A lot of Linux related development is coming from China these days and there is a new entrant called CutefishOS. They promise a better desktop OS experience but it is still early days. The download section of their website only teases a “coming soon” but reveals that it is going to be Arch based. Thankfully there is already an early build based on Manjaro Linux available on Github for download. So, let’s have a quick look at it, shall we?
Before we start we should keep in mind this is a very early build, the second one actually, dated 6th of June 2021. At this point we should not expect more than alpha state quality.
The download was a 1.74 GB ZIP file that expanded into an 1.9 GB ISO file. As always, I used Etcher to pass it onto a USB thumb drive and installed it to my test Dell E7240 (I5-4300, 8 GB , 128 SSD, 1366 x 768).
Manajro uses the Calamares installer. I chose to replace one of my previous partitions for this install. The installation was completed in record time with my stop watch indicating 2:30 minutes – incredible!
Boot times are equally amazing at 6 seconds to the log-in screen. Shut-downs are very swift too. This is off to a good start so far!
I installed htop and after a fresh boot with WiFi off we get the following figures:
- 569 MB RAM
- 52 Tasks
- 126 Threads
Excellent figures that are pretty close to KDE Plasma and I pretty soon suspected why that may be the case. Let us continue to the desktop.
The desktop reminded me instantly of JingOS that we had a look at a short while back. The top panel and the bottom dock are very similar. In fact, if we take a closer look at the CutefishOS website we see that they specifically mention JingOS as “friends”. I’d say this is basically the desktop version of the tablet focused JingOS which as we know is based on KDE Plasma.
Upon log-in we get Manjaro’s excellent “Hello” welcome app but it has no specific entries on the Cutefish desktop. The dock at the bottom features a launcher on the left and some pinned apps next to it. I couldn’t detect any keyboard combination to toggle the launcher so for now we need to click on the icon with our mouse. That opens an app grid with a small selection of software available out of the box. On the top right we have our system tray that also lets us switch between light and dark modes. On JingOS the notifications could be pulled down from the top left panel area but that doesn’t appear to be implemented here yet.
The Settings give us some tools to change the appearance to our liking. There are a few abstract wallpapers to choose from and those can be automatically dimmed when switching to dark mode if we so wish. We also have a selection of accent colors to choose from. It would have been neat if those colors were to apply to the folder colors as well. At the moment, folders are fixed to blue.
The dock can be moved to any side of the screen except to the top and has 4 size options to choose from.
The display settings are quite elaborate offering 5 different scaling options from 100% up to 200%. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test this functionality during my quick test on my poultry 1366 x 768 screen.
Overall the desktop is already quite usable and snappy. I was mainly missing keyboard short cuts as well as some basic keyboard functionality like volume control. At the moment we can only adjust it using the slider in the system tray.
This early build comes with very little software out of the box. There are no media players, office software or even a screen shot tool included. The Software center is fully functional, however, and I was able to install everything I needed. Installing Celluloid with MPV allowed me to playback all my media files without any issue. I also installed Xfce’s screen shot tool that I used extensively. Firefox in version 89 was already installed and automatically adapted to the selected dark theme.
For being such an early build I found the experience to be very smooth. Everything that was there worked as it should so now it is all about adding the missing pieces. If they manage to do so with the same quality then we shall soon have another proper desktop environment to choose from. We’ll keep an eye on the project and do a full review once they’re further along the way.