13 Dec 2016

Zorin 12 Core: unpolished diamond

One of the most anxiously awaited distributions in the Linux world this autumn was Zorin OS.  The anxiety was intense, since the last release of Zorin OS 11 stopped receiving any updates long ago because it was based on the non-LTS version of Ubuntu. Zorin OS 12 was finally released on the 18th of November 2016 with the additional release of an updated ISO image on the 20th of November. There were no reports on the official blog about the reasons for the re-release.

Zorin OS is not a stranger to Linux notes from DarkDuck blog. There were several reviews of this operating system. There was a contest together with Zorin OS team. There was even an interview with Artyom Zorin, the Zorin OS team leader.

As you may be aware, Artyom lives with his family in Ireland. And that was the country I had to visit for my business reasons. Was it a coincidence? Maybe... But then, I had even bigger incentive to write about Zorin OS while being in its motherland.

I downloaded Zorin OS 12 Core 64-bit from the official site and burnt it onto the USB stick using the dd command. The image is 1.6 Gb in size. The USB stick is in the port of my laptop Toshiba L500-19X.

Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!

Booting up

The boot process of Zorin OS 12 Core is not any different from Ubuntu 16.04 and many other Ubuntu derivatives. You have only one question during the boot, and this is a choice between the Live run and installation.

After I selected the Live run, the screen flicked several times and eventually left me on the default startup screen.

First impressions

The default wallpaper on the screen of Zorin OS 12 Core is a photo of a lake in Zorin's favourite blue tones. There is only one icon on the screen - and it runs the Install process.

The panel is at the bottom of the screen. It is in simple black colour and does not feature any diagonal decorations as it did in a few previous versions of this Linux operating system.

The menu button is in the left corner of the panel, and shortcuts to the Chromium browser, Geary email client and file manager are next to it. The right part of the panel has a notification area with clocks, language, volume and battery indicators.
Zorin OS 12 welcome screen

The freshly booted system took about 965 Mb of memory, which is a record high among all the operating systems I tested on this laptop.
Zorin OS 12 resources

If you are interested in technical details, then Zorin OS 12 Core runs on Linux kernel 4.4.0 taken from the Ubuntu repository. It uses GNOME Shell as a base for its own Zorin Desktop 2.0.

Network connectivity

As you noticed from above, there is no network indicator in the notification area of the system panel immediately after boot. If you want to connect to a wireless network, you need to do this via the Setting panel available in the menu. This was what I did. I went into the WiFi section of Network part of the Settings panel, selected the wireless network of the hotel I was staying in, and soon I was connected. As you understand, Zorin OS 12 had no issues with recognition and configuration of the Realtek network card of my laptop.

Due to my running this test while in the hotel, unfortunately I had to skip the network drive connectivity test that I usually do.

Keyboard layout

Keyboard layout indicator appears on the panel of Zorin OS 12 Core right from the start. If you click that indicator, you can switch between several flavours of English keyboard layouts, UK being one of them. If you want to change the set of available layouts, you need to go to the Settings panel again. This configuration is not available from the indicator itself.

What you actually need is in the Region and Language part of the panel. You can change the set of layouts there. Then you need to go to the Keyboard section to configure the switch shortkey. Unfotunately, my favourite combination Ctrl-Shift is not allowed in Zorin OS 12. Plus, the configuration process itself is far from simple and streamlined.


Unfortunately, Zorin OS 12 comes without codecs pre-installed. It means I could not play video files from the local machine, but I had to install the codecs. I tried .avi and .mkv files for that.
However, installation was quick and resolved the playback issues.
I was able to watch videos on YouTube from the Chromium browser, but some other resources like 1tv.ru were unavailable.
Zorin OS 12 multimedia

Zorin Tools

Zorin OS was always famous for the interface design. This operating system is targeted to fresh Windows converts, that's why it comes with an option to have Windows-style menus and panel.

These configuration changes were somewhere in the menu in earlier versions. Now there is a Zorin Appearance item in the Settings panel. It allows you to switch the theme between 3 available in the Core versions, and also configure the colours, fonts, panel width and behaviour, and a half-ton of other appearance parameters.

Apart from that Settings element, you also get Zorin Web Browser Manager to install or remove browsers.


Chromium 53 is the only browser available in Zorin OS 12 Core out of the box. This is another change, because previous versions used the Firefox browser, and the very first Zorin OS releases featured Chrome. In addition to Chromium, you get Geary email client and Empathy internet messenger in the Internet section of the menu.

