Zorin OS 15 nods at Ubuntu and welcomes Windows escapees

Fit and finish, spit and polish, and Zorin Connect make the leap from 12 to 15

While Microsoft may be shoehorning the Linux kernel into Windows 10, veteran Linux flinger Zorin has applied some buffing to its Windows-like distro with a version 15 release.

Nearly a decade since its first emission, Zorin has given its latest Ubuntu-based OS a polish and added tools that its parent, well, really should have added some time ago.

Opting to skip from 12.x directly to version 15, the OS sits atop Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS and includes the Linux kernel 4.18 and Gnome Shell 3.30. However, it is the fit and finish that makes Zorin OS 15 stand out.

As with previous versions, the intention is that Windows users should feel at home in the occasionally alarming world of Linux.

Installation of the free Core edition remains a breeze, although founders Artyom and Kyrill would obviously like you to opt for the Ultimate version at €39, replete with additional apps, games and some extra desktop layouts. The team is, after all, funded by its community.

First impressions are good, if you're a refugee from the Windows world. The task bar is in the familiar location and while users won't feel immediately at home with the start-type menu, the experience is not a jarring one. The interface remains thoughtfully designed, with refreshed in-box apps such as LibreOffice 6.2 having a consistent appearance.

It's the little things that matter, and fans of light and dark modes will be happy to see the Zorin desktop switchable between the two, with six colour variants. The desktop will also change during the day, with adaptive colours eventually heading into a Night Light mode to gradually reduce the amount of blue light emitted by the screen.

Or if such fripperies annoy, the whole lot can be turned off.

With an eye on computers with touch interfaces, the gang has also added a desktop tailored for touchscreens with some limited gesture control (three finger pinch will, for example, show a list of running apps and workspaces).

We were also very pleased to see Zorin Connect make an appearance. Based on GSConnect and KDE Connect, the application integrates the desktop with an Android phone in a manner that will be familiar to Windows 10 Your Phone users.

As with Microsoft's take on the tech, notifications are synchronised between phone and PC and SMS messages can be dealt with from the Zorin OS desktop. However, while files, photos and links can be shared, other functionality familiar to Microsoft customers, such as screen sharing, is absent.

Zorin Connect also requires the user be on the same Wi-Fi or local network in order to ensure no data goes anywhere near the nebulous world of the cloud.

The final notable tweak is the arrival of Flatpak support in the box. Snap support had arrived in Zorin OS 12 and the addition gives users access to more graphical installation options without having to resort to the command line.

Other changes in the release include Nvidia drivers in the Live ISO, Thunderbolt 3 device support and a preview of the Wayland display server. The team has also used Ubuntu's Hardware Enablement stack, meaning that when Ubuntu rolls out kernel upgrades, Zorin users should receive them.

Last time we looked at Zorin OS we came away impressed. The additional polish in Zorin OS 15 makes a migration from Windows to Linux less of an alarming ordeal, at least in terms of end user experience. Older kit remains catered for by a Lite version which is still 12.4, thus lacking the fit and finish of Zorin OS 15, although an update is in the works.

In the meantime, users wondering what to do when Windows 7 support finally expires in 2020 could do worse than check out Zorin OS 15 for a cuddlier introduction into the sometimes prickly world of Linux. ®

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