The Raspberry Pi's main operating system, Raspbian, just got a brand new look from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Dubbed PIXEL, it's a skin for Raspbian that modernises the interface, adds some new programs and makes it much more pleasant to use. Let's take a closer look at your Pi's new appearance.
The New Splash Screen Replaces the Old Cryptic Boot Messages
The first big change you'll see is the lack long strings of text when you boot up your Raspberry Pi. In their place is a splash screen that shows the operating system and version number, just like you'd find on any other modern computer. Otherwise, the overall boot time and process remains the same.
PIXEL Comes Preloaded with RealVNC and Chromium
PIXEL also adds a few notable new default programs. The biggest new app is Chromium, which replaces the ageing Epiphany web browser. This is the first version of Chromium built specifically for the Pi and uses the Pi's hardware to accelerate video playback. Chromium comes with a couple of extensions installed, including the h264ify extension for improving YouTube video quality on the Pi. Chromium is best suited for the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, but still works on the Pi 1 and the Pi Zero.
RealVNC is included so you can easily use the Raspberry Pi from a remote desktop right out of the box. If you've never used a RealVNC on your Pi before, set up is very simple. RealVNC is a nice way to access your Pi if you only own a laptop and don't feel like buying a keyboard, mouse and monitor.
PIXEL Comes with a Bunch of Good-Looking Wallpapers
This might not sound like much, but considering that Raspbian's default background has always been either blank or the Raspberry Pi logo, it's really nice that PIXEL comes with a bunch of wallpapers. Included are 16 photos from one of the Raspberry Pi developers, Greg Annandale. You can get to them by clicking the Pi Logo > Preferences > Appearance Settings.
Of course, you've always been able to use your own wallpapers, but it's much nicer when you're greeted by a photograph on your first boot.
PIXEL Features All New Application Icons, New Temperature and Voltage Icons
You likely don't think about the quality of an icon very often, but the icons in Rapsbian were always a bit lacking. They were drab, sometimes pixelated and blurry, and looked a bit muddy. Now, they're much more vibrant and easier see at a glance.
Also gone is the cryptic rainbow display that warned if your Pi was under voltage or over temperature. In its place is a lightning bolt for voltage and a thermometer for temperature, which should make troubleshooting a ton easier.
Each Window Sports a Cleaner, Rounded Title Bar
In previous iterations of Raspbian, the windows were blocky squares that always made the system look outdated. Now, it's much more modern looking with rounded corners, a new title bar and new close/minimise/maximise buttons. It's a minor change but looks a lot better overall.
You Can Easily Disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
If you don't need Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, having them on can drain power quickly, which is a problem if you're working on a project that uses a battery pack. PIXEL adds in a new menu for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that makes it a lot easier to turn either off. Just click the icon, click the off button and you're all set.
How to Update Your Current Version of Raspbian
PIXEL will ship as the Raspberry Pi Foundation's main operating system from here on out. If you already have a copy of Raspbian up and running, you can update it to this version by loading up the command line and typing the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install -y rpi-chromium-mods
sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu python3-sense-emu
sudo apt-get install -y python-sense-emu-doc realvnc-vnc-viewer
If you prefer to start from scratch and burn a new image, you can get PIXEL from the Raspberry Pi Foundation's downloads page.