A brand new version of Zorin OS, a user-friendly Ubuntu-based Linux distro, is now available to download.

And boy does it make a great first impression!

It’s easy to forget that Zorin OS is based on GNOME Shell; there’s a real harmony in the way it’s put together

Zorin OS 15 is based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS. This solid foundation underpins a number of other Ubuntu-based distros, like the recent Peppermint OS 10 release.

Zorin OS 15 users also get access to a swathe of recent app updates and will receive future Linux kernel updates in the future, including Linux Kernel 5.0, via Canonical’s Hardware Enablement Stack (HWE).

In use, it’s easy to forget that Zorin OS desktop experience is based on GNOME Shell, i.e. the same GNOME Shell used almost everywhere these days.

There’s a real harmony to the way this distro is put together that just sings in usage, making the whole desktop feel truly in tune.

Chances are probably keen to learn a bit more about Zorin OS 15, so let’s dive in!

Zorin OS 15

Zorin has been serving up a slice of user-friendly Linux for almost as long as regular Ubuntu has been around. And over the years it’s clearly learnt a thing or two about what it takes to make a successful, well-thought through distro.

But let’s be clear about one thing from the start: Zorin is not just another Ubuntu derivative. Like Linux Mint and like elementary OS it’s a Linux distro that stands out on its own merits.

And the latest release, out now, is Zorin OS 15…

— wait, what? Is that a typo?

Wait, what happened to Zorin 13 & 14?

The previous stable release of Zorin OS was version 12, so you might be wondering where versions 13 and 14 went.

Well, don’t panic: you didn’t miss them. Zorin’s lead developer explains why there’s a small ‘jump’ in version number for this release:

“The reason is that this is actually the 15 version of Zorin OS. In between Zorin OS 1.0 and 2.0 way back in 2009, we released a version called “Limited Edition ’09” [so] we decided to take the opportunity to correct the version number with this release.”

Sounds reasonable to me.

Zorin OS Desktop & Appearance

The desktop sports a traditional layout

Zorin OS looks pretty Windows-y — call it “traditional” if you prefer — by default. This is by design; the distro is tailored towards Windows converts dipping their toes in the often scary waters of Linux. Familiarity is a feature.

Out of the box Zorin OS looks pretty Windows-y but several layout options are available

To this end the desktop sports a single panel along the bottom of the screen. This is home to a traditional application menu, quick-limach app launchers, a task bar area, and, on the farthest end, a system tray and notification area.

Although it looks pretty different it is still GNOME Shell.

Interestingly Zorin developers back-ported GNOME Shell 3.30 to Ubuntu 18.04 so that users benefit from a raft of upstream performance improvements and feature highlights.

GNOME Shell 3.28 is the version vanilla Ubuntu 18.04 LTS offers, so 3.30 is quite the leap!

New Touch Mode

If the ‘traditional’ layout doesn’t jive with you, you’re not stuck with it.

The Zorin operating system offers with a couple of alternative desktop layouts, including, in its latest release, a new “touch mode”:

Zorin OS 15: Touch Layout
Zorin OS 15’s New Touch Desktop Layout

Looks pretty swish, right?

When Touch Mode is enable the desktop reconfigures itself to “maximize space for apps and content”. Gesture support is also enabled, letting you use various swipes and pinches to trigger windowing actions and reveal the task bar.

On a convertible 2-in-1 device I’d imagine you could easily set up a script that automatically enables touch mode when the device is folded back on itself.

Auto Dark Theme Support

Zorin GTK theme
The new Zorin GTK theme is incredibly polished

Zorin OS 15 can automatically enable a dark theme after sunset, and revert back to a bright one in the morning

Theming is another area of change in Zorin OS 15. The distro ships with brand new GTK theme that’s been built exclusively for the distro. It’s even available with a choice of 6 colour accents — take that, Adwaita!

If you find the default “out of the box” look a tad bright you’ll be pleased to hear that a dark theme mode comes included too.

