Zorin OS is exactly what a desktop operating system should be

There is one Linux distribution to rule them all, but it's not the one you think it is.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Zorin OS desktop

I've used nearly every possible desktop operating system known. I've experienced nearly every incarnation of Windows and MacOS, I've used just about all the various Linux distributions over the years, and I've even test-driven some rather obscure OSes that looked promising but never really came to fruition.

Also: The best Linux laptops

Throughout those years, I've used desktop operating systems that focused on ease of use, efficiency, security, and so many more ideas. I've also landed on one or two OSes that I deemed to be the "best of" for many categories. But there is one operating system that never fails to show off exactly what a desktop should be. That platform is Zorin OS.

Zorin OS is as functional as it is beautiful. It makes those who've never used Linux feel perfectly at home, all the while showing them just how elegant a desktop operating system can be. More than that, Zorin OS is highly functional out of the box.

Also: Zorin simplifies the task of installing Windows apps on Linux. Here's how   

Zorin OS comes in a free and pro version. Zorin OS Pro includes six different desktop layouts (four more than the free version), an advanced video editor, illustration software, an audio workstation, animation software, 3D graphics and effects software, the ability to share your mouse and keyboard across computers, desktop sharing to modern TVs and wireless displays, and more. Zorin OS Pro sells for a one-time fee of $39.00.

Once you've installed the OS, you'll have everything you need to be productive, such as:

  • A web browser (Firefox).
  • A groupware suite (Evolution).
  • An office suite (LibreOffice).
  • An image editor (GIMP).
  • A weather app.
  • A to-do app.

And thanks to Flatpak (which is installed by default), you can quickly install third-party, proprietary apps (such as Zoom and Spotify) all from within the GUI Software management tool.

Also: How to simplify Flatpak app installation on the KDE Plasma desktop

But it's not just the ease of use and beauty that helps Zorin OS jump to the head of the desktop operating system game. There's much more to it than that.

Let's dive in and find out why Zorin OS is a master class in desktop operating systems.

Judge this book by its 'Appearance'

Although I'm not one to judge a book by its cover, Zorin OS makes a good case for doing just that. This desktop operating system has a very special trick up its sleeve. Once installed, if you open an app called Zorin Appearance, you'll find that you can select from different desktop layouts. 

The Zorin Appearance app.

The Zorin Appearance app is where you can configure the look and feel of your desktop.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Before I dive further into this, know that you can get a free version of Zorin OS and a paid version. The free version (Zorin OS Core) offers four different desktop layouts:

  • Two different KDE Plasma-like layouts.
  • Two different GNOME-like layouts.

If you purchase the paid version (Zorin OS Pro), you get four more layouts:

  • A MacOS-inspired desktop.
  • A ChromeOS-inspired layout.
  • A Ubuntu-inspired layout.
  • A traditional Windows-like layout.

The Zorin Appearance app also allows you to configure the desktop theme, enable animations, move the title bar buttons, configure the Super key action, configure desktop icons, and customize your desktop fonts. 

Also: How to use KDE Plasma Places for a much more efficient desktop

Many users, however, will find the default desktop is elegant and usable enough that it needs no tweaking.

The default Zorin OS desktop.

The default Zorin OS desktop is quite lovely.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

It all just works

The claim, "It all just works," shouldn't be a bellwether for if something should be used because every operating system should "just work." But sometimes you experience a piece of software (or stack of software or operating system) that works so well that you almost forget what you're using. That's the best way I can describe Zorin OS. It only takes a few minutes with this desktop to completely forget you're using Linux -- an operating system that was once called an OS specifically made for elite hackers and developers. 

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

Zorin OS doesn't just work, it works with a level of ease and grace many other operating systems should strive for. Just log in and get to work. For example, sharing a folder to your network is as simple as right-clicking a folder, selecting Local Network Share, and following the prompts. Zorin OS even adds your user to Samba, so you don't have to worry about launching a terminal window and issuing the commands sudo smbpasswd -a $USER and sudo smbpasswd -e $USER (which has to be taken care of on most other distributions). 

You also won't have to worry that the OS is going to fall apart on you, causing you to lose precious time. And because Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu Linux, you can be sure it'll remain stable and easy to use.

Also: Ubuntu Lobster could be the surprise hit of 2023

Seriously, I know this might sound like hyperbole, but Zorin OS really is that good. How good is it? Even though there are plenty of Linux distributions (such as Linux Mint and Ubuntu) that many claim are the best for new users, I would say they all pale in comparison to what Zorin OS has to offer. 

If you're looking for an OS that is equal parts beautiful and user-friendly, you will not find a better option than Zorin OS.

So, what are you waiting for? Download a copy of Zorin OS, install it, and find out why I hold this Linux distribution in such high regard.

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