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After more than a year and a half since 'Jupiter', elementary OS 0.2 Luna beta 1 has been released today.

Build on top of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and using its own shell called "Pantheon", elementary OS Luna introduces a huge number of changes, including new default applications created especially for eOS or a new window manager called "Gala".

elementary OS luna beta 1


Let's take a quick look at what's new in elementary OS Luna beta 1:


(direct video link)



Pantheon shell


Pantheon, the "shell" used by default in elementary OS Luna beta 1 uses a brand new window manager called Gala, based on libmutter, which features smooth animations and very interesting workspace switcher and expose features which you've seen in video we've posted above.

elementary os luna beta 1
Workspace switcher

elementary os beta 1
Expose


For system settings, elementary OS 0.2 Luna uses Switchboard, which comes with its own "plugs" - below you can see the desktop settings Switchboard plug:

elementary os luna system settings

elementary os switchboard
Switchboard


The top panel is called Wingpanel, and even though it doesn't follow the same "wing" design like in the first versions, it's nevertheless a nice addition to Luna, especially thanks to the beautiful design used by the indicators:

Wingpanel


For the menu / application launcher, Pantheon uses Slingshot, which follows the same design as the indicators and comes with two modes: one that displays large, uncategorised icons which will remind you of Unity and another one which displays the applications in categories:

Slingshot


At the bottom of the screen you'll notice a dock - it's called Plank and follows the "stupidly simple" elementary OS philosophy so there just a few configuration options (available in Switchboard). Plank supports some of Unity's features like badges, progress indicators or quicklists:

Pantheon Plank


And finally, for the login screen, elementary OS Luna uses LightDM, with its own greeter (theme) and a really cool effect which again, you can see in our video above. Here's the login screen:

elementary os luna login screen



Default applications


elementary OS Luna beta 1 continues to use Midori as the default web browser, Shotwell for managing photos, Empathy IM client, Totem for playing videos as well as Ubuntu Software Center.

For the default file manager, elementary OS 0.2 Luna beta 1 uses Pantheon Files, a Marlin fork which not only looks great, but it already has most features you'll need in a file manager. There are even plugins for Ubuntu One or Dropbox available, though they aren't installed by default:

Pantheon files


Geary, a new email client written in Vala, developed by Yorba (the team behind Shotwell) and the elementary team, has been added by default in eOS Luna, replacing Postler. The application integrates with the desktop: you'll get new mail notifications, attachment handling and so on, but its feature list is not that great yet. Hopefully, the application will receive enough attention until the final release, because is has the potential of becoming one of the best Linux email clients.

Geary


Noise, a Beatbox fork (the two players might merge though), is the default music player and offers multiple views, equalizer, iPod sync, Internet radio support, Last.fm integration and other features you'll need in a music player:

Noise music player


Other new default applications include: Scratch (text editor) and Pantheon Terminal, Maya (calendar):

elementary os luna maya
Maya - calendar app

Pantheon terminal
Pantheon Terminal

Scratch text editor
Scratch - text editor


This is obvious, but it deserves to be mentioned anyway: elementary GTK and elementary icon theme, designed by Daniel Fore, are of course used by default. Also, there's no way to change these in Switchboard, but you can use the same tools that are available for Ubuntu if you want to do this.


Since it's based on top of Ubuntu 12.04, Luna uses the Linux kernel 3.2.0-32, Xorg 1.11.4 and GTK 3.4.



Conclusions


elementary OS 0.2 Luna beta 1 is not only beautiful, but it's also fast, lightweight and uses a consistent look throughout most of its default applications. And this is just the first beta, so Luna should improve further until the final release, for which, by the way, the date is not yet known.

The decision to drop Compiz and use Gala (which uses libmutter) by default seems very inspired because Gala offers a nice touch to the desktop with its beautiful animations: not too intrusive but also not something that goes unnoticed, along with cool workspace switcher and expose features. And on top of that, it seems quite stable too.

The default applications are extremely fast and lightweight, especially those developed by the elementary OS team - maybe too lightweight for some users (read: lack of options), but hey, you can't have it all.



Download elementary OS 0.2 Luna beta 1


elementary OS 0.2 Luna is in beta, so you will find bugs! Don't use it on a production machine!

To read the official release notes, see how you can contribute or download elementary OS Luna beta 1, see announcement @ elementaryos.org
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