Better yet, Zorin OS 15 features a setting to automatically enable theme mode after sunset, and revert back to the light, bright version in the mornings. To make use of it users just check the middle setting in the Zorin Appearance > Theme > Background dialog.

Zorin Connect

See and reply to Android notifications on your desktop

Another notable addition in Zorin OS 15 is integration with Android smartphones. This is via a dedicated app called Zorin Connect — but it might be familiar to some of you.

Zorin Connect integrates your Android smartphone with the Linux desktop

Based on GSConnect and KDE Connect, “Zorin Connect” helps integrate and bridge your laptop or PC with your smartphone, enabling all kinds of cool features including:

  • Use your phone as a mouse
  • Quickly transfer files to/from phone and PC
  • See and reply to Android notifications on the desktop
  • See media player controls

And a whole heap more.

The desktop portion of Zorin Connect comes pre-installed. You’ll need to pair it with the free Zorin Connect Android app on your mobile, which is available to install from the Google Play Store:

Get Zorin Connect on the Google Play Store

Other Changes

Mozilla Firefox is now Zorin’s default browser (earlier versions of the distro used Chromium), but the Evolution mail client ships by default, not Thunderbird.

The distro update also sports the latest LibreOffice 6.2 release, plus a crop of GNOME core apps, including Calendar, Weather and Todo.

Other changes in Zorin OS 15 includes:

  • Linux kernel 4.18
  • Color emoji support
  • System font: Inter
  • New background & boot screen artwork
  • Customization settings for the taskbar & app menu
  • App menu opens with super key
  • Thunderbolt 3 device support
  • Captive portal detection
  • Bulk file renaming in the File browser

Zorin OS 15 is based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS and does ship with support for the hardware enablement stack.

This means that, in the near future, when Ubuntu rolls out Linux kernel 5.0 as part of Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS, Zorin OS 15 users will also get the upgrade.

Download Zorin OS 15

Like what you see? Then why not try what you see!

The official Zorin website offers a number of versions for download including a Core (free) edition and an Ultimate (paid) edition.

To download Zorin OS 15 from the official project website (for free) just head to the official website:

Download Zorin OS 15 Core

But perhaps you’re interested in paying?

Zorin OS 15 Ultimate Costs €39

Zorin OS 15 is available in “Core” and “Ultimate” flavours. This post has mainly evaluate the free Core version because, well, it’s free!

But if you’re the kind of Linux user who likes to back the distros you use with hard-earned readies, then check out Zorin OS Ultimate.

‘Ultimate’ is a paid version of Zorin (it costs €39). It has all the full feature set of the (free) Core version, plus a number of convenient extras included:

  • 6 one-click desktop layouts, including macOS and Ubuntu
  • Additional pre-installed software, including Blender and GIMP
  • 20 pre-installed games, including SuperTuxKart
  • Access to an XFCE-based “Lite” edition
  • Access to desktop support

Essential? No. But helpful? Yes.

While the paid-for “Ultimate” edition won’t be to everyone’s tastes the added extras will, for many, be worth paying a convenience fee to have (plus you help support the distro itself).

Buy Zorin OS 15 Ultimate

Upgrade to Zorin OS 15

Running Zorin OS 12.1 and wanting to upgrade?

Well, you can — just not yet.

A new ‘release upgrade tool’ is in the works that will let you upgrade from Zorin OS 12.1 to Zorin OS 15 without losing any data. While the tool isn’t available right now, Zorin devs say it should be available in the summer — so look out for it!

Summary

From its polished look to its brilliant new features, Zorin OS 15 offers a compelling first introduction to Linux — but you don’t need to be a newbie to appreciate it.

The unique UI, custom apps and user-minded sensibility makes Zorin an interesting tangent for any distro hopper or Linux enthusiast to explore

In summary, anyone looking for a Linux distro that is modern, well designed, and easy to use, Zorin is worth checking out.

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