My third review will be on one of the most popular Arch Linux based distros - Manjaro 0.8.12. Its official flavors are XFCE and KDE, and there are also many unofficial but community-supported desktop environments available. I’ll focus on the XFCE version in this review.
- First impressions and ease of use
The live CD can be downloaded from http://sourceforge.net/projects/manjarolinux/files/ and it is 1.4 GB in size. For me the default sourceforge mirror was slow so I used the “Superb Internet” mirror which gave me 2 Mbps which is what I usually get on my home WiFi (I’m in Boston).
Anyway, we fire it up and get a nice XFCE 4.10 desktop which is by now is a doddering release (2012). Seriously. Think about that. XFCE 4.10 started development in 2010. It was released before Windows 8 was. Linux software that old is like an old lady on her deathbed. However, you can update to version 4.12 using pacman -Syu after installation.
This also looks nice and easy to use with one panel at the bottom and one applications menu with a search bar; the traditional desktop paradigm.
A user coming from Windows will feel right at home; and if they’re not technically inclined, they’d never know that it wasn’t Windows.
Ease of use score: 10/10
Manjaro uses the Thus installer, which is very similar in its design to Ubuntu’s Ubiquity. No hiccups here unlike in Ubuntu MATE. However, it doesn’t come with the US options checked - the default keyboard is English-AU and the default time zone is Europe-Berlin. Not a problem, just a surprise.
Installer score: 10/10
ISO size (GB)
Size of install
Desktop RAM use
Ubuntu MATE 15.04
The login screen is nice and elegant.
With the latest XFCE 4 everything looks nice and modern. They seem to use a modified version of KDE 5’s Breeze cursors as the default cursor theme, and as a huge KDE 5 fan, I appreciate this. I’m also a fan of Numix’s icons especially in GNOME-based desktop environments so I’m happy that those are there too. However these icons are called “Menda” icons so there’s no reference to the Numix project here. The default font is Cantarell which is used in GNOME Shell. I don’t really like it in GNOME Shell but for some reason it seems to fit perfectly here. Droid Sans also works nicely (the font is easily changeable in Settings Manager -> Appearance -> Fonts) but it’s not quite as good as Cantarell here. QT apps also fit nicely.
You can also go to xfce-look.org and download a theme if one of the 20 or so default themes included is not to your liking. Overall, Manjaro looks simple and elegant and also very well thought out.
However, the default monospace font Monospace is an eyesore. I had to change it to Droid Sans Mono and everything looked good.
Surprisingly, Manjaro also came with VirtualBox guest additions out of the box. It’s only one of two distro I’ve tried so far that does that (the other was Linux Mint 17.1 KDE).
Design score: 10/10
Manjaro comes with the usual set of default applications.
Web Browser - FireFox
File Manager - Thunar
Email Client - Thunderbird
Text Editor - Mousepad (GEdit clone)
Image Viewer - Viewnior
Terminal Emulator - XFCE Terminal
Music Player - Guayadeque
Office Suite - LibreOffice
One thing to note is that Mousepad in its default state is very similar to Microsoft Notepad - a no-frills text editor that should be kept to editing unimportant text files. However, configure it in Edit -> Preferences and it looks exactly how a coding text editor should.
After custom configuration:
Applications score: 9.5/10
5. Installing packages
Manjaro, being based on Arch, uses the Pacman package manager. I knocked on Pacman pretty hard in my first review because KaOS had only a limited set of apps in the repos which were hand-picked by the devs. It was also difficult to include the Arch User Repository and the Chakra Community Repository. However Manjaro is 100% compatible with Arch so you can use the yaourt command to download packages from the expansive AUR. There are also two separate GUI installation tools, Pamac and Octopi. These are very easy to use. Using Pacman from the terminal to install Chromium I got good download speeds of about 1.2 Mbps without any config work, unlike KaOS which had a German mirror as highest priority.
Installing packages score: 10/10
Manjaro is a really, really, good distro. The only thing preventing me from installing it on bare metal is the fact that I heard that it doesn’t play well with UEFI, and I use a UEFI system. And unfortunately, space is at a premium on my hard drive so I’ll have to delete the VM, no matter how much I don’t want to do so.
Final score: 49.5/50 = 99%
Ubuntu MATE 15.04