A large factor in the runaway success of the $35 Raspberry Pi is how easy it is to get started with the tiny computer.
Compared to other low-cost, single-board computers the machine is simple to start using, thanks to its range of bundled software.
That process just got even easier with the latest release of the Raspbian OS, the official operating system for the Pi.
The big new feature is an addition the Raspberry Pi Foundation is calling "our version of the Apple App Store".
The new Recommend Software menu, available via the Preferences section of Raspbian's main menu, allows users to choose from a list of useful applications — ranging from the LibreOffice suite to the Thorny IDE for programming in Python.
Installing or uninstalling these programs is as simple as checking or unchecking boxes in the menu.
Simon Long, senior principal software engineer with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, says the menu will allow Raspbian to offer a range of good quality software without the install ballooning in size.
"Over the last few years, several third-party companies have generously offered to provide software for Pi users, in some cases giving free licenses for software that normally requires a license fee," he writes.
"We've always included these applications in our standard image, as people might never find out about them otherwise, but the applications perhaps aren't all of interest to every user.
"So to try and keep the size of the image down, and to avoid cluttering the menus with applications that not everyone wants, we've introduced a Recommended Software program."
"Think of this as our version of the Apple App Store, but with everything in it available for free."
The other major change that will help new Pi users is the introduction of a new setup wizard that runs the first time Raspbian boots.
The wizard walks the user through the essentials, such as setting the language and timezone, setting up Wi-Fi, changing the password and checking for updates to Raspbian. When I tested the wizard it appeared to get stuck while checking for updates, although I was running the x86 build of Raspbian in a virtual machine, so this problem may not occur when running the OS on a Pi board.
There's also new software to try out, such as a new pdf viewer called qpdfView, which is both faster and has a more modern UI than Raspbian's old viewer, and the Chromium browser is also updated to the more recent build 66.
The latest version of the Linux-based Raspbian OS is available via the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Downloads page or by going to the terminal in an existing build of Raspbian and typing the command sudo apt-get update followed by sudo apt-get dist-upgrade.
Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
- The Raspberry Pi has become even easier to use, with the addition of what's being described as an app store to the official Raspbian OS.
- The latest version of the official Raspbian OS also includes a setup wizard, which walks new users through setting up the board.
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.