I don’t quite remember how I first came across Zorin OS, but I must’ve seen an article about it on one of the tech websites out there. I had never used Linux before November last year; the only vague memories of going near it was from the mid ‘00s, when some people I knew were proudly showing me their (I thought not very good-looking) distros that they had replaced Win XP with. For the 20 years I’ve spent using computers, I’ve been mostly bound to Windows (‘98 through to 10), with a little bit of macOS for work. Funnily enough, being used to Windows’ very unintuitive workflow and gazillion of menus, I felt somewhat restricted in macOS, but there were basic things, like tabs in Finder and other productivity-related bits for general use that I found immensely lacking in Windows. Then again, I just kept using Windows 10 for years and years on my PCs, probably out of comfort and because I felt Microsoft finally made a stable OS that I could just use and mostly forget about.
Anyway, reading that article, I was literally stunned by how polished Zorin looked. Could this be where Linux had got to? An open-source system that isn’t resource-hungry but looks good, has a familiar desktop but there’s loads more to explore and be excited about, and is very customisable and powerful? Oh, and no nagging about Windows 11 and Microsoft tracking. Had to try it; burned Zorin OS 16 Core on a USB, and it just worked; all the drivers, down to the touchscreen and the function buttons (I tested it on a Dell XPS laptop from 10 years ago). Most impressively, the laptop would run cooler and quieter, more so with TLP enabled. Then on my desktop PC (another old Dell), all also just worked. So when I finally pulled out the USB and booted into Windows, it all just felt… meh. Why had I stuck around so long? I already used mostly open-source software, so moving to Zorin full-time was what I wanted to do.
Three months in, I’ve got both machines dual-booting Zorin OS 16 Core (and thanks to the community here for the detailed tutorial on partitioning) and after finally setting up my work account on a separate browser profile and installing Photoshop via POL (sure, Gimp is great and can be configured to look and use PS shortcuts, but I still find it lacking), I can finally forget about Windows. My main use cases are pretty standard - web browsing, accessing my home server for music, and occasional photo-editing, though I’d like to give coding a try, in time.
It’s not been all plain-sailing, I’ve had to figure out some little issues that Linux threw at me (or gnome, rather!), re-install the OS on my laptop (to give it more space, since I loved it so much) and adapt and learn a fair bit, but it’s been a rewarding experience overall for someone completely new to Linux. Some people deride the devs for putting out a paid version, but since a lot of newcomers are concerned about lack of support in Linux, buying the Pro version only makes sense. I use Core right now, but won’t hesitate to back the devs in the future if I stick around.
Before choosing Zorin, I tried KDE Neon, Mint MATE and Cinnamon, and plain Ubuntu, and felt Zorin offered the best experience out of the box, visually and functionally. Mint’s menus and interface felt a bit too detailed, whilst Zorin packs all the essentials really nicely (kinda akin to a phone settings menu) and at the same time, you’ve got a really neat desktop with a taskbar, and a good set of software (getting Libre Office built-in is very handy for sure). KDE, I hear they do amazing things (certainly the Connect app which Zorin devs have tweaked further for us is fantastic) but I thought I’ll need a few solid days to just get the GUI right, and the community is smaller. Zorin being ubuntu-based means more help is out there if needed.
Thanks to the developers who have made it possible for users like me to hop on the Linux train. And thanks to this community here for being so patient and helpful to beginners. I really hope the distro continues to grow and be more widely appreciated.