Here’s the pitch. You’ve been using Windows since you were a kid, and you’ve always been pretty tech savvy. Maybe you’ve done some coding, and perhaps you feel restricted by the closed nature of Microsoft’s products. Whatever your background, you’re now interested in giving Linux a try – however there’s a crippling amount of choice in distributions, and they all look so alien. This is where Zorin comes in.
Zorin promotes itself as the distro of choice for Windows users to make the change to Linux. To be fair, this situation isn’t all that uncommon, and of course any attempt to help the would-be Redmond converts take their first steps into a larger world should be applauded. For those unfamiliar with Zorin, the very basic concept is that it takes the latest version of Ubuntu, and adds their own custom GNOME Shell that looks remarkably like Windows. In the case of Zorin OS 6, this is no different, taking Ubuntu 12.04 and adding a desktop environment in the vein of Windows 7.
So it still is, and works like, Linux. Which is sort of the point. All Zorin really does is present the options and applications in Ubuntu in a way Windows users can relate to. In the Zorin/Start Menu there’s a Computer folder (the replacement for My Computer in a post-XP world), a Document’s folder, and options for settings, shut down, etc. The taskbar is on the bottom, where windows of the same app are grouped together, and there’s also a window focused alt-tab function. You know, Windows. The main thing is, it’s a stable environment. Aside from the odd (and very minor) inconsistent interface issues like the Start Menu shutdown window being different from the taskbar shutdown window, overall it’s nicely implemented as well.
All of this was present and accounted for in the previous version though, and the only main difference in the interface is the reduction in alternate environments for the Look Changer. This is now limited to GNOME 2 and Windows XP, with OS X and older Windows interfaces locked behind a pay gate for the Ultimate edition.
Of course being based on Ubuntu 12.04 is the main change, and it immediately gives Zorin OS 6 some advantages – it gets the full benefits of the LTS promise, and has a better and more up to date selection of software. We wonder though if people trying to convert to Linux would sit on Zorin for years on end, however whether or not that’s the case doesn’t really matter. It’s nice to have the LTS at the very least.
One of the things we complained about last time regarding the release is still present. As well as the free Core and paid Ultimate edition is a selection of specialised editions that are about as confusing, if not more, than all the different versions of Windows. Educational, Business, Multimedia, Gaming, and Entertainment editions are their monikers, although you’d think separate Multimedia, Gaming, and Entertainment versions are redundant. These mainly just come with specific programs pre-installed that you could install otherwise, and some of them do cost money, albeit not as much as the Ultimate version.
In the end, the core version is a perfectly fine distribution. However with the ridiculous amount of barely indistinguishable paid editions, it may turn off the Window’s users it hopes to attract. In our opinion, they’d be much better off with Kubuntu or Linux Mint Cinnamon.
In some ways, Zorin OS 6 achieves what it sets out to do, and that is to dress up Linux in a Windows shirt. It’s still Linux underneath, but it may help wannabe-converts along their journey. In other ways, it presents a confusing selection of free and paid versions that is not representative of the wider world of Linux.