LibreOffice represents the productivity tools on Zorin OS 12 Core. Of course it is not the freshest version of this office suite, but a newer version is easy to get through the Ubuntu repository. This office suite does not have Math or Base applications. There is also Calendar and Contacts tools.

The Sound & Video section of the menu includes Brasero disk burning tool, PiTiVi and Cheese applications, Rhythmbox and Videos players.

GIMP, LibreOffice Draw and SimpleScan are in the Graphics section of the menu. Image viewer is not listed there, but of course it exists in the system, just in the Utilities menu section.

There is a separate menu section for Wine, the tool to run Windows programs on Linux. PlayOnLinux is also available out of the box in this menu section.

Half a dozen simple games are listed in the Games part of the menu.

Smaller utilities are scattered among 3 menu parts: Accessories, Utilities and Administrative tools, although I don't see much difference between the first two.

Along with "usual suspects" the Accessories menu includes Maps and Weather applications, which were not in previous Zorin OS versions.

Some issues

Unfortunately, I experienced some system issues during my Live run of Zorin OS 12 Core 64-bit.
Zorin OS 12 bug

Apart from this crash, Chromium browser sometimes lost the focus, which meant I had to switch to another application and then back to Chromium when I wanted to write this article in the Blogger interface or click a browser button.

The mouse pointer sometimes disappeared from the screen, especially when it was at the right edge of the browser screen, and it took me several seconds to find it again.

If you want to install or remove applications from this operating system, Zorin OS 12 Core gives you the Software tool. Unfortunately, it has the same problem as I saw in Lubuntu 16.10: there is nothing available in this window even after the repository update.


Unfortunately, I can say that the general impression Zorin OS 12 Core 64-bit left on me was worse than I had had from previous releases of this operating system.

Yes, there are some nice elements of Zorin Desktop 2.0, which is the main difference with the previous versions.

But they come with a price. The major issues are listed in the previous section of the article. Add here high memory usage and hidden place for network connection. In general, the system looks a bit unpolished for me. Is it an unpolished diamond?

Will that be fixed with the next releases of Zorin OS? Let's see!

Video used on screenshot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoHlrQScWl0


  1. Hello DarkDuck! I totally agree with you about Zorin OS. Very heavy UI, high memory usage, no new features. The only good things are the new maps and weather apps. The new UI looks somewhat like a future version of Windows (e.g. Windows 11), which I don't like at all! Oh and about the Zorin web browser manager - this is got to be a joke! Chromoium and Firefox are okay, but Midori and Web - we know how good they are. So yeah that's what I think about it.

    Thank you DarkDuck, you're doing great distro reviews on your blog! When Zorin OS 12 lite comes out, please review it. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks!
      At least I'm not alone in my thoughts.
      I'll try to do Zorin Lite when it comes out.

  2. For me Zorin Appearance is a joke. It does not list what the different one's are like it came from a beta version and not the released version. The theme section is not labeled as well as to what the themes are. It seems like they rushed out the release and did not work on items that made them what they are.

  3. While I completely enjoy Zorin OS9 and look forward to continually using it until the system it is on dies... I can't say the same about 12. There are some things left to be desired about it.

    While I never found any issues in its general use (save for it being clunky when I gave it a whirl in an emulator--something that none of the other distros I've tried ever did), it just doesn't have the same feel or function of the previous LTS release (OS 9)--and as a previous posted commented, its "Appearance" app is a joke. It's a heavy system that doesn't feel like a finished product.

    This, in a sense, has made me glad that I didn't commit to doing a full install on my desktop system.

    The one thing I wouldn't mind doing is being able to import the Map and Weather Apps onto OS 9--given that my attempts to script local weather updates using Conky have failed time and again.

    As a LTS release, the look and feel may be there for the next 6 years. We can only hope in the next three or four years they release another version, and fix the mistakes they made.

    1. thanks for your input, Phill!

    2. I agree with you Phil. I could use Zorin 9 indefinitely. 12 is too frustrating. I cant get anything to load, not even updates. May replace 12 with 9.

    3. Replacement with version 9 is risky because of looming end of support cycle.

  4. I'm alone here in my review. I like Zorin OS 12. I'm coming to Zorin having been a LinuxMint fan for the past few years. I usually gauge a distro by how much my wife likes it. At first she didn't like the Zorin interface, but after giving it some time she really likes it. Out of the box Zorin isn't perfect and needs a few tweaks, and additional packages added. But once tweaked and packages added, Zorin is a very good distro.

