elementary OS

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elementary OS
Elementary OS logotype.png
Scrivania di elementary OS 5.0 Juno.png
elementary OS "Juno"
Developerelementary LLC
OS familyUnix-like
Working stateCurrent
Source modelOpen source
Initial release31 March 2011; 7 years ago (2011-03-31)
Latest release5.0 "Juno" / 16 October 2018; 40 days ago (2018-10-16)[1]
Latest preview5.0 "Juno" Beta 2[2] / 20 September 2018; 2 months ago (2018-09-20)
Update methodAPT
Package managerdpkg
Kernel typeMonolithic (Linux kernel)
Default user interfacePantheon[3]
Official websiteelementary.io

elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It is the flagship distribution to showcase the Pantheon desktop environment.[3] The distribution promotes itself as a “fast and open” replacement to macOS and Windows. It focuses mainly on non-technical users, and has a pay-what-you-want model.[4][5] The OS is developed by elementary LLC.[6]

Design philosophy[edit]

The human interface guidelines of the elementary OS project focus on immediate usability with a gentle learning curve, rather than full-fledged customization.[7] The three core rules the developers set for themselves were "concision", "accessible configuration" and "minimal documentation".[7]

Since its inception, elementary OS has received both praise and criticism for its design, Wired claimed that the operating system closely resembles that of macOS both visually and in terms of user experience.[8] However, the elementary developers dispute this.[9]

Pantheon's main shell is deeply integrated with other elementary OS applications, like Plank (a dock), Epiphany (the default web browser) and Code (a simple text editor).[10][11] This distribution uses Gala as its window manager,[12] which is based on Mutter.[12]


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 that are designed and developed by elementary:

Bryan Lunduke of Network World wrote that the Pantheon desktop environment, the centerpiece of the operating system, was among the best in 2016.[17]


The elementary OS distribution initially started as a set of themes and applications designed for Ubuntu which later turned into its own Linux distribution.[18] Being Ubuntu-based, it is compatible with its repositories and packages and prior to version 0.4 "Loki", it used the Ubuntu software center to handle installation/removal of software. However, after the release of Loki, elementary bundled in their own app store, called AppCenter.[17] Its user interface aims at being intuitive for new users without consuming too many resources.[19]

elementary OS is based on Ubuntu's Long Term Support releases, which the developers of Ubuntu actively maintain for bugs and security for years even as development continues on the next release.[20][21]

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 in bounties had been raised.[22]

0.1 Jupiter[edit]

The first stable version of elementary OS was Jupiter,[18] published on 31 March 2011[23] and based on Ubuntu 10.10. Since October 2012, it is no longer supported and thus no longer available for download from the elementary OS official web site apart from in a historical capacity.[24][25]

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.[26] 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.[26][27] On 7 August 2013, a countdown clock appeared on the official website with a countdown to 10 August 2013.[28] 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.[29]

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.[30] It was later changed to Freya to avoid association with the terrorist group ISIS.[31] It is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, which was released in April 2014.[30] The first beta of Freya was released on 11 August 2014.[32] The second beta of Freya was released on 8 February 2015.[33] The final version was released on 11 April 2015, after a countdown clock appeared on the website eight days before its release.[34][35]

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.[22]

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.[36][37][38] 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.[38]

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.[39]

0.4 Loki[edit]

elementary OS 0.4, known by its codename, "Loki", was released on 9 September 2016.[21] Loki was built atop the Ubuntu "long-term support" version released earlier in the year[a][21] 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 notification display preferences. 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.[22]

Loki replaced Freya's Midori web browser with Epiphany, a WebKit2 browser with better performance. After the Yorba Foundation which developed the Geary email client was 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.[22]

elementary OS also created its own app store that simplifies the process of installing and updating applications.[22] 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.[17] Loki developers received $9,000 in bounties during its development—nearly half of the project's total bounty fundraising.[22]

Jack Wallen of Linux.com praised Loki as being 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.[22] 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.[17]

Future elementary OS support for self-contained programs like Snappy or Flatpak is planned.[17]

The elementary OS team received a large donation from an anonymous donor in early August 2018. The donation has allowed the development team to hire a full time marketing director and expand long term viability for the project.[40]

