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Last week, the CEO and CXO of elementary OS, Cassidy James Blaede announced the release of elementary OS 5.1, code named ‘Hera’. elementary OS is an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution, which promises to be a “fast, open, and privacy-respecting” replacement to macOS and Windows. 

Building upon the solid foundations laid out by its predecessor Juno, Hera brings several new features including native support for Flatpak, a faster AppCentre storefront, accessibility features, among other updates.

Key updates in elementary OS 5.1 Hera

Brand new greeter and onboarding

In elementary OS 5.1 Hera, the greeter and onboarding have seen major changes in order to give users an improved first-run experience. In addition to looking better, the redesigned greeter addresses some of the key reported issues including keyboard focus issues, HiDPI issues, and better localization. Hera also ships with a new Onboarding app that gives you a quick introduction to key features and also takes care of common first-run tasks like managing privacy settings.

Native Flatpak support and AppCenter updates

elementary OS 5.1 Hera comes with native support for Flatpack, an application sandboxing and distribution framework. It enables developers to create one application and distribute it to different Linux desktop distributions. 

Hera includes a new core elementary OS utility called Sideload that allows users to sideload Flatpak apps. Any updates to the sideloaded apps will appear in AppCenter and apps from any user-added Flatpak remotes will show up in AppCenter as uncurated apps. Along with the Flatpak support, Blaede shared that it is now “up to 10× faster in Hera, loading the homepage and featured apps blazingly fast.”

Accessibility improvements

A bunch of accessibility features has landed in elementary OS 5.1 Hera. System Settings are now more accessible to all users. Discoverability of performance and keyboard shortcut has been improved. Sound settings has a new approach to handling external devices and there is a “Flash screen” option for event alerts to better manage whether alerts are audible, visual, both, or neither.

The Mouse & Touchpad settings in elementary OS 5.1 Hera are now organized into sections based on different behavior. Several accessibility settings like long-press secondary click, reveal pointer, double-click speed, and control pointer using keypad have been exposed. Also, the touchpad settings now has an “Ignore when mouse is connected” toggle.

Many developers have already started trying out this release. A Hacker News user shared their first impressions on a discussion regarding this release, “I installed this on my XPS 13 this morning, and it’s really nice. It has a lot of overall polish that most DE’s are missing, it looks and feels cohesive. It installed without any issues, and I had no problem with my Ubuntu-leaning dotfiles. I will probably keep this for the near future, it’s very pleasant.”

These were some of the updates in elementary OS 5.1 Hera. Check out the official announcement to know more about this release.

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