The elementary OS 5.1 ‘Hera’ release is now available to download.

elementary OS 5.1 is a major update that’s heavy on improvement and finesse

This major update to elementary OS carries a wealth of changes and improvements, including native support for Flatpak, a faster App Centre store front, and many thoughtful refinements to the system’s bespoke UI.

A free update for existing elementary OS users, the Hera uplift also introduces Linux Kernel 5.0 courtesy of Ubuntu’s recent LTS hardware enablement stack update.

To learn more about what’s new in the elementary OS 5.1 release, and how to download it to try for yourself, keep reading!

elementary OS 5.1 Hera

The bulk of the changes being offered in the elementary OS 5.1 update aren’t strictly new as they’ve been iteratively pushed out via software updates to the elementary 5.0 Juno release.

But the sum total of those updates is enough to create a distinct, separate version number with new .iso images for folks to download. Think of it like an Ubuntu point release, in that sense.

The redesigned login screen in elementary OS 5.1

The top level overview of the major elementary OS 5.1 changes:

  • New first-run experience and on boarding tool
  • Flatpak support
  • Redesigned Greeter (login screen)
  • Improved accessibility
  • Improvements to various System Settings
  • App updates
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • New Linux kernel

The “AppCenter” (elementary OS’s custom software tool) is said to load 10x faster in Hera than Juno. It also offers native support for Flatpak apps.

Talking of Flatpak support, a new core elementary OS utility is included called Sideload. This (as the name might suggest) is used to handle .flatpakref files downloaded from other Flatpak repos, like Flathub.

As elementary OS 5.1 is built on the same Ubuntu 18.04 LTS foundation all third-party apps released for “Juno” are said to be present and working here.

A slate of system settings panels have been refined, rejigged, and/or expanded, including panes for Bluetooth, Sound, and Display.

There’s been a particular emphasis towards improving accessibility (for example, supporting visual alerts alongside audible ones, and an option to ignore the touchpad when a mouse is connected.

Improving the discoverability of keyboard shortcuts is a system wide change that’s fairly notable, particularly due to the tweaked style of key caps in app menus.

If elementary OS is famed for anything it’s its homegrown app selection, so I’m pleased to say that the 5.1 uplift delivers a sizeable dose of improvements to core apps, including Calendar (has a brighter look with event dots), Camera (works with more webcams), and Photos (improved app dialogs).

The Files app picks up support for CloudProviders API we blogged about in 2017 (which few services make use of), while the Code editor tool boasts better Git integration.

As someone who cares more about desktop wallpapers than is healthy 😅 I’m thrilled to see elementary OS has added three new wallpapers that are high quality.

You can learn more about this update on the elementary OS blog.

Download elementary OS 5.1

You can download elementary OS 5.1 from the elementary project website via a ‘pay what you want’ mechanism.

Download elementary OS 5.1 Hera

Existing elementary OS 5.0 users can upgrade to elementary 5.1 directly, no re-install necessary.

Summary

It’s been a good while since I last tried elementary OS for myself and although this release is heavy on improvement, I don’t feel in a major rush to dive in and explore it.

It’s not that the distro doesn’t look good — it really does — it’s just that the curated, sanctified nature the elementary OS experience offers (this “use it how we make it” is a USP, mind) jives with what I use Linux for: control.

But I am not everyone and there are a tonne of folks out there who love the tightly integrated approach that elementary’s strict attention to UI and UX fosters — and for them, this update is essential.

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