Elementary OS

Elementary OS

Elementary OS "Loki"
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release 31 March 2011 (2011-03-31)
Latest release 0.4.0 "Loki" / 9 September 2016 (2016-09-09)[1]
Available in Multilingual
Update method apt-get (Ubuntu Software Center)
Package manager dpkg
Platforms x86, x86-64
Kernel type Monolithic
Default user interface Pantheon[2]
License GNU GPL, LGPL, and various other free software licenses
Official website elementary.io

Elementary OS (styled "elementary OS") is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It is the flagship distribution to showcase the Pantheon desktop environment,[3] similar to how Linux Mint introduced Cinnamon.

Design philosophy

The elementary OS project aims to solve a number of perceived deficiencies in the established desktop environments, namely:

Although not contrary to the GNU philosophy,[4] these deliberate design choices diverge from what most GNU/Linux distributions opt for: a freedom to set up and customize one's own desktop environment. The Human Interface Guidelines of the elementary OS project focus instead on immediate usability with a gentle learning curve,[5] rather than full-fledged customization. The three core rules the developers set for themselves were "concision", "avoid configuration" and "minimal documentation".[6]

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.[7][8]

Pantheon's main shell is deeply integrated 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,[9] which is based on Mutter.[3]



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

Pantheon Applications

Pantheon applications are either forks of current or elder 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.[10]


The elementary OS distribution initially started as a set of themes and applications designed for Ubuntu which later turned into its own Linux distribution.[11] 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.[12]

Elementary 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.[13][14]

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.[15]


0.1 Jupiter

The first stable version of elementary OS was Jupiter,[11] published on 31 March 2011[16] and based on Ubuntu 10.10. Since October 2012, it is no longer supported and thus no longer available for download in elementary OS official web site apart from in a historical capacity.[17][18]

0.2 Luna

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.[19] 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.[19][20] On 7 August 2013, a countdown clock appeared on the official website with a countdown to 10 August 2013.[21] 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.[22]

0.3 Freya

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.[23] It was later changed to Freya to avoid association with the terrorist group ISIS.[24] It is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, which was released in April 2014.[23] The first beta of Freya was released on 11 August 2014.[25] The second beta of Freya was released on 8 February 2015.[26] The final version was released on 11 April 2015, after a countdown clock appeared on the website eight days before its release.

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.[15]

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.[27][28][29] The Elementary OS team has defended the action stating that "Around 99.875% of those users download without paying", and have justified an amount populating by default as a measure to ensure the continued development of the distribution.[29]

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.[30]

0.4 Loki

Elementary OS 0.4, known by its codename, "Loki", was released on September 9, 2016.[14] Loki was built atop the Ubuntu "long-term support" version released earlier in the year[lower-alpha 1][14] 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.[15]

Loki replaced Freya's Midori web browser with Epiphany, a WebKit2 browser with better performance. When the developers of the Geary email application dissolved, Elementary 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.[15]

Elementary also created its own app store that simplifies the process of installing and updating applications.[15] 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.[10] Loki developers received $9,000 in bounties during its development—nearly half of the project's total bounty fundraising.[15]

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.[15] 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.[10]

Future Elementary OS support for self-contained programs like Snappy or Flatpak is planned.[10]

Version table

Version Codename Release Date Base
Old version, no longer supported: 0.1 Jupiter 2011-03-31 Ubuntu 10.10
Old version, no longer supported: 0.2 Luna 2013-08-10 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
Older version, yet still supported: 0.3 Freya 2015-04-11 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Older version, yet still supported: 0.3.1 Freya 2015-09-03 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Older version, yet still supported: 0.3.2 Freya 2015-12-09 Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
Current stable version: 0.4 Loki 2016-09-09 Ubuntu 16.04 LTS[14]
Future release: 0.5 Juno TBD TBA[31]
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.[14]


  1. codygarver (9 September 2016). "Loki 0.4 Stable Release!". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  2. Cassidy James (14 November 2012). "Hello, Luna Beta 1". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  3. 1 2 Cassidy James (14 November 2012). "Hello, Luna Beta 1". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  4. "GNU philosophy". GNU Project. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  5. "eOS Human Interface Guidelines". Retrieved 2015-04-16. Users will accomplish tasks more quickly because you will have a straight-forward interface design that isn't confusing or difficult.
  6. "eOS Design Philosophy". Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  7. "Elementary OS Luna Released". 11 August 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  8. Klint Finley (25 November 2013). "Out in the Open: Say Hello to the Apple of Linux OSes". Wired.
  9. Daniel Foré; Sam Tate; Tom Beckmann; Sergey Davidoff (15 September 2012). "Meet Gala: The Window Manager". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Lunduke, Bryan (October 13, 2016). "elementary OS 0.4: Review and interview with the founder". Network World. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  11. 1 2 Vishal Gupta (19 April 2011). "Elementary OS "Jupiter": Awesome Linux Distribution Based on Ubuntu". AskVG. Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  12. Tom Nemec (13 August 2013). "Elementary OS 'Luna': Eine Mac OS X ähnelnde Linux-Distribution" (in German). Weblogit. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  13. http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/05/ubuntu-16-04-proves-even-an-lts-release-can-live-at-linuxs-bleeding-edge/
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 http://news.softpedia.com/news/elementary-os-0-4-loki-officially-released-it-s-based-on-ubuntu-16-04-lts-508147.shtml
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Wallen, Jack (September 9, 2016). "Elementary OS Loki Has Arrived". Linux.com. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  16. Daniel Foré (15 August 2015). "How old is Elementary's project?". Elementary blog. Retrieved 2015-09-02.
  17. Javier Pastor Nóbrega (19 October 2012). "Elementary OS "Jupiter" deja de estar disponible" (in Spanish). MuyLinux. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  18. Alin Andrei (12 October 2012). "Elementary OS Jupiter no longer available for download, makes room for Luna". Web Upd8. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  19. 1 2 Alin Andrei (14 November 2012). "Elementary OS Luna beta 1 available for download". Web Upd8. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  20. Michael Larabel (6 May 2013). "Elementary OS Luna Beta 2 Released". Phoronix. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  21. Robin Jacobs (9 August 2013). "Mysterious countdown appears on Elementary OS website". Muktware. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  22. Robin Jacobs (11 August 2013). "Elementary OS Luna says Hello World". Muktware. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  23. 1 2 Daniel Foré (16 August 2013). "Luna+1's Name and Some Other Stuff". elementary-dev-community mailing list. Retrieved 2013-09-14.
  24. Cassidy James (22 June 2014). "Elementary OS Isis is now Freya". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  25. Daniel Foré (11 August 2014). "Freya Beta 1 Available for Developers & Testers". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  26. Daniel Foré (8 February 2015). "Freya Beta 2 is here!". Elementary OS. Retrieved 2015-02-09.
  27. "Online Community Goes Nuts After elementary OS Devs Say People Should Pay". softpedia. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  28. "Should you pay for Elementary OS?". InfoWorld. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  29. 1 2 "Payments". blog.elementary.io. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
  30. https://www.linux.com/news/best-linux-distros-2016
  31. https://launchpad.net/elementaryos/+milestone/juno-beta1


  1. "Pantheon Login Screen in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  2. "Wingpanel in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  3. "Slingshot in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  4. "Plank in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  5. "Plank readme". Launchpad.net. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  6. "Switchboard in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  7. "Epiphany Browser". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  8. "Mail is an email client for elementary OS". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  9. "Maya in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  10. "Noise in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  11. "Scratch in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  12. "Pantheon Terminal in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  13. "Files in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  14. "Pantheon Files readme". Launchpad.net. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 2013-08-11.

External links

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