News Elementary OS 7 is here, and it’s the goodness of the old desktop

Elementary OS 7 builds on everything that previous versions did.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

There was a time when Elementary OS was my go-to Linux desktop distribution. However, after purchasing my first System76 desktop, I migrated from Elementary OS to Pop!_OS and never looked back. Oh sure, sometimes I crave the elegance, simplicity, and seamless look of the Elementary OS desktop (Pantheon), but there are certain aspects that keep me from considering returning.

One problem is the unreliable sound when using serious recording hardware. Of course, this isn’t so much an Elementary OS issue as it is a PulseAudio issue. Unfortunately, Elementary OS 7 seems to be sticking with PulseAudio for now.This can be seen when publishing contract information command, it will contain the following in the output:

Server name: pulseaudio

OK, I’m not going to judge Elementary OS based on the sound server in question. Instead, I want to check what it offers new users.

From that perspective, Elementary OS is an excellent desktop operating system that anyone of any skill level can use.

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However, there are some issues most likely because this is the first release in the 7.x series. I will highlight these later.

But first…

What is Elementary Operating System?

I know this isn’t a popular comparison in the Linux community, but Elementary OS is as close to MacOS as you’ll find in the open source world.

Essentially, Elementary OS is an Ubuntu-based desktop operating system that traces its own path. It is one of the most well-designed Linux desktop operating systems on the market. Elementary OS has a friendlier user interface than almost any operating system, and it’s surprisingly simple to use. Not only is it easy to use, but it’s also beautiful.

The reference to MacOS is deliberate, as Elementary OS’s desktop environment, Pantheon, is very similar to Apple’s desktop operating system. You’ll find a dock, a top bar, a desktop menu, and a system tray. All of these pieces come together to form a well-balanced and easy-to-use interface.

The good news is that the developers behind Elementary OS chose not to make any major changes to the desktop in version 7. In fact, at first glance, Elementary 7 could easily be mistaken for the previous version. This will be great news for those who have already fallen in love with the operating system. For those of you who have never tried Elementary OS, you are in for a treat.

How is version 7 different?

In the simplest terms… not much but enough. Many changes are incremental, such as improvements to AppCenter, where you’ll find better app descriptions and an easier path to update to the latest version of the tools you use. It’s also now easier to sideload apps using alternative sources like Flatpak. Fortunately, Flatpak comes with it out of the box. The only caveat is that Flatpak is not integrated into AppCenter, so all Flatpak installations are done via the command line.

Another very welcome new feature is the addition of GNOME Web 43, which includes support for creating web applications that will appear in the applications menu. To use this feature, open a web browser, point it to the site for which you want to create a web application, click the gear icon, and then click Install Site as Web Application. Once created, you can open the web application from the application menu.

Other improvements include:

  • Reduced the number of install screens.
  • Automatically detects whether the mouse is used and automatically switches to left-handed use.
  • The Mail app now offers a flatter, more modern look and also supports Microsoft 365 accounts.
  • Tasks app now has offline support.
  • The file manager now supports multiple click modes.
  • The Music app was completely rewritten from the ground up to queue and play audio files much faster.
  • Power Profile Management is now available in Performance Mode for devices that support it.
  • Custom terminal commands can be configured for hot corners.
  • The Welcome app has been redesigned to include help choosing a desktop appearance, enabling Night Light, configuring Housekeeping (automatically removes downloaded files, old temporary files, and deleted files), connecting online accounts, browsing AppCenter, enabling auto-updates, and quick access system settings.
Elementary OS starter application.

You can easily customize your Elementary OS experience from the onboarding app.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How does Elementary OS 7 perform?

One thing to keep in mind is that I’m running Elementary OS 7 as a virtual machine, which is not an ideal testing environment. Even so, the OS performed like a champ. Apps open quickly and smoothly, updates are quick, and animations are very smooth. Performance-wise, the difference between Elementary OS 6 and 7 is stark, with 7 running smoother and faster.


With Elementary OS there is a caveat that has plagued the distro for a while… Apps are missing from the AppCenter. Open the AppCenter, and you won’t find anything like LibreOffice. In fact, you won’t find too many office suites in the Office section of the AppCenter. Given that LibreOffice isn’t available as a Flatpak application, there are only two options for installing the most popular open source office suite…via Snap (which doesn’t come out of the box) and manual installation.

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This also brought up the problem I was having. After the first upgrade, AppCenter keeps crashing. Whenever I click on one of the categories it pauses and then crashes. Then, after a while, AppCenter won’t open at all. Even after rebooting, AppCenter refuses to run. I can search and click on individual apps, but the featured category is Busts.

Back to LibreOffice. The way I install it looks like this:

  1. Install Snap sudo apt-get install snapd -y.
  2. Install LibreOffice sudo snap install libreoffice.
  3. Log out and log back in (so that the LibreOffice entry appears in the Applications menu).

If you can use the command line, installation is easy. However, it really doesn’t take that much work to install an office suite. I suggest the team either include Snap and integrate it (and Flatpak) into AppCenter in the next release, or just make LibreOffice available for AppCenter. Either way, an office suite should be considered a must (although most people use cloud-based tools these days).

That caveat aside, I’ve found Elementary OS 7 to be an absolute joy to use. That’s no surprise, considering I’ve been a huge fan of the OS for years. The development team was in a “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” situation, and they did exactly what they were asked to do. The seventh iteration of Elementary OS is an absolute gem of a desktop operating system, suitable for any user of any skill level (especially if you don’t rely on traditional, client-based office suites).

If you’re interested in trying Elementary OS 7, download the ISO, burn it to a USB drive (using a tool like Unetbootin), install it, and enjoy the simplicity of one of the most elegant desktop operating systems on the market.

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