The human interface guidelines of the elementary OS project focus on immediate usability with a gentle learning curve, rather than full-fledged customization. The three core rules the developers set for themselves were "concision", "accessible configuration" and "minimal documentation".
Since its inception, elementary OS has received praise and criticism for its design. Wired claimed that it closely resembled macOS, visually and in user experience. The elementary developers maintain that any similarities are unintentional.
Pantheon's main shell is deeply integrated with other elementary OS applications, like Plank (a dock), Web (the default web browser based on Epiphany) and Code (a simple text editor). This distribution uses Gala as its window manager, which is based on Mutter.
Pantheon desktop environment
The Pantheon desktop environment is built on top of the GNOME software base, i.e. GTK, GDK, Cairo, GLib, (including GObject and GIO), GVfs and Tracker. The desktop allows for multiple workspaces to organize the user's workflow.
Pantheon applications that are designed and developed by elementary include:
- Pantheon Greeter: session manager based on LightDM[apps 1]
- Gala: window manager[apps 2]
- Wingpanel: top panel, similar in function to GNOME Shell's top panel[apps 3]
- Slingshot: application launcher located in WingPanel[apps 4]
- Plank: dock (upon which Docky is based)[apps 5][apps 6]
- Switchboard: settings application (or control panel)[apps 7]
- Pantheon Mail: e-mail client written in Vala and based on WebKitGTK[apps 8]
- Calendar: desktop calendar[apps 9]
- Music: audio player[apps 10]
- Code: code-focused text editor, comparable to gedit or leafpad. [apps 11]
- Terminal: terminal emulator[apps 12]
- Files (formerly called Marlin): file manager[apps 13]
- Installer: Installer built in partnership with System76.[apps 14]
Bryan Lunduke of Network World wrote that the Pantheon desktop environment, elementary OS's centerpiece, was among the best of 2016. Pantheon is also being released as an optional work-in-progress desktop environment in GeckoLinux.
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