Voyager 23.10 might be my favorite take on the GNOME desktop to date

I've experienced several different iterations of the GNOME desktop, but what this Linux distribution has to offer takes the prize for being the most user-friendly and elegant.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The default Voyager desktop.

The Voyager desktop is a perfect amalgam of GNOME and MacOS.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I've been a fan of the GNOME desktop for a very long time. I was around when the first beta arrived and I've been using it on and off ever since. To that end, I've witnessed and used just about every take on that desktop to have ever been released.

For those who aren't as familiar with Linux, one of the greatest things about the open-source desktop operating system is the ability to change it. If there's something you don't like about it, change it.

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution for you

To that end, a lot of developers have taken it upon themselves to give the GNOME desktop a few tweaks and twists in an attempt to make it unique. Of course, the limits to what you can do with a desktop have their boundaries, but that hasn't stopped people from delivering a unique take on the desktop.

And that's where Voyager comes into play. With a desktop that's equal parts MacOS and GNOME, and with a dash of either Budgie or Pantheon, the developers have created a desktop that makes using Linux fun and easy.

In fact, just about anyone can customize GNOME to better fit their liking. With the addition of a few GNOME extensions, you can make your own Voyager-like Linux. But for some people, having an out-of-the-box experience is preferred to taking the time to customize GNOME -- which brings us nicely to Voyager.

Also: 8 things you can do with Linux that you can't do with MacOS or Windows

According to its website, Voyager is "Fast, fluid and user-friendly for internet, office, multimedia or gaming."

For those who are curious, Voyager achieves this wonderful desktop experience by adding/customizing the following extensions:

  • Add to Desktop
  • ArcMenu
  • Blur my Shell
  • Burn My Windows
  • Caffeine
  • Clipboard History
  • Compiz alike magic lamp effect
  • Compiz windows effect
  • Dash to Dock
  • Desktop Cube
  • Frippery Move Clock
  • Internet Speed Meter
  • SettingsCenter
  • Show Desktop Button
  • SomaFM internet radio
  • User Themes

Not every one of the above extensions is enabled by default, such as SomaFM internet radio and the Compiz options. But you can easily open the Extensions app and enable them. 

There are also extensions added by the developer that are not compatible with the version of GNOME that's used, but they aren't enabled -- and cannot be enabled.

How to interact with your desktop

The single most important deciding factor for when I choose a desktop is how efficient it can be (while still offering a modern take on the experience). Voyager nails both aspects with the inclusion of ArcMenu and the traditional GNOME Activities Overview.

The ArcMenu extension on the GNOME desktop.

The ArcMenu extension makes accessing your applications very easy.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

On one end (ArcMenu), you have a more traditional menu option, while on the other you get GNOME's default take (Activities Overview). 

The GNOME Activities Overview.

The traditional GNOME Activities Overview gives you access to applications, desktops, and search.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

The developers also go the extra mile and add Dash to Dock, which means you can access your installed applications in three different ways -- and that approach makes using Voyager a treat.

Pre-installed applications

Out of the box, Voyager has plenty to offer, such as:

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • GIMP
  • LibreWolf (a more secure web browser)
  • Transmission (BitTorrent client)
  • Foliate (e-book reader)
  • Easy Effects (audio effects)
  • Music (GNOME music player)
  • Rhythmbox (another music player)
  • SMTube
  • SMTube (YouTube browser)
  • GNOME Encfs Manager (file/folder encryption tool)

Of course, if you don't find the app you're looking for, you can search the GUI Software tool or use Snap from the command line to install just about anything you need.

Also: Thinking about switching to Linux? 9 things you need to know

Voyager is based on Ubuntu 23.10, so it includes kernel 6.5.0-10, which means it should be compatible with a wide range of systems and peripherals.

What about performance?

I've been testing Voyager as a VirtualBox virtual machine and, even with limited resources (3GB of RAM and 2 CPU cores), Voyager ran like a champ. Even applications like LibreOffice, which can be a bit slow on a system with fewer resources, opened quickly and never once stalled or stuttered.

With regards to performance, Voyager can stand toe to toe with just about any modern desktop operating system. It might not best the likes of Peppermint Linux or Puppy Linux, but those are distributions geared toward systems with fewer resources, so they tend to be incredibly fast. 

Also: Ubuntu Lunar Lobster could be the surprise hit of 2023

But for those who want a more robust and modern desktop, Voyager delivers with a level of panache and style you won't find on stock GNOME desktops.

Who should try Voyager?

If you like the idea of the GNOME desktop, but want something that feels traditional with a modern twist, and you need an interface that is just as efficient as it is elegant, then Voyager is an operating system you must try. 

Download an ISO of Voyager today and see if it's your next favorite desktop operating system.

Editorial standards