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   >  The Zorin OS Gnome 3 GUI


A Tour of the Zorin Gnome Desktop

 The Zorin OS 6 Core Desktop in Action

The Zorin OS Gnome Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Zorin OS is based on the standard Ubuntu distribution and features a Gnome based GUI/desktop but without the contentious Unity window manager. Instead, Zorin uses the Avant Window Navigator (aka awn) to provide a more traditional desktop layout, with icons and menus along a panel at the bottom of the screen.

Zorin is based on the standard Ubuntu distribution and features a Gnome based GUI/desktop but without the contentious Unity window manager

Quite surprisingly, the response speed is very good even when running Zorin direct from a USB Stick; the boot speed is rather slow, but it is worth the wait!

Note: the screenshots in this chapter were taken from the Zorin OS 6 release

Default Applications

The applications that come pre-installed with Zorin naturally reflect the ethos of the distro, which is to make the transition from Windows as easy as possible. Here is a taster of some of the applications that Zorin OS 6 is currently shipping with:

..The applications that come pre-installed with Zorin naturally reflect the ethos of the distro, which is to make the transition from Windows as easy as possible

ApplicationPackage Used
Word Processor LibreOffice Writer
Image EditorGIMP 2.8
SpreadsheetsLibreOffice Calc
Email ClientThunderbird
Media PlayersVLC,Totem
Video EditorN/A
Internet BrowserChrome
Chat/Social MediaEmpathy,Gwibber
CD/DVD WriterBrasero
Web SupportFlash and PDF support
Package ManagerUbuntu Software Center
BackupDeja Dup
Windows EmulationWine,Winetricks,PlayOnLinux

In addition, it comes with all the system tools you would expect - as well as the ability to customize the look and feel should you so desire. Zorin is stuffed with applications right from the install - which puts it into direct competition with Linux Mint as a distro that is "usable straight out of the box".

Note that even if an application is not in the default installation, it can be easily downloaded using the Software Center within minutes.

In summary, Zorin is aimed at Windows users wanting to make the jump to Linux with the minimum of fuss or configuration. Additionally, if you are an Ubuntu fan but find you cannot bring yourself to use Unity - or do not fancy Linux Mint - then Zorin may be for you!

The Zorin Look Changer

Zorin includes a utility called the Zorin Look Changer which allows it emulate the look and feel of the desktop of various Windows releases. This can be accessed from the Main Menu under the "System Tools" heading.

The Zorin Look Changer Option

Zorin Look Changer is basically a number of desktop themes which you can switch between and give you a somewhat similar look to one of the following desktops:

The screenshot below shows the Windows XP desktop theme:

The Zorin Look Changer Option

The degree to which these are successful is debatable, but it does somewhat lessen the learning curve for those coming to Linux from a purely Windows background. In this chapter, we will be looking at the default (Windows 7 style) desktop theme.

The Zorin Desktop

Zorin, like the standard Ubuntu offering, uses the Gnome desktop. However, unlike the latter, Zorin eschews the Unity desktop manager in favour of the more conservative Avant Window Navigator(-aka awn). When you boot Zorin, the desktop will display as shown below:

The Zorin Gnome Desktop

As can be seen, the default desktop is a fairly spartan one, with all functions accessible from the bottom panel at the foot of the screen. The desktop background can be customized as desired, using the "Change Desktop Background" option in the context menu.

Open windows and applications display in the main desktop area.

Zorin allows files and shortcuts to be saved to the desktop, by simply click-dragging the desired file to the desktop from the file manager (nautilus) window then releasing the mouse button. An icon will then appear on the desktop, which can be dragged around or renamed / deleted as desired.

