Bloated operating systems bogging your system down? Is waiting for software to load on an older computer ruining your entire freaking life? Try something lightweight. Crunchbang is a minimalist OS built on Debian Linux, but don’t worry if you don’t know what any of those words mean – it’s also easy to use and runs well even on older computers.
The Crunchbang OS has been around for a long time, and it’s always stuck to its mission: offering a lightweight operating system based on Openbox. If you’re a fan of widgets, docks and shiny things you might want to look elsewhere – by default this OS is more striaght-forward than that. If you want an operating system that thinks you know what you’re doing, and doesn’t waste resources, I recommend Crunchbang (sometimes written as “#!”).
Previously based on Ubuntu, these days the Crunchbang OS is based on Debian (which Ubuntu itself is also based on). Again, don’t worry if that confuses you: the system itself is straight-forward to use and fun to explore.
Simplicity and Speed
Start up CrunchBang and you’ll basically see a blank canvas. There’s no start menu – we’ll get to that. There’s a taskbar at the top of the screen, complete with clock and icons. And there’s also a list of keyboard shortcuts, courtesy of Conky.
(The Super key, if you didn’t know, is Linux-speak for the Windows key on most keyboards).
Use these shortcuts to quickly load a web browser, media player or the Terminal. Or, if you’d rather start exploring, right-click anywhere on the desktop (or press Super + Space) to bring up the main menu:
You’ll find a variety of programs here for getting work done – more on that later. You’ll also find quick links for installing software not included with CrunchBang, like Chrome and LibreOffice. Again, more on that later.
The browser included is called IceWeasel, but don’t panic: it’s basically Firefox. Debian doesn’t included Firefox by default, because Firefox itself includes some things (mostly the name and the logo) that are not technically open source. It’s a long story.
So you’ll be able to browse the web as you like.
Don’t like the way the menu is arranged, or how the various keyboard shortcuts work? For me, this is where things get fun. Linux distros used to reward exploration, and part of the fun was exploring and seeing what was possible. Go through the settings and you’ll find tools for changing all of these things, and if you don’t you can always explore the Crunchbang Forums.
List of Software Included With CrunchBang OS
Explore the menu and you’ll find programs for everything from word processing to microblogging – all of which are lightweight and run well on older computers. Here are the highlights in one list:
- Catfish File Search
- Archive Manager
- Geany Text Editor
- Terminator Terminal
- Thunar File Manager
- GIMP image editor
- Viewnior Image Viewer
- Screenshot tools
- VLC media player
- Volume control
- Xfburn CD/DVD Burning Tool
- Iceweasel Browser (Firefox without the branding, for legal reasons)
- gFTP Client
- Transmission BitTorrent Client
- XChat IRC Client
- Heybuddy Microblogging Client
- AbiWord Word Processor
- Gnumeric Spreadsheet
- Evince PDF viewer
- GParted partition editor
These are only the default apps: you’ll find links for installing software like Google Chrome, Libre Office or Dropbox in the menus, and you can also browse or search the entire Debian repositories thanks to Synaptic. Or, if you prefer the command line, you can install anything you like using apt-get:
Ready to get started with Crunchbang? You can head to Crunchbang.org and download an ISO file, which you can burn to a CD or boot from a USB disk using software like LiveUSB or uNetBootin. There are two versions offered: a year-old stable version, and an unstable version based on the current version of Debian. Both worked quite well for me in testing – which makes sense because, as of this writing, Debian’s unstable branch is quite far along.
Of course, Crunchbang isn’t the only Lightweight linux distribution out there: there are many. But if you’re looking for some polish, but also very lightweight, it’s one of the best.
But I want to know what you think: is CrunchBang a good lightweight distro for your personal use? If not, what will you be using? Let me know below, okay?