Hands-On with System76’s COSMIC Desktop for Pop!_OS Linux 21.04

COSMIC Desktop


Announced a few months ago, System76’s brand-new COSMIC desktop environment for the Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS Linux distribution is now ready for public testing.

In mid-April 2021, System76 unveiled COSMIC as their take on the new design of the GNOME 40 desktop environment for Pop!_OS Linux, but they didn’t provide us with many details, except for the fact that their COSMIC desktop will offer a “totally different” desktop experience with an always visible dock, as well as separate Workspaces and Applications views.

The COSMIC desktop will be part of the upcoming Pop!_OS Linux 21.04 distribution release, which is derived from Canonical’s Ubuntu 21.04 (Hiruste Hippo) and expected later this summer. But, today, System76 released the beta version Pop!_OS Linux 21.04 to give us an early taste of the COSMIC desktop, so I downloaded the ISO and gave it a try on my Lenovo laptop.

First thing you should know is that System76’s COSMIC desktop is based on the GNOME 3.38 desktop environment series, so it’s not a derivative of GNOME 40. If you were looking for a GNOME 40 modification, look elsewhere.

COSMIC desktop

COSMIC looks and feels great, and it does offer a different GNOME desktop experience, but not totally different. You get an always visible dock, that you can fully customize from the settings, and the promised separate views for browsing the installed apps and navigating between the available workspaces, which you can access from both the dock and the top panel.

Another cool feature System’76 new desktop is the so-called “Show Launcher” button on the dock, which lets you quickly and easily launch apps or settings. The autocomplete functionality of the App Launcher will also show you keyboard shortcuts for some of the items to launch them faster next time.

One last thing I like about COSMIC is the fact that it supports desktop folders, something that’s missing from the GNOME desktop environment, at least by default. With that in mind, the desktop looks great and I believe it will attract more Linux users to System76’s Pop!_OS Linux distribution.

COSMIC desktop

I think COSMIC could be exclusive to Pop!_OS Linux, but it would be awesome if you were able to install it on other GNU/Linux distributions. Until then, if you want to give it a try right now, you can download the Pop!_OS 21.04 beta live ISO images from System76’s GitHub page.

Last updated 5 months ago