Zorin OS 12 Review : Learn From My Experience

Zorin OS 12 Review

Brief: It’s FOSS reader Dave Merritt shares his experience in this Zorin OS 12 review.

Why do I use Zorin?

I have a confession to make that doesn’t often sit well with many in the Linux community: I’ve always loved the design of the Windows desktop.

I like being able to place programs I use all the time in the panel and I like having desktop shortcuts for regular but less used programs and files.

Of course, shortcuts in all their forms were pretty much a necessity when running Windows; their “Start” button led to a totally anarchic rat’s nest. If you were lucky enough to find what you were looking for you’d be crazy not to immediately shortcut it somewhere, if only to briefly avoid the menu.

So I further confess that it’s possible I may be the victim of Windows operant conditioning.

In any case, years ago with XP eXPiring and the Vista disaster unfolding, I decided to experiment with Ubuntu. All of a sudden not only was my plodding PC was more responsive, but using the Gnome 2+compiz desktop I enjoyed two novel features that I came to love.First, the

First, the one click option. After all, if I can be trusted to open a program with one click from the panel, why not a folder or a desktop shortcut?And second, the window preview, which was superior to and years ahead of the Windows 7 version. With these four

And second, the window preview, which was superior to and years ahead of the Windows 7 version. With these four features, I finally had the perfect OS.

But not for long. When Unity was forced on us, I really tried to like it, but eventually, it made me crazy. Unity has always been polarizing, creating the weird situation where when Unity-philes discuss their favorite features and Unity-phobes decry their worst ordeals—they are generally discussing the exact same things.

This led me on a long trek through the Linux wilderness, in search for Linux distributions that look like Windows, which ended when I finally forked out €9 for Zorin OS 7 Ultimate. It gave me the four core features I wanted and more: Unique software, stylish design, functionality, a vast array of pre-installed applications, plus excellent support. Below is my current version: Zorin OS 9 Ultimate.

Zorin OS 9 Ultimate
Zorin OS 9 Ultimate

This release, so far, has been the high-water mark for the project. I bought and installed both 10 and 11, but they lacked any further development and, more importantly, any long term support—Zorin 11 expired mere months after its release. So it looked as if the Zorin project was winding down.

Zorin OS 12 Review: My experience with it

But last November to my surprise and delight Zorin 12 was released from a shiny newly re-designed website. Based on Ubuntu 16.04 and 4.4.0-21 Linux kernel, it’s supported until 2021. Though they doubled the price to €19 for the Ultimate edition, for me the decision was easy. Zorin served me well for years and I feel that if I pay for, install and maintain their releases I’m in some small way contributing to the project.

After an especially arduous installation and a few adjustments, this is what I ended up with:

Zorin OS 12 Review
Zorin OS 12

As you can see two of my core features are present. What you can’t see is the absence of a “one-click” option and the ability to add program shortcuts to the desktop. Well, okay, I can add Steam shortcuts, but only Steam shortcuts so far.

Overall it has a cleaner look more minimalist look, though it seems to be at the cost of some flexibility and functionality. Gone, for example, are all the “right-click” menus which allowed users to fine tune their desktop. It reminds me a lot of Lubuntu, but at $28(CAN) this is not exactly high praise.

To be totally honest I’m disappointed. It would be one thing if it flew through file operations and opened programs in a nanosecond. So far, however, it’s no faster than its predecessor. Furthermore, at the moment it’s buggy. I seem to generate about one bug report every other session, once simply by trying to open my email client while copying files to my home folder. For some reason this incident caused my “Trash” icon to disappear. (Its ghost occasional manifests itself in screenshots, or just as the activity manager fully appears, but so far it’s left no ectoplasm.)

Suggested read
Debian Based Linux Distro SolusOS Bids Adieu

Finally, and without dwelling on the topic, there are limits to minimalism. And the Zorin team is increasingly designing as if there is a severe global shortage of digital ink.

But before you jump to the conclusion that I think Zorin 12 is rubbish, there are few points which must be made in Zorin’s defense.

