Hailed as the last good version of Windows by many, Windows 7 is now officially retired. Zorin OS’s creators know this leaves a massive chunk of users with a choice between two equally uncomfortable solutions: upgrade to Windows 10 or jump ship to Linux. This is primarily the user group Zorin OS targets and, to Microsoft’s chagrin and as we’ll see, probably the better choice.
Installation and First Contact
Zorin OS is at least as easy, if not more so, as the easiest-to-install Linux distribution available today. Its installation is almost identical to Ubuntu’s.
Some highlights worth mentioning would be:
- Option to test it in a live environment or install it, as the industry norm does.
- Option to install third-party driver and codecs.
- Allows you to share data with its developers to count you as an active user, but it’s opt-in and disabled by default.
- Supports LVM.
The first thing you notice when Zorin OS boots up is its animated logo. I admit I found it cool in a world of static screens, and it reminded me of similar boot screens in unofficial Android ROMs for smartphones.
Zorin’s log screen can work as a lesson in aesthetics for other distributions – it has no fluff, looks professional, and presents everything in the best way possible.
Like Ubuntu, there are accessibility options available (albeit hidden in an extra menu, somewhat defeating their ease of access purpose) but also the option to use Wayland as the Desktop Environment’s back-end.
Looks and Customization
I personally dislike the welcome windows that turn up after the installation of many distributions. Thankfully, Zorin OS throws you straight at its minimalistic, based-on-Gnome desktop: a wallpaper, a toolbar, and that’s it.
After one or two clicks, Zorin might notify you that updates are available. You can install them immediately, ask it to remind you later, or seize the opportunity to check out its “Settings …” as I did.
I don’t know if that’s a bug since I usually update my installations through Bash, but enabling any of the three options under “Install updates from,” in the Updates tab of the “Software & Updates” windows, wouldn’t stick.
The update procedure itself is painless, and you only have to acknowledge its completion.
One click on the clock on the toolbar displays a typical daily information panel with a mini-view of the month’s calendar, notifications (and a do-not-disturb setting), and support for world clocks and a weather forecast.
Zorin OS is that rare breed of a modern OS with a rational structure in its settings. Want to add a photograph to your account? Click its thumbnail preview and select the image file you desire.
Maybe you don’t like the default applications. Change them by visiting “Default Applications.”
In a world where in almost every single OS, from Windows 10 to many Linux distributions, you have to rely on some form of search to find the specific option you are looking ford, Zorin OS’s organization of all its settings is a breath of fresh air.
Features and Programs
In its based-on-Gnome Core version, Zorin OS offers three different pre-defined desktop layouts. Based on your decision, it can alter the taskbar to a dock or a hybrid appearance and swap a typical Start menu for a grid of larger icons. Or you can manually customize its elements as you wish.
Although we didn’t test it, the Lite version, based on XFCE, presents similar visual customization options, with almost identical aesthetics.
Zorin OS allows you to easily change the accents of the active theme, swap themes, and icon sets.
Not only does Zorin OS offer a dark version of its main theme, it also supports setting up a time schedule for it. By setting it up you can have a light version of the theme during the day, switching automatically to its dark variant when the sun goes down.
It was nice how Zorin OS offered to download needed extra software for proper support of Greek since I’m a bilingual user. It wasn’t as lovely how it also hauled in GIMP’s language packs for everything else, including Spanish
Online-friendly, Zorin OS offers support for connecting to:
- Microsoft Exchange
- IMAP and SMTP
- Enterprise Login (Kerberos)
Zorin OS comes with support for remote access/screen sharing through VNC. It’s somewhat slower than Windows Remote Desktop, for anyone looking to make the jump, but it’s more versatile. And it doesn’t force you to “buy a professional license” to get it.
Buried in the settings about your Displays, “Night Light” can utilize the computer’s camera to make your screen’s colors warmer during the night. Minimizing they screen’s blue light has been proven to increase sleep quality.
Zorin’s default software isn’t anything to write home about – it’s how it’s implemented and presented that matters. Perusing its menu, you’ll find software like:
- Files (file manager)
- Libre Office (office suite)
- gEdit (text editor)
- Brasero (optical media writing)
- GIMP (image manipulation)
- Pitivi (media editing)
- Rhythmbox (music player)
- Videos (media player)
- To Do (task management)
- Deja Dup (backup tool)
- Disk Usage Analyzer (storage analysis)
- Zorin Connect (Phone sync & remote functionality)
I’d love to share my opinion on how Zorin Connect works, but unfortunately, my phone’s busted, so I was unable to review that function.
Nothing restricts you to Zorn OS’s collection of installed software – its Software Center allows you to expand it with everything but the kitchen sink.
Although it might be presented as a solid alternative to Windows, Zorin OS is also worth a look for everyone tired of trying to grasp with some distributions’ approach to organization. It’s uncomplicated in its use, beautiful to look at and fast. What’s not to like?