elementary OS 5.1 Hera – The better version of Juno

April 26, 2020

elementary OS 5.1 Hera is upon us. it’s a “minor” release in the sense that it’s not based on a new Ubuntu LTS version, but since 5.0 juno, a lot has changed. All these new features and tweaks have been consolidated into a single ISO, which you’ll be able to buy, or download for free from the elementary OS website. Hera is still based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, but includes the hardware enablement stack, which brings better driver support for a lot of devices to the older Ubuntu base. Whether you’ve been using Juno and have received these updates bit by bit, or you’re just interested in how the distro has evolved in the past year, here is a video rundown of elementay OS 5.1 Hera.

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Install the HWE on Juno: sudo apt install –install-recommends linux-generic-hwe-18.04 xserver-xorg-hwe-18.04

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First is the new greeter, the login screen. It’s been changed radically, and now shows a dark grey background (the same that is used in the multitasking view), and a preview of each user’s wallpaper, behind their profile picture.

On first run, for each user, the new Onboarding app will start, and it will present the user with a few settings to tweak, such as location services, night light, housekeeping features, and introducing the app center and a few helpful links.

On the actual desktop side, few things have changed, apart from the indicators: the date and time now shows a full calendar, and your various appointments for the selected date, which is super handy. The system indicator now shows keyboard shortcuts for more actions, and the sound indicator has received a bunch of tweaks, to make it easier to mute a microphone, change its input volume, or simply change the system’s audio volume by scrolling. FInally, the bluetooth indicator has been revamped and now shows connection status for each connected device

The AppCenter as been one of the main focuses of the elementary team this time around. They made it a lot faster, up to 10x faster as a matter of fact, and have fully integrated flatpak support in it. By default, no flatpak remotes are configured, but if you download a flatpakref file, the new “sideload” app will open it, and allow you to install the flatpak itself. If that app comes with a remote, it will automatically be added to the system, and you’ll be able to update that application directly from AppCenter, and download other applications from that remote.

Compared to its initial instalment in Juno, the Calendar has changed quite a bit. First, it now looks a lot better, and makes use of the elementary OS color palette. It can also be browsed using keyboard navigation, and the vent dialog has been redesigned and improved to be more legible and make events easier to create.

The Music app has picked up an orange accent color, improved sorting for various display modes, and keyboard navigation as well. It also handles HiDPI displays a lot better, and can play S3M files.

The File manager has been much improved as well: first, it can make use of the CloudProvider API, so storage providers, like Nextcloud, can, if they implement this API, be integrated directly into the file manager.

The search box now sports an icon and placeholder text to make it more discoverable. The results dropdown is a little nicer to use. The color tags taht appear in the right click menu are now easier to click. Transparent images now show a checkered background in their thumbnails to make them more legible.

To finish this rundown, Code, the text editor / IDE has new keyboard shortcuts, a line wrap feature, and a lot of performance and stability improvements. The Photos app has more usable dialogs, the Camera app should now work more reliably with more hardware, especially on Dell machines, and the Terminal now supports the Menu key to open a context menu.

The sound settings have a new layout to make all your output devices discoverable. It doesn’t seem to accurately remember which audio device I choose, though, since I have to re-set it to my speakers instead of the audio jack of the microphone on each reboot.
These settings now allow you to enable long-press secondary click, press control to reveal the pointer, tweak the double-click speed, and control the pointer using the keypad. YOu can also, finally, choose to disable the touchpad when a mouse is connected to your laptop.

The display settings now allow you to set a 2X scaling factor, although fractional scaling is not supported yet, and you can select a refresh rate per display in the little cogwheel menu.

Bluetooth settings will now display a pairing code for devices that require it, which means elementary OS should now be more widely compatible with a lot of bluetooth devices.

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