Zenwalk – A Linux Distro For Zen Computing [Linux]

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zen operating systemLinux offers us plenty of choices as to what kind of operating system we want to run on our computer. While this is great, it is often overlooked. Yes, there are the usual “big boy” choices, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, and more, but by looking at just those you are skipping over much smaller distributions that could possibly suit your needs better or showcase ideas that you like which no other distribution has.

The distribution featured in this article tries to incorporate a number of different elements into its distribution to create an environment which it calls “zen computing”.

About Zenwalk

zen operating system

Zenwalk is a relatively small distribution that was originally based off of Slackware. Although today it is much different when compared to Slackware, it still maintains binary compatibility to Slackware, so any Slackware packages are installable in Zenwalk.

The main aim with the Zenwalk project is to create a distribution that allows “zen computing”, which is simply defined as computing that is easy on the user and doesn’t cause any headaches. Zenwalk’s website describes how it achieves this in five main steps.

  • Zenwalk is modern (uses the latest stable versions) and user-friendly.
  • Zenwalk is very fast (optimized for performance).
  • Zenwalk is rational. This means that it in a default installation it only offers one application to do one task, and not multiple applications to do the same thing.
  • Zenwalk is complete, so it is ready for development/desktop/multimedia experiences.
  • Zenwalk is evolutionary (talking about its package manager, netpkg).

Zenwalk does come with plenty of software, as their lightweight nature allows more software to be included by default. These are nicely organized in the XFCE menu.

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zen computing

Some of those points imply that certain software be used. For example, the point which states that Zenwalk is very fast implies that by default it uses lightweight software, including the desktop environment itself (it uses XFCE). However, one point it doesn’t mention is that it isn’t quite noob-friendly, so the distribution is more useable for those who know some Linux and general computer terminology.

Another point it also missed is that it is still very customizable, thanks to the XFCE desktop environment.

zen operating system

Different Offerings

Zenwalk comes in a couple of different flavors. The site offers Standard, Core, Live, Gnome, and Openbox editions of the distribution, where Standard comes with the XFCE desktop, Core comes without any graphical user interface, Live is for testing, and so on. I’ve found that you cannot install a system using the Live CD, so you’ll need to use the Live CD to try out Zenwalk and then use a different CD for the actual installation. However, as far as installation goes, just follow the prompts as they appear. If you need help with specifics like partitioning, you’ll find plenty of information via Google, as those topics are out of the scope of this article.


Overall, Zenwalk is a good choice for those who want a system that just works. It doesn’t contain much eye candy at all, but in a way that’s the point. Eye candy can be a cause for distractions and instability, and while plenty of people love eye candy, others would rather do away with them. The lightweight nature of the distro does fulfill on its promise to be speedy, so it can also run on much older hardware. Simply put, if the big boys are giving you a hard time for one reason or another, give Zenwalk a try.

What do you like or dislike about Zenwalk? What do you prefer most in your Linux distro? Let us know in the comments!

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