(Apologies in advance for the huge wall of text)
Hi everyone, as you have probably noticed I've been inactive for quite a while here and some of you may have been wondering where I went. I've been bouncing back and forward between Windows, Linux and macOS for a while now until a few months ago, where I decided Zorin (and Gnome in general) wasn't for me and moved back to KDE Neon (my first distro!).
Where I've been and what I've been doing
About a month after Zorin OS 16's Alpha was released, I recently got my hands on the beta to test out and to be fair I wasn't exactly impressed (Everyone has their own taste, I still love Zorin as a project in-and-of itself).
Before that, I was testing out Fedora 34 and Gnome 40 as well which I didn't really like. After that I bought a MacBook Air (M1 model) as my current laptop was in repair repeatedly for about 6 months (Lenovo customer support is useless, I can elaborate in the comments if anyone wants to know). I ended up selling that MacBook a little while later after my current laptop returned from repair as I found macOS was not for me either, and the M1 CPU couldn't run Linux at the time.
Thoughts on Zorin OS 16, Gnome and moving to KDE
I didn't like the new theme and icons (I have an extremely specific taste to how I like things), and I was fairly dissappointed as it seemed like Paper and the Zorin OS 15 themes (which were my favourite themes at the time) was starting to loose support for the new Gnome versions.
Due to my specific tastes, Gnome going downhill (in my opinion anyways) and not wanting to customise Zorin, I decided to switch back to KDE Neon again. Keep in mind I had little experience making KDE look how I wanted, but I perservered and pushed through. There were also bugs with Gnome that I found didn't exist in KDE (and vice-versa) which pushed me to switch.
"Coming back home" to Neon
Due to my previous Ubuntu experience from Zorin OS I found the switch easier, and after a while of watching YouTube tutorials and browsing r/unixporn, for inspiration, I figured out how to set up KDE to my liking and became comfortable with it. I switched back for a number of reasons, listed here:
1. Look, feel, and customization:
Gnome and Zorin weren't as customisable as I liked. It was mainly simple things like making a Windows/macOS/custom layout, visual changes (like my never-dying bias to the 15 themes) with Gnome, broken themes in Gnome 40, etc. Even little things like having a nice blur effect on the taskbar/dock didn't work how I wanted them to.
In fact, I have a "formula" for look and feel that each system I use must follow (for me to use it): It has to have a good balance of beauty, presentabilty (has to look professional and presentable whilst also having good taste) and modern looking without going over-the-top. Zorin OS 16 didn't really satisfy me in that respect, whereas KDE gave me the freedom to make it exactly how I wanted. Having a layout tailored to how I use my computer is an absolute must, and having KDE I can do that.
2. Stability and performance
These are very important factors for me as a student. I simply cannot have my system breaking down as much as Zorin did. In fact, I've reinstalled Zorin at least 10 times due to something breaking, especially considering how fragile it seems to be (or it may just be my stupidity). KDE on the other hand has not broken once no matter what I do.
Performance also seemed lackluster in both 15 and 16: Minecraft Java would crash upon launching, and RAM usage seemed a bit higher in Zorin OS. Trying to run a virtual machine would lock up the entire system, and even animations would stutter and lag. KDE Neon on the other hand has been very smooth: it can run games and VMs with no issue, animations are smooth, and apps launch a lot faster. I have not tested the XFCE versions, but I have a feeling the issue may be due to the older drivers in 18.04. Regardless, I am happy with the performance here.
That's about all the ranting I have to do about that. Needless to say, I would absolutely recommend Zorin OS to a new user vs KDE due to its sane defaults and ease of use. Regardless of my thoughts on Gnome, KDE is more complicated (in some ways) which I've learnt to deal with. Personally I feel Zorin was more of a stepping stone to something new and better, and in that respect Neon was not a good first distro
Me and the forum
I likely will keep my account but I probably will be a lot less active than I was earlier, but I will still continue to recommend Zorin OS and be around to help new users every once in a while. Maybe if I build a new PC I will install Zorin OS on that...
This is not exactly a goodbye to the forum, but more the distro itself. I'll likely be more active in the KDE Forums. Thank you all for the help everyone has provided.
Thanks for reading, everyone.