First, Zorin 12 is a rebuild from scratch. Based this time on a Gnome/LXDE desktop there are bound to be bugs. Importantly though, none of the bugs has caused the OS to crash. Instead, all the desktop icons briefly disappear, leaving only the wallpaper and the affected programs. They then close, the desktop (mostly) re-appears along with a crash report. For those of you who might remember the early days of Linux Mint, this is a big improvement. Furthermore, they have been able to successfully incorporate all their unique software into the new build.

The point I’m trying to make here is it would be fairer to withhold judgment on Zorin 12 at least for now. If nothing has changed a year hence I would say it’s not worth it, but my hunch is that this is only the beginning.

Second, part of Zorin’s mission has always been to provide ex-Windows users with an easy landing into the Linux world. This means familiarity. But consider, soon enough the majority will be switching over from Windows 10, so there’s no long future in making an OS that looks like Windows 7. And with the activity manager replacing the desk-cube, Zorin 12 certainly has a vibe that would make Windows 10 users feel right at home.

The other part of their mission has been to offer a platform that will not intimidate the novice user. I think the simplification will not only please the novice but fit well with the general trend towards simpler desktops with more minimalistic graphic designs.

Finally, I need to constantly remind myself that Zorin was never really designed with a user like me in mind; that it just so happens I really liked it. This could well be the last version Zorin I’ll ever buy. But it could as easily rival 9. I think Zorin 12 probably just needs a little time to mature before we’ll know. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that if the world doesn’t occasionally surprise you, you’re not paying enough attention.

Some tips on installing Zorin 12

Installing Zorin has always been a breeze for me when I’ve installed it along side or over Windows OS’s. And that, after all, has always been their mission. Where I’ve encountered difficulties in the past is installing it along side or over other Linux OS’s. Here are two problems I encountered this time and how I got around them.

(As is always the case, carefully read and exactly follow the clear instructions on posted on the Zorin website. Here I’m proposing a couple of precautions which take a few minutes but could save you a few hours.)

Zorin is a big download, over 4 gigabytes, which on slower IPS’s can take a few hours. Annoyingly, my first two attempts failed. The first had a wrong checksum. The second aborted minutes before finishing.

So I “sanitized” my Firefox before trying again and finally it downloaded perfectly.

Getting ready to Download: Cleaning Out Your Firefox [If your download fails in first attempt]

How do I do that? In Linux, it’s simple and fast. What you need to do is temporarily remove all your existing configuration files from Firefox and return it to an out-of-the-box state. But if you want to return Firefox to its configured state afterward you’ll need to create a folder to store them in. Make sure you give it an obvious name and put it where you can easily find it again.

Suggested read
[Review] Great Little Radio Player For Ubuntu

Go to your home folder and make sure “show hidden files” option is on. You can click on the “view” or the equivalent icon and check off the box, or simply type “ctrl+h”.

Zorin OS 12 installation

Next find the folder labeled “.mozilla” and click it open. And on the next, click “firefox”.

Zorin OS 12 review

Zorin OS 12

Next, you’ll see files that look something like these:

Zorin OS 12 Firefox

Remove these files—either drag and drop or use the “move to” option—and place them safely in the folder you created earlier. Afterward, you can easily return Firefox to its original configuration by reversing to process. Just remember that Firefox will have created new configuration files that you’ll need to delete first.

How to Avoid (at least one kind) Installation Failure

The second problem I encountered was a complete installation failure. The process got hung up while trying to turn off my “swap” partition. I thought it might resolve to issue by itself but it remained hung up for an hour and I had no choice but force the machine off. (What would have happened, I wonder, if I simply removed the charger and left the battery to die?)

This, of course, corrupted the installation thumb drive, so I had to burn a new one.

That done, I used Gparted to make sure the “swap” partition was turned off this time:

Zorin OS installation

Zorin OS installation

I know that Gparted often strikes fear in the minds of many Linux users and for good reason: it’s a powerful tool and it always works. In other words, if you screw things up you do so on a galactic scale. So the more timid might try the “disks” program which can also “swap-off”, though I’ve never used it myself.

A Clean Install

It’s important to make sure you do everything in the right order. First, make you know or at least jot down your BIOS screen keys. Unfortunately, they vary from machine to machine, they are nearly always found on the top row of your keyboard. One is usually labeled “Boot Options” and the other “System Settings”. In the former, you can select which drive you want to boot from in a given session. In the later, you can set things up so that your PC always from a certain sort of drive.

