The main screen consists of a set of shortcut icons for your currently installed apps, a search box up top and a set of option buttons. The buttons are used for installing new apps, reading other Jolicloud users' activity streams, browsing the file system or making changes to system settings. If you're using Jolicloud with an online storage service like Dropbox, there's a whole subsection of the interface just for those services.
Jolicloud comes with a variety of applications, including the VLC media player, the OpenOffice.org suite, the Pidgin IM client, the Linux client for Skype, and Web services like Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. If you want more, adding apps is as simple as typing a name in the search box and then clicking "install." If you have more than one machine registered in your Jolicloud account, your app installs are synchronized across machines whenever there's a network connection.
This is where I started to run into a farrago of snags that makes Jolicloud a tough sell as a completed version 1 rather than a beta Linux distro. Some apps, such as the VLC media player, produced error messages when they launched (but ran normally afterward). Others, like the Google Chrome browser, didn't launch at all.
Why not? Because if I clicked on the launch icon for Chrome, Jolicloud opened Chromium instead. Chromium is the open source project which is the basis for Google Chrome and the Google Chrome OS. Chromium is installed by default in Jolicloud and is used for many common system tasks in much the same way Windows has Internet Explorer preinstalled.
However, Chrome offers a number of features that Chromium does not, including H.264/AAC/MP3 decoding, crash reporting, and others -- which is why users may prefer to use that as their primary browser. According to a company rep, Jolicloud is investigating how to solve this.
The biggest problem with the way Jolicloud deals with programs is almost philosophical: Web sites (like Facebook) are listed as "apps" alongside actual programs (like OpenOffice.org). If you have no network access, there's no indication that Web site-based apps will be unavailable. You have to launch them and see what happens. Sometimes you get whatever content was cached from that site; sometimes you just get a "Page unavailable" error.