5.0 Juno[edit]

elementary OS 5.0, known by its codename "Juno", was released on 16 October 2018. The update brings changes to the AppCenter pay-what-you-want system, as well a Night Light feature for changing the screen color at night, and adjustable window tiling as well as several other new features for the Pantheon desktop and elementary OS applications.[41] The update also contained a new Housekeeping feature in settings, which removes trashed, as well as temporary files after a given time interval.[42]

Jack Wallen writing for TechRepublic praised the update for bringing subtle changes and improving on Loki.[43] Jason Evangelho writing for Forbes called the update elegant. Stating that "elementary OS 5.0 Juno, thus far, does just work. And looks absolutely beautiful doing it.".[44]

Summary table[edit]

Version Codename Release date Base
Old version, no longer supported: 0.1[45][46][47] Jupiter 31 March 2011 Ubuntu 10.10
Old version, no longer supported: 0.2[48][49] Luna 10 August 2013 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3[50][51] Freya 11 April 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (trusty)
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3.1 Freya 3 September 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (trusty)
Old version, no longer supported: 0.3.2 Freya 9 December 2015 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (trusty)
Older version, yet still supported: 0.4[52][53][54] Loki 9 September 2016 Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (xenial)[21]
Older version, yet still supported: 0.4.1[55] Loki 17 May 2017 Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS (xenial)[56]
Current stable version: 5.0[57][58][59] Juno 16 October 2018[60] Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (bionic)[61][2]
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.[21]


  1. ^ "elementary OS 5 Juno is Here". medium.com. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b Developer Preview: Juno Beta 2 Is Out; Elementary OS – Medium
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Verma, Adarsh (2018-01-06). "9 Most Beautiful Linux Distros You Need To Use (2018 Edition)". Fossbytes. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  5. ^ LLC, elementary. "A fast and open replacement for Windows and macOS ⋅ elementary OS". elementary.io. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  6. ^ LLC, elementary. "Brand ⋅ elementary". elementary.io. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Finley, Klint (25 November 2013). "Out in the Open: Say Hello to the Apple of Linux OSes". Wired. Condé Nast.
  9. ^ Foré, Daniel (2016-11-18). "Busting Major Myths Around elementary OS". elementary. Retrieved 2018-11-22.
  10. ^ Verma, Adarsh (2018-03-04). "Top 10 Best Linux Distros For 2018 — Ultimate Distro Choosing Guide". Fossbytes. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
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  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Blaede, Cassidy James (2018-01-02). "Scratch is now elementary Code". elementary. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  14. ^ Foré, Daniel (2018-02-23). "Meet the Upcoming Installer". elementary OS. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  15. ^ "Here is the brand new Pop!_OS installer that may feature in elementary OS 5.0 Juno too". FOSS Linux. 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  16. ^ "Installer, elementary and Pop!_OS collaboration". System76 Blog. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
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  18. ^ 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.
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  24. ^ Pastor Nóbrega, Javier (19 October 2012). "Elementary OS "Jupiter" deja de estar disponible". MuyLinux (in Spanish). Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  25. ^ Andrei, Alin (12 October 2012). "Elementary OS Jupiter no longer available for download, makes room for Luna". Web Upd8. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  26. ^ a b Andrei, Alin (14 November 2012). "Elementary OS Luna beta 1 available for download". Web Upd8. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  27. ^ Larabel, Michael (6 May 2013). "Elementary OS Luna Beta 2 Released". Phoronix. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  28. ^ Jacobs, Robin (9 August 2013). "Mysterious countdown appears on Elementary OS website". Muktware. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  29. ^ Jacobs, Robin (11 August 2013). "Elementary OS Luna says Hello World". Muktware. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  30. ^ a b Foré, Daniel (16 August 2013). "Luna+1's Name and Some Other Stuff". elementary-dev-community mailing list. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
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  58. ^ elementary OS 5.0 Juno Release Date and New Features
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  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. ^ "Mail is an email client for elementary OS". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Maya in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Noise in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Pantheon Terminal in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Files in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Pantheon Files readme". Launchpad.net. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2013.

External links[edit]