Manjaro 24 is Arch Linux for the rest of us

Manjaro Linux is the DIY-inspired Arch Linux distro, made simpler – so those still on their way to guru status can say, “I use Arch, by the way.”

Manjaro 24.0 “Wynsdey” is the latest release of this Arch Linux meta-distro, supported by the German company of the same name. The new release offers kernel 6.9.0 and some of the latest desktop releases: GNOME 46.1, KDE Plasma 6.0.4 and LXQt 2.0.

Manjaro is an interesting attempt to transform the roll-release Arch Linux distribution into something smoother and more stable. We wrote about Arch for its twentieth anniversary, and we also looked at some of the most prominent Arch derivatives, Endeavor OS and Garuda Linux. Like Arch itself, these are both roll-release projects, with daily updates. Garuda includes support for Btrfs snapshots, like the one found in openSUSE Tumbleweed, so if an update breaks your system, you can roll back to an older snapshot and get back up and running quickly.

Manjaro 24 offers the latest Xfce 4.18 with a tastefully understated theme and background – click to enlarge

Manjaro takes a different approach. It takes Arch’s continuous stream of packages and then routes them through its own repositories, splitting packages into three branches: Unstable, then Testing, then Stable – a hierarchy similar to Debian’s. The result is its own distro, with periodic releases, but with significantly more up-to-date components than conventional distros with a fixed release cycle, such as Debian, Ubuntu or Fedora.

Thanks in part to Valve’s work on the Steam Deck console, Arch is maturing quickly, and the Steam client usage figures show that it is now one of the most popular distributions.

The theory behind Manjaro is that it offers the freshness of Arch, but in a form that’s easier to install, and one that’s more reliable so you don’t need snapshots. Manjaro also gives you access to the famous Arch User Repository, or AUR for short: a huge collection of virtually every Linux software imaginable, packaged for Arch. So while Arch – and Manjaro – support the cross-distro Flatpak, Snap and Appimage packaging formats, you’ll probably never need them. If a Linux version of certain software exists, it is probably listed in the AUR.

We first looked at Manjaro 21.3 in 2022 and were somewhat unimpressed. This latest release ran smoother and installed perfectly in both VirtualBox and on the bare metal of an old ThinkPad X220.

We tried the Xfce edition, which comes with Xfce version 4.18. Manjaro uses the Calamares cross-distro installer, so it’s easy to install – but the ThinkPad’s small 1366 x 768 LCD screen meant we had to scroll on some screens to see all the options, and since there are no visible scroll bars , this almost got us caught. We were also surprised to find that by default no swap was configured at all, not even ZRAM memory compression.

Still, it worked fine. A helpful “Hello” welcome screen appears after logging in, and about a minute after the first boot, a dialog box automatically appeared asking us to install updates. We liked the option to use the free version of Softmaker Office instead of the ubiquitous LibreOffice, and choosing a random but popular proprietary app took just a few clicks to install Google Chrome. This distro’s space usage was also fairly modest: just under 800 MB of RAM and 7.75 GB of disk.

Manjaro is easier than installing Arch by hand, and more simple and businesslike than Garuda or EndeavorOS. The choice of desktops is also wisely restrained. The official flavors are GNOME, KDE, and Xfce, with community-maintained Cinnamon, i3, and Sway editions. There’s also an Arm edition, which supports 18 different Arm-based boards and devices, including some from Pine64 and Raspberry Pi. ®

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