Although Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Mint have made great strides regarding user-friendliness, they’ve sometimes had difficulty convincing the majority of users of other operating systems to drop the way they currently do things and adapt to something new. Solus OS is a new Linux operating system that isn’t based on anything. It’s a fresh take on Linux with a message: less is more. No hassling with settings or choices. Everything is taken care of for you ahead of time.
When you boot up Solus OS, you’ll notice a single taskbar at the bottom of the screen. This single panel is the basis for the Solus-developed desktop environment known as Budgie. Based on GTK3, Budgie presents a user-friendly, simplified environment designed around the idea that your computer shouldn’t be a hassle to use.
Windows users and those using common Linux distributions like MX Linux, Manjaro and Mint may find this panel familiar, though a few tweaks have been added to make it more user-friendly. For example, moving your mouse over a category doesn’t immediately switch you over to it like in other Linux distributions. Instead, you can freely scroll through one category without worrying that your mouse will slip and take you to another.
Budgie has a neat Windows-like menu that can search installed applications on the left and a notification center, calendar, and Settings pane to the right. Everything the Budgie desktop has to offer is condensed into this small area, giving you immediate access to the most important parts of your user experience.
Through this interface, Solus is making a statement: Everything you need can be found quickly from one point of access. Instead of bogging you down with package managers, Solus trims the fat and provides a more central, well-updated and vast database of applications that are pre-packaged to work out of the box.
Can’t find what you’re looking for from the curated lists? Just use the search function, and you’ll likely find your favorite application anyway!
The process of installing Solus OS is fairly similar to that of most UX-oriented Linux systems. In recent years, it’s even begun to incorporate features that automate the experience, making it more friendly to beginners who may find partition management on a Linux installation somewhat intimidating or tedious.
Establishing a time zone and locale is easy with its automatic location detection, which works as long as you’re connected to the Internet.
Although you have the option to automate the partitioning of the drive where you wish to install Solus, you’re also given the option to fully nerd out your installation if you wish to make some finer adjustments.
Once that’s all done, it’s just a matter of choosing a name for the computer and creating the main account that will log in to the OS. The rest of the installation runs on its own without requiring any input from the user.
What Makes Solus OS Special?
In short: It’s not a derivative. The truth is that in this day and age we seldom see new Linux operating systems come along with a completely fresh core. Most distributions in daily use by consumers are based on either Debian, Arch, or even other derivatives like Ubuntu.
This is not to say that these flavors or “flavors of flavors” don’t bring anything innovative to the table; there’s a reason why Mint is more popular than straight Debian.
However, there’s something “clean” about the Solus experience that mostly results from everything – including Budgie – being built from the ground up.
Whether you’re a Windows/Mac user looking to migrate over to a version of Linux that meshes together some of the features you’re accustomed to, or you’re a Linux veteran who wants something more curated, Solus may just check all those boxes.
What About Gaming?
Five or six years ago, Solus would probably not have been a first choice as a Linux gaming system. But with the advent of Steam Proton, protontricks, and Solus’s commitment to making its system as friendly as possible to gaming recently, 2021 brings with it a whole different ballgame.
You can find Steam inside of the software repository using the search function, install it, and be gaming within 20 minutes.
Some Possible Hitches
As great as Solus is, given the strong strides it’s made in recent years of extremely active development, it still has its own shortcomings. The biggest has to do with the fact that as an operating system built from scratch, its package manager (“eopkg”) has almost zero name recognition.
This means that if you’re unable to find an app you want in the software manager, there’s a very good chance you’re going to have to manually compile it.
That being said, I was able to find all the daily driver applications I could muster in Solus just fine. This included Brave Browser, Google Chrome, VLC, Libre Office, OpenJDK, Python and many others.
Another possible turnoff, especially for people who are used to the rugged experience of using the console for almost everything in Linux, is the fact that the experience in Solus is curated to the point where it almost feels wrong to use anything but the UI. This may feel a bit strange if you’re used to quickly configuring your experience using the conventional Linux methods.
While it is possible to navigate to configuration files and do the old-fashioned rigmarole of finding those files and, for example, configuring PulseAudio plugins like DysonCompressor, it’s not as feasible as it would be in other distributions. Solus seems to attempt to hide all the “techy” stuff from plain view. Where you’re used to seeing the terminal emulator, you instead see a clean list of applications and the software manager. It can leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of power users.
After more than five years in development, Solus OS has come a long way from its early beginnings and kept to its promise of becoming an operating system for the “everyman.” Adding a plethora of applications to its software repository, it’s become accommodating for even the most veteran of power users, while at the same time retaining the ability to appeal to a less “nerdy” demographic.
It does what you expect, looks after you, and curates your experience so that you don’t have to fumble around. If you are looking around for a stylish Linux distro, you should also check out Deepin Linux.
Image credit: Solus 3 with Budgie Desktop