This weekend, the elementary OS team released the latest version of their Linux distribution focused on usability and high-quality visual design, code named "Freya." And, if I were a member of the Ubuntu or Linux Mint teams, I would take serious notice.
I've been running this new version of elementary for a few days (a review will be coming after I've used it for a full week, so I can really get a chance to see what it's like to live in it). But I must say…this is one of the most polished releases of any Linux distributions I have ever had the pleasure to use.
That's not hyperbole. I have no reason to exaggerate the quality of this release – I'm an openSUSE and Android guy, through and through. But "Freya" is damned impressive.
This is the first release of elementary OS since the team released their last version ("Luna") back in the summer of 2013.
"With Luna, much of our work was building the first version of our desktop environment Pantheon," Cassidy James Blaede, UX designer at elementary, said in an elementary blog post. "With Freya we were able to dial in on the details like super-subtly rounded corners on the display and the new animations for maximizing. Both are small yet make the whole experience more polished. We were also able to focus much more effort on the included apps, delivering new features for existing apps and new apps alike."
I dropped a line to Daniel Foré, the founder of the elementary project, with a few questions. Here's what he had to say.
Bryan: Many of the changes in this release seem focused around fine-tuning the user experience. Is there one particular feature that, you feel, stands out from the rest?
Daniel: It's going to sound funny, but one of the most used little refinements for me is the calculator in Slingshot [the application launcher in elementary]. Nothing is faster for simple math than being able to call it up with a shortcut and start typing an equation. I'm really excited about the new LibSynapse back end here and being able to implement more of these really fast little text-based utilities.
Bryan: I read that you [Daniel] are now working on elementary full time. How did that come about? Is elementary truly doing well enough to keep food on the table for (at least one) full-time contributor?
Daniel: Just barely! This is something that we've actually been talking about for quite a while and really carefully watching how much we pull in each month on average. I've been working on elementary part-time for about a month already, scaling down my hours at my day job. I decided to take a bit of a pay cut in order to jump in with both feet and I'm just basically making enough to cover my expenses. But it's really exciting to take a leap of faith and I'm hoping that I can grow our revenue streams so that we'll be able to take on more employees soon.
It's always nice to see open source projects do well enough to be able to support themselves. Those sorts of stories always warm my heart.
The "Freya" release of elementary OS can be downloaded for free (or with an, optional, donation to support the project).