I am not a "regular" user, but because of the "wide" range of what I do on a computer maybe my feedback is very relevant for many kids of users. I make videos and documentaries, thus I edit video and audio files. I write and design books, so I need a solid writing tool and designing tool, plus I edit images or PDF files. I am also a webdesigner so I need access to different browsers for testing, and solid image/vector apps.
Up until 6 years ago I used Windows for all of that. I also fixed Windows computers in my spare time. Then moved to Ubuntu because of two main reasons: 1. I started to hate proprietary software, and 2. I started to love the open source concept and communities. So I was ready to make compromises only to use open source software. I started with Ubuntu and I really loved it for 2 main reasons:
U1. The fact that it was much easier to install software. Go to the Software center and install, or do it with a few command lines. No more hunting on obscure websites to download fishy exe files and then "next, agree?, are you sure?, you want a toolbar?, you need something?, do you still agree?, install?, where?" kind of crap windows pissed me off with. I will add to this the amazingness of having all of the apps and OS updating all at once, something that seems like a dream in Windows.
U2. The interface and flexibility of it. I loved the fact that you can choose so many desktop environments. Love it! I can spend days customizing my Linux distro. Three particular interface features caught my eyes and became part of my daily routine: HUD, Global Menus, and Workspaces.
a. Workspaces: Ubuntu Unity still has, in my view, the best Workspace management. Simply click a button and have the entire screen divided into 4 parts and you can drag and drop windows and apps between them. When you work on so many projects at once, this is super handy. In Gnome for example it is, to me, extremely counter intuitive to open the activities, then hover the right side of screen to open the workspaces, then move windows from a bunch of that are all mixed up in my face. It is just not efficient. Maybe it is because my brain functions on visual cues and having a separate bar with the workspaces on top of the current workspace confuses me a lot. Having all workspaces in your face and nothing to distract you from that, like in Unity, is a lot better to orgnanize them. In Unity felt like I had a touchscreen on my laptop and multiple monitors and I dragged with my finger windows from one monitor to another. Very neat!
b. Global Menu: I honestly hate to see a program have a bunch of menu items. I want to focus on my work not those menu items that are always different from app to app. it is not like the "file" does similar things in app A as it does in app B. Let me enjoy designing without having those pesky menus on top of every window while in the same time I have a huge empty bar on top of the screen (right Gnome?). So move those buttons on top of that bar and hide them away with the name of the app and show them when you hover that. Unity did a gret job at this.
c. HUD: Now this is the best feature I have ever seen in any operating system. Period. And I think that people who either don't like it or don't care about they simply don't use the Operating System for anything more than coding, playing games, or browsing the web. But if you do any editing of any sorts: video, audio, photo, and design overall, or write and use many apps, then this feature is a must need. Can't tell you how much I've used it. Want to apply that custom video filter in kdenlive for a particular clip? Select the clip, press a button and write a few letters and boom, filter applied. No need to hunt for it through the huge menus that apps have. When I write books, at times I want to format the text (make it uppercase, or italic, or whatever) - simply press the same button, write "upp" and apply "uppercase". The posibilities are endless.
Ok now, why I said all of that? Because I want you to get some feedback from someone who uses the operating sytem on a daily basis as a tool to do a lot of tasks that most people do individually. I know how it is to edit photos or videos on linux, or to write huge documents/books, or deal with document files, or edit audio, or use the system for webdesign. I am also obsessed with customizing my desktop and trying a ton of new apps. I also care only about open source software so I'm not a "oh but why don't you have Skype" or whatever. I am also "converting" newbies to Linux, like my parents and my friends, so I know what these people are looking for: a simple and efficient OS, no freakin terminal stuff.
I am using Solus at the moment and I LOVE it. It is the first time in 6 years when I will move entirely from ubuntu to another distro. The best features in Solus for me:
S1. How Solus deals with software - install or update. I thought Ubuntu was great compared to Windows, but Solus is almost as good compared to Ubuntu. In Ubuntu I had to manually install flatpak plugin for the software center to get more apps and more newer ones. That created a frankenstain. I got results from like 3 types of GIMP: one snap, one flatpak, one from ubuntu repos. Also that software center never worked well - click install and nothing happens sometimes. Solus software center is amazing. It is as simple as searching for an app, install, and you're done, becasue it has snap and flatpak already integrated. No need to install any flatpak or snap plugins and stuff like that. It supports them out of the box and no duplicate software. For newbies this is a MAJOR thing. if my parents need an app to talk to me, and I known it is in the Solus software center, I can tell them to search for it there and install. No terminal, no confussion with packages types, etc. I understand you guys may be developers and you may not care about this simple thing because you say you have the terminal and can install stuff from there, but the vast majority of users do not want that and you scare them away if you rely on this. Having a great software center is, I would say, the most important aspect of an opereating system for new users. If my sister installs Solus, or I install it for her, but she has to use the terminal to install the bloody Signal or something, then she'll give up.
S2. How solus stands for open source - Ubuntu has become a monster of proprietary and open source software and will become the new Android but for "open source" desktop os. I hate to see this happening but this is what happens when you try to transform open source into a business. I honestly was never able to sort the software center apps in Ubuntu so that I can remove the proprietary ones regardless of the selected repos. Solus is fantastic as it only showcases open source software (there are different licences but generally it is all about open source, right?). That's why I want to use Linux for. If I start by installing Slype and the like, then why not go back and use Windows? People forget what this "open source" si all about and mix it with proprietary stuff. I hope I didn't get Solus' mission wrong.
S3. How Solus lets you choose between several desktop environments and develops its own.
Now all of that being said let me summarize and tell you how I would make Solus unique and amazing:
1. Improve the interface: add global menus (as an option or default), improve the way workspaces behave (like Unity had), and add the HUD that is such an amazing and useful feature. With these all in mind you get rid of unused space and provide some really unique features like HUD. I design websites and to me the current Gnome design is really bad when it comes to empty space. Look at this photo with Draw that I use for designing books. See how much empty space is there (red filled blocks) and look how I have 2 close buttons and 2 menus (one is for the window I guess and one is for Draw). Plus activities there that is not a great idea considering it is a small block of text sitting there by itself most of the time. I would make a button for activities like it is for apps (bottom button).
Look at image 2 after we remove those empty spaces and add a global menu + HUD. Much much better.
I don't want to design on a narrow screen with a ton of empty spaces The good news is that there are already solutions for this in terms of Gnome extensions like "Global Application Menu" that also includes HUD (but of course it is far from perfect) or "No Title Bar" to remove empty spaces.
A2. After doing some minor tweaks for the interface like HUD, Global menu, and maybe workspaces, I would add a few Gnome extensions that are very useful:
-- System Monitor as a graphical tool to show you how your computer is performing
-- Appfolders Management extension to easilly manage the installed apps and add them to folders. Very useful.
-- Hide Activities Button for those who don't need it.
-- Start Overlay in Application View - When activating overview, the application view is shown instead of the view with the windows.
Plus I would add the following apps to the default package:
-- Timeshift: integrate with Solus so that people can restore if they break the system.
-- Deja Dup: for backups since you don't provide any such app.
-- Krita and/or GIMP as photo editor
-- Kdenlive as video editor
-- Flameshot: the best screenshot tool. Simple, yet powerful.
-- KeePassXC integration for password management.
-- Kazam as screen recorder - you don't even have it in the repos.
-- VeraCrypt to encrypt and decrypt files/disks
Ok damn this was a long post. But I felt like saying a few things since I love Solus and, after all, I can make it work the way I want to. I have tweaked it exactly how I love it. So my post is about my overall feedback and suggestions. Hope it is helpful.