Second, make sure your installation media boots. If and when it does select the “Try Zorin” option then shut it down without installing.

Next, boot into your existing OS and “swap-off” as shown above. Mount your Zorin drive, preferably in the same USB port that it just booted from. Then restart.

If for any reason it boots into your existing OS instead, the booting up process will turn “swap” back on and you’ll have to repeat the process if you want to play it safe. If it looks like your machine is about to boot from the wrong drive and you’re fast enough, you can abort the boot on most PCs with “ctrl+alt+del”. This will send you back to the BIOS screen where you can make sure the right drive boots.

Disclaimer: This tutorial is a reader submission.

About author Dave Merritt: I’m a 59 years old, full­time landscaper and part­time PCmedic. I’ve been an avid Linux user for over ten years. In that time, I do not claim to have made every possible mistake, only most of them. I’m a big fan of prog rock, avant­ jazz and J S Bach, and enjoy reading Neal Stevenson and anything to do with the foundational problems in modern physics.


  1. Hello.
    I am a 76 years old man who felt that Micro Soft is a rip-off (They charge money for a defective product that you cannot return and get back your money). I know nothing about Linux and the like; and not much about Windows products.
    Some day I ventured into Ubuntu after having red comments in the Webb, thinking :who knows? maybe I will get rid of M.S. Windows. So, today after trying out Ubuntu, Robolinux, Manjaro, Calamares, etc. I am working in Zorin and I love it. I cannot understand why some people are having troubles with it. I did my installation on a three T.B. which I was about to discard, because being a dummy when using P.Cs. I deleted at some point the booting part of the hard drive thus making it unbootable. Zorin did formatted the h.d. and did the installation. Still it will not boot, but with help from another peace of software which does it for me, I can happily say ‘Zorin is the way to go!. I do not want to feel like I have been taken by M.S. and have to swallow all their crap and lose my privacy, etc., etc.
    One caveat though: I am having a difficult time installing Oracle virtualbox Extension Pack 5.1 because Extension Pack 5.0 is already installed and never goes away no matter how many times I do delete Oracle in all its forms as they are found in my P.c.
    Any help would make me very happy and appreciative.

  2. After re-installing this distro three times I can safely conclude that Zorin 12 Ultimate is a piece of crap.

    Where Zorein 9 and 10 ran smoothly and without problems on my setup, Zorin 12 continuously runs into trouble and regularly crashes. And with this I mean “re-install necessary” crashes.

    Updates only seem to making the problems worse. On top of that installing external software runs in all kinds of problems that I did not encounter on the older distro’s.

    My advice; avoid Zorin 12 and just go all out Ubuntu. That works just fine.

  3. my experience with zorin os 12 is get to know it inside and out and zorin os 12 has the desktop cube and ciaro dock so far i had no problems on mine at all its fast and smooth ive installed the 64bit zorin os 12 version ive learned to give it a lil pateince with it and learn inside and out about zorin os 12 and its a masterpeice state of the art zorin os 12 is installed on my laptops and my desktop towers and also on alot of my freinds computers thanks zorin os team nice job . im a car mechanic who works on car.

  4. Suggesting to clear Firefox state just because of a download failure is extreme. Using wget or similar tool should have been suggested.

    And to turn off swap, the easiest command is to sudo swapoff

    • Amitosh: I’m merely reporting what actually happened to me. I encountered the “swap” problem WHILE I was in the installation process, where there is NO recourse to the many obvious ways to turn swap off. As for cleaning out your firefox, having installed Zorin versions 7-12, I’ve encountered download problems around half the time, (ie. unbootable installation media, checksum errors or download failures). Over the years I’ve installed more that 50 OS’s without encountering this problem. This is a problem that seems to be specific to Zorin. Overall, I wrote about these problems not because they WILL occur, but because they MIGHT occur. And as both of my suggestions take about 2 minutes to perform and are easily reversible, a user intent on installing Zorin could save themselves a lot of time and trouble.

