As 2016 dims into embers, it’s take to take a misty-eyed look back over the past twelve months, and at some the best Linux releases that wowed, wooed and otherwise w-worded us.
In 2016 there were a stack of apps and distribution updates, upgrades and releases. Some well known favourites improved, some new ones appeared in the wild, while others introduced us to new or better ways of doing things we regularly do.
‘As we move into 2017, I can’t wait to see what comes next’
Some of the apps and updates in this list are based on our own personal opinion, and “obviousness”. Others appear based on a mix of apps/distros you tweeted/tipped us to the most, posts which did well on social media, and articles which attracted lots of page views.
Wondering where the games are? We’re covering the top Linux game releases of 2016 in a separate post.
Whatever your opinions on the apps and Linux distros we highlight below, I’m sure you can agree that a great many Linux apps and distros moved forward this year. As we move into 2017, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
We have to start with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS right? We’re an Ubuntu news site! And the latest LTS release of Ubuntu is, arguably, the single biggest Linux distribution release this year.
‘few distros are as rock-solid as Ubuntu 16.04 LTS’
As stable Linux desktop operating systems go few come as rock-solid or as reliable as Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.
The highly anticipated release brought a number of interface improvements, including the ability to move the Unity launcher to the bottom of the screen, a setting to make app menus ‘always on show’, plus introduced support for Snap applications, gave us an all-new Software app, plus a swathe of core application updates, UI improvements, and (naturally) a new Linux kernel to enjoy.
In our Ubuntu 16.04 review we described the Xenial Xerus as being “an agreeable release” that is a “must-have upgrade” — and it truly is. That’s not just our opinion: more than 31,000 of you voted in our intentions poll, with a mammoth 94% planning to upgrade to it.
Now that’s an endorsement!
The past 12 months saw a stack of Linux video editor updates, ranging from OpenShot 2.0 Beta at the start of the to Flowblade 1.8 in the summer and, more recently, the launch of the Lightworks 14 public beta.
But for us (and for you based on social media response) the new version of Kdenlive stood out most.
The non-linear video editor for Linux snagged 2 important updates in 2016. The first brought a huge set of changes, including refreshed user-interface, a new application logo, support for 3-point editing, transition and video effect pre-rendering.
Kdenlive 16.08.2 followed in October and set about fixing bugs, supporting more features (like copy and paste of transition keyframes) and refining the look and feel of the app.
You don’t need to be Twitter user to appreciate the work that goes in to Corebird, a native GTK Twitter app for Linux. We consider it the best Linux Twitter app for Linux.
In July Corebird 1.3 was released. This update was by far one of the the biggest the app has received since its inception.
Alongside a redesigned user interface that moves the main app toolbar to the top of the main window arrived the much-needed ability to mute Twitter profiles, retweet your own tweets, send unlimited direct messages, and take advantage of ‘automatic save’ in the tweet compose box.
Both of these were important in their own ways, but it was the latter release that attracted the most interest from you, our readers (and rightly so) .
The latest and greatest version of the GNOME desktop environment sports a hugely improved Nautilus file manager with built-in archive extraction and compression, bulk renaming, and new sorting options.
Ubuntu 17.04 is due in April and should, barring any unexpected issues, ship with the bulk of GNOME 3.22 — so plenty to look forward to.
Also meriting a mention here is the MATE 1.16 release from September.
In this update the MATE desktop picked up more than new features and bug fixes, to gather even more momentum as the go-to desktop environment for those who prefer a traditional desktop UI. It’s now surely nipping at the heels of Mint’s Cinnamon desktop.
MATE 1.16 for its charms helped to refine and hone GTK3+ support across the entire MATE desktop. Core applications, including the Caja file manager, picked up improvements and new features with the update, helping please the growing band of MATE desktop adoptees.
Of these over-the-air updates it is, without question, Ubuntu OTA-12 that stands out. This OTA update singularly brought the biggest stack of changes and sorely-needed improvements to Ubuntu mobile platform, including:
- Wireless display support for Bq M10 and Meizu PRO 5
- Support for installing and running ‘legacy x apps’
- Fingerprint Unlock
- Notification improvements
- Window resizing controls
- Window snapping
- Colour emoji in OSK
- Native Video Scope playback
- Cellular data toggle
Although we’re an Ubuntu-orientated website we’re not oblivious to what goes on in other sections of the Linux community. Fedora 25 Workstation released in November 2016 is an incredibly important release, and certainly deserves a spot on this list.
What makes it so special? For one, Fedora 25 features Wayland by default (thereby beating Ubuntu to the claim of ‘first distro to drop the X display server).
It also ships with the very latest GNOME 3.22 desktop environment and application set (as highlighted a few paras up) plus improves support for Flatpak applications, the universal Linux app distribution format. Plus, as an added bonus, Fedora 25 workstation ships MP3 decoding support out of the box, no other packages or hack required!
A new Fedora Media Writer tool also makes it easier for users to create a bootable USB drive to test the OS on their system before installing.
Other Notable Mentions
Writing a post like this is always a thankless task. So many app, script, theme, and distribution releases happen throughout the year, the vast majority bringing plenty to the table.
In some ways our entire 2016 archive is the real list of the best app updates and distribution releases this year. We generally don’t write about something unless we think it;s something you’ll find worth reading about (excluding wallpaper posts!).
App Development: Electron
There was one open-source app development framework that really gathered pace in 2016 and that, no surprise, is Github’s Electron.
From music players to web-wrappers, by way of weather apps, stop-motion animation tools, and multi-service messaging clients, it was Electron apps that made the biggest impact on the FOSS software landscape in 2016.
Check out our Electron archives to discover more excellent apps built with it.
Ubuntu Touch Apps
Indicators, Applets and Extensions
In Indicator applets we saw a stack of nifty panel-based tools created and released, including a pair that let you quickly access your favourite files and folders with a click.
Brand new Linux apps launched this year included Skype for Linux (Alpha); a GTK Linux app for controlling Philips Hue lights; unified messaging app Rambox (aptly named after the amount of RAM consumed while open), Photomatix HDR, and a desktop client for note-taking service Simplenote.
Music player Clementine ripened in the spring with a juicy update; GTK e-mail client Geary came back to life in May; and in August we discovered a true hidden gem: an animated gif screen recorder for Linux called Peek