    1. True, you are in minority here. but this makes your comment even more valuable!
      Thank you!

  5. Even more of a minority I represent one of those people that Zorin is targeting. My first Linux since I tried SUSE 6.0 almost 20 years ago ending in lowlevel formatting that harddrive getting back to windows. ;)

    I had a couple of those error messages shown in your review until I installed all drivers and updates, since then it didn't happen anymore (couple browser crashes, couple Gnome). Somewhat surprised that network, sound, scanner, printer, USB-Headset and graphics indeed worked almost out of the box. The Logitech G27 wheel (Games, I know, you don't care) unfortunately took a bit of typing you guys enjoy so much but I got it working as well. Wish I could say that for iracing...

    After installing Steam I was also suprised that at least 187 titles from 600 are available on Linux. Better than expected.

    Email check, Tor check, gPodder check, Office 2010 check (that was another surprise!), four displays hooked up and running. If that thing could play BluRay-Discs I'd put it right on my HTPC.

    The only thing that got broken already is putting Programs to the Taskbar or Desktop (works only partially) and no rightlick options in the menu (for putting on DT or TB). Rightlick does the same as leftclick, starting the program instead of showing options). Playing with Zorin-Settings, Gnome-Tweaker, checking even the config-file looks all good.

    So for now I'd say Zorin makes Linux a lot less painful for those being on Windows since 95. Even when installing Zorin as the first time ever Linux it doesn't even take longer, as Windows easily needs a dozen reboots for drivers and updates while I needed three with Zorin an five minutes for the updates.

    Quite interesting experience so far, for the first time ever I'd at least consider that as my primary platform!

    1. This deserves a separate article rather than a comment to my post! Do you want me to convert this into a guest post? Please contact me darkduck@darkduck.com
      Thank you!

  6. This is very similar to my initial experiences with Zorin 12 64-bit, as a Windows user with only after a bit of experience with Ubuntu and mostly Lubunto in trying to extend the life of my old Athlon 64 systems a few years ago. As primarily a Windows user, I find Zorin a comfortable transition, albeit not free of the freezes etc. I had become accustomed to with Windows 7 on a Dual-Core Pentium.

    1. Do you feel comfortable with Zorin now, John, or you moved on?

  7. I'v been with Zorin since 6.4, Zorin 9 core has been my favorite, I now have 12 installed on another HHD and find the entirely way to slow boot time the only frustrating thing that really gets to me, it's is resource heavy like you say, but hopefully they will tweak that. Over all, not as good as 9, but not bad.

    1. Thanks for sharing your position. Much appreciate!

  8. I have been using 9 since it came out. I recently installed 12 on a laptop, and I am extremely disappointed. The software installer/center, works very rarely, many programs, must be installed by typing in commands in the terminal, and the best web authoring program KomPozer, will not install correctly, which is one thing that I really need. The old Zorin look changer is gone, and the new replacement looks like an afterthought. The only really nice thing about it is the desktop picture of the Lake! I am going save that, and get rid of 12, and go back to 9, or Mint. I don't know what happened to the Zorin team, but I really hope they get their act together soon, because I have really liked their disto in the past.

    1. Thanks for your opinion, and hope we'll see the improved version soon.

  9. Been a Windows user most of my life, then moved over to Zorin 8,as a former Windows user, i could only use Zorin for google search, basic stuff, i found it impossible to download programs, even to load a desktop clock in the top corner, you need to be a Geek, why should windows users have to put up with this command stuff, its like something out of the Free Masons, i cant use dos type commands etc to do a simple programmed run..from a downloaded file, who the f**k does Zorin and Linux builders think they are, expecting Windows user to use this shit, even some thing as simple as drag and drop a favorite google url, to Desktop Icon, its impossible, you need to be a Geek just to a simple task as that .
    I was expecting Zorin 12.1 to be more modern, half the bits are missing from it? that Zorin 8 had? i only have 3 basic themes, the bottom bar, has no preference? options? thats all gone, this 12.1 to me a Windows user, is a step backwards, as far as i can see, they did not bother to offer include a selection of wallpapers, only that Lake, its got all the hall marks of something tossed together very quickly , its a poor show from Zorin/Linux Geeks, if they are trying to recruit people over from the Windows platform, not a chance in hell, its a shame really, they have the know how...but don`t do it, as the guy above says, software installer raerly works, and how the Devil do the expect the normal man in the Street to use Terminal Commands, its like going back into the dark ages pre Windows 95 , Dos days, Linux builder geeks, need to move with the times, this is 2017 Doc type commands should be a thing of the past..

  10. Ok I payed for zorin 12.1 os ultimate but have problem with graphic card radeon r9 390 hawaii code name. how they want fix that?

