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At some point, System76 will release a version of Pop!_OS that is a thing of its own, wholly separate from the desktop it was based on … GNOME. Although Pop!_OS 22.04 isn’t that release, you can see the underpinnings of what’s to come with even more subtle shifts away from that which makes GNOME, well, GNOME.

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Last week I finally completed the upgrade from Pop!_OS 21.10 (an update that wasn’t quite as painless as previous instances) and found the desktop OS to be even more impressive on the performance side of things, even if it’s becoming clear that System76 might not want users to be able to customize the desktop as much as they once could. This is a trend I’ve witnessed over the past few iterations, where fewer and fewer GNOME extensions are compatible with the COSMIC desktop. Case in point: the upgrade to Pop!_OS 22.04 went so far as to remove most of the extensions I had previously installed. Of course, some of those extensions (such as Transparent Top Bar and Compiz windows effect) work just fine upon reinstallation, so your mileage may vary on what extensions will continue to work.

But what about Pop!_OS 22.04 makes it worth your while to use?

Let’s take a look at some of the new additions and improvements.

Pop!_OS goes pro

System76 has done something that really helps to stand their OS above so many other Linux distributions. If you open the Settings app, you’ll find a new tab labeled Support. Click on that tab to reveal several very helpful features (Figure A).

Figure A

A new trick that should make getting support for Pop!_OS a breeze.
A new trick that should make getting support for Pop!_OS a breeze.

What System76 has done is collect together everything users need to get support. Not only can you access and browse the documentation, but you can also join the community support in Pop!_OS Chat (which is handled via Mattermost), create a support ticket with System76 (only if you’re running Pop!_OS on System76 hardware) and even create a log archive that can be shared with support.

This is a bold and important move that every distribution designer/developer should consider. This is especially true for new users, as finding helpful support isn’t always as easy as one might find.

PipeWire has finally arrived

For years, one of my biggest pet peeves with Linux has been PulseAudio. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve had problems when trying to work with audio in one app when another app was already using the service.

For example, when trying to record a podcast with Audacity, if any other app on my desktop was using audio, I always had to close the offending app, restart PluseAudio with the pulseaudio -k command, and restart Audacity. Now, in Audacity, I can set both input and output to PipeWire and everything works as expected. No more needing to close apps or restart the PulseAudio daemon. For me, that alone was worth the upgrade.

Other additions/improvements to Pop!_OS

The majority of the changes from 21.10 are fairly subtle. In fact, until you start digging, you’d be hard-pressed to find any major or obvious changes to the distribution. They are, however, there and include such things as:

  • Kernel 5.16
  • An improved Pop Shop experience (which includes a new Recently Updated section–Figure B).

Figure B

The new Pop Shop Recently Updated section lets you know some of the apps in the shop that have been newly updated.
The new Pop Shop Recently Updated section lets you know some of the apps in the shop that have been newly updated.
  • Automatic updates scheduling in Settings | OS Upgrade & Recovery.
  • Improved Workspaces overview

A must-have upgrade

Although you won’t find a large number of deal-making or -breaking features, the one thing you can’t quantify is how System76 has pulled together enough polish and enhancements to make Pop!_OS one of the most performant Linux distributions on the market. Pop!_OS 22.04 is a masterclass in how all of the constituent pieces of an upgrade (no matter how subtle they are) can come together to make something exponentially better. This latest release from System76 is hands down their best release yet. Pop!_OS continues to improve with age and I look forward to what surprises the company has in mind for the future of Pop!_OS and COSMIC desktop.

Download your copy of Pop!_OS 22.04 now.

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