearly half of the project's total bounty fundraising.[11]

Jack Wallen of Linux.com praised Loki as among the most elegant and best designed Linux desktops. He found the web browser and app store changes to be significant improvements, and the email client revamp "a much-needed breath of fresh air" in a stagnating field. Overall, Wallen surmised that existing users would appreciate Loki's polish and new users would find it to be a perfect introduction to the operating system.[11] Bryan Lunduke of Network World lauded Loki's performance, usability, polish, and easy installation, but considered it a better fit for new Linux users than for those already established.[6]

Future elementary OS support for self-contained programs like Snappy or Flatpak is planned.[6]

Summary table[edit]

Version Codename Release date Base
Old version, no longer supported: 0.1 Jupiter 31 March 2011 Ubuntu 10.10
Old version, no longer supported: 0.2 Luna 10 August 2013 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3 Freya 11 April 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3.1 Freya 3 September 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3.2 Freya 9 December 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Old version, no longer supported: 0.4 Loki 9 September 2016 Ubuntu 16.04 LTS[10]
Current stable version: 0.4.1 Loki 17 May 2017 Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS[27]
Future release: 0.5 Juno TBD Ubuntu 18.04 LTS[28]
Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release


  1. ^ Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Xenial Xerus, will be supported until 2021.[10]


  1. ^ "Loki 0.4.1 Stable Release!". medium.com. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  2. ^ a b James, Cassidy (14 November 2012). "Hello, Luna Beta 1". ElementaryOS.org. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Human Interface Guidelines". elementary.io. elementary LLC. Retrieved 16 April 2017. Users will accomplish tasks more quickly because you will have a straight-forward interface design that isn't confusing or difficult. 
  4. ^ Finley, Klint (25 November 2013). "Out in the Open: Say Hello to the Apple of Linux OSes". Wired. Condé Nast. 
  5. ^ a b Foré, Daniel; Tate, Sam; Beckmann, Tom; Davidoff, Sergey (15 September 2012). "Meet Gala: The Window Manager". ElementaryOS.org. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Lunduke, Bryan (13 October 2016). "elementary OS 0.4: Review and interview with the founder". Network World. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Gupta, Vishal (19 April 2011). "Elementary OS "Jupiter": Awesome Linux Distribution Based on Ubuntu". AskVG. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Nemec, Tom (13 August 2013). "Elementary OS 'Luna': Eine Mac OS X ähnelnde Linux-Distribution". Weblogit (in German). Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Gilbertson, Scott (10 May 2016). "Ubuntu 16.04 proves even an LTS release can live at Linux's bleeding edge". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Nestor, Marius (9 September 2016). "elementary OS 0.4 "Loki" Officially Released, It's Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS". Softpedia. SoftNews. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Wallen, Jack (9 September 2016). "Elementary OS Loki Has Arrived". Linux.com. Retrieved 25 September 2016. 
  12. ^ Foré, Daniel (15 August 2015). "How old is Elementary's project?". Elementary blog. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Pastor Nóbrega, Javier (19 October 2012). "Elementary OS "Jupiter" deja de estar disponible". MuyLinux (in Spanish). Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Andrei, Alin (12 October 2012). "Elementary OS Jupiter no longer available for download, makes room for Luna". Web Upd8. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Andrei, Alin (14 November 2012). "Elementary OS Luna beta 1 available for download". Web Upd8. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Larabel, Michael (6 May 2013). "Elementary OS Luna Beta 2 Released". Phoronix. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Jacobs, Robin (9 August 2013). "Mysterious countdown appears on Elementary OS website". Muktware. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  18. ^ Jacobs, Robin (11 August 2013). "Elementary OS Luna says Hello World". Muktware. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Foré, Daniel (16 August 2013). "Luna+1's Name and Some Other Stuff". elementary-dev-community mailing list. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  20. ^ James, Cassidy (22 June 2014). "Elementary OS Isis is now Freya". ElementaryOS.org. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Foré, Daniel (11 August 2014). "Freya Beta 1 Available for Developers & Testers". ElementaryOS.org. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Foré, Daniel (8 February 2015). "Freya Beta 2 is here!". ElementaryOS.org. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Online Community Goes Nuts After elementary OS Devs Say People Should Pay". softpedia. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  24. ^ "Should you pay for Elementary OS?". InfoWorld. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  25. ^ a b "Payments". blog.elementary.io. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Bhartiya, Swapnil (12 January 2016). "The Best Linux Distros of 2016". Linux.com. The Linux Foundation. 
  27. ^ "Loki 0.4.1 Stable Release!". medium.com. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  28. ^ "elementary OS juno-beta1". Launchpad. Canonical. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 


  1. ^ "Pantheon Login Screen in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Pantheon's Window Manager". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 23 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Wingpanel in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Slingshot in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Plank in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Plank readme". Launchpad.net. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Switchboard in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Epiphany Browser". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  9. ^ "Mail is an email client for elementary OS". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Maya in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  11. ^ "Noise in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Scratch in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Pantheon Terminal in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Files in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Pantheon Files readme". Launchpad.net. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 

External links[edit]