There are plenty of things that make Arch Linux highly appealing to users: it’s always up-to-date, it’s a rolling release, and there’s tons of software available for it in its repositories. But what isn’t so appealing is the learning curve and pure difficulty of setting up an Arch system. If you want the best aspects of Arch, without the bad parts, you need Manjaro Linux.
About Manjaro Linux
Manjaro Linux is an Arch-based distribution, meaning that it runs on the same backbone and the same repositories as Arch itself. It also implements the rolling release upgrade model, meaning that you never have to perform a major upgrade from “release 1” to “release 2” – just update your packages and you’ll be up-to-date.
However, unlike Arch, it doesn’t require that users build up systems on their own. This isn’t to say that setting up the Arch way is a bad thing, or that it’s too difficult – there’s plenty of documentation for the job. But some people simply don’t have the time, regardless of their skill level.
There’s a lot of fuss among Arch users whether they should support Manjaro, and while some believe that it goes against everything Arch stands for, I think it’s a good option for those who want it.
Also unlike Arch, there are some defaults when it comes to the included software. For example, Manjaro defaults to the Xfce desktop environment (which is lightweight and awesome), although official Openbox,(a very minimal desktop environment), and KDE (a desktop environment with lots of eye candy) versions are available as well. Other desktop environments, such as Gnome, are available as “Community Editions”.
Don’t Fear the Beta!
Technically speaking, Manjaro is still a beta distribution – its version sits at 0.8.9 at time of writing. This shouldn’t push away any potential users. The main reason why Manjaro is still considered a beta distribution is because of the Manjaro additions to the otherwise stable Arch packages that are installed. Things like the Manjaro installer and the Pacman (package manager) graphical frontend are still beta, but everything else that is on the system are stable versions of the software that Arch offers in its repositories.
The User Experience
When you first launch the distribution, you’ll be greeted with a simple message welcoming you to the system. It’ll also provide you with several buttons that send you to certain websites, or the installer. Otherwise, you can close this message and begin exploring.
Manjaro comes with a familar applications menu which initially displays your favorite applications, and then all of the usual categories. Navigation is easy and pretty enjoyable, primarily because it doesn’t get in your way.
The default software is pretty much what you’d expect for a regular full Linux distribution – Firefox, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice are all included. This is slightly surprisingly for a Xfce desktop – distributions using it tend to choose more lightweight applications as the defaults. Manjaro also includes GIMP, Steam, and VLC Media Player.
By the way, for those who are exploring and happen to come upon a prompt asking for root permissions, the root password in the live environment is “manjaro”.
Of course, you’ll be interested in knowing how installing packages goes. It worked just fine for me – no issues whatsoever. Manjaro actually uses its own repositories rather than piggybacking off of Arch’s repositories, but it imports Arch’s packages into its own to maintain compatibility. It also allows the project to perform some more testing than Arch does before putting their own “stable” label on the packages.
Maintaining compatibility with Arch also allows it to use the Arch User Repository, the one repository where anyone can submit their own packages that aren’t found in the official repositories. Thankfully, but Manjaro’s repositories, as well as the AUR, can be accessed from the graphical package manager that comes with Manjaro — just enable the AUR checkbox and you’ll be looking at all the packages from both sources.
Again, I really think that Manjaro is a great solution for those who like Arch’s updated packages, rolling release updates, and massive repositories but don’t enjoy the time requirements of installing everything from the ground up and maintaining the system via configuration files. If you’re not sure whether you’d be interested in using Manjaro, the best way to find out is to try it out from a USB flash drive or within a virtual machine.
What’s your opinion of Manjaro? Do you think it could grow into a major distribution? Let us know in the comments!