I’ve had a love/hate relationship with XFCE for a long, long time. I get it. I see the appeal — a Linux desktop that is incredibly fast and stable. That speed, however, always seems to come at the cost of a desktop feeling like it’s stuck in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

That’s right, I’m one of those Linux users. I’ve spent the better part of my Linux desktop years searching for the perfect combination of form and function. For the longest time, that search led me back to Ubuntu and Unity. It offered the best of all possible worlds for me. No matter where I searched, however, I would take a glance at an XFCE-based distro and look away. That is… until Peach OSI.

The Peach OSI distro takes everything that’s good about XFCE (speed and flexibility) and remixes it into something anyone can enjoy. It has a slight OS X look and feel yet retains a Linux flavor you cannot deny.

But Peach OSI isn’t just about the look and feel. The first time you log onto Peach OSI and click the applications menu, you know you’re looking at something special. For a lightweight distribution, Peach OSI installs a LOT of applications — there’s something, quite literally, for everyone. The list of applications includes:

  • Firefox
  • Midori
  • KeePassX
  • Desktop Webmail
  • Pidgin
  • Ubuntu Software Center
  • LibreOffice
  • AbiWord
  • Dictionary
  • Orage Calendar
  • digiKam
  • Entangle
  • The Gimp
  • Blender
  • gmusicbrowser
  • Banshee
  • Ardour3
  • Brasero
  • wxBanker
  • Backups
  • Wine

And that’s just what’s on the Dock! Open up the Applications menu, and you’ll find many more more goodies to enjoy.

Peach OSI also offers more configuration options than the standard XFCE desktop, and the inclusion of the Slingshot Launchpad makes it even easier to find what you’re looking for (think GNOME or Unity Dash).

Here’s the thing — most of the time, when you suggest a lightweight Linux desktop for someone looking to resuscitate aging hardware, you know you’re giving them something that might well fall short of everything they need. The average user isn’t going to have a great time with most lightweight Linux desktops. They’ll feel short-sheeted (like their shoulders are nice and comfy, but their feet and ankles are freezing). If you’ve ever suggested Linux to someone and had them come away unimpressed, you know what I mean.

That is where Peach OSI really shines. It isn’t a half-measure by any stretch of the imagination. This is full-blown desktop goodness in a lightweight package that will have old and new hardware singing sweet, sweet music. The 32-bit version of Peach OSI is peachy with 512 MB of RAM. Give the 64-bit version of Peach OSI 126 GIGS of RAM, and it will bake you a peach pie while it crunches Pi to the billionth factor. Okay, it won’t actually make you a pie, but it can calculate Pi with ease.

Peach OSI makes it incredibly easy to launch applications from two very different menus: the Slingshot Launcher (Figure A) or the Whisker menu.

Figure A

The Slingshot Launcher in action.

The difference between the two menus is mostly cosmetic. Both launch apps, search for apps, and categorize apps. The Whisker menu (Figure B) adds the ability to quickly launch the settings app and log off/shut down, plus it retains a history of the last 10 apps you’ve used.

Figure B

The Whisker menu in action.

But don’t think Peach OSI is just for new users or users with old hardware. Peach OSI will make plenty of old hat users happy as well. One addition that will please the Linux at heart is the ability to switch from the old text-based Grub boot loader to the BURG loader. BURG is a more modern take on the boot loader. By default, Peach OSI uses Grub. To make the switch, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Whisker menu
  2. Click System | Grub Customizer
  3. Enter your sudo password
  4. When prompted, click YES to configure BURG instead of grub2
  5. From within the Grub Customizer, click Save
  6. Click File | Install to MBR
  7. Click OK (Figure C)
  8. Reboot

Figure C

Switching from Grub to BURG.

You can also do a lot of customization for the bootloader from within the Grub Customizer.

If you’re looking for a new distribution to replace that aging dinosaur on your PC or laptop (think Windows XP), burn a live image to a disk and boot up Peach OSI. You won’t regret it.

Do you prefer your Linux lightweight? If so, what is your distribution of choice? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.