Elementary OS 0.4 Loki

elementaryOS is an Ubuntu-based distribution that focuses on desktop beauty and ease of use, it’s a well known distribution if you are interested in beautiful interfaces on the Linux desktop, it offers its own interface called “Pantheon”.

Yesterday, the elementaryOS project has released version 0.4 of its Linux distribution under the codename “Loki”, the new version came with a lot of updates and new software, some of them include:

  • Redesigned system indicators, which include Internet, sound, Bluetooth, notifications and battery applets.
  • A new notifications center that keeps them stored until you interact with them, they are compatible with all the installed software by default and you can trigger the “don’t disturb” mode if you want to stop them for a while
  • Redesigned system settings, you can now search for any setting you want using the search box and it will appear to you.
  • Redesigned network settings, the whole interface was made simpler and “straightforward” as the developers say, beside providing options to create VPN, hotspots and proxy connections.
  • Online accounts, you can now link your IMAP email or Fastmail account with the system.
  • Parental control, the administrative accounts can now put limits on normal users account to restrict the usage time, they can also block certain web address or certain applications.
  • Epiphany is now the default browser for elementary OS, Midori was dropped out.
  • Open Sans is now the default font system-wide instead of Droid sans.
  • The Videos, Music, FIles and Terminal applications all received stability updates and bug fixes.
  • New app: Screenshot, take a picture of a certain window, area or whole desktop using this simple application.
  • New app: Mail (Geary), a nice desktop application to check your email, it also integrates with the system notifications and supports all email services using IMAP.
  • New app: Software Center, it’s a place to install all the applications you need from one nice interface.
  • More RTL support, better translations for all the system apps.

You can go ahead and download the new release from the main page for the project, just enter any number (or 0) in the price box in order to able to download the ISO file, no need to pay (but recommended).

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Review

So we have downloaded the new distribution in order to test it and give you a general idea about it, we tested it on a Lenovo G50-80 laptop with 8GB of RAM and Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz processor, this was the start:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Desktop
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Desktop

From the first look, the OS seems clean and organized, the interface is one of the most beautiful interfaces on the Linux desktop, the developers for sure made a huge effort on developing such user interfaces.

The application menu is faster now with a better search box and display options:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Application Menu
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Application Menu

As we said, the default web browser now is Epiphany; it’s actually the default browser in GNOME environment and uses the WebKit engine, it’s not that much actually but still better than Midori:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Web Browser
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Web Browser

I don’t know if anyone would like this app? Personally the first thing I’ll do is removing it and installing Firefox or Chromium, they offer much better interfaces beside tons of plugins, while in Epiphany, there are no plugins to use and the interface is sort of “plastic”, you feel like it’s just a page-displaying interface with some buttons at top and nothing else. Same thing applied to Midori.

When you open the “Mail” application, a simple window will appear asking you to enter your data:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail

After it, the app will start displaying your emails, it integrates also with the system accounts which allows you to receive email notifications on your system, very effective:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail

The new message dialog is simple and clean:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Mail

There’s also a calendar app for elementary OS that allows you to schedule things to whatever time you want:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Calendar
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Calendar

And the default “Music” app which allows you to play music, you can import files from wherever you want too:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Music App
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Music App

For sure, there’s a Videos application as well, I tested it with an .mp4 file and worked instantly, no extra codecs needed:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Videos
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Videos

The text editor is called “Scratch”:

Elementary OS 0.4 Text Editor
Elementary OS 0.4 Text Editor

Here’s the “Photos” app, it monitors your whole home folder for pictures:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Photos
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Photos

This is the system settings window, it looks “good” for a control center, it is completely written by the elementary team:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Control Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Control Center

From the “Applications” settings, you can choose the default applications on your system, you can also create / remove startup applications from there:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Control Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Control Center

From the desktop tab, you can choose the wallpaper, one of the good thing about elementaryOS is that they ship nice, beautiful wallpapers by default to choose from, unlike some other people who have been using an almost auto-generated wallpaper for the last couple of years, I bet you know whom I am talking about:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Wallpapers
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Wallpapers

Some settings exist also for the dock:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Dock Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Dock Settings

You can also configure hot corners, what type of actions you want to happen when you touch the edge by your mouse:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Desktop Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Desktop Settings

The newest feature in the new release is the notifications center, you can setup app-specific notifications settings in order to adjust the way you receive them from that app, you can choose to enable / disable bubbles, sound or storing in the notifications center:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Notifications Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Notifications Settings

The keyboard settings are very easy to modify, from the same window, a better story than GNOME:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Keyboard Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Keyboard Settings

This is what you need in the battery settings:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Power Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Power Settings

The network settings are well organized, you can reach any setting you want about networks from that window, you can also establish VPN or hotspots connections if you want:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Network Settings
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Network Settings

This is the “about” window for elementary OS 0.4, there’s a small button here to “Restore Default Settings”, if you messed with some system or interface settings and would like to go back to the default ones, just click this button:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki About Window
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki About Window

However not everything is good about this center, when I clicked on the “Language Settings”, it automatically changed the control center’s language into Bulgarian language, I don’t know why (I guess because Bulgarian is placed at the first language option, so some bug is setting to it automatically when you open that dialog):

a-language-bug-in-elementary-os-0-4

Also, I had a crash when I opened the sharing settings, the system settings program crashed with no displayed error message. I guess elementary OS team should focus a bit on fixing such bugs and problems beside those UI/UX improvements.

Update: the elementary team has fixed those two bugs in the control center, it’s working great now.

There’s a new application which is the “AppCenter”, it’s a software center that allows you to install, update or remove software:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center

In the live session, you won’t see any available apps to install in the software center, just the installed ones:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center

But it’s working good after installation, you will see all the available programs to install:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki AppCenter
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki AppCenter

This is the details page for Steam, I think they need to improve the floating bar size a bit beside other things for displaying the package description and the image:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center

However the update page is good, you can update whatever program you want – or the whole system – from there:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Software Center

It’s also worth to mention that the distribution is almost empty; No many default applications are already installed, for example even LibreOffice isn’t installed so you can’t manage your documents or open them, you almost only have the elementary OS applications, Files, Photos, Videos.. But nothing else, and this is not a very good deal comparing it to a size of 1.4GB for the ISO file. You will need to do a lot of downloading after you install the system on your hard drive.

This is the “Files” application, you can run it from the terminal by pantheon-files, it’s clean and nice:

Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Files
Elementary OS 0.4 Loki Files

Some binary files don’t run, for example I tried to run a game called “DDNet” which offers 64-bit binaries for Linux, but it didn’t run, the Files application just asks me for how I want to open that file (which program to use to open the binary file), this didn’t happen with me on any other Linux distribution.

This is the terminal window, it’s simple and nice:

Elementary OS 0.4 Terminal
Elementary OS 0.4 Terminal

There’s a “Multi-tasking” button on the dock that allows you to manage your windows like this, similar to GNOME Shell:

Elementary OS 0.4 Multi-Tasking
Elementary OS 0.4 Multi-Tasking

One of the funny things that after I’ve finished this review, I needed to compress the image files and upload them to Dropbox, I couldn’t do it! There’s no option to compress files in the context menu:

Elementary OS 0.4 Context Menu
Elementary OS 0.4 Context Menu

So I had to use the terminal and the tar command to do it. Update: This problem exist only in the live session, there’s an option to compress files after installation.

Also talking about the “Screenshot” tool, the developers say in the release announcement about it:

Current Window mode takes screenshots of apps with transparent backgrounds; this is great for developers or anyone who wants to show off an app window without grabbing their wallpaper or bits of other windows.

Actually this is a bug, I don’t mean the transparent background because everyone needs it but the problem in the tool is that it adds its own empty – long – dimensions to the image itself along with this transparent background, so you would get a something like this, see how far the image is from the borders:

An Image Taken Using The Screenshot Tool in Elementary 0.4
An Image Taken Using The Screenshot Tool in Elementary 0.4

This is not good for web blogs at least, and you can’t disable it from the tool’s settings, so I used gnome-screenshot.

Also, in all elementary’s apps, the window buttons are placed on the left, this is not the default for LTR languages, it should be only for RTL language like Arabic and Hebrew by default:

Window Buttons Placement at Elementary OS 0.4 Loki
Window Buttons Placement at Elementary OS 0.4 Loki

Conclusion About Elementary OS 0.4 Loki

Elementary is a beautiful distribution, I can’t deny that actually, but the system itself with its default software isn’t out-of-the-box usage ready, for example you need to install LibreOffice yourself, also some bugs and usability problems exist in the software (Like the files compression problem, you can’t compress files).

Elementary team actually pointed to a good point about developing desktop distributions, normal users like doctors, teachers, police staff, banking staff and others need beautiful easy-to-use interfaces, things like what elementary already provide, which is actually great, but system stability and efficiency is also very important to the end user, which has sort of lackness a bit in elementary.

The developers should focus on solving such bugs in both the system and the software before releasing it to the public, beside testing it for the needs of the daily average user, it’s not important to just to do UI/UX improvements and introduce a very tweaking-needed operating system at the end, or let the user search for essential software by himself.

Elementary introduces a great part of what Linux users really need and what may really take the desktop industry, however, they need to focus more on the system core instead of just the system look and feel.

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Elementary OS 0.4 Loki
Available Software
Creativity & Inventing
Daily Use Purposes
Stability & Bugs
Customizability
Summary
While the operating system itself is beautiful, it lacks some efficiency for new users, many software should be installed after the OS installation, minor bugs exist in some programs and the number of default installed apps is small comparing to the size of the ISO image, also some parts in the UI needs adjusting like in the AppCenter and Files.
79 %
Generally Good
User Rating 4.55 ( 15 votes)

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M.Hanny Sabbagh

CS student. Living in Istanbul. Python programmer and open source software enthusiast. Worked on developing a lot of free software. The founder of FOSS Post.

