Elementary OS is a new style Linux distro that wraps its own sophisticated desktop design around a solid Ubuntu core. This distro first appeared in 2011, and the second major version came out last year. The latest weeks-old beta release — the third major version, called “Freya” — shows that Elementary OS continues to offer Linux users a dependable alternative to popular desktop options.
Scribbleton is a very infant — as in alpha — release of an innovative note-taking app for Linux that provides cross-platform access with Windows and Apple computers. It creates a personal wiki for storing everything from quick notes to detailed checklists to outlines. It creates links between pages in Scribbleton. Think of this as an easy-to-use database to link words, phrases and pages.
The Pale Moon Web browser project gets rid of a problem that many Mozilla Firefox users would like to solve. The Pale Moon browser is a fork of Mozilla’s official browser developed by Moonchild Productions. It provides users with access to all of their favorite Firefox extensions but eliminates the Australis interface, which some dislike. Firefox debuted the new UI in late April.
Springseed is a simple note-taking app for Linux that features full Markdown language support. Most Linux note and text-editing tools do not incorporate Markdown symbols. The real beauty of this feature is that you do not have to use it. You still have a minimalistic yet very efficient note-taking tool that doubles as a Markdown editor. The Markdown language lets you easily format plain text.
Peach OSI is a new Linux distro that stands apart from the crowd. Its first stable version was just released in June — yet it displays more performance traits and sophistication than many Linux distros that have been searching for an audience for years. In the crowded Linux distro field, it is very rare to find a newcomer that is not like any of the others.
The SparkyLinux GameOver 3.4 Edition may be one of the best Linux distros catering to game players you will find. It is a full-service specialty Linux OS with a focus on gaming. Linux distro developers usually do one of two things about games. One, they provide none or only a few low-impact card and puzzle titles. Two, they build in links to the PlayOnLinux and Steam websites.
The Peppermint OS is built around a concept that may be unique among desktop environments. It is a hybrid of traditional Linux desktop applications and cloud-based apps. This innovative approach puts the latest release, Peppermint OS 5, well ahead of the curve. It brings cloud apps to the Linux desktop with the ease and flexibility of a Chromebook, and it supports installed software as well.
Note-taking applications in Linux are a dime a dozen. It can be difficult to sort through the feature sets to find the best solution. MyNotex has a near-perfect combination of features and uniqueness to put it into a class of its own. MyNotex is a multipurpose tool to take notes, file documents, and manage information or research. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit Deb and RPM packages.
If you do not mind having a free non-open source Microsoft product on your Linux computer, the latest Skype for Linux release catches up to the Windows and Mac versions, providing most of the features they’ve had for some time. Microsoft rolled out Skype version 220.127.116.11 in mid June. The catch-up release has an updated user interface, some additional features, and lots of bug fixes.
KaOS is an interesting and very efficient Linux distribution built around a refined KDE desktop environment. The KDE integration is much more controlled in KaOS than in other Linux choices. The latest release for this 14-month young Linux distro came in late June. KaOS is a bit of a rarity. It is independent of other distros — not a direct relative of other Linux offshoots.
Linux Mint 17, dubbed “Qiana,” is one of the best releases from this community since Linux Mint 13 arrived in 2012 with the Cinnamon desktop. Qiana is filled with extensive improvements and embellishments to all five desktop editions. It is available in Cinnamon, Xfce, KDE, Mate and LMDE. Regardless of which desktop you favor, the core improvements are well worth the upgrade.
If you like the economy of working in a lightweight desktop environment such as LXDE, you no doubt will love the tweaked performance of the LXQt desktop. It is a fusion of the LXDE and Razor-Qt desktop environments. The LXQt hybrid is the next generation of the popular Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. The result is a lightweight, modular, very fast desktop environment that is user-friendly.
The Pinguy OS is a solid Linux distro with a focus on simple and straightforward usability for the non-geek desktop user. This approach may disappoint those who favor newer user interfaces, but if you consider yourself a normal computer user who does not like to tinker with settings and various desktop environment options, Pinguy OS could be a good choice.
RoboLinux is an impressive traditional Linux desktop distro. It could be an ideal vehicle for both enterprises and SOHOs to make the migration to Linux. RoboLinux comes with a few extra features that solve some of the potential problems of leaving other desktop platforms. One of its more enticing migration tools is a preconfigured virtual machine add-on.
Deepin Linux is something totally new. It is an Ubuntu-based distribution built around its own desktop environment called “DDE” or “Deepin Desktop Environment.” The Deepin desktop design is snazzy yet simple to use. It is one of the first Linux distros to take advantage of HTML 5 technology. The distro so far is available only in English and traditional or simplified Chinese.
If you spend any amount of time creating documents, graphics or organizing data into reports or visual presentations, drop whatever collection of tools you use and put the Calligra Suite to the test. The Calligra Suite is a forked set of office tools for the KDE desktop that branched off the stalled KOffice suite. However, you do not have to run the KDE environment to get it.
The Kingsoft Office Suite holds the promise of bringing a near perfect clone of Microsoft Office to Linux desktop users. However, Kingsoft’s developers still have some work to do on the Linux Alpha release to make it a beta deal. Other than OpenOffice and LibreOffice, the Linux platform lacks any full-featured office suite. Both of these more in common with each other than distinguishing features.
A new book on open source education teaches school leaders and parents why kids need to see coding as more than cool. Energizing Education through Open Source: Using Open Source Software to Enhance Learning by Christopher Whittum makes a strong case for deploying the Linux OS and its academic software in schools. This book should be required reading for developing computer-driven curricula.
Working with the Android OS on a desktop computer environment takes personal computing in a new direction. How many will follow it remains to be seen. The release of Android-x86 version 4.4-RC1 (KitKat-x86) by the Android-x86 Project brings the viability of an Android distro as an alternative desktop several steps closer, but it is still a work in progress.
Zorin OS 8.0, released last month, is available in the free core and free education versions, as well as in a paid or ultimate version that provides support and a few other features. Though it is an interim upgrade, Zorin OS 8.0 has several very noteworthy changes and software improvements that make it worth using despite the shorter support period.