Linux distribution: More privacy and accessibility in Elementary OS 7.1
Around half a year after the release of Elementary OS 7 “Horus”, the Linux distribution is available in the revised version 7.1. It essentially summarizes all the updates that have already been published in the last few months, the innovations of which were primarily based on suggestions from the user community.
Several measures are intended to improve privacy. If desired, Elementary OS 7.1 automatically deletes screenshots that have been stored on the hard drive for longer than 30 days. The software management AppCenter reveals which access rights a program requires in the associated description. Anyone who installs a program from Flathub or other Flatpak repositories will also be presented with the rights required by the corresponding application by the Sideload tool responsible for it. The AppCenter now sorts all sideloaded programs into the appropriate categories and no longer treats them separately.
Further adjustments concern the portals devised by the Freedesktop.org project and also used by Elementary OS. They regulate access to the file system and many other system components. The included calendar and the in-house email program now use the File Chooser portal, which controls access to files. The Elementary OS developers have ported the Location Services, through which applications query the standard location, to the Locations portal. Which programs are allowed to read the current default location can be regulated in the system settings in the “Location Services” area. Finally, Elementary OS 7.1 offers the Background portal. It presents applications that start automatically with the system or want to work permanently in the background. In the system settings in the “Applications” area you can manually allow individual programs to start or, conversely, prohibit them from starting automatically. Of the in-house programs, the background portal uses the calendar, the email program Mail and the task management Tasks.
Another focus of the developers was accessibility. Both when starting the live system and during setup after installation, Elementary OS 7.1 speaks the keyboard shortcut over the speakers that activates the screen reader. Newly introduced keyboard shortcuts quickly switch through the open windows, and you can also influence the keystrokes in the system settings. For example, Elementary OS can be persuaded not to have to hold down special keys such as Alt and Ctrl. Key combinations can then be called up by tapping the keys one after the other.
If you have color vision deficiency, you can activate one of five different color filters in the screen settings. These change the color of the entire screen content and, if necessary, also increase the contrast. Each color filter is tailored to a visual impairment or eye disease, such as deuteranopia. Alternatively, Elementary OS switches to a finely adjustable grayscale display. If desired, the system slows down the animations. This is particularly beneficial for those users for whom rapid movements trigger mild motion sickness.
Under the hood, Elementary OS 7.1 is based on Ubuntu 22.04 and its hardware enablement stack. The latter refreshes some key components, meaning that Elementary OS supports younger hardware components than the original Ubuntu 22.04. The Linux kernel 6.2 used runs with 13th generation Intel Core processors, Intel Arc graphics and AMD Zen 4 processors.
The network widget in the panel has received a visual makeover. Among other things, it gives the network interfaces more meaningful names and dealing with VPNs should now be much easier. Furthermore, airplane mode can be switched on and off more quickly. The developers have also slightly tweaked the appearance in other places in Elementary OS. This means that the system settings adapt better to different window sizes.
Finally, many applications are available in new versions, but all of them have only received minor changes. The current version of Mail simplifies operation in many places – for example, folders can be quickly renamed using the context menu and images can be inserted into the text of a message when composing. The revamped file manager can send files via Bluetooth and rename multiple files in one go. The text editor code handles files better that cannot be saved directly and, if desired, remembers the search settings until the next session. Videos works more stable and faster, while music accepts audio files via drag-and-drop. Users can access the Internet with the Gnome browser Web 44.6.
If you are already using Elementary OS, you should have already applied all of the changes mentioned to the system. If in doubt, it is sufficient to start the AppCenter and install all updates. Those interested can get the installation images via the Elementary OS website after specifying an amount – specifying “0” is allowed and thus allows you to try it out – and clicking on the “Buy Elementary OS” button.
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