For the forthcoming SLED (Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10, Novell went back to the drawing board to rethink what makes a good desktop. The result is extremely impressive.
I installed the beta of SLED 10 on a Fujitsu LifeBook P5010 notebook [..] No Linux install on this machine has ever passed with flying colors ó until now, that is.
The desktop environment itself is clean, attractive, and free of clutter. Novell claims to have done extensive user testing to refine SLEDís UI, and it shows. This is not your average, stock Gnome system.
The first difference youíll notice is the new Computer menu, which organizes the most popular applications in one menu. Less often-used applications can be found on a larger dialog box (see screenshot), which somewhat resembles Mac OS Xís Control Panel. Although it takes some getting used to, this approach is a welcome change from the dizzying layers of some distributionsí more Windows-like hierarchical menus.
Novell takes pains to emphasize SLEDís enterprise-readiness, but all work and no play makes a dull distribution. In addition to the expected productivity apps and Novell add-ons such as Beagle desktop search and Tomboy notes, SLED includes fun additions such as the F-Spot photo management software and Banshee media player.
Novell has tweaked the look and feel of many of the apps, such as OpenOffice.org, to give them a uniform polish. Moreover, fans of GUI glitter will appreciate the new, Mac OS-like Xgl desktop effects. Although disabled by default and officially unsupported on my card, they worked fine and provided fun eye candy (if not practical use).
SLED 10 is hands down the most polished desktop Linux distribution Iíve ever used ó and that includes Ubuntu. If Novell can sustain the level of effort it put into this release for future versions, SLED will rapidly become a serious contender for enterprise workstation use.