Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 11:31

elementary OS 0.4 "Loki" has released at 9 September 2016. I tried elementary OS Loki for 6 days and now it's time for the review. I wrote this review for beginners and first timers in GNU/Linux, especially in elementary OS. I cover shortly 18 aspects such as shortcut keys, memory usage, audio/video support, desktop experiences, and also elementary OS Loki default software applications. As overall (mentioned below), it's really exciting and comfortable experience for me to review and use elementary OS now, in Loki release. I hope this review is really helpful to you. Enjoy Loki!

Hardware Requirements

  • 64 bit computers (Loki doesn't support 32 bit anymore)
  • 1 GB or RAM
  • 15 GB disk spaces
Note: I installed Loki in ASUS X44C, a 64 bit laptop with Intel Celeron B800 1.8GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, 20 GB main partition + 2.5 GB swap; it's a 5-years old laptop; and it already runs smoothly.

1. Frequently Used Shortcut Keys 

  • Alt+F2 Open desktop menu.
  • Alt+Tab Switch between running applications. 
  • Super*+T Open Terminal.
  • Super+H Minimize window. 
  • Super+Up Maximize window.
  • Super+W Window overview.
  • Super+S Multiple workspaces overview.
  • Super+Left/Right Switch between workspaces.
  • Super+Down Same with Super+S. 
  • Super+Tab Same with Super+Left/Right
*) Super is a key with Windows logo in most keyboards, usually located between Ctrl and Alt keys.

2. Desktop Appearance


I cover some beautiful aspects about Loki appearance, such as its desktop user interface, window overview, workspaces overview, and window switcher. To be honest, elementary OS desktop appearance is more closely similar to Apple Mac OS X's but you will see some differences here.

a. Default Desktop and Available Wallpapers


The beautiful elementary OS's desktop appearance is actually a set of software, called Pantheon Desktop Environment. This whole desktop, Pantheon, visually consists of a top panel with menu (called Wingpanel), a desktop wallpaper, a window manager which represents the border of every application window (called Gala), special icon theme (called Elementary Icon Theme) and a bottom dock (called Plank). And as a surprise for me, Loki brings previous elementary OS wallpapers. I like that.

b. Desktop Menu


Press Alt+F2 to open the elementary OS desktop menu (Applications Menu). For you Windows users, and also Ubuntu users, perhaps it is uncomfortable because you can't access menu by pressing single Super key. But it shows you a pretty drop down menu (in modern web style) with a search bar and icons and paging. This menu makes elementary OS looks very different with OS X.

Tip: you can type any website URL in its search bar and press enter to browse it directly with elementary OS web browser.

c. Window Overview

Press Super+W when running more than one application window, then all windows will spread up on desktop tidily with their own icon in each window. To activate one, just click on it. This window overview mode helps you to switch between running applications, as an alternative to Alt+Tab window switcher.

d. Workspace Overview

Press Super+S to see elementary OS workspace overview. It is the multiple desktop mode of Pantheon, in which you can place (drag & drop) any particular application windows(s) in particular desktop. You may create any number of virtual desktop (by pressing + button at bottom), place any application window, and switch between virtual desktops anytime easily as you wish.

Tip: this workspace overview is very important when you do multitasking jobs, such as graphic designing while listening to audio, i.e. place one application in one desktop so you can focus in one desktop and one application window.


e. Drop Shadow

elementary OS looks so smooth. One of the biggest reason is, the drop shadow effect. If you see smooth shadows around above application window, you are seeing the drop shadow. This drop shadow handled by special software called Gala, which creates the window border and giving effects (animations & compositings) to the desktop.

3. Notifications

elementary has beautiful yet clever desktop notification system. It can notify you both in GUI and CLI, between GUI process (see below) and command line process (see above). And you can differ them from the icons.

Even you can disable all notifications from the Bell Icon on the top panel. Enable it again by sliding the same button. See below.

4. Memory Usage

I installed Loki in ASUS X44C 64 bit Celeron 2 GB RAM. In idle state, Loki eats around 690-780 MB of RAM. That's pretty huge for a desktop system. If you want to use Loki, I recommend you to have 2 GB or more of RAM.

5. Multimedia

elementary OS Loki already brings complete audio/video codecs software, so you can play any format of audio and video without manually installing any software. You can play proprietary & patent-encumbered formats such as mp3, mp4, aac, flv; and at the same time you can play free & open formats such as ogg, ogv, webm, flac, and so on.

6. Window Behaviors


For you Microsoft Windows users, don't get confused with window borders in elementary OS. The Close button is located at top-left; while the Maximize is at top-right. There is no Minimize button, because the principal design concept says elementary OS applications is designed for open-close, and every native application of elementary OS remembers its own state before closing, so minimize is not necessary from the first place.

elementary OS style of window title bar

You will find at least two styles of title bar (header bar) like picture above. Title bar on the left is common style for any non-native elementary OS applications (such as Firefox and Inkscape), but most of native applications have elementary OS style title bar in the right (such as Noise or Files). The left style is plain and simple, while the right style is a mixing style, where the tool bar is mixed with title bar to save vertical spaces. For you Apple Mac OS X users, you will notice the left one is common and familiar in your OS X applications.

7. File Search

elementary OS has its own file manager, called Pantheon Files. It has its own search experience, when you press Ctrl+F and type some keyword, it shows the results as a drop down menu not as icons in the main area. For me (and perhaps another users of modern file managers) this search behavior is not comfortable, it's certainly unique, but it's not as intuitive as normally Nautilus or Dolphin search.

