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Sugar is an open source desktop environment designed with the goal of being used by children for learning.Developed as part of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, it is the default interface on OLPC XO-1 family of laptop computers.

Unlike most other desktop environments, Sugar does not use the "desktop", "folder" and "window" metaphors. Instead, Sugar's default full-screen activities require users to focus on only one program at a time. Sugar implements a novel file-handling metaphor (the journal), which automatically saves the user's running program session and allows them to later use an interface to pull up their past works by date, activity used or file type.

Sugar is now developed under the umbrella of Sugar Labs, a nonprofit spin-off of OLPC which began operating in May 2008.It is available as a LiveCD, as LiveUSB, or as a package installable through several GNU/Linux distributions.

Sugar is free software released under the GNU GPL. As such, its development is done by a variety of contributors, including many who are not employed by Sugar Labs, One Laptop per Child, or any other related organization. The most active contributors to the core Sugar platform include Marco Pesenti Gritti, Walter Bender, Christopher Blizzard, Eben Eliason, Simon Schampijer, Christian Schmidt, Lisa Strausfeld, Takaaki Okada, Tomeu Vizoso, and Dan Williams. As an ambitious and wide-ranging project, Sugar and the programs created for it (called activities) often receive contributions from those who consider themselves part of the free software community -- even some well-established software developers who normally contribute to other open source software projects.

Sugar is intentionally designed to encourage the modification of its activities and core functionality by users, which makes Sugar developers' adoption of an open source development approach seem a fitting choice. Whereas most other desktop environments are written in a compiled language (e.g., the GNOME desktop environment, Microsoft Windows XP and Vista were all written mostly in C), Sugar is written in the interpreted Python programming language. This allows for easier modification and customization of Sugar by its users than is often possible with projects written in non-interpreted languages.

Design principles

"Low floor, no ceiling" is the mantra used by OLPC - and now Sugar Labs - as motivation for the design and development principles. Sugar aims to be a platform suitable for all kinds of creative expression which provides a low floor to the inexperienced, but doesn't impose a ceiling upon more advanced users. The following list, while certainly not comprehensive, provides a starting point for such considerations.


The laptop's hardware limitations have led to much clearer and simpler user interface design, harking back to the early days of the computer. The project's stated goal is to "avoid bloated interfaces", and "limit the controls to those immediately relevant to the task at hand". Applications run full screen; there is no double clicking; and menus are iconic.


Sugar is still in development. In May 2006, its creators described it as primarily a "tool for expression," thus plans are in place to include multimedia and social networking features. As of early 2007, Sugar could be installed (with some difficulty) on a variety of operating systems, including several Linux distributions and with in virtual machines on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Instructions are available on the project's wiki. As of mid 2008, Sugar is available on the Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora distributions of Linux, e.g., as of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron), Sugar can be installed from the official Ubuntu universe repositories. As of mid 2009, openSUSE and other GNU/Linux distributions are also supporting Sugar.

Sugar 0.82.1 was included in the OLPC system software release 8.2.0 for XO-1 laptops.Sugar 0.86 was released on September 30, 2009. Sugar 0.88 was released on March 31, 2010. Sugar 0.90.0 was released in October, 2010. Builds for OLPC XO laptops are available at OS images.

It is available as a USB-bootable Linux distribution ("Sugar on a Stick") and as software components forming an installable additional desktop environment for most Linux distributions. It can be installed using the Fedora Live USB Creator, which now features the option to download the latest release of Sugar on a Stick. And it can be installed onto a computer hard disk using ZyX-LiveInstaller.

On June 23, 2009, Sugar Labs announced the availability of Sugar on a Stick v1 Strawberry. Available free for download at www.sugarlabs.org, Sugar on a Stick can be loaded onto an ordinary 1 GB USB flash drive and used to reboot any PC or netbook directly into the Sugar environment. On July 23, 2009, Recycle USB.com went live with a program to reflash used USB keys with the Sugar software and donate them to schools.On December 8, 2009, Sugar Labs announced the availability of Sugar on a Stick v2 Blueberry, which incorporates Sugar Release 0.86 and Fedora 11.Sugar Labs announced the availability of Sugar on a Stick v3 Mirabelle, which incorporates Sugar Release 0.88 and Fedora 13.

There are hundreds of learning activities available for Sugar that can be downloaded from the Sugar Labs activity portal. Additional activities are available from third parties, such as the Project Ceibal portal in Uruguay.

XO-1 Usage

The OLPC XO-1 has a 1 GB NAND flash drive and 256 MB of memory. Because the flash-based hard drive is small, swap can only be added by using an sd card or a network block device.

When past Fedora Linux-based Sugar distributions are being run on the OLPC XO-1, it is suggested that users not open too many activities at once or they may experience low memory or processor load related performance decreases.