It’s here, folks — the elementary OS 6 ‘Odin’ release is now available to download.

elementary devs say this release is ‘the biggest update to the platform yet’

In this post we show you what’s new in elementary OS 6 “Odin”, and point you in the direction of the download link you’ll need if you want to try it out for yourself.

The latest stable release of elementary OS is based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and rides atop the Linux 5.11 kernel.

Also included are numerous new features, several notable UI improvements, and a stack of performance enhancements — so much, in fact, that elementary devs describe this release as “the biggest update to the platform yet”.

Intrigued? Read on!

elementary OS 6 “Odin”

The unique Pantheon experience

I’m going to gloss over the obvious: elementary OS 6 makes a “big” foundational shift to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. As a result there’s a raft of underlying changes, like Linux Kernel 5.11, showing an OEM logo on boot splash, and carrying updated stack of available software.

Chances are you’re not interested in knowing what’s the same as other Ubuntu distros; you want to know what’s different. Pantheon desktop environment is at the heart of elementary user experience and it’s changes to this and its associated ecosystem that most will be intrigued by.

So what’s new?

Well, a dark mode option is now present in the Appearance settings. You can enable dark mode in elementary OS 6 whenever you like, or set it to change automatically based on sunset/sunrise, or a custom schedule.

Slide to compare light and dark modes

Eagle-eyed elementary fans will also note that the distro now uses a new system typeface, Inter.

Also new, elementary OS 6 lets you pick from 10 theme accent colours. These affect the colour highlight on switches, buttons, and other focus styles throughout the default theme. An ‘automatic accent colour’ option is also available which chooses an accent colour to match the currently-set wallpaper.

You can pick from 10 accent colours

Got a multi-touch touchpad or trackpad? You can go hands-on (well, hand on ) with new multi-touch support in elementary OS 6. A three-finger swipe up opens the Multitasking View, while a three-finger swipe left or right smoothly switches between workspaces.

elementary OS 6 has new multitouch gestures

Notifications support badges and custom action buttons to make it easier for the system to keep you informed and updated on your favourite apps, services, and settings. These are complimented by a redesigned centre which groups notifications by app for easier scanning.

New notification centre and redesigned notifications

On the applications front there’s a brand new Tasks app (compatible with CalDav providers); the Mail client has been rewritten (now uses the open source Evolution Data Server for account connection which only supports IMAP at present) while the Camera app gets a UI makeover and a couple of canny new features (like switching between multiple cameras, toggling mirror mode, and more).

A raft of smaller usability enhancements are included. While these don’t “sell” the OS on their own, together they improve the experience of using elementary OS 6.

For instance, application context menus have a ‘take screenshot’ shortcut; you can right-click on the empty desktop to access setting links; panel applets have informative tooltips; and the Battery applet shows information about more devices.

The elementary file manager Files has two notable changes, one odd and one welcome.

Odd first: single clicks on folders in the folder manager open them instantly (think Dolphin in KDE Plasma). However, to open files inside of folders you still need to double-click. It’s a mismatch the makes navigation feel a bit stop-starty in use — sadly there’s no option to disable or change this odd behaviour!

Managing files is less than ideal

The second, more welcome, change an “all-new sidebar in OS 6 that makes it easier to drag to bookmark folders while sporting slick animations,” say devs. Alas, it’s still not possible to drag files from the file manager onto a folder in the sidebar to copy them — it just adds them as bookmarks.

App Center is Now All About Flatpak

Curated apps in App Center are Flatpak

The App Center is the go-to source for installing additional apps in elementary OS. All curated apps in the store are now packaged as Flatpak apps for improved security and privacy (and all future apps added will be too). Application Permissions can be managed on a per-app basis from the Settings app.

App permissions are integrated with the Settings app

You cannot search/find/install apps from the upstream Ubuntu repo (i.e. software like VLC, GIMP, Blender, Lollypop, etc) using App Center, though full command-line access to the repo remains.

Although elementary OS 6 uses Flatpak natively Flathub is not enabled out-of-the-box. Thankfully App Center is able to handle .flatpakref files (or more technically the new Sideload utility can, which shows a warning dialog asking you to okay the install).

Sideload handles non-App Center installs

After you install a Flatpak app from Flathub you can then search/find/install apps from Flathub via App Centre, with these apps listed in the ‘non-curated’ section of each respective category.

Summary

A top-level overview of the key changes in elementary OS 6:

  • Dark mode (including schedule support)
  • Accent colours (including auto-derived)
  • Flatpak is default format in App Center
  • Sideload utility to install .flatpakref files
  • New app Permissions pane in System Settings
  • Multi-touch gesture support
  • New Universal Access indicator
  • Improved notifications and notification centre
  • Rewritten Mail app
  • New Tasks app
  • Support for installing firmware updates from LVFS
  • Various smaller UX tweaks

Keep in mind that this post is an overview of what’s new in elementary OS 6 is it not a review of elementary 6. Performance will vary depending on hardware, and the distro is said to offer a less-than-ideal experience in virtual machines or tested as a ‘live image’.

The best way to try elementary is to install it, and since the install wizard is beautifully simple — something Ubuntu could learn from — that’s fairly easy to do.

Download elementary OS 6

You can download elementary OS 6 from the elementary project website through a ‘pay what you want’ mechanism:

Download from the elementary OS Website

If you don’t want to pay anything (for example, so you can try it first) you need to manually enter ‘0’ in the custom amount box in order for a download link to appear.

Sadly, you can’t upgrade to elementary 6 from 5.1 directly, which means a fresh install is necessary if you want to use it.

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