I consider Foliate the best eBook reader for Linux desktops, and based on the changelog for its latest release, I don’t see that opinion changing soon.

The Foliate 2.x series is a HUGE update to this GTK-based .epub reader that’s adds a major new features, including a redesigned interface; intros new reading options; new navigation behaviour; more control, more choice, more …everything.

For me, the biggest change in Foliate 2 is the new distraction-free reading mode. This sees Foliate’s window chrome (GTK header bar and progress bar) auto-hide so that you can focus on reading the contents of .epub (and other supported files) rather than gawking at UI elements.

The new distraction free UI

On paper it sounds like a hindrance but in use it makes an appreciable difference to reading, particularly on smaller screen sizes like my GPD MicroPC.

Navigating books with no on-screen controls is still intuitively simple. You can hit your keyboard arrow keys to step forward/back a page at a time or, new to this release, click/tap on the left/right sides of the viewer.

A discrete on-screen ‘footer’ keeps you abreast of the current page number (of how many). It also displays the chapter title.

But in Foliate 2 you can customise the information shown in the footer. There are options to display a clock, estimated reading time left, percentage of book read, and more.

‘Skeuomorphic’ option adds page shadows

Although many of Foliate’s new features, like the simulated page shadows on show in the screenshot above, pander to the “physical book” experience there is a new ‘continuous scrolling’ reading mode. This renders books more like a webpage: a very long vertically scrollable document.

Hit the ctrl + l shortcut to open a location popover. This shows reading time estimates for the current chapter and the book as a whole. It also makes it possible to jump to specific locations by page or chapter number.

Other new keyboard shortcuts include ctrl + i to view info about the current book and ctrl + , to bring up Foliate preferences panel.

Annotations display location info

If you make heavy use of Foliate’s annotation and find word features — and if you don’t, you should — you’ll be pleased to see the addition of chapter titles to results. These make it easier to anticipate where in the book they are.

You can now add annotations or other comments (which can be coloured coded) for text that strips across multiple pages.

An improved new word/text selection menu makes it easier to get in-app word definitions from a dictionary, basic Wikipedia lookup info, and even translate a word or phrase.

Those who don’t like header bars will be pleased to hear that Foliate 2.0 includes the option to use a traditional titlebar and menubar instead. This is described as ‘experimental’ so your mileage may vary.

Folaite 2 changes in brief:

  • Distraction free mode by default
  • New app icon
  • Navigate books by click/tap
  • Word/text selection popover
  • Continuous scrolling reading mode
  • Zoom in/out support
  • Option to enable page shadows
  • New themes (Gray, Solarized, Gruvbox, Nord)

All of the these changes add to Foliate’s existing (and fairly expansive) feature set:

  • Change font, font size, colour scheme, contrast
  • Adjust line spacing and margins
  • Get word definitions
  • Look words up on Wikipedia
  • Fetch translations
  • Create, edit, and view annotations/notes
  • Text search (all chapters, current chapter)

Keen to dive in? Here’s how…

Download Foliate eBook Viewer

Foliate is free, open source software built for Linux desktops. You can download the latest release as source code from GitHub.

A pre-packaged installer is also available for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and above:

Download Foliate 2.1.1 from GitHub

You can install Foliate as a Snap app from the Snapcraft store:

View Foliate on the Snap Store

You can install Foliate as a Flatpak app from Flathub:

View Foliate on Flathub

Finally, there’s now an unofficial Foliate PPA providing the latest stable release for users of 18.04 LTS and above.

If you’re a fan of Foliate (or just happen to read a lot of ebooks on your Linux PC) I’d love to know what you make of these changes.

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