The Bottom Panel

The bulk of your desktop interaction with Zorin will be through the panel at the bottom of the desktop:

The Zorin Gnome PanelThe Zorin Gnome Panel

This can be divided into four main parts:

  • Icon for the Zorin Main MenuClicking on the Zorin logo in the bottom left hand corner of the screen displays the Main Menu, which allows the user access to all the Zorin functions

  • Next, comes a series of shortcut icons:
    Zorin Browser IconThe first shortcut (immediately to the right of the Zorin Main Menu icon) is the Internet Browser icon. Click this and (by default) a Google Chrome browser window will display
    Zorin File Manager IconThe next icon is the File Manager icon. Click this and a Nautilus window will display
    Zorin Rhythmbox IconThe icon immediately to the right of the browser icon opens up a new Rhythmbox media player window
    Zorin DejaDup IconThe icon immediately to the right of the browser icon opens up a new DejaDup window, where you can configure automatic and manual disc backups:

    Zorin Backup Icon

  • In the middle part of the panel, the thumbnails of all open applications are listed: click on these to jump directly to that window -or to restore it to it's former size if it was previously minimized (iconified)

    Zorin Application Minimized

  • On the right hand side of the panel is the system tray: this allows you to interact with any system program and processes (daemons) running in the background. What appears here depends on what you are doing and what it running on your system but, by default, the icons are as follows:

    Zorin Bluetooth ConfigThe icon immediately to the right of the task manager allows you to check and configure bluetooth connectivity (-assuming your PC supports it)
    Zorin Battery IconThe next icon is the battery icon, which allows you to check battery status and configure power saving options
    Zorin Network IconClicking on the network icon allows you to check and configure your network settings
    Zorin Volume IconThe volume icon allows you to adjust the system volume and your sound settings
    Zorin Chat IconThe chat icon allows you to access email and chat functionality as well as your free Ubuntu One account
    Zorin Calendar IconThe next icon is a display of the current system time. If you click this, a display of the current month pops up. Unfortunately, clicking on the dates in this does not access the calendar application (Thunderbird)
    Zorin Shutdown IconClicking on the power icon in the bottom right hand corner allows access to the Shutdown and Logout options, as well as general system functions

The Main Menu

The Main Menu allows users to access to all the Zorin functions. This can be likened to the "Start" menu in Windows:

Icon for the Zorin Main Menu

From here you can access functions such as:

Menu OptionUsage
AccessoriesVarious small tools for making the most of your system
GamesLists some basic games for filling those empty minutes
GraphicsLists programs for dealing with images
InternetList programs for accessing the internet and the network
OfficeList any applications commonly used for business purposes, such as word processing and spreadsheets
Sound & VideoList any applications for audio / video viewing
System ToolsClick this icon to access various Linux system tools
Universal AccessUtilities and settings for disabled users
WineAccess to the Wine compatibility libraries for Windows applications
Software CenterAccess the Ubuntu Software Center
PlacesAccess devices attached to the computer using the File Manager

Note: most options will themselves have sub-menus themselves

The Nautilus File Manager

Zorin uses the Nautilus File Manager, which works very much like most other file managers, allowing you to drill down into directories, access and manipulates files, etc.

The File Manager can be accessed directly from the icon in the Bottom Panel - or via the "Places" option on the Main Menu. Both will open up a File Manager window, the former to your user home directory, similar to that below:

Zorin Nautilus File Manager

Left-click any item to select it -or double-click a directory to navigate down into it. Double-click a file to either open it or run it (-depending on whether it is executable or not). Right click a file to access the context menu - which allows you to rename, delete, copy the file, etc.

Zorin Nautilus File Manager - Right Click

The Context Menu

If you right-click on any blank area of the desktop, the Context Menu will display:

This allows you access to some basic options, such as to create a new file, order any icons on the desktop or set the background wallpaper.

Exiting Zorin

When you have finished with Zorin, select the "Power" icon in the Bottom Panel. A pop-up menu will display from which you can select a number of options:

Zorin Confirm Shutdown


  • Logout... : log out of the current session (note - a confirm message is displayed before the logout occurs)
  • Suspend : save the current state in RAM and go into power-save mode
  • Shutdown... : display a dialogue box where you can confirm a shutdown or reboot of the PC

Simply choose the desired option in order to carry it out. If you decide you wish to continue with the current session, simply click away from the menu.

References and Further Reading:

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