Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Elementary OS Luna Development Build Late Nov'2012 Review

Update 2012-11-23: I have just updated the dev build to alpha using apt-get upgrade and apt-get dist-upgrade; and the system is feeling more stable. The added blue checks wallpaper really shines

What's new
        We have a new terminal emulator which replaces gnome-terminal and it's looking slick.
        Plank is the dock at the bottom. I have covered it below.
    Pantheon Files
        Merlin was the file manager used in Elementary Jupiter. Now they have forked it into Pantheon Files.
    GALA: Elementary's libmutter based window manager
        Gala was introduced only couple of months ago. And I think it was a big step for elementary. Having their own widow manager lets them have greater control as well as customization.
        Noise is the music player provided by elementary. It's fairly modern and the goal is to have something that fits the elementary philosophy with being fast and lightweight.
        Maya is the calender provided with elementary.

System Requirements

    Same as Ubuntu;
    Runs snappier than Ubuntu so good chance of having this run on most run of the mill hardware.

Desktop and Software


The top panel is partially transparent bar. In left corner we have Applications Menu button which brings up application menu. In the middle we have time and date. We can click on the date to bring up Calender. But we don't have any option to open Maya from here. It would be innovative to be bale to add an event or view events from this calender itself. Anyway, moving on, in right corner we have the system tray plus notification area plus the user switcher and power buttons. We also have mail and IM indicator which can display number of unread mails etc when geary is configured. We also have empathy's chat related options here in a drop-down menu.


        Plank is the dock at the bottom. It's a simple dock and it's actually lacking in quite a bit of functionality. Of course a new user won't even notice it since the main task of plank i.e. of launching applications is done well enough. But for someone who has used AWN, plank is just not enough. The most glaring problem with plank is that the slight glow shown for current application is difficult to notice. This is especially true when we are using several apps in windowed mode and some of them have white/whitish icons. Also there are a few workflow related problems as well. Now consider we want to navigate to window x of App A and our current window is window z from App C, how do we go to the desired window? We go to plank, then we right click the icon for App A and from the list of windows we select the one desired. But if there are multiple windows with the same name then we have to go through this same sequence again and again. So I think there's scope for improvement.

    Notification menu and system tray
        These didn't bug me much. Things usually worked as expected. The white icons on black background are easy to notice.
And the notifications are themed well. I don't know whose work that is though. But it looks well enough.

    Application Menu
        The application menu is themed well, and things look well together.


        Maya needs lot more features and lot's of integration. What I observed here is that there are a lot of waysa things could be made better. They could make it more accessible by integrating it with the clock in the center of top panel. The could provide some shortcuts for common tasks etc. And the support for other calenders/ import / export would be welcome.

        The elementary terminal looks beautiful. It's got tabs and funnily dragging them out from a window works but someone up there has forgotten to implement a drop event too. So you can't drop them in another terminal window to move them around.

    Geary Mail
        I couldn't check out geary mail, but from what I have heard on the grapevine it looks like a good application being put together by a pro team of devs and so it should be competitive  But again it will take some good amount of time to get to the accessibility and feature level of current email apps like evolution and Thunderbird.
    Pantheon Files aka Merlin
        Merlin has been renamed and forked as Pantheon Files. It's light weight and really fast but it's a little bit unstable at times.

Final Thoughts
    Elementary OS is going to need couple more releases to get to where the other distros really are. The bug fixing task is going to be big one. What I would like to see for elementary is have alternate rounds of bug fixing and feature addition. It's going to be tough, or it already is. Being a Dev I know how difficult development and maintenance of software is. Still overall I think the devs have done a great job which what they have with them. They have taken some strides and they have the polish. Now the difficult task of bug fixing and adding stability is the mountain for them to scale. And I would like to both congratulate them and wish them luck on this great journey the have.

Image Gallery

elementary screen caps

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