Manjaro Linux 18.1, released on Sept. 12, is one of the most complete Linux OSes you will find.
After six months of development, the latest series is a fast, user-friendly, desktop-oriented operating system based on Arch Linux — but its independent nature makes this distro a hallmark of out-of-the-box computing.
The latest stable version of the Arch-based Linux distribution is available now with a ton of new features, and a new choice to make during installation.
First let’s highlight the big changes to the distribution itself.
The standout feature is definitely the integrated FlatPak and Snap package support, which is managed through “bauh” (you may formerly recognize it as “fpakman”). Between the Manjaro repositories, the AUR and now FlatPaks and Snaps, there’s no shortage of available software and that’s certain to be a major draw for a lot of people.
Manjaro’s main desktop editions also get a ton of enhancements including Xfce 4.14 and its new “Matcha” theme, the “high gloss” of KDE 5.16 and its completely overhauled notification system, and Gnome 3.32 with its HiDPi enhancements like fractional scaling for Wayland desktop sessions.
And of course we see the first fruits of the partnership between Manjaro and Germany’s SoftMaker, which gives the user a choice between the FOSS mainstay LibreOffice (which up until now has been automatically pre-installed), or the non-paid version of FreeOffice.
Codenamed “Juhraya,” Manjaro 8.1 offers numerous system improvements, including an enhanced package management tool. Another significant update offers a choice of office productivity applications at installation — LibreOffice suite or SoftMaker’s FreeOffice 2018. In previous versions, only LibreOffice was preinstalled.
The new Manjaro version includes a graphical front end for managing Snap and Flatpak packages through a tool called “buah.” Other key features include an intuitive installation process, automatic hardware detection, and a stable rolling-release model.
You also get the ability to install multiple kernels, special Bash scripts for managing graphics drivers, and extensive desktop configurability.
Why Use It?
If you are a frequent reader of Linux Picks and Pans, you know that I do not often sing the praises of so-called pure Arch distros. They have earned a reputation for cantankerous installation routines, minimal default software offerings, and user unfriendliness.
I highlight a newer crop of friendlier Arch-based distros when I find them. For example, in a few recent reviews I point to some newer Arch derivatives that are creating a bridge between hard-core Arch distros and more soft-core alternatives.
Manjaro’s independent nature allows it to take the edge off the usual technical skills requirement for productively using an Arch Linux distro. It sets the standard for making ease-of-use a sensible trait for the newer Arch-based options to adopt.
A Package Deal
Manjaro Linux offers Xfce, KDE and GNOME as core desktop options. All three of these latest core Manjaro desktop editions have been enhanced significantly with new features. They contribute to an overall unified designed to bring the desktop and operating system into perfect harmony.
This latest version upgrade includes the new “Matcha” theme of the Xfce Edition, KDE’s completely redesigned messaging system variant, and new buttons for the Gnome version. It uses Xfce 4.14, KDE Plasma 5.16 and Gnome 3.32. The core releases include a minimalist edition for more advanced users.
The Xfce desktop environment is lightweight, which makes it fast with low demand on system resources. It is visually appealing and user-friendly. Xfce offers the traditional Unix philosophy of modularity and reusability. It consists of a number of components that provide the full functionality of a modern desktop environment.
Xfce’s modularity component is essential to its inclusion in the Manjaro Linux desktop array. Its desktop-specific software is packaged separately. This allows you to pick among the available packages to create the optimal personal working environment.
The More, the Better
KDE Plasma, a very modern and flexible desktop, is very user-friendly and flashy, but it is also quite resource heavy. It is an ideal desktop option within the Manjaro Linux offerings. It offers a user-friendly and customizable desktop that rivals those traits in Xfce.
The newest redesign in KDE Plasma contributes to its feature-rich and versatile desktop environment. One nicety is its several different menu styles to access applications. Another is its built-in interface that makes accessing and installing new themes, widgets and such from the Internet fun and easy.
KDE Plasma is simple to use and provides a clean work area that stays out of your way. The result is the ability to create a computing workflow that is more effective.
One of the pluses in running the KDE edition is the abundance of desktop customization possibilities. You have access to a collection of eye-snappy widgets to add to your desktop. The result is a much more configurable resource-heavy desktop.
The GNOME 3 desktop breaks with traditional concepts so users can focus on their tasks more easily. It comes with the GNOME desktop-specific inventory of applications with clearly defined guidelines to make them more consistent to use. This desktop design is fresh and uncomplicated.
The latest GNOME integration in Manjaro makes it easier to access frequently used features like virtual desktops. The panel bar sits vertically on the left edge of the screen. The main menu button is at the base or bottom point.
A second menu button sits in the top left corner of the screen. It provides separate access to a second menu style. It includes a button to a workplace switcher that slides out from the right edge of the screen. You can use the “Windows” key on the keyboard to bypass the menu button entirely to reach the workspaces panel.
Manjaro Linux has more choices available, thanks to an active and efficient community support team of developers who maintain an impressive collection of other desktop versions. The community-developed desktop versions include the Budgie, Cinnamon, Openbox, MATE, LXDE, LXQt, Awesome, Bspwm and i3 desktop environments.
Manjaro Linux’s in-house system tools, easy installation application and better range of software packages make it a better Arch-based distro than Arch Linux itself. Manjaro offers much more than a pure Arch Linux environment.
Regardless of which desktop style you select, the welcome screen introduces Manjaro tools and get-acquainted details such as documentation, support tips, and links to the project site.
You can get a full experience in using the live session ISOs without making any changes to the computer’s hard drive. That is another advantage to running Manjaro Linux over a true Arch distro. Arch distros usually do not provide live session environments. Most that do lack any automatic installation launcher from within the live session.