  5. this is in general about linux distros. most of the distros i had come across rely on two main distros – debian and ubunto. why create a distro that is not basically different from these two. Why not try for something new other than these two like chrome os. I guess slackware linux is not based on these two and also BSD is not based on these two. Why not all the linux experts can join together and focus on just one operating system and make that superb one instead of crowding the distro world with so many names when all are same basically. May be they will need some one like BILL GATES to manage and market so successfully.

    • With respect, you are missing the point of the article. It’s about Zorin as a Linux substitute for Windows. Zorin is based on Debian/Ubuntu LTS. Talk about other Linux platforms is not valid here.

  6. Unity is fine is you like to make things hard for yourself. Mint does a great job of adding common sense and style to Ubuntu, so no point in spending good money on a half-ass job like Zorin in the first place really.

    • I don’t seem to understand the hostility regarding Unity.
      I tend to use Unity and MATE on Ubuntu 16.04, switching around frequently. I fail to notice at which point Unity “makes things harder”.

      There’s only one thing I rilly dislike about Unity: They took away many features from Nautilus – however, this does not appear to be Cannonical’s fault.

  7. I’m inclined to agree with Dave. Zorin 12, at the moment, is a bit rough around the edges. It might improve over the next months as fixes and tweaks are released. If you like a look of ‘Windows’, try also Peppermint 7. It’s rock solid with a hint of Mint. Equally solid, but a little different to look at, is MX-16. This was reveiwed a few weeks ago in ‘It’s FOSS’. It’s my current distro of choice, with access to all my regular used packages in the vertical left-hand panel.

    • Roy Davies: I’ve lately been curious about Peppermint. I usually try to run a couple of partitions on a “check -it-out” basis. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Bert: I totally agree. I’ve been running Linux Mint Cinnamon for about a year now. In terms of flexibility, stability and ease of use it’s the best OS I’ve used, EVER.

  8. Am not understanding why you turned off swap partition, although it may not impact performance a lot. But generally swap partition is there to provide Linux a cache like area to use when physical memory is maxed out. So its size is based on the ram in your system. If anything I would prefer to leave it on. But if your running multiple Linux OS then possibly you only need 1 swap. I thought it was used as an area that snapshots your RAM content when logging out of Xwindows also. So that when you resume it is like Windows Hibernation and brings you rapidly back in from the Hibernation or Sleep mode. So for that it is useful. I ran Zorin for a while, and it seemed stable to me, but like you was version 7 I think. For the moment, I am with Linux Mint 17.3 ROSA. I found the newer kernel seems to lack Support to applications that you want to open up Network shares. I am waiting for those age old problems to be resolved in the next releases. Like all distributions, they just still have not gotten the age old minor issues worked out yet.

    • kb50: this was strictly an installation problem. I had to abort because the process froze while trying to install the “swap” drive and showed no sign of un-freezing. I reported it because if it happened to, me it could happen to someone else.

  9. Hello Mr Merritt, since I noticed you said you like Gnome2 + Compiz, why not try out Ubuntu MATE 16.04 or 16.10 ? MATE is a fork of Gnome2 which has an active community. Do try it out if you feel like revisiting Gnome2 + Compiz again.

    • Brijesh K R: At the time Ubuntu introduced Unity, the Linux universe was much smaller. I wanted an alternative I could use right than and there which, for me, meant leaving Gnome/compiz in the past. But the wonderful thing about the Linux world today is that there are so many forks to choose from. This is my convoluted way of saying thanks, Brijesh, I think I’ll give it a try!

  10. i refer to the review article of mr.dave merritt on zorin 12. Seems at the first few paragraphs he had simply repeated what was earlier said. I had just tried out installing many of the Linux distributions, never had much difficulty – either thru live cds/dvds or thumb drive or vb. I had no problem with firefox config. But today i learned about those config.files. Like many i like windows and try out all new other os. Seems the review is rather lengthy one and could have been edited and made a bit precise. I had tried out windows 10 and still like the windows 7 as still many government offices are using windows XP and some use windows 7.

  11. I feel some editing checks are needed as the para starting “Of course, shortcuts in all their forms..” is repeated for some reason. Also “which on slower IPS’s ..” what is that ? and why an apostrophe used ? Anyhow, I liked the technical content and will give it a try in a virtual machine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *