A distro for moving from Windows/Mac OS to Linux

The Linux Experience

You've made the switch from Windows or Mac OS to Zorin OS, but how good is the Zorin experience, beyond appearance and support for Windows apps?

Zorin OS uses Ubuntu LTS as the base, which means one of the most user-friendly distributions is at the bedrock of Zorin.

The first step into the Linux world is the installer. No matter how good an OS is, if you can't install it, nothing else matters.

Zorin OS offers one of the easiest installers, Ubiquity. It's simply a matter of clicking Next. You won't have issues as long as you are installing a single boot machine. However, if you want to dual boot with Windows 10 or another Linux distribution, Ubiquity provides an option to install Zorin OS alongside the existing OS or wipe the entire hard drive and install it as the solo OS. You can also enable options to install third-party software or download updates during installation. Zorin OS will install media codecs and additional drivers depending on your hardware (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The easy-to-use Zorin OS installer.

Ubiquity does a lot of spoon feeding. However, if you are well-versed with Linux, then you can choose the Something else option and fine-tune your installation media as you please. It's designed for consumers without dumbing it down for advanced users.

Once the distro is installed, you boot into a very polished distribution (Figure 5).

Figure 5: The default look-and-feel of Zorin OS.

Zorin OS targets [5] Windows and Mac OS users, but it's a very powerful Linux distro in its own right. In a nutshell, Zorin OS is a full-fledged Ubuntu-based distribution that adds another layer of ease of use and polish to Ubuntu.

"While Windows users are our main audience, we work to make Zorin OS an enjoyable and accessible desktop for many other types of users as well," said Zorin. "When we go about building a new release of Zorin OS, we start by defining the kind of user experience we want to deliver, and then work our way backwards to the features and technologies, rather than the other way around. This process encourages us to think of how we can get the technology out of the way, so you have a pure and frictionless computing experience that works the way you do."

As a distro based on Ubuntu LTS, the strength of Zorin OS is familiarity, stability, and ease of use. Zorin OS's user interface (UI) offers the familiar start menu UI where you click on the icon at the bottom left to open the application launcher (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Zorin OS's application launcher offers a familiar interface for most PC users.

The launcher's left panel shows a selection of tools and applications; the launcher's right panel shows the username and file directory, as well as quick access to Software (the application store), Settings, and Activities Overview (aka the dashboard).

Instead of using vague words and jargon, Zorin OS uses simple terms. A user can easily guess that Graphics is for image editing software and Office is for productivity suites.

The app launcher also has a search bar, which makes searching a pleasure. A new user can simply type "editor" or "writer" to find the gedit text editor or LibreOffice Writer. A search for an image editor would offer Gimp.

Zorin OS comes with a decent set of preinstalled applications, including Firefox, Chromium web browser, LibreOffice, Gimp, Videos, Rhythmbox, and so on. If you need applications like Google Chrome or VLC, you can easily install them. There are many options for doing this:

  • With Gnome Software tool, which comes with Zorin OS, you can easily search for the desired application and install it.
  • If you are comfortable with the command line interface (CLI), you can easily install an application by running the apt-get install command.
  • If an application is not available in Software, you can simply download the .deb file and install it with a double-click.
  • You can add a package's repository and install it from Software or the CLI. Using a repository, if available, is recommended, as it will also install any future updates when you run the system update command.
  • You can also install snap packages on Zorin OS.

Manual Package Installation

If you want to manually install a package in Zorin, it's very easy. Google Chrome, for example, was not available in Zorin's repository, so I headed to Google [4] and downloaded the application's 64 bit .deb version. The installer was downloaded to the Download folder. Just double click on the file and install it as you would on Windows and Mac OS – easy peasy.

If you are comfortable with the command line, you can add Google Repository [6] to Zorin OS and install other Chrome and Google packages as well (Figure 7):

Figure 7: Once you add Google Repository, you can install all Google packages available for Zorin OS.
# sudo wget -q -O - https://dl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub |sudo apt-key add -

To refresh repositories, run this command:

# sudo apt-get update

Now you can install all Google packages with:

# sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

Updating and managing the system is also very easy. The Software tool is capable of not only updating the applications, but it can also install OS updates (Figure 8). Since it's Ubuntu, you can always run the following command to keep the system updated manually:

# sudo apt-get update && dist-upgrade
Figure 8: The Software app offers system-wide updates.

Zorin vs. Zorin

Despite being a community-driven distro, Zorin OS also offers a business model. There are three versions of Zorin OS: Ultimate, Core, and Lite. Lite is free of cost and intended for low-powered and older systems.

Zorin OS Core is intended for modern systems. It's available for free, with an optional donation to support the project. Zorin OS Ultimate, the paid version, costs EUR19 and comes with additional features, official technical support, and more UI tweaks.

While the base of all three versions is the same, Zorin OS Ultimate includes a large selection of extra software including games, multimedia apps, and business software. It comes preloaded with music production workstations, 3D modeling apps for creating professional movies and games, CAD software, accounting and finance tools, media center software, and a selection of native Linux games.

Zorin OS Ultimate also comes with Zorin premium software such as Zorin Background Plus and the extended Zorin Appearance (which I mentioned earlier). Zorin Appearance in Zorin OS 12 Ultimate includes six layouts as opposed to the three available in the Core edition.

The good news is that Zorin doesn't limit or restrict functionality in the Core edition. You can use Zorin OS like any other Linux distribution without paying a dime. You can always do the extra work of fine-tuning by googling and installing apps. However, if you plan to deploy Zorin OS in your organization, paying EUR19 might make more business sense.

Zorin also has customers in the enterprise and public sector. To help these customers, Zorin is now considering the entire life cycle of deploying, managing, and maintaining fleets of Zorin OS-based computers.

"We're in the process of building a remote management suite with the goal of managing tens, hundreds, or even thousands of workstations. We're planning to release this product before the end of this year," said Zorin.

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