Solus has released their 4th version, codenamed “Fortitude” this week, and it comes with a few welcome enhancements. It also marks an important step in that distro’s life, coming out on top of leadership and governance issues that delayed its evolution. Let’s take a look at what’s new !
Solus is the flagship for the Budgie desktop environment, and Solus 4 comes ships with Budgie 10.5, the latest version to date.
It comes with some enhancements to its applets: the budgie menu now shows each app’s entry only once when headers are turned off, and it tries to remove the “sundry” category by moving apps to the “other” category instead.
The caffeine applet has been added, to allow you to disable locking, suspending, or hibernating your computer while you’re working.
Finally, the tasklist has received a lot of attention. The pop-over for each app has been largely revamped, allowing you to close all instances and windows of an application, and making each window’s controls directly accessible from the popover menu, to maximise, unmaximise, set as always on top, or moving between workspaces.
It also displays a favorite icon to add each app to the taskbar, and a “+” icon allows you to create a new instance of that window. The last button allows you to quickly close all windows for that app. Finally, a nice refinement has been added: scrolling up or down on an icon in the taskbar allows you to minimize / restore the window of an application.
The popover also supports additional actions for each app, for example opening a new private browsing window on Firefox.
This is Budgie’s notification and widget panel. You can access it by clicking the notification icon, or its dedicated icon in the notification area. Solus’s developers have been hard at work on this specific piece of software. The calendar widget now supports displaying week numbers, you can activate that by using the Budgie Desktop Settings.
The sound applet is now divided in 2 different ones, for output and input. It also allows you to raise volume past 100% if you want to. Each app will also have its volume displayed here, so you can mute them, or tweak the volume for each of them without leaving your desktop.
The notifications also work better, allowing you to clear notifications for a specific application, instead of being forced to remove all notifications at once. That’s kind of a basic feature, but it was needed, so it is welcome.
Look and feel
Solus 4 defaults to the Plata Noir GTK theme for this release. I must admit it looks good, with rounded highlights and button shapes, and a vivid blue color that contrasts well with the dark background. The theme seems to use pure black, though, which I find a bit too dark, and makes everything a bit less legible.
Solus uses the papirus icon theme, which I learned to love while using a derivative of it on Manjaro, and it looks good here as well.
Solus 4 actually tweaks things a bit in the Budgie desktop settings: they decided to blacklist a few themes that are provided by default by GTK, such as Adwaita. Their reasoning is that these themes are designed for GNOME and GNOME Shell, and they do not provide a satisfying experience on Budgie. These themes won’t show up in Budgie’s Desktop settings as a result, but they will still be accessible from GNOME Tweaks, for people who really want to use them.
Some icons also have been blacklisted, such as the Breeze icon theme.
Solus 4 comes with newer versions of its core applications, such as Firefox 65, Libre Office 22.214.171.124, Rhythmbox 3.4.3, and Thunderbird 60.5.2. I actually like that this distro comes with the bare minimum set of software, except for the full LibreOffice suite, which I think is overkill for most people: including writer, calc and impress should be enough for the majority of users. HexChat, is here as well, and I still can’t understand why it’s included by default, but I’ll stop complaining about this.
Solus 4 ships with kernel 4.20.16, which is great news for AMD users, since it greatly enhances support for Vega10 and 20 cards. This kernel, coupled to Mesa 19, means that drivers and graphics support should be the best it can be for AMD and Intel users.
Budgie is pretty lightweight, not on XFCE’s level, but still on the light side.
Solus uses its own package manager, called eopkg, and actually packages its own applications, so it’s not based on a debian or red hat distro. This means that software support could be a little bit more spotty: if it’s not in the repositories, chances are you’ll have to build it yourself. Fortunately, the repos seem very well stocked, and as I searched for specific applications, there wasn’t much I wasn’t able to find and install. If something is not available there, Solus supports flatpak and snap, so you shouldn’t be left out of anything new, or any important third party app.
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