One of my earliest video reviews was Elementary OS Luna, and I spent a month or so running the OS as my daily driver. I did the same for the release of Elementary Freya. When Loki was initially release, I did a review, but never bothered to run the OS beyond the testing I did for the review.
You see, for all of those years, I had it in my head the Elementary OS wasn’t for real Linux enthusiasts. It was for those who wanted to get of the Windows/Mac bandwagon, but still wanted a pre-fab system that was ready to go out of the box. It was for those who either didn’t know how or didn’t have the desire to tweak their system. Hence, I never considered the OS as my full-time daily driver.
Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more people talk about switching over to Elementary, and several YouTubers produced videos praising Elementary. So I decided to take another look at Elementary. What I found was a distribution that may be targeted at new users, but with plenty of functionality to keep productivity high.

Rather than rehash everything said in the video, I’ll link the video below. Afterwards, I’ll go over all of the tweaks I made to my install for those who are interested in that information.

Setting up and Configuring my Elementary OS Install

 

After installing Elementary, I followed my normal procedure of updating my system and adding the software I’ll use on a daily basis. I added a few ppas to update older packages to newer versions. To add these ppas, just add each of the below lines one at a time into your terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:caffeine-developers/ppa
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:maarten-baert/simplescreenrecorder
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:openshot.developers/ppa
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kdenlive/kdenlive-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

To ease the tweaking of Elementary, I highly recommend install Elementary Tweaks. Once installed, this application will appear as part of the system settings. To install, add the following lines one at a time into the terminal program:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:philip.scott/elementary-tweaks
sudo apt update
sudo apt install elementary-tweaks

Theming

Elementary has great theming out of the box, although the style may not be to your taste. As far as icon themes go, I found the best is ePapirus, as it has all of the icons for Elementary specific applications. To add this icon theme, add the following lines one at a time into the terminal program:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:papirus/papirus
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install papirus-icon-theme

Once this has been added, you can open up the system setting to access elementary tweaks. In the appearance category, change the icon theme to ePapirus.

The desktop theme I’m using is the Arc theme. There are actually a few variants of this, all of which are added through the Arc package. To install these, add the following lines one at a time into the terminal program:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install arc-theme

Once again, go to elementary tweaks, and under appearance change the GTK theme to Arc. I’m using the Arc-Darker variety, but try them all to see what you like.

I found a few other themes that work well with Elementary. All of these are found in the same ppa as the Arc theme, so if you add multiple themes to try out, you only need to add the first two lines of the terminal command once. After that, it’s only necessary to ad the final line (the install line).

One interesting theme that works well for Elementary is the Humanitary Gtk Theme. To add this theme, add the following lines one at a time into the terminal program:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install humanitary-gtk-theme

Humanitary Gtk Theme

Humanitary Gtk Theme

Anther that seemed to function in Elementary OS was Dark Aurora, although I didn’t care for the look.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install dark-aurora

Dark Aurora GTK Theme

Dark Aurora GTK Theme

If you like lighter themes, Victory may be to your liking.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install victory-gtk-theme

Victory GTK Theme

Victory GTK Theme

The ever popular Numix Theme functioned as well.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install numix-gtk-theme

Numix GTK Theme

Numix GTK Theme

Google Calendar Sync

The Elementary OS Calendar can sync with Google calendar. However, if you have multiple calendars on that Google account, only the primary calendar will sync. A workaround is to add the Evolution Email and Calendar program, and sync your Gmail account there. This will sync those calendars with the Elementary Calendar; Evolution need not ever be opened again.

Open the Application Menu with the Windows Key

Coming from Gnome Shell, I prefer to access the application menu by hitting the Windows or Super key. To do this in Elementary, open your terminal program and add the following:

gsettings set org.gnome.mutter overlay-key “‘Super_L'”
gsettings set org.pantheon.desktop.gala.behavior overlay-action “‘wingpanel –toggle-indicator=app-launcher'”

Add Open as Root to Files

A feature I like to see in my file manager is the ability to open the file manager as root. I found a nice little script that will automate the creation of an entry on the right click menu of Elementary’s file manager so you can do just that. Open your text editor and add the following lines:

#!/bin/bash
sudo sh -c ‘echo “[Contractor Entry]
Name=Open folder as root
Icon=pantheon-files
Description=Open folder as root
MimeType=inode;
Exec=pantheon-files-pkexec %U
Gettext-Domain=pantheon-files” > /usr/share/contractor/openasroot.contract’
sudo sh -c ‘echo “#!/bin/sh
pkexec \”/usr/bin/pantheon-files\” \”\[email protected]\”” > /usr/bin/pantheon-files-pkexec’

Save the file as root.sh in your documents folder. Open your file manager, go to that file and right click on it. Select properties, then select permissions. Select execute in the Owner, group and everyone categories (all three). Close out of properties, then right click on the documents folder. Now select open in terminal. When the terminal opens, enter the following:

./root.sh

You will be asked for your password; enter it and the whole process will be automated. You will need to reboot the file manager before you can use the open as root feature; I just rebooted my whole system.

Installing Albert

In Gnome shell, I often found files by doing a keyboard search from the overview. Since Elementary doesn’t have this feature, I added Albert, which can be used to search for files, applications, and other things. To install Albert, add the following lines one at a time into the terminal program:

Install Albert:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install albert

After installation, I went into Albert’s settings and set the launcher to ALT+Space. I also configured Albert to only search for files (since I already open the application menu with the Windows key, there’s no need to search for applications as well).

Private Internet Access Issues

Some Elementary users have reported issues with the tray icon for Private Internet Access VPN. I didn’t have the issue, but Matt Hartley over at Freedom Penguin has a solution: https://freedompenguin.com/articles/quick-tips/private-internet-access-tray-icon-elementary-os/

Third Party Elementary Applications

There are some great applications available for Elementary users through the AppCenter. A few of the ones I recommend are:

Color Picker
Swatches
Formatter
Monitor
Image Optimizer

Of course, there are many other apps, and depending on what your doing on your computer, you may have no use for some of these applications.

 

I hope this look at Elementary OS has proven useful.  As always, leave comments and questions below, and I’ll try to get to them ASAP. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share this post on social media.

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