    1. Hello,
      In order to install the official AMD drivers for your graphics card on your installed Zorin OS system, please follow these steps:

      Install the latest software updates by going to the Zorin menu > search & open "Software Updater"

      Download the Ubuntu 16.04 version of the official AMD driver from here: https://www2.ati.com/drivers/linux/ubuntu/amdgpu-pro-16.40-348864.tar.xz

      Open the file browser and navigate to the "Downloads" folder

      Right-click on the amdgpu-pro .tar.xz file and select "Extract Here"

      Open the newly-extracted folder and double click on the "amdgpu-pro-install" file to "Display" it

      Press Ctrl+F to search for "ubuntu" and replace the "ubuntu" text with "zorin" (without quotes)

      Save the file and close the text editor app
      In the file browser, press Ctrl+L to highlight the folder path and press Ctrl+C to copy it

      Press Ctrl+Alt+T to open the Terminal

      Type "cd " + space and press Shift+Ctrl+P to paste the file path, before pressing the Enter key to enter the command

      Enter this command to install the drivers: ./amdgpu-pro-install -y

      After the installation is complete, please restart your computer to apply the changes

  11. I was one of the first to download and instal Zorin Distribution . I am a Linux user for many many years. Last Windows I worked with was Windows 98. As for this Zorin the problem is that they changed from LXDE to XFCE althought they made like a mix of the two-. I have also tested the Zorin 12 lite beta release yesterdayt and it is XFCE all the way and it is extremely heavy.. The Software Center doesn't work. The LXDE menu is gone replaced by XFCE and is packed with software. It doesnt feel like a lite version but indeed it is a Core version with Libre full Office .. Gimp and lots of software .. Like I told them in their Official Forum they made 2 Zorin core versions. Zorin 12 lite is extremely heavy full of software --- they ruined what was perfect.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Fertolero! Hope to see improvements in the released version.

  12. I also have had issues with Zorin OS 12 (and 12.1-12.2). Every so often, the entire OS will just freeze, giving me no choice but to restart the system. Keep in-mind, however, that I am using the new 'Lite' version this time around. As far as the normal updated version goes, there haven't been too many issues - just small quirks here and there (which were also more obvious on 12 than with 12.1 / 12.2). I mean, I'd be staying with Zorin if it weren't for this issue. I may migrate back to Mint XFCE or Ubuntu, on this little laptop of mine. Zorin Lite runs very well (regarding usage of resources), but this one bug is a deal-breaker.

    Oh - and, regarding the UI: I actually very much enjoy it, even though I primarily use Mac OSX and not Windows. Yes, it looks similar to Windows 10, but I find the look to be fresh and simplistic enough. Unity on Ubuntu is too heavy on the eyes, and XFCE under Mint is just kind of boring. This has to be the best and least-distracting interface I have seen on Linux distribution. It's just a shame that Zorin 12 - as a whole - is buggy for the time being... at least, on this hardware.

  13. (Excuse any typos; I'm still getting used to this keyboard - plus, I'm very tired! In conclusion, Zorin 12 has some GREAT potential. I'd just like to see this horrid crashing bug gone!)

  14. By the way, Zorin in general (even the Core version) feels fairly light for what it is. I've run the Core version on Core 2 Duo machines, without very many issues. (Although, an SSD is best for comfortable usage, mind you.) And, currently, I have the Lite version on this new Celeron laptop of mine, and it runs snappily, along with my SSD. The basic reason I'm ditching the whole thing for now is because the entire system freezes once in a while, while I am Web-browsing.

  15. I guess I'm also in the minority as I consider Zorin 12.2 the best linux distro I have used so far over a period of a decade. My recent favorite was elementary OS because of its beauty and simplicity. However, Zorin 12.2 won over it for a few reasons: 1. dropbox gives better indications of its working status; 2. Chinese language input is easier to set up; 3. an interface that's even cleaner and more usable compared even with the style king elementary OS; 4. even the date and time indicator is linked to a calendar so every bit of the panel space is used for a good purpose. As Einstein says, everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. The Zorin team should be praised for focusing on real world user experience more than anything else and for achieving the zen of good balance of function and simplicity. I believe that all the major OS's are converging in a way, and Zorin is right there on or near the top.

    1. Great that it works for you! Everyone's has its own choice and taste!

  16. One observation about Zorin 12.2 worth noting is that the software center is not functioning in full without installing the first batch of updates. Nowadays the look and feel of OS's are getting so similar so that the different distros have to compete on the entire ecology of usable software availability and cloud integration.