8. Plank

The bottom dock is known as Plank, providing desktop experience very similar to OS X. At the default settings, it contains original elementary OS applications such as Calendar and Geary. Every running applications will be shown here as icon, remind us to OS X bottom dock or bottom taskbar in Windows.

Running application is controlled from this bottom dock, for example, closing current and opening new window.

Press Ctrl+right click on Plank > click Preferences > Plank settings window appears. You can configure 3 things here:
  • Appearance: theme, changing dock position (left/right/top/bottom), display, icon size.
  • Behavior: hide/show dock, restrict to workspace, delay, pressure reveal. 
  • Docklets: clipboard tool, clock, show desktop, and trash bin.

9. AppCenter

AppCenter is a new software center for elementary OS Loki users, just like Ubuntu Software Center or Mac App Store. Loki is the first version of elementary OS to have AppCenter, its own GUI software center. In Loki, AppCenter can search between 50000+ of freely* available software packages (see output of apt-cache stats), and install them as you wish easily. AppCenter is designed to be easy to use, visual-oriented, and classified.

AppCenter is classified in some categories of application, for example: Accessories, Audio, Development, Education, Games, Graphics, and so on. You may also search the name of software by your own.

To install a software, just press "Install" button beside the software name. To uninstall the installed software, click the software name > press "Uninstall" button.

Note: AppCenter is designed to be simple to use, but not to be simple to configure. So it lacks any settings or preferences menu, and also it has no built-in proxy/auth setting.

*) Freely, free as in software freedom and also mostly free as in free price.

10. Terminal

Terminal Emulator in elementary OS is very simple to use. It has no preferences, but gives you searching facility. It is also integrated with notification system for every finished command you will get desktop notification and/or green check sign on the tab.

11. Video Player

The video player in elementary OS is named Audience. You see this program on the menu as Videos. It has very limited functionality, but it's very simple to use. It's designed to watch movies e.g. it supports playlist, full screen, and subtitles.

12. Audio Player

The audio player of elementary OS is named Noise. You see this program in menu as Music. It is more complete than Audience, it gives you preferences menu and equalizer, along with view options, repeat & shuffle toggles, and audio tag editor. It comes with tidy and smooth interface, at the same time it's also simple to use. To be honest, its interface reminds us to Apple iTunes.

13. Scratch

The text editor of elementary OS is named Scratch. It has simple interface, and is very simple to use, but has many advanced features such as syntax highlighting, line numbering, and split window. Scratch supports extensions to get more features, and already brought some built-in advanced extensions such as browser preview (for web developers), file manager, spell checker, terminal, and even Vim mode. So Scratch in elementary OS is similar with third-party Notepad++ in Windows, it has more features than Notepad or WordPad.

14. Network Selections

elementary OS Loki shows its network selection in a simple yet beautiful tray. You can turn on and off the network you use (wired or wireless), select one network available from the list, and easily configure it from the Network Settings.

15. Network Settings

elementary OS has its own Network Settings window. Personally, this is the most beautiful GUI that I love the most from Loki. One of its greatest feature is, it includes OpenVPN support by default (yes, Loki has openvpn software package pre-installed).

Tip: if you want to try OpenVPN networking just now, try free service for OpenVPN such as Download the .ovpn file and import it into Network Settings > VPN.

16. Package Management

There are some notes about Loki package management system:

  • Overall, elementary OS has exactly same package management system as Ubuntu. So it makes use of dpkg, apt, and sources.list.
  • The command add-apt-repository is not included by default. This command's purpose is to add a PPA (third-party repository) to your system. 
  • There is no advanced GUI package manager by default, such as Synaptic.
  • There is only fancy AppCenter GUI to represent overall management system without any settings menu. It's just like PlayStore in Android or Mac App Store in OS X.

17. Screenshoting Behavior

I don't know why, but in my system, my PrintScreen key is not working. It can not be assembled to screenshot taking command, for any mode (whole, region, or window). To get rid of this problem, I must attach Ctrl+J for my screenshot program. I hope this will be fixed soon.

18. Some Technical Details

elementary OS Loki brings these details by default:

  • GNU C Library 2.23
  • GNU bash 4.3.46
  • Linux kernel 4.4.0
  • dpkg 1.18.4
  • apt 1.2.12
  • systemd 229
  • X Window System 7.7
About Loki sources.list files:

  • /etc/sources.list contains the main software sources exactly the same as Ubuntu 16.04. 
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elementary.list contains PPA repository of elementary OS Loki.
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/patches.list contains PPA repository of elementary OS Loki, special for patches (e.g. bugfixes).

19. Conclusion

My overall conclusion is I am satisfied with Loki. Its beautiful interface, easy and exciting user experience, the new Network Settings, and almost in all aspects Loki satisfy me. For you Windows users, Loki is very simple to understand (less settings), easy to use, and considerably very beautiful. It fulfills every basic jobs for desktop, and much more. For you Mac users, Loki has sleek and intuitive design, and closely similar with OS X user interface, you won't have trouble to get enjoy it. For every computer users, give elementary OS Loki a try and you will love it.

20. Install elementary OS Loki

I have written a tutorial about installing elementary OS Loki. And after installing, I also have written guide after install for Loki. I hope they would be truly useful for you.