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  • Chromium and all its derived browsers such as Chrome, Vivaldi, Opera etc uses Blink rendering engine. Not WebKit. Although Blink was forked from WebKit, they have become quite different from one another.

    • Yes you are right, thanks for pointing out, I forgot that news although I wrote about it myself 1 year ago 😀 Fixed it now in the article.

  • Hey thanks for the review! Some of the things you pointed out have already been fixed and others are quirks of the live session. For best results, you should install and run updates 🙂

    • Callista Graves

      It’s really, really good, but since I have you here as a captive “audience” (pun intended) do you have problems running Audience? It likes to not allow me to upscale certain videos from 4:3 to 16:9. I have filed a bug report.

      I wouldn’t be so demanding about it except that it only does this on Babylon 5, and B5 is a holy and revered thing in my household, so we need 16:9!

      It does upscale in mpv though.

      But I want to run Loki out of the box for a while with no additional programs.

      But hey, I should say thank you for this, you guys are doing a remarkable job.

    • Hi there, thanks for the notice, I have updated the article to include notices about the bugs that were solved and updated the overall rating, however some still exits, like in the screenshot tool, the no-compression option in the Files application, the windows buttons layout.. I hope that the ISO file will also be updated to include the bug fixes in order to give a better impression about the OS for new users

      Also the default applications set is sort of a “bug” for Windows users who use Linux for the first time, I mean if they open a .docx file and see no installed software to open it, they will face problems searching for the right one, I hope elementary team can address such things, their work on the UI/UX is the greatest until now in the Linux desktop, they just need to improve the core OS itself to start ruling 😉

      Best Wishes.

      • abelinux

        If a Windows user installs a Windows ISO on their PC, they CANNOT open a .docx file either… That is, of course, until they buy and install MS Office, which is another ISO, another license agreement, another installation…

        • Well not in the 4 different countries I visited at least, Office comes pre-installed with the OS on the new laptop you buy, also, comparing people knowledge about MS office and LibreOffice is a far away thing from right, billions of people know MS office, but if they use a new OS and they don’t even know what’s the name of the office suite, I don’t think all of them will Google for it.

          • marcdraco

            There is another office suite that looks to offer very similar functionality to Office on Linux but the name escapes me. It’s free for now but likely to be commercial when mature.

          • Gamunu Balagalla

            Yes there is, WPS office https://www.wps.com/. community edition continue to be free for Linux. Download: http://wps-community.org/downloads

  • Pranav Baitule

    Can you do a “x Things to do after installing Elementary OS 0.4 Loki?” Thanks.

  • TMTVL

    “the interface is one of the most beautiful interfaces on the Linux desktop,”

    Citation needed.

    • seerwright

      Interesting request. The excerpt you called out sounds like an opinion to me. I wouldn’t expect an opinion to be cited, but if I jump to the top I can see the author’s name beneath the title’s article. Seems like clear and sufficient attribution of the opinion.

  • enio

    how does the interface scale on high resolution displays?

    • I really don’t know because I don’t have one, the team said before that they are working to implement it in Loki, but I didn’t test it personally or saw anyone who tested it, maybe you can check on the elementary subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/elementaryos/

    • marcdraco

      Scaled flawlessly to 1920x1080p on my system which I guess is down to the Ubuntu drivers. YMMV but don’t blame the Elementary team for bugs from upstream software. This is a problem for all large FOSS projects.

      • Nachiketa Ramesh

        The last version of elementary wouldn’t do text scaling at all. If you increased the text size, you would get clipped text. Unity and Gnome and KDE were fine in this regard. This was 100% the pantheon teams fault for Freya.

  • marcdraco

    I installed the latest version 0.4 and ran updates: and the system became too unstable for a beginner to use. It’s also rather slow on older hardware, I plumped for Peppermint in the end for this particular install which is for a rank beginner.

    I agree with the reviewer, Loki is beautiful and almost certainly the most beautiful GNU+Linux ever built. I would use it in a second in preference to Ghost BSD Mate or Ubuntu Mate 16 which I run now but ONLY when it’s stable.

    Roll on that day and sooner than later: then take my money! I’ll be using it on all new installs and making my customers pay $20 minimum to the dev fund because it’s worth that at the very least.

  • nuno miranda ribeiro

    Nice review. There were a few minor details in Freya that were fixed in Loki. And I enjoy Elementary more and more each day. There is a little thing (just aesthetic) that I cannot seem to figure out. Any maximized window would blend with the background perfectly (changing and adapting the color). And suddenly, after an update, I guess, that no longer happens. Does anyone have a clue on how to have the blending back?

    • I don’t really know what’s the reason for that. However, you can check the developers on their forums or IRC channels, or even the mailing lists: https://elementary.io/get-involved (Though that page is designed for getting involved it’s lot of linking options).

      • nuno miranda ribeiro

        Thank you for your tip. Today, though, I just found that after a system update the background is back to normal. Smooth and perfect!