The world of Linux has some beautiful desktops, but to date, one of the most beautiful has been Deepin Linux. The Deepin desktop is elegant, simple to use, and as reliable a desktop as you’ll find on a PC. For the longest time, I was certain no Linux distribution could best the beauty of Deepin.
Until a reader pointed me toward a distribution that I had (surprisingly enough) never heard of. That distribution is Garuda Linux. Garuda Linux is an Arch-based distribution that can be installed with KDE, Xfce, GNOME, LXQt-kwin, Cinnamon, MATE, Wayfire, Qtile, BSPWM and i3wm desktops. That’s a pretty good list to choose from. However, if you go with the KDE version, you’re getting something special, because the designers and developers have taken great pains to create a work of art on the desktop.
I’ve long considered KDE to be too standard an affair for my taste. Not that I don’t believe it to be a viable desktop alternative–quite the opposite. I’ve always been of the belief that if you’re a user who prefers the typical desktop, KDE is the way to go. However, I wouldn’t call KDE a modern take on the desktop.
What the Garuda developers have done is something special. They’ve taken KDE and retooled it into something quite impressive. So impressive, I’d easily say it’s the first Linux desktop to best Deepin in design.
I installed the “Hawk Edge” rolling release of Garuda, which is focused on being fast, friendly and performance-focused. Trust me when I say they’ve succeeded with that goal.
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First impressions matter
From the very beginning, Garuda is impressive. Even at the login window, you know you’re about to use something special (Figure A).
Once logged in, you’ll find a KDE desktop unlike any KDE you’ve ever experienced (Figure B).
The developers have taken a decidedly macOS approach to the desktop–and it works. When you first log in to the installed Garuda, you are asked if you want to upgrade to the Ultimate edition, which installs a number of other software packages. I’d highly recommend you do this, as it will allow you to select from a list of office suites, browsers, email clients and more. Everything that happens upon first login is an absolute delight. I’d go so far as to say that I’ve never installed a Linux distribution and been this excited about what Garuda has to offer.
And I’ve been using Linux for over 20 years.
What makes Garuda special?
Obviously, we have a gorgeous desktop, but what makes Garuda special goes deeper than the aesthetics. The developers have gone out of their way to make this Linux distribution as user friendly as it is beautiful. Given this is a distribution based on Arch Linux, that’s impressive. Sure, there are plenty of user friendly Arch-based distributions around, but Garuda transforms Arch into a platform that’s as easy to use as Ubuntu.
Let that sink in for a moment.
One thing the developers have done is include a handy Welcome tool to help you configure the desktop exactly as you want/need. Open the Garuda Welcome tool and you’ll have access to Garuda Assistant, Settings Manager and plenty of other tools and features (Figure C).
The Garuda Assistant allows you to:
Run a system update
Reinstall all packages
Remove database lock
Clear package cache
Manage the Btrfs file system
Manage system components and various settings
The only thing I wish the developers would include in the Assistant is a welcome/help tool for users who might not be as familiar with Linux. Most new Linux users aren’t going to opt for an Arch-based distribution, but given how incredible the Garuda KDE-edition is, that could change.
Even if you go to the Help entry in the desktop menu, you’re greeted with nothing in the way of actual help (Figure D).
How does Garuda perform?
This one is a bit harder to answer because I deployed my test instance as a VirtualBox VM, and the distribution clearly states virtual machines aren’t recommended. Even so, Garuda performs quite well. The VM of Garuda is a bit slower than I’m accustomed to, but it’s only noticeable because I’ve used so many Linux distributions as VMs. Given that, I would imagine Garuda would perform exponentially better on bare metal.
That being said, even with all the desktop effects in full swing and running as a virtual machine, Garuda is quite stable and performant.
Who should try Garuda KDE Edition?
In a word: everyone. If you like Linux, and you prefer your desktops a bit more dandified, this particular take on Linux is a stunner. The Sweetified KDE theme is probably the first dark theme I’ve ever liked and everything about the desktop is a modern twist on an old classic. If you’ve been itching to give Arch Linux a try, Garuda Linux should be on the top of your list.
If you have a spare desktop lying around (or you don’t mind a bit of a VM slowdown with your guest operating systems), do yourself a favor and install Garuda Linux. Even if you don’t find yourself making a permanent switch to this take on Arch, you’ll at least have experienced just how user friendly Arch Linux can be.
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