Joli OS Review: Is it the Best OS Available for Netbooks?

Joli OS 1.2 is a very interesting project. It is basically an Ubuntu based Linux distro optimized to work in netbooks and other older computer hardware. When you think about it, there is not much choice for netbook users as far as Linux distros are concerned. Joli OS is among the rare few. But is it really the best OS available for netbooks out there? Lets find out.

jolios 1.2 review

Netbook Woes
I am pretty new to netbooks, my Acer Aspire One netbook is not even a month old. It came pre-installed with Linpus OS which wasn't really suited for my needs. I removed it and installed Ping-Eee OS. As noted in our early review of Ping-Eee OS, I was really satisfied with this netbook optimized version of Pinguy OS. But gradually some issues started to creep in. 

One of the things that bothered me most was the time it took for Ping-Eee OS to boot. It was becoming ever longer, probably because of Preload I believe, not so sure about that. The delay in successfully loading the desktop after logging in was also becoming quite annoying. Eventually, I decided to venture out and try something lighter and faster. I ended up with Joli OS 1.2, an Ubuntu based OS whose user interface is built primarily with HTML5.

Joli OS 1.2 Review - Installation and Booting
In every other Linux distro we have reviewed so far, the easiest part has always been the installation, not so with the Joli OS though. Installation steps are almost the same that you see while installing Ubuntu, but time it took for the installation to complete surprised me. It was well over 30 minutes. I didn't expected that from a supposedly 'light' Ubuntu based OS.

The next surprise was the boot time. I have installed Joli OS as a dual boot with Ping-Eee OS. I was expecting that, I could at the very least use Joli OS as a quick boot OS dedicated to browsing the web and for everything else I could use Ping-Eee OS. But the amount of time it took for the OS to boot was between 30-45 seconds! And it happened not just the first time, but every single time. If Joli OS really aspire to become the best OS for netbooks one day, they really need to work on their boot process.

Joli OS 1.2 Review - The Overall Desktop Expereince
Unlike the negativities we have discussed so far, the Joli OS desktop is an absolute delight to use. It is very fast, feels very light and everything works as you expect it to. As a long time Ubuntu user, familiarity factor was kind of big deal. All my favorite applications starting from Chromium web browser is already there. And the whole OS occupied just 2.6GB of disk space!

And Joli OS kind of solves the vertical space issue in its own ingenious way. Every application opens in full screen and with a different kind of global menu integration(when compared to what you see in Ubuntu's Unity interface). See screenshot below.

Joli OS global menu

What you see in the top-left corner are the 'show desktop' shortcut and the list of currently open windows. A very easy to use and no non-sense way to arrange the desktop of a netbook optimized OS in my opinion. Default arrangement of applications in the desktop is also very intutive and easy to understand even for a Linux newbie(and browsable using arrow keys).

Joli OS 1.2 Review

There is also some eyecandy additions like the bottom bar to easily change wallpapers. But one thing I really miss in Joli OS are tool tip notifications. There aren't any to be frank and it takes some time to getting used to.

Joli OS 1.2 Desktop

Having said that, Joli OS is at its best when connected to the internet. When you are trying to login for the first time, Joli OS asks you to sign up either using your facebook account or by setting up a new account with Jolicloud. Once you set up the Jolicloud account, you could easily configure Joli OS to auto login and from then on it all becomes very easy.

Signing up with Jolicloud has its distinct advantages. Once you are a signed up Jolicloud user, you can access your Joli OS desktop from literally anywhere and all your saved settings will be intact. And if you are one of those who upload and sync important files and documents with Dropbox and Google Docs, Jolicloud lets you access your whole Joli OS desktop along with important files. See screenshot below where I am trying to access my Joli OS desktop from Chromium web browser in Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal powered laptop.

Jolcloud integration of Joli OS 1.2

Finding and installing applications in Joli OS is a breeze. And since Joli OS is based on HTML5, it has got add-ons support as well. Noticed the giant 'plus' button on the desktop? It takes you directly to the list of native applications and add-ons available for installation.

Joli OS 1.2

As you can see, all you favorite applications like Firefox or Banshee and hordes of add-ons which are not installed by default, can be easily accessed and installed in just one click. You can further narrow down the search by using the 'Native Apps' and 'Add-ons' shortcuts. And for those who can't live without Terminal, just hit Alt+F1 and there you have it. You can install native apps using apt-get command as in Ubuntu or any other Debian based Linux distro.

Joli OS

One other thing worth taking note of is the default file browser application in Joli OS(Nautilus is also available as a default candidate). Not only does the application work without a hitch, it is also tightly integrated with Dropbox and Google Docs as well(see above screenshot) which in turn are the only two cloud based services I really use on a daily basis.

Essential Joli OS Keyboard Shortcuts
Alt+F1 - Open Terminal.
Alt+F2 - Run Command prompt.
Super key - Show Desktop shortcut.
Arrow Keys - Browse around the applications while in desktop.
Ctrl+Alt+Right/Left Arrow Keys - Switch desktops
Alt+Tab - Switch between open apps/windows.
Alt+F4 - Close window

Joli OS is a perfect combination of ease of use and good looks. But is it really worthy to be called as the best OS available for netbooks currently? Joli OS scores a perfect 10 in almost all departments. But from a netbook user perspective, 3 things bothered me most. First of all the time it took for installation to complete, then the abnormally long boot process and finally the average or slightly below average battery life. I really expect Joli OS to deliver on those 3 fronts in the future releases. I am going to use Joli OS for sometime anyhow since I love its UI and the overall swiftness with which it responds. But my search for *the* perfect Linux distro for netbooks is not over yet. Thanks for reading and have a nice day.