For those of you who have been reading my column long enough, you know I am a fan of alternatives. And you know on the desktop, my alternative of choice is enlightenment. I have been using the window manager since it first arrived eleven years ago...and loving it. The creator, Carsten Haitzler (aka Raster) and a team of only four others, have been working hard since 2000 to get a new version stable and ready for the masses.
It's finally arrived. And arrived in force. You know that gOS that helped to sell out all of those PCs at Walmart? E17 had a hand in that. Yes, the gOS is graced by E17. And, if you have put your fingers on gOS you will understand when I say it's smoooooth.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, E17 has arrived. It's not perfect yet but it works well enough for production. I have been using it for a few weeks now and have only found a few issues with the new version (more on that later).
The differences between E16 and E17 are fairly large (on both an aesthetic and configuration level). First and foremost it simply looks flashier. It's smooth and elegant. E17 offers up a little bit more of what most people have grown accustomed to with an interface - with a twist of course.Shelves
You can now add shelves (think of them as highly configurable panels) to the desktop; and to the shelves you can add many different items (launchers, "gadgets", menus, applets, etc). Shelves can be resized, moved, auto-hidden, you name it.Menus
No longer do you edit a flat text file to add items to your menu. Now E enjoys an outstanding configuration application. It might take a while to get used to the tool, but once you do - it's a snap to use.Installation
Installation is simple. If you are using a Fedora-based OS you add the correct entries in your yum repo lists. To do this, download and install dc-fc6-yum-repo-1.0-1.fc6.noarch.rpm for F6 or dc-f7-yum-repo-1.0-1.fc7.noarch.rpm for F7. Once you have them installed, run the command (as root) yum install enlightenment to install the system. You can run both E16 and E17 on the same system (though not at the same time, of course). So don't think you are going to bork your beautiful E16 installation.Issues
There are only a few.
One big issue is the Screen Saver. It simply doesn't work. I believe it relies on xscreensaver but, even with xscreensaver installed, the screen saver will not start.
Getting familiar with the menu configuration might be a bit of a tripping point for some. The hierarchy of menu entries available to add is not terribly intuitive. It might be better to simply use an alpha-numeric ordering instead of trying to group according to purpose.
One of my favorite things with E16 was the iconification of windows. When you click the iconification button the window spins down to the bottom of the screen. This is no more in E17. I can't see why this feature was removed, but it was. I would like to see it return.
And that's it. Otherwise the system is clean, fast, stable, and just as E! as E16 (if not more so).
If you've never experienced Enlightenment, you should. It will change your mind about how a PC desktop should be.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.