15 Dec 2015

Manjaro Linux 15.09: the user-friendly Arch

There are several distributions in the Linux world that many users have heard of, but are scared to try. Examples? Slackware, Arch, Gentoo, maybe even Debian. They all have a geeky aura. They have a reputation of being less user-friendly. Too many people prefer to stick to Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora or Mageia.

However, there are attempts to make these "hardcore" distributions more user-friendly through their derivatives. One of these derivatives is Manjaro Linux that I am going to try today. It is the Arch's derivative.

To be honest, the idea of trying Manjaro was in my head for quite a long time, but it was an order from BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site that made it real.

You can download Manjaro Linux from their official Sourceforge page. There are KDE, Xfce and NetInstall versions that are supported officially, plus a dozen more flavours from the Community.

Manjaro also offers torrent downloads, but the number of available torrents on their page is much less than the number of flavours. Xfce flavour isn't available in particular. I had to download it directly using one of the Sourceforge mirrors.

The Manjaro 15.09 Xfce 32-bit ISO image is about 1.4 GB in size. I burnt it onto the DVD-R.
The DVD-R is in the tray of my Toshiba Satellite L500-19X laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from DVD. Let's go.

Boot process

The first thing you see when starting Manjaro Linux is a more or less standard boot menu offering you a choice of options: boot Manjaro Live, check media, boot from HDD etc. There is also a choice of keyboard layouts available in different languages. Looking ahead slightly, that choice works fine, unlike in Sabayon.

Once I confirmed that I would like a Live run of Manjaro Linux, the boot sequence continued. I was slightly confused at this point, because the flash screen was very similar to Ubuntu with its iconic five blinking dots.

The boot process isn't very quick, you need a bit of patience here.

Finally, the system landed me on the default screen.

First impressions

The Manjaro Linux 15.09 Xfce default screen is in dark-grey and green tones. The default wallpaper does not have much on it, apart from the Manjaro logo and a couple of vignettes.
Manjaro Linux welcome screen

The left part of the screen is taken by a number of icons. They have a transparent background, which is normal nowadays. However, the text is cut to the very limited number of characters. For example, "Wasteb" is all you have for the wastebasket. There are three different icons with the word "Install" and you won't know the difference until you click them. If you are interested, they are CLI install, normal install and Calamares install. Anyway, the choice of short names for the icons is very strange for my taste.

There is a panel at the bottom of the screen.

The left part of the panel has only a menu button with the Manjaro logo on it. The right part has standard elements like clocks, logout button, network, battery and volume controls. There is also an update notifier. All the icons are in black&white gamma. The update notifier becomes colourful when there are some new versions of installed software. There is also a virtual desktop switch with two desktops and a "show desktop" button in the right part of the panel.

While we are talking about the design, I would like to mention that window title and menu bar are black for both active and inactive windows. It makes it tricky sometimes to find the control elements if you place one window on top of another.

Black on black is bad design

It was quite difficult to understand how much memory the freshly booted Manjaro Linux took. The default task manager only shows the percentage (11%), while the top command doesn't give clear information. The free -m command gives an error. If we rely on the task manager, then Manjaro Linux took about 11% of 3GB available for the 32-bit distribution, which is about 330 MB of memory.
Manjaro Linux resource usage

Network connection

There were no problems with connecting Manjaro Linux 15.09 Xfce in Live run to my home network. My wireless card was recognised and configured, my home network was shown in the list. All I had to do was to type the security key.

Network drive

Thunar 1.6.10 is the default file manager in Manjaro Linux 15.09. It has the built-in network browser that helped me to navigate to and bookmark my shared network drive.

Keyboard layout

Manjaro Linux 15.09 Xfce uses the Xfce-standard approach to keyboard layout configuration. You can read about it here.

As I mentioned earlier, my system booted with UK keyboard layout that I selected in the boot menu. Adding Russian layout and a switch hotkey took me literally seconds.

Two-finger touchpad scrolling is enabled by default in Manjaro 15.09, though it did work only one time out of 5 on my laptop. You can change it to edge scrolling in the Mouse&Touchpad part of the Settings Panel.

While we are talking about languages, I'd like to mention that Firefox comes without any language dictionaries installed - spellchecker isn't enabled by default. I think this is easy to fix.


Manjaro Linux 15.09 comes with VLC as the default multimedia player. It means you have no problems with almost any multimedia file format.

Firefox browser has Adobe Flash installed by default, but it gives you an error message and requires an update for running. Alternatively, you can force the existing version to run. It gives you an option to watch videos either in embedded or full-page view.
Manjaro Linux multimedia tools


There is a decent number of applications available in Manjaro Linux 15.09 out of the box.

Firefox 41 is the default and the only browser. It comes together with the Thunderbird email client, Avahi VNC and SSH browsers, Pidgin messenger, HexChat and Steam clients.

The Graphical tools in the menu include GIMP, LibreOffice Draw and Viewnior image viewer. There is also a Screenshot utility in the Accessories part of the menu. I'd like to mention here that the PrintScreen button is not linked to that utility - you need to configure the link manually or call up Screenshot yourself.

The office section of the Manjaro Linux menu includes the full set of LibreOffice, including Draw, Math and Base, together with Dictionary, PDF viewer, calendar and Globaltime applications.

There are no games installed in Manjaro Linux out of the box, but there is a Steam platform pre-installed for you.

In addition to VLC player, multimedia tools include Xfburn disk burning utility, PulseAudio controls, Guayadeque player and a few more.

Of course, there are many standard system tools and utilities like Calculator, Mousepad, Notes, CUPS, Gparted, terminal, the above mentioned Screenshot and so on.

If you want to add more software to your installation, Manjaro Linux gives you this opportunity through the Pamac package manager. As usual, it is recommended to refresh the repositories before you do any further actions in the Pamac. At this moment of time my "updates" icon in the bottom-right corner became green. I tried to search for some applications, and here are my findings:

  • Skype - yes, version 4.3
  • Kopete - yes
  • Qutim - no
  • Java - yes, JRE 7 and 8
  • Chromium - yes, version 46
  • Krita - yes, version 2.9.9

As you can see, all the major applications are either included in the default distribution or available to install.

I tried to install Skype to see how Pamac works. It asked me the password, which is "manjaro", as mentioned on the welcome screen. Installation went successfully, if you don't count the "lock file missing" error message at the end. Skype started and worked fine for me right in the same Live session.

General impressions

There were no issues in my Live run of Manjaro Linux 15.09 Xfce, apart from some design details that I mentioned above and a small error message after the application installation.

The system felt very snappy, fast, responsive and usable.

I think Manjaro Linux's high ranking in the Distrowatch rating – it's in 7th place – is well deserved. It is higher than Arch itself. This team brings the Arch-based distribution into a form that is more widely usable and user-friendly.

Is it what the Mint team has done for Ubuntu?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcrbM1l_BoI


  1. You should try the KDE version.

  2. Yeah, I second the KDE recommendation.

  3. I tried it and it was great,
    good default customization.
    there is torrent download on SourceForge