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The desktop-a-week review: Enlightenment (E17)

Jun 24, 20145 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

I will be using a new desktop environment for a week at a time, and reviewing them afterward. Up this week: Enlightenment (E17 to be specific).

Over the last few months I’ve been living, quite happily, with GNOME Shell as the Desktop Environment on my Linux machines. Then, recently, I gave Enlightenment another try. I was blown away by how impressive it was (and, more importantly, how interesting it was).

Am I missing out on something amazing by not using one of the other Desktop Environments out there? Sure, I’ve tried pretty much all of them – some extensively, others I’ve installed and abandoned just as quickly – but I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s an environment just over that next hill that will make my desktop experience that much more awesome.

Because of this – and, also, because it just sounds like fun – I’ve decided to live, full time, in a new Linux Desktop Environment every week… until I’ve either tried them all or died from starvation. (Pro Tip: remember to eat when test driving new Desktop Environments.)

Each week I will be writing up my experiences with that week’s environment. There’s no structure to it. No final verdict. No score system. Just me writing up my personal experience and thoughts.

To kick things off I’m going to talk about my last week with Enlightenment – specifically E17. (It should be noted that E18 is in development but I chose to go with the latest stable major release – E17. I may go with E18 in the future.)

For my testing of E17, I used openSUSE 13.1 and chose to use the upstream branding packages (meaning no openSUSE-themed stuff… I am getting E17 the way the Enlightenment folks intended it). But, the reality is, your experience should be the same regardless of which Linux Distro you choose. I went with openSUSE purely because it is what I typically use. Debian, Fedora and the like should all work just as well.

My initial impression of E17 was that it was gorgeous. It’s simply a stunning-looking environment, which is saying something considering I was coming directly from GNOME Shell, which is another beautiful environment.

And it’s fast. Oddly fast. E17 performed with a peppiness normally associated with the lightest of lightweight desktops. To say I was impressed with E17 would be like saying astronauts flying through space and walking on the moon is “kinda neat, I guess.”

But, after a full week of living (every single moment) in Enlightenment, some rough edges were found.

First and foremost – resizing windows is a pain in the butt. By default, windows can only be resized using an incredibly small re-size region at the bottom right corner. The area you can click in to resize a window is so maddeningly small that I damn near hurled this laptop through a window.

It turns out this functionality is handled by each individual theme. Which is… actually a fairly cool approach. The customizability of each E17 theme allows you have an astoundingly unique experience per theme.

All of this means that this functionality is, supposedly, changeable by modifying the theme I was using. I had no luck with this. I spent a few hours tinkering with modifying themes before I gave up and simply found a theme that allowed me to resize windows by clicking and dragging at the window edges. This kept me from committing computer-cide.

Back on the positive side of things, I am a big fan of being able to click on an empty area of the desktop and get global system menu (with shortcuts to settings as well as an application launcher menu). This is something I got used to in the “good old days” and I really enjoy having that functionality here.

The default terminal application, Terminology, is so much fun to use. It is, hands down, the best looking terminal I’ve ever seen. Luckily, it runs on other desktop environments too. I think Terminology is going to get loaded on my systems even when I don’t use Enlightenment.

I should also note that I’m testing this out on a laptop with a touchscreen. And, much to my surprise, E17 worked amazingly well using touch as input. I’m not sure why I was so surprised by this, mind you. I simply never thought of Enlightenment as a “touch-friendly” sort of environment. But to be honest, I found most of E17 to be quite usable just by jabbing at the screen with my finger.

The end result of my testing is that I kind of want a tablet running Enlightenment.

As my week with E17 draws to a close, I find myself not really wanting to leave it behind. It provides a truly fun, nerdy, flexible and beautiful experience. But journey onward to the next environment I must!

Next up: Awesome. By the time you’ll be reading this I will have left the bling-filled world of E17 behind and embraced the stark, no-nonsense world of Awesome. How will it go? I’ll let you know next week.


Bryan Lunduke began his computing life on a friend's Commodore 64, then moved on to a Franklin Ace... and then a 286 running MS-DOS. This was followed by an almost random-seeming string of operating systems: ranging from AmigaOS to OS/2, and even including MacOS 8. Eventually, Bryan tried Linux. And there he stayed. In 2006, Bryan founded the Linux Action Show - growing it into the largest Linux-centric podcast on the planet. He's also the creator of 'Linux Tycoon,' the video game about managing a Linux distribution. Today, he is a writer and works as the Social Media Marketing Manager of SUSE. On this here blog, he seeks to accomplish two goals: 1) To be the voice of reason and practicality in the Linux and Open Source world. 2) To highlight the coolest things happening throughout the world of Linux.