A Week With Elementary OS Loki 0.4.0
Hands down, from a set-and-forget, home laptop use, Elementary OS 0.4 Loki is the best Linux distribution to ever grace the screen of any of my computers. This is not your power users distro. This is a Mac users Linux, a Windows 10 users Linux. This is the sort of Linux that you happily install and never once need to open a terminal. It’s the first Linux to reach that point, where the user experience, the interface design, the attention to detail and the robustness and stability of the system as a whole, is so tight that any man, woman and child could install and use it.
For me, Solus came close to this level of distro Zen, but with Budgie missing a few key components it was tough to call it ready for prime time. I actually wish both teams could apply their principles together, with the Elementary Teams UI standards with Granite and what Solus is doing with the Budgie desktop and app packaging, if the two teams were to blend together, the result would be an OS that would replace Windows, Mac OS and Chrome OS in all school systems.
And yes I have used Linux Mint 18 in all its flavors. While mint has done a lot to push the other distros to another standard of refinement back in the day, I really feel that Mint has had its day and is feeling a bit behind the curve these days. Yes Mint can do it all and does it well, but I still wouldn’t recommend it to my parents. Just my opinion.
But back to Loki…
This distro has enough polish and fine tuning on it to make you forget that this is Linux. Even Android has a tough time doing that.
Every app feels like it was designed and built specifically for Loki. There is the same standard on all of the window chrome, icons, UI locations, so that using each application becomes the same set of familiar motions and actions.
Take a look at each of the default apps and note how familiar each on is to each other, and then not how easy it would be for a proprietary OS user (namely Mac OS) to become familiar with this system:
The team at Elementary have gone the extra mile with little refinements you don’t see in other distros. I was a Mac user for many years and I always missed the column view that Mac Finder had. Loki has that.
Mail (Geary fork) is all new in Loki and it’s fast. Geary was ok back in the day but pretty unusable as a serious gmail client because it just couldn’t handle the sheer volume. But Mail is lighting quick, apparently due to each message spawning its own web view now.
Multitasking is an amazing feature that makes managing multiple desktops far more intuitive that I’ve experienced on other desktop environments.
Notifications are unreal. No panel on any Linux DE anywhere has come close to matching the experience that Loki wingpanel gives with each applet in the top right corner of the screen.
I don’t think there is any doubt that while the claim is that the Elementary OS team are targeting Mac and Windows users alike, their target audience is really the Mac user. Look at all these screen shots which scream Mac OS.
The startup is what I would expect on my older hardware with a spinning hard drive, in the ballpark of 30 seconds. The desktop does remarkably well though, once loaded. Given all the animations, I expected the performance to be a bit laggy, but there seems to be some serious optimizations going on under the hood because most refined desktop environments make this old laptop somewhat useless.
But what I can’t get over is the battery performance. There isn’t anything particularly special you can tweak in the battery settings, but I get a full 2.5 or more hours on this old clunker where even Linux Mint Mate barely gets me to the two-hour mark.
Not Without Downsides
Mail is less than secure and has a known issue where you can’t use 2-step verification with Gmail accounts. This is a bit of a deal breakers as far as using the app. I’ve turned off the extra security for now, just so I can play with Mail, but in the end I’ll end up sticking with Gmail in the browser.
Online accounts are sparse, not quite as ready for prime-time as Gnome Online Accounts. Online accounts in Loki only allow for Last.fm (is that still a thing?), FastMail and Mail. This has a trickle effect when it comes to other Gnome apps you might have been used to, like Gnome Contacts, which would sync with your Google Contacts. As such, Loki is missing a good contact manager.
Elementary OS is has proven they are here to stay. Given the momentum they’ve built up over the years and the attention they are now starting to get, I think Elementary is going to become an increasingly bigger part of the distro conversation going forward.
Loki is the first distribution I’d recommend to my parents and know that I would not have to install it myself and worry about configurations, settings and drivers. I know that it will work without getting in their way. That is a big deal in the Linux world. We’ll never get to “the year of the Linux desktop”, but the effort that Elementary is putting forth is certainly going to reduce the reasons people have for not switching.