The other day I stumbled upon a tweet talking about Enso OS, a Linux distro I had never heard of before. Checking out their website had me immediately interested! The system has a simple, clean and minimalist look and the developers promise it to be suitable to both Linux beginners and older hardware.
Reading further we learn it is based on Xbuntu’s 20.04 LTS. Intriguingly, they combined elementary OS with XFCE to produce their very unique desktop. Let’s take a closer look!
The current version 0.4 was a 1.9GB download. It is still considered Beta so there might be a few bumps along the way. The boot process was about average in length and came with it’s own splash screen. I was pleasantly surprised to see the system adapt automatically to the full screen width within my virtual box. Few of the systems I have tested so far would do that. We are greeted with a beautiful looking desktop and a little welcome app. The welcome app doesn’t do much. It let’s you change the user details, install applications, change system settings and offers links to the website and forum. There doesn’t seem to be much activity in the forum but the website has detailed sections on the installation process as well as instructions on how to use the system. All very beginner friendly.
Enso has a very special desktop. It combines the classic XFCE desktop environment with the more modern Gala window manager and uses Plank as it’s dock. Plank sits at the bottom left hand side of the desktop. Applications are launched by the aptly named “Launchy”, their own fork of elementary’s application menu. Launchy is bold and simple, opening as a window in the center of the screen. The main panel is at the top of the screen and features global menu support, which used to be one of Ubuntu Unity’s stand out features. The date-time applet is unique to Enso. It still has limited functionality but fits perfectly with the overall modern look of the system. Elementary’s excellent multi-tasking view is also available here and is very much needed as it’s the only way to access minimized apps! I am not sure whether it’s a bug, or a snag in the virtual box or maybe even working as intended ? Minimized apps didn’t dock to Plank at the bottom. Update: Turns out it is/was a bug. Upon rebooting, minimized apps docked as they should.
After booting up the fresh system, I installed htop and got the following figures:
- RAM : 730 MB
- Tasks: 84
- Threads: 173
That’s a bit high for XFCE but still quite a light set-up overall. Good to see was that the CPU activity generally hovered at close to zero during idle periods.
Enso looks really good in my opinion. It uses it’s own Enso GTK theme and is available in both light (default) and dark options. The icon theme is Paper. The overall look does remind a bit of Chrome OS, especially with the selection of included wall papers. It’s one of those distros which I find myself accepting as is with no urge to change things around too much.
Using the dark theme does make the note taking app a bit harder to use as the font color doesn’t contrast sufficiently with the available paper colors.
The Plank dock isn’t meant to be moved around. The only user modifications available are choosing from 3 sizes and between dark and light versions as well as some show/hide options. Similar to elementary OS, the system is meant to be used as the developers have envisioned it. That will bother some users while others will be happy with the simplified set-up.
Enso comes with little software out of the box. I prefer this kind of setup where I can add whatever I need without needing to uninstall unwanted apps. By default we get:
Firefox (v. 80), Thunar file manager (v. 1.8.14), Sakura terminal emulator, Ristretto image viewer, Transmission for torrents, Atril document viewer and Parole media player. That’s mostly it. Very minimalist indeed. Not even an email client present. I appreciate that. Worth mentioning is Enso’s own note taking app Pinny that is prominently placed in the dock by default. It’s simple and works as intended. I believe note taking should always be an integral part of an operating system.
To install additional software, Enso includes a software center called Apphive. It is a fork of elementary’s AppCenter and looks quite good. It supports both .deb and Snaps. The selection of software available is huge. I suspect it is the same as that available to Xubuntu on which Enso it is based.
Apphive also shows us when updates are available. I found it to be responsive and easy to use, a perfect choice for a system that wants to be beginner friendly.
Enso is one of those distros that excite. It has an exotic appeal to it and just looks stunning while staying light! I am really glad I found it and feel an urge to use it for longer – distrohoppers beware! I did however encounter a few issues while testing but then again this is version 0.4 and still in Beta.
If you want to give it a spin, you can download it from here. If you do, be sure to share your experience with us in the comments section below.