The release cycle of a Zorin OS Linux distribution explained

In this article, as part of my Zorin OS beginners course, I want to explain how Linux distribution releases work and why that could be important for you. Unlike many other Linux distributions, the Zorin OS developers focus on absolute reliability and stability and consciously choose not to be a leader in all bleeding edge developments. In order to do that, Zorin OS is always based on what is called an LTS, or Long Term Support, release. So in this short article I will explain in simple terms the release cycle of the Zorin OS Linux distribution.

About this course

In my free Zorin OS tutorial series I explain in an accessible and beginner friendly way everything you need to know to get the most out of Zorin OS. Click below to see a complete overview of all chapters of my Zorin OS beginner course.

Zorin OS beginner course – an overview

Note: This course is still in progress, so not all chapters are finished yet.

The release cycle of Ubuntu

The basis of Zorin OS is Ubuntu. Ubuntu itself offers both a Long Term Support release (currently Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS, released in April 2020) and a short term but more up-to-date / bleeding edge release (Ubuntu 20.10, released in October 2020). Canonical, the developer and provider of Ubuntu, produces a new version of Ubuntu every six months, after each LTS release, in which the latest and best applications are always made available. For this 6-month release you get only up to 9 months of support and security updates. But, as mentioned before, there is also an LTS release. A new LTS version is issued every two years. In older releases, an LTS version had three years of support on Ubuntu Desktop. But from Ubuntu 12.04 and newer the LTS releases receive support and updates for five years.

Why LTS is a good thing

Probably after reading the above it is a bit clearer for you why the Zorin OS Team uses the LTS version of Ubuntu as a base. LTS receives 5 years of support and security updates compared to the meager 9 months of the bleeding edge version. But the consequence is that the age of the base for Zorin OS can be up to 2 years, namely the frequency in which a new LTS release for Ubuntu is delivered. Basically, as a Zorin OS user you start to lag behind modern developments, but how bad is that if you have a system in which all teething problems are solved and therefore stands as a house. And that lag is relative, since Zorin OS itself also comes with interim updates (point releases), but always based on the stable LTS releases. Next to that you are no longer dependent on the applications provided in the Ubuntu base, as you can get lots of applications from the Flathub app store or the Snap Store, so you have apps that are always up to date with all latest changes and improvements.

The release cycle of Zorin OS

The most recent version of Zorin OS is 15.3, which was released on September 8 2020. This version and it’s previous versions 15.2, 15.1 and 15. are all based on the older Ubuntu LTS release 18.04 Bionic Beaver, which came out on April 26, 2018.

As already explained, Canonical already provided Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS and Ubuntu 20.10. So why is Zorin OS 15.3 still based on Ubuntu 18.04? Since the Zorin OS team is relatively small and always needs some extra time after the availability of a new Ubuntu LTS release for their own developments and test work, it will take some time before we can download the newest Zorin OS based on the latest Ubuntu LTS base. So the hopefully soon to be expected Zorin OS 16 will be based on Ubuntu LTS 20.04, but we have to be patient for a little while.

The current Zorin OS 15.3, 15.2 and 15.1 are continuations on the initial Zorin OS 15, which was released on June 5th 2019. So you can see that the Zorin OS team needed 14 months to base their Zorin OS 15 base release on the latest Ubuntu LTS base, while distributions like Kubuntu and Ubuntu Budgie only needed a month to follow a new Ubuntu release. It is up to you to decide if you want to wait this long for a new Zorin OS release. But I think it is worth it. Zorin OS 15.3 will get, just like Ubuntu 18.04, support until April 26, 2023 and with HWE (Hardware Enablement Stack), which makes sure the Ubuntu base is always updated to support the newest hardware.

Below an overview of the Zorin OS release cycle in relation to the Ubuntu release cycle:

For more information on the Zorin OS version history see the Zorin OS Wikipedia page.

Multiple versions for different needs

For Zorin OS there have always been different versions released for different needs: Core, Business, Ultimate, Lite and Education. Currently only Core, Ultimate, Lite and Education are available. Core is the free version with a great set of usable software pre installed and 3 desktop layouts. Ultimate offers an extensive set of apps and 6 desktop layouts and installation support for 39 Euros. Zorin OS Lite makes your very old computer like new again as it is created to be lightweight. Zorin OS Education is designed for schools and students and comes with additional educational apps.

What is next

You want to learn more about Zorin OS? Click below to see a complete overview of all chapters of my Zorin OS beginners course.

Zorin OS beginner course – an overview