Manjaro 24 is Arch Linux for the rest of us

Manjaro Linux is the DIY-spirited Arch Linux distro, but made easier - so that those still on their way to guru status will be able to say: "I run Arch, BTW."

Manjaro 24.0 "Wynsdey" is the latest release of this Arch Linux metadistro, backed by the eponymous German company. 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 take the rolling-release Arch Linux distribution and mold it into something smoother and more stable. We wrote about Arch for its 20th anniversary, and we've also looked at a couple of the most prominent Arch derivatives, Endeavour OS and Garuda Linux. Like Arch itself, these are both rolling-release projects, with daily updates. Garuda brings Btrfs snapshot support, like that found in openSUSE Tumbleweed, so if an update breaks your system, you can roll back to an older snapshot and get working again quickly.

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

Thanks in part to Valve's work on the Steam Deck console, Arch is maturing fast, and the Steam client's usage figures show that it's now one of the most popular distros. The theory behind Manjaro is that it offers the freshness of Arch, but in an easier-to-install form, 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 vast pool of almost any imaginable Linux software, packaged for Arch. So although Arch - and Manjaro - support the cross-distro Flatpak, Snap, and Appimage packaging formats, you will probably never need them. If there's a Linux version of some software, it's probably in the AUR.

We first looked at Manjaro 21.3 in 2022, and came away somewhat unimpressed. This latest

release worked more smoothly, 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 meant that on some screens, we had to scroll to see all the options, and since there are no visible scroll bars, this nearly caught us out. We were also surprised to find that it didn't configure any swap at all by default, not even ZRAM memory compression.

Still, it worked fine. A helpful "Hello" welcome screen appears after login, and a minute or so after its first boot, a dialog box appeared automatically and prompted us to install updates. We liked the option to use the free version of Softmaker Office in place of the ubiquitous LibreOffice, and to pick a random but popular proprietary app, it took just a few clicks to install Google Chrome. This distro's space usage was fairly modest, too: Just under 800 MB of RAM and 7.75 GB of disk.

Manjaro is easier than installing Arch by hand, and more sober and businesslike than Garuda or EndeavourOS. The choice of desktops is also sensibly 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 several from Pine64 and Raspberry Pi. ®

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