Software

Elementary OS Juno has arrived, and it is spectacularly subtle

Developers learned an important lesson with Elementary OS Juno: Not making change for change's sake.

elementaryhero.jpg
Image: Elementary OS

Over the years, I've worked with countless Linux distributions, and my go-to distro has changed from the likes of Red Hat to Ubuntu, to Fedora, and to Debian, to Bodhi, back to Ubuntu, and to Elementary OS. If I had to guess, over the last 20 years, Ubuntu has collectively held that slot longer than any other distribution. But none of those Linux flavors has held that spot for more consecutive years than Elementary OS. My relationship with this Ubuntu-based operating system started with Freya and hasn't stopped. I've been on Loki for what seems like forever, and now Juno has come to woo me away from its predecessor.

And woo it has.

That's right, the latest release of Elementary OS has been unleashed. This version takes what made Loki so wonderful and improved upon it. Slightly.

Wait. What? How can slight improvements make a major release so "spectacular"? Let me explain.

SEE: Side-by-side chart of popular Linux distros (Tech Pro Research)

Change for change's sake

I cannot tell you how many times I've witnessed a Linux distribution make a change, simply for the sake of change. Sometimes developers assume the only way to win over new users or impress old users is to do something radical. In some instances, that strategy pays off (think KDE Plasma and GNOME 3). In other instances, that strategy fails (think Windows ME and Windows 8). But what do developers do when they know their product is already impressive? Do they reinvent that wheel? Or do they simply make the slightest changes to improve its performance and aesthetics? If they are smart, that's exactly what they do.

Hence, Elementary OS Juno.

The Elementary developers made the brilliant decision of not making change for change's sake. In fact, if you install Juno and compare it to Loki, you'd be hard-pressed to find much difference at first blush. It actually takes a bit of time to finally start seeing the subtle differences. In fact, to see how both desktops compare, check out Figures A and B.

Figure A

FIgure A

The Elementary Loki desktop.


Figure B

Figure B

The Elementary Juno desktop.


Nothing too exciting to be found, by way of change. Even though this is a major release, the developers opted to not try and fix what wasn't broken. And that, my friends, is what makes the Juno release so spectacular. Instead of adding new bells and whistles, the Elementary devs opted to simply smooth out any wrinkles in what they knew was already working.

That doesn't mean there aren't new features. There are. In fact, you can read all about what Juno offers from one of the developers, Cassidy Blaede, here. But for me, it's what the developers didn't do that makes Juno such a good release. This is a lesson so many developers could use.

SEE: Securing Linux policy (Tech Pro Research)

Not an easy lesson

Technology has been caught in an interesting loop over the last few years. This phenomenon is perfectly illustrated in the mobile world. Every manufacturer of mobile devices seems to scramble, with each release, to find something unique to bring to the table. To that end, we are teased every possible combination of features and ideas. Consumers anxiously await the first foldable phone to be mass produced. Why? What purpose would a foldable phone serve (outside of simply proving it can be done)?

Manufacturers understand that consumers have developed an incredibly short attention span and are always looking for the next shiny thing. End users, on the other hand, aren't so excited by drastic change. Why? Because they need to get their work done. Good developers and designers understand that concept, and don't want to wind up placing the fruit of their tireless labor in jeopardy, simply because they were afraid users were growing bored.

Think Ubuntu Unity.

Don't get me wrong, I was a big fan of Unity (it was one of the most efficient desktops on the market). However, users resisted that change to the point where Ubuntu fell off that coveted top spot on Distrowatch.

SEE: IT pro's guide to working smarter with Linux (Tech Pro Research)

The developers of Elementary OS understand this well. So much so, that when they bring to light a major release, end users will need to do a second and third take to notice the difference. That's not a criticism of either the developers or the product. In fact, it's a compliment of the highest order. Why? Because Elementary OS is still Elementary OS—one of the finest, cleanest, and easiest to use Linux distributions on the market. And with the release of Juno, that desktop operating system was given just enough polish to improve it such that users will breathe a sigh of relief that their favorite distribution remains—only better.

Elementary OS Juno is just as stable and fast as Loki. It does offer a few new features (the AppCenter, file manager, and the text editor are front and center of those new features), but the most important change is the lack of change.

Lesson learned

To everyone who has given so much time and effort bringing Elementary Juno to life, I say bravo. To those operating system developers who believe they must always make a grand statement with a release, learn a lesson from Elementary Juno. That statement can be subtle, and still be powerful.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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