One of the most beautiful and user-friendly Linux distributions just got even better

ZorinOS 16.1 has been released, bringing just enough freshness to stay on top as the best distro for new users. See what this new version offers.

ZorinOS Core’s default desktop is quite modern and user-friendly.

ZorinOS has won the hearts of many Linux users. For good reason. Not only is ZorinOS as user-friendly as any operating system on the planet, it has usurped Deepin as one of the most elegant desktop distros out there. With the latest version, the developers have once again raised the bar for desktop operating systems.

SEE: Linux Turns 30: Celebrating the Open Source Operating System (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I updated my ZorinOS Pro Edition to version 16.1 to see what there was to see and was just as impressed this time as I was with the last version of the operating system. The process of bringing ZorinOS 16 to 16.1 was the same as any Ubuntu-based distro. While this can be done via the GUI tools, I generally opt for the command route, which requires a process that looks very similar:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade -y

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -y

sudo do-release-upgrade -y

The process took about 30 minutes in total, and after rebooting I ended up with a corrupted installation (a “Something went wrong” screen appeared after login). It took a while, but I got around the problem by booting into recovery mode, creating a new user, and then logging in with that new user. I also decided to download ZorinOS Core to see what was what. Because of this incident, I would strongly recommend not upgrading from the command line and letting the GUI tools do the job. Better yet, just download a fresh ISO and start a clean install.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what this latest version has to offer.

The Linux kernel

As with most Linux upgrades, the latest version starts with the kernel. ZorinOS 16.1 ships with an unpatched kernel against dirty pipe. But once you do the first upgrade, the kernel will be to (or around) version 5.13.0-37, which is patched against the vulnerability and brings better support for hardware like:

  • Newer NVIDIA graphics cards including the RTX 3050
  • Framework laptop
  • Apple Magic Mouse 2
  • Sony PlayStation 5 DualSense controller
  • 12th generation Intel Core processors
  • Epson, HP, Canon, Fuji Xerox, DYMO and other printers
  • More Wi-Fi and audio hardware

Although 5.13 isn’t the latest kernel (e.g. my Pop!_OS runs 5.16.11), it’s the current LTS version, so it’s obvious why the developers went that route. ZorinOS 16.1 will be supported until August 2025, so they want a kernel that can go the distance.

App updates for ZorinOS 16.1

Probably the biggest update for ZorinOS 16.1 is LibreOffice, which is now shipping with version 7.3, which is a significant upgrade of the office suite. LibreOffice 7.3 is a massive improvement over the previous iterations and includes features like:

  • Better MS Office compatibility
  • Improved change tracking for text and tables
  • More editing options
  • Significant increase in performance
  • Visual refresher

Other application updates include Firefox 98, GIMP 2.10.18, GNOME 3.38.6 (the ZorinOS desktop is based on GNOME), Mesa 21.2.6, Snap 2.54.3+20 and Evolution 3.36.5. And thanks to the addition of Snap, numerous third-party apps (both open and closed source) can be installed from the Software Store.

Ultimately, however, the real treat of ZorinOS is how beautiful the desktop is. Even the core version (which doesn’t include all the different layouts you’ll find in ZorinOS Pro) is as sleek as a desktop (Figure A) as you will find them in the market.

Figure A

ZorinOS Core’s default desktop is quite modern and user-friendly.

The thing about this upgrade is that it doesn’t make any huge changes. That’s a good thing, because in this situation the adage “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” certainly applies. ZorinOS 16 was a brilliant release and 16.1 just adds a bit of polish and bug fixes to the mix. The developers were right not to mess with the sauce in this desktop distro.

Performance in ZorinOS 16.1

With the added bug fixes and new application updates, ZorinOS 16.1 shows excellent performance. Applications are opened quickly. Even with animations and jelly mode enabled (Figure B), the desktop is fine.

Figure B

Enabling Jelly mode in the Zorin Appearance application.
Enabling Jelly mode in the Zorin Appearance application.

I would compare ZorinOS 16.1 to any Linux desktop confident that it would perform as well or significantly better. That’s not to say you should consider ZorinOS as an option for older hardware (since it’s not a lightweight distro). But it will absolutely shine on most modern systems (even as a virtual machine with just 3GB of RAM, it exceeded expectations).

Who is ZorinOS best for?

Put simply: everyone. ZorinOS makes Linux incredibly easy for any user (regardless of skill) to dive in and not suffer the slightest problem. For the longest time, Ubuntu was my distro of choice for new users, but since the release of 16.0, ZorinOS has usurped that title. And with the added polish (and updated apps) in 16.1, ZorinOS holds the title of best Linux desktop distro for new users.

But don’t think that this desktop is limited to those with little to no knowledge of Linux. Anyone, regardless of skill level, would be perfectly happy with ZorinOS as their primary desktop operating system.

Do not believe me? Download ZorinOS 16.1 now and find out.

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