4 months ago

PIXEL: the brand new desktop for the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi Foundation releases a stunning new desktop fizzing with features

The PIXEL boot screen 

Raspbian has had its biggest update ever this month, thanks to a dazzling new desktop environment called PIXEL.

Raspbian with PIXEL (which stands for ‘Pi Improved Xwindow Environment, Lightweight’) is a huge software update to the desktop environment. It introduces a crisp new interface, and is brimming with new programs and features.

The biggest newcomer is Chromium Browser, which replaces Epiphany as the default web browser. Other new apps include RealVNC’s Viewer and Server, which allow you to control Raspberry Pi devices over a network, plus the recently released Sense HAT Emulator.

But the real star isn’t the new apps: it’s the sensational new look.

The full article was written for The MagPi 50 by Lucy Hattersley, and is out now!

Baking a better Pi

Simon Long, UX engineer at Raspberry Pi, told the story behind Raspbian with PIXEL on the announcement blog this morning: “It was just over two years ago when I walked into Pi Towers for the first time. On the first day, Eben and I sat down and played with the Raspbian desktop for half an hour. He asked me ‘do you think you can make it better?’”

That conversation led to two years of hard work building a new interface. You’ll notice the difference as soon as you boot up your Raspberry Pi. Instead of viewing text scrolling up the screen, Raspbian with PIXEL starts with a boot splash image.

The splash screen is followed by a stunning photograph of an Icelandic road on your desktop. “We are very fortunate in that Greg Annandale, one of the Foundation’s developers, is also a very talented (and very well-travelled) photographer, and he has kindly allowed us to use some of his work as desktop pictures for PIXEL,” explains Simon.

The new desktop looks very similar to the last desktop update

The new desktop looks very similar to the last desktop update

The making of an icon

The visual refresh extends far beyond the desktop imagery. The icon set has been completely redesigned with a much friendlier feel, in keeping with the Raspberry Pi website.

“Sam Alder and Alex Carter, the guys responsible for all the cartoons and graphics you see on our website, have been sweating blood over these for the last few months,” remarks Simon, “with Eben providing a watchful eye to make sure every pixel was exactly the right colour.”

“The old window design looked a bit dated, compared to what Apple and Microsoft are shipping,” says Simon. “[PIXEL] windows now have a subtle curve on the corners, a cleaner title bar with new Close, Minimise, and Maximise icons, and a much thinner frame.”

Chromium is now the default browser in the Raspberry Pi

Chromium is now the default browser in the Raspberry Pi

PIXEL perfect

Closer inspection of Raspbian with PIXEL reveals further features. “In the past, if your Raspberry Pi was working particularly hard, you might have noticed yellow and red squares appearing in the top-right corner of the screen,” says Simon. “These have been replaced with new symbols that make it a bit more obvious: a lightning bolt for undervoltage and a thermometer for overtemperature.”

You can also disable WiFi and Bluetooth from the menu bar, a frequently requested feature.

Updating to Raspbian with PIXEL

The PIXEL desktop ships with the new Raspbian image file. Raspbian with PIXEL is available at the Raspberry Pi downloads page. It’s also possible to update a current Raspbian Jessie installation using these commands:

Reboot to use Raspbian with PIXEL. Find out more on the release blog, and check back tomorrow for our very special issue 50!

  • Susan Wolf

    Once again there is no option to disable the annoying automatic screensaver. How can we monitor sensors with the Pi when the screen blanks out so often? We don’t need screensavers with LED monitors.

  • Al

    Despite the fact that there are some workarounds to disable the screen blanking, It would be great if Raspbian comes with an easier disable option.

  • Olivier Desprairies

    I don’t speak english, but i want say : thank you, the new environment is very very nice !

  • Robert

    How do I disable the screen saver in PIXEL? Is there an answer? What are the workarounds? I need to keep a url open in chrome…

  • I was just verifying which desktop the Pi used, so I could install that on my son’s old laptop, so he’d have one desktop to learn about (he’s 6). Then I find this great new Pi desktop, which is great!

    But can I install it on any other computers besides the Pi?

  • NekoKirito Dragneel

    i was wondering if you can play roblox on it

  • Charlie Whitman

    This desktop is essentially LXDE with some tweaks. So, if you want to install it on your son’s laptop, you can stick with LXDE for consistency. Of course, you could tweak the settings on it to match the defaults of Pixel as closely as possible as well. However, dealing with the small changes probably won’t be a big deal. Kids are flexible in my experience. They’ll sit at any Linux desktop I put in front of them and figure it out faster than a lot of adults.

  • vanhetgoor

    Yesterday I updated my Raspberry Pi and unfortunately Pixel was installed, now my Raspberry is not working correctly anymore. The menu-bar is gone, the Raspberry can’t correctly open windows anymore, all windows are without the Open-Hide-Close option. All windows are without the top-bar at all. There is now way to get to the browser or the terminal! What went wrong?

  • Madscientist

    It can barely play HD video, So for anything other than really retro games, No.

  • Dave Goldsmith

    Ctrl+Alt+F1 will get you a terminal

  • John Kirby

    How can you have pixel use full resolution of display. I am on a Mac running under VmWare Fusion. I tried disable_overscan=1 doesn’t seem to work in boot/config.txt. I have also done update and dist-upgrade.

  • ecoloving

    Sure the planet needs more screens to shut down. A kind of screen saving.

  • frenk

    i wanted to ask, it’s compatible with the raspberry 2 with 256mb of ram?

  • Generalgloom

    I have just managed to wrongly click two or three times and erase the browser icon from the upper bar. It is a trivial change but it should not have happened so easily. An initial quick look did not show how to recover it. It is probably somewhere in documentation but it will take time to find.

    I worry that Pixel will offer an interface where it is distressingly easy to damage set up that takes much time and effort to recover. Over-complicated and under-explained interfaces are far too common in computing and cost a fortune in lost productivity.

  • Linugux

    Muy Bueno , intresane y rapido , lo estoy probando en pc intel i3 , y si la grafica del video es rapida , los enlaces de ssh con rasperry , tambien miuy rapido si tiene mucha ventaja con Debian

  • Sami Tuna Mirkelamoglu

    How do I use jessie with 3,5 inch pitft