Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 22:07

(Zorin OS 15 Core with start menu opened and System Info showing its details)

This is my first review for Zorin GNU/Linux operating system ever and this is version 15 released at 5 June 2019. Zorin OS is an Ubuntu-based distro with modified GNOME 3 user interface available in 4 different editions: Ultimate, Core, Lite, and Education. This short overview focuses on the Core Edition: it features very friendly and fast desktop, familiar taskbar, complete desktop applications including LibreOffice and GIMP, and Flatpak and Snap supports built-in. It maintains own repositories and PPAs. Zorin OS is suitable to everybody begins trying GNU/Linux. I hope this short article helps everybody to begin Zorin OS. Enjoy!

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1. About Zorin

Zorin OS is a desktop GNU/Linux distro based on Ubuntu and this version 15 is based on Bionic 18.04. Zorin OS is a LiveCD system with Ubiquity installer, making it available for you to run the whole system completely without installing or install it quickly and very easily to your computer (trust me, it's easier than installing Windows). Its website is located at

Zorin OS is available in 4 editions:
  • Ultimate: the paid edition, similar to Red Hat Enterprise OS.
  • Core: the flagship edition of Zorin, comparable to Cinnamon edition of Mint.
  • Lite: the XFCE edition, available for both 32-bit and 64-bit.
  • Education: the school edition, comparable to Edubuntu.
And Zorin OS has several slogans we can read on the website:
  • You computer. Better. 
  • Easy to use: A powerful desktop you already know how to use.
  • Rock solid & reliable.
  • Virus resistant.
  • Speed: Runs fast of computers old & new.
  • ... and more.
And important links online about Zorin OS are:

2. Zorin's User Interface

First time I looked at it was when I taught an online lesson and my student was using Zorin 12 at that time. It's a GNOME user interface with KDE style. You know what I mean, it's bottom panel with start menu and system tray. Any Windows 7 user will find it similar to his/her previous OS. To open the start menu, simply press Super key.

(Zorin OS with start menu opened and file manager running)

When a program running, its "task" appears on taskbar as its logo, and there is a tooltip preview and the (X) Close button when mouse cursor hovers over it. This taskbar resembles Windows 7's one a lot nobody will find difficulties to operate it.

(Taskbar showing tooltip preview of a running window with an X Close button)

Opening the start menu and clicking Activities Overview button shows all running programs in a glance with search bar on top and workspace switcher on right.

(And, this one is the original overview from GNOME 3)

The uniqueness of Zorin OS comes from its commitment "A powerful desktop you already know how to use" so that the project develops Zorin Appearance which is useful to turn the interface to mimic either Windows or GNU/Linux. There are 3 styles we can switch to, they are: default, default + icon only taskbar, and unique style. The third option shows floating taskbar, with autohide enabled, and

(The built-in tweak tool of Zorin OS)

3. Zorin's Repository

This is the uniqueness: Zorin maintains Zorin's own repository, Zorin's own PPA repository, and makes use Ubuntu's (just like Mint and elementary does as well).  In technical way, this means Zorin has 6 sources.list files:

  • /etc/apt/sources.list (pointing to Ubuntu Bionic's repo)
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/zorin.list (pointing to actual Zorin 15 repo)
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/zorinos-ubuntu-apps-bionic.list
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/zorinos-ubuntu-drivers-bionic.list
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/zorinos-ubuntu-patches-bionic.list
  • /etc/apt/sources.list.d/zorinos-ubuntu-stable-bionic.list

(There are many repository sources of Zorin OS by default)

4. Apps and LibreOffice

Zorin is the first operating system to ship LibreOffice with the new Notebookbar Tabbed (Ribbon-like) interface by default. When you run Writer, for instance, you see immediately that the toolbars are by default switched to Notebookbar. You see that latest Ubuntu and Fedora do not ship latest LibreOffice with it, even though this feature existed.

(LibreOffice with MS Office 2013 style)

And even it includes Pitivi Video Editor by default. It's an user friendly, simple to use, with a lot of effects video editing tool.

(Pitivi in action)

It also includes GNOME To Do, an easy to use scheduling program.

(Some examples scheduling with To Do)

5. Flatpak and Snap!

Okay, this is interesting: Zorin OS 15 brings both Flatpak and Snap together by default. Zorin is the first GNU/Linux distro to do this. What's this? Simply speaking, Zorin users now have all applications available at and, respectively, on their hands, as additions to 50,000 applications they already have on Zorin's native repository. Today Flathub offers more than 700 applications while Snapcraft offers more than 2000, you can install and get updates safely, thanks to Flatpak and Snap application delivery system. If you do not know what is Flatpak and Snap, I strongly suggest you to read Askubuntu in general and Verummeum for more detailed comparison.

(Flathub and Snapcraft sites provide you thousands applications you can install on Zorin OS)

6. Documentation and Forum

Zorin documentation is available at  To be honest, the documentation is very limited particularly if we compare it to Ubuntu documentation (Help, Wiki). Fortunately, in fact, Zorin Project directs users to ask directly instead on Zorin Forum. The forum has more than 40000 posts and 8000 topics posted up to today.

(Documentation available online at Zorin website)

(Zorin forum)

7. Zorin Ultimate and Why Paying

This one is an interesting topic I often discuss on my online class (in Indonesian) that free software doesn't mean gratis as everybody has a copy has full right to sell it. That's why we call it free software because the user is free (including free to trade copy with money). You see, there is Zorin Ultimate, a paid edition of Zorin in which to download it you are required to pay the developers. The price is $39. As I said, this is OK as GNU GPL guarantees it and further Zorin Project explained it on their page Why Pay. And I would love to quote the Selling is OK! page above: "Distributing free software is an opportunity to raise funds for development. Don't waste it!". I hope this explanation helps everybody to understand this point better.

 (Ultimate Edition on the official website)

My Thoughts

This is my first review for Zorin and following are my thoughts. What I like the most is that Zorin OS has its own custom GNOME desktop environment. Second to that, it maintains own repository, not merely using Ubuntu's repository. Its user interface is fast, literally easy to use, and it reduces the need to re-learn everything. 

I would like to put Zorin OS between elementary OS and deepin, as both also maintain own DEs and own repositories. You see, elementary struggles to have its own Pantheon DE, and deepin with its own DDE, and enhance everything for desktop purposes. And, to compare Zorin OS to Mint, today, they are closer as each of them has several different editions but Mint owns MintBox computers.

One thing I can consider for Zorin OS is that now it needs to be sold in their own computers, just like Entroware Computer with Ubuntu MATE, or like all Respects You Freedom (RYF) computers with Trisquel. But don't worry, Zorin Project is aware of this, as it planned their Computers on this June. They said "We're partnering with computer manufacturers to provide the best Zorin OS experience out of the box". We're waiting good news coming from this and I wish them luck.

Some improvements I think are appropriate:
  • System tray needs to show tray applications like Shutter, Telegram Desktop, Pidgin, etc.
  • Context menu on taskbar panel needs to be enabled, no matter if it's actually GNOME or not. 
  • Drag-and-drop apps to desktop needs to be improved.
That's all. I hope you enjoy Zorin OS!


This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.