elementary OS 0.2 Review, Impressive and Nonfunctional

key review info
application features
  • Beautiful interface
  • (2 more, see all...)

elementary OS is a distribution based on Ubuntu 12.04 that has attracted a lot of attention with its unique look and style. It's hard to draw a line between functionality and beauty and users will be forced to choose one of them, at least for now.

The Ubuntu operating system has been on the forefront of design innovation for quite some time, along with the guys from GNOME. I'm not including KDE because they are implementing new looks in much smaller increments.

It's been ages since Ubuntu faced a real adversary and the GNOME developers need some opposition. The elementary OS developers seem to be up to the task.

The distribution is based on Ubuntu 12.04 at its core and this means that it gets all the updates and fixes that would otherwise be available for this particular distribution.


The developers haven't touched the Ubiquity installer that is used by all the Ubuntu-based distributions, and this means that, if you ever installed Ubuntu, the elementary OS process shouldn't be any different.

If you have a dual or multi boot GRUB configuration, you must make sure that you don't erase anything you're not supposed to.


I took a closer look at elementary OS 0.2 when it officially launched and I made a screenshot tour. The first impression for this distribution is everything and I was blown away by the quality and the ideas of the developers.

Given the fact that it's based on an operating system launched in April 2012, the differences between them are staggering.

In order to achieve this, elementary OS has removed Unity, as expected, but other packages have been brought to stand in its place. For example, the session manager is called the Pantheon Greeter and is actually based on LightDM.

The top panel goes by the name of WingPanel and is supposed to be similar with the ones from GNOME and Unity. On the other hand, the application launcher is quite refreshing and sports a unique look and feel. It's called Slingshot, but I very much doubt that anyone really cares.

The last part I want to mention is the dock because it’s the first thing you'll see upon entering the operating system. It looks like Docky, but it's actually a fork of it, called Plank. It's simple and clean, but it doesn't have any interesting features, such as the possibility to add spaces.

And this is the core problem of the elementary distribution. After I reported the launch of this operating system, I installed it and began using it on a daily basis. True, I'm not the regular user and I heavily rely on options and features not usually called upon by normal users.

This being said, I found that elementary OS is lacking in so many departments that it's actually hard to know where to begin. I realize the version number, 0.2, warns about the lack of features, but some of the things that are missing are too important.

First of all, there is no desktop, just like in any vanilla GNOME installation. It's there just to hold your opened applications and to show you pretty wallpapers. Otherwise, it’s as dead as rock. You can, in theory, activate it, but the process is so long and complicated that I actually didn't find the time and the energy to go through it.

The file manager is based on Files and it's called Pantheon Files. It lacks any features that you might need, such as menus, the ability to bookmark folders, and even the search function.

That's right, you read that properly. You better know where everything is because you can't actually look for anything.

And even if it's based on GNOME, other applications that can be found in the repositories are not functional, such as nautilus-open-terminal, just to name a simple one.

Other problems include the lack of thumbnail refresh, although I can't really blame the elementary OS developers for it because it's more of a GNOME problem, the inability to customize the interface, and the dubious software selection which includes Midori as the default web browser and Geary as the default email client.


Despite everything I said so far, I like elementary OS and I will keep it installed at least until the next Ubuntu 13.10 arrives. If you intend to use this operating system for something more than Internet browsing, you are going to be really disappointed.

The best way to summarize elementary OS is to compare it with a glass sword. It looks really nice when you hold it over your head, waving it gloriously, but you really don't want to go to war with it. It's going to get you killed.

user interface 4
features 2
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5

final rating 3
Editor's review

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