A weekend off in the middle of winter – just perfect to test a new Linux distro. I decided on Manjaro, the new star among Arch- based Linux distros (currently ranked 15 on Distrowatch) which seems to be on the best way to become something like “Mint for Arch”.
So what does Manjaro do on top of Arch ?
The most important feature is of course the pre- configured desktop environment. Manjaro uses XFCE by default, and there are official Openbox and Cinnamon versions and a headless “Net” variant. KDE, Mate and LXDE are offered as “community editions” with a different release schedule. The 1GB XFCE image (32 Bit) has all you need for daily work, including gParted, the VLC mediaplayer, Abiword, Gnumeric and Gimp for Office purposes, Chromium, Pidgin and Xchat for internet access, and even Steam for gaming.
The installer is text based and closely resembles the old Arch installer (those were the days …). While installing the system is not complicated, there’s certainly room for improvement if you compare the process to established end user distributions like Ubuntu, SUSE or even Fedora. The graphical package / upgrade manager Pamac handles pacman packages from a special, tested Manjaro repository which is updated regularly (usually once a week) in a rolling release model, yaourt is included for easy AUR access.
I’m not sure about the current state of things in Arch, but Majaro runs very smooth. All hardware was recognized successfully. The only changes I did are more a matter of preference, I removed pulseaudio (using gnome-alsamixer as mixer) and configured Ubuntu- style 2 finger right mouse tap by adding ‘synclient TapButton2=3 TapButton3=2′ as new startup command in the ‘Session and Startup’ settings.
Manjaro lives up to the expectation of an easy, polished and stable Linux distribution. The desktop layout with the XFCE panel on top and Plank dock at the bottom looks very clean and modern, in fact it looks like a combination of Elementary OS and Mint. The Pamac graphical package manager is the first application of that type on an Arch- based system that is actually usable. The only thing missing to take on the Mints, Ubuntus and SUSEs of the world is a graphical Installer, but there’s already one in the works.