Zenwalk is a desktop-oriented Linux distribution originally based on Slackware. The latest stable release is Zenwalk 7. It was made available for download on March 25, 2011, roughly ten months from the last prior stable release – Zenwalk 6.4. The Zenwalk project makes four editions available – The Standard Edition, Core Edition, GNOME Edition, and the Openbox Edition. This article presents a detailed review of the Standard Edition.

Installation: Installing Zenwalk is via a curses-based installation program. Though it does what it is designed for, it looks out of place on a modern (desktop) operating system. LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, RAID and disk encryption are not supported. Installation is a 2-stage process, with disk partitioning and package installation in the first phase, and language selection, root password, and user account creation in the second stage. An Autoinstall option performs an automated disk partitioning and package installation.

Disk partitioning is via cfdisk. If you choose the Autoinstall option, the installer creates three primary partitions – the first, for /, of about 6 GB, the second for swap, and the third for /home. No separate partition is created for /boot. On my test installations, the space allocated to swap varies from 500 MB to 2000 MB. The lower size was on a computer with a 40 GB hard disk. A new installation of Zenwalk 7 takes just about 2.8 GB of disk space. The default file system for both / and /home is ext4.

LILO, the LInux LOader is the only boot loader available. LILO supports password protection. Except for Zenwalk, Mandriva is the only other Linux distribution I am aware that still offers LILO as a boot loader option. With regards to this, the difference between Zenwalk and Mandriva is that on Mandriva, GRUB is the default boot loader, with LILO as the second choice.

This is what the user account creation step looks like. Most of the tasks at this step are frankly, not necessary. All that is needed here is for a non-root user account to be created. Listing groups, modifying groups, and other group-related tasks are typically performed after, not during installation.

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Desktop Environments: Zenwalk supports packages for GNOME, Openbox and Xfce desktop environments. The edition used for this review is the Xfce edition, and it ships with Xfce 4.8.1, the latest stable release of Xfce. The wallpaper is beautiful, but the bottom panel not so much. I think that Cairo-Dock in place of the bottom panel will complement the wallpaper, and give the desktop a modern-looking appearance, with some flash.

Installed and Available Applications: Aside from the standard Xfce desktop accesories and system utilities, some of the applications installed by default on Zenwalk 7 include:

  • LibreOffice 3.3.1, a replacement for
  • Icecat
  • Icedove Mail/News
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger
  • Transmission BitTorrent client
  • Geany, a lightweight intergrated development environment (IDE)
  • The GNU Image Manipulation Program, a Photoshop-like application
  • Totem media player
  • Streamtuner, an Internet radio stream directory browser

Icecat and Icedove are modified versions of Mozilla Firefox Web browser, and Mozilla Thunderbird. So, why Icecat and not Firefox? According to the description of Icecat in the graphical package manager:

Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software. While the principal source code from the Mozilla project is free software, they distribute and recommend non-free software as plug-ins and addons.

So, Firefox is not in the default installation because the Mozilla project distributes and recommends “non-free software as plug-ins and addons” in Firefox. But there is no problem in including Macromedia (Adobe) Flash plugin in the default installation, or having Skype in the repository. Though the description of Flash plugin says that it “… is free software that lets you view web content created by Macromedia Flash,” it is actually a proprietary plugin. It is free, but it is not Free Software.

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Totem is the installed video player. However, with libdvdcss, the library required to unscramble encrypted DVDs, not installed, it is unable to play encrypted video DVDs.

There are no games installed. I do not what to guess the reason or reasons for that, but it would not be for lack of space because the CD installation image of the Xfce edition used for this review is less than 600 MB; still plenty of extra space to throw in a few games. Moovida and XBMC, two popular media Center applications are not in the repository that I loaded. Skype, the well know telephony and IM client is not installed, but it is in the repository.

Package Management: Netpkg is Zenwalk’s package manager, with xnetpkg as the graphical interface. Below is the main window of xnetpkg as you will see it when it is first started. All that you have access to are the locally installed applications. To install new applications, you must first load a repository.

Of which there are more than a dozen and a half to choose from. You will notice that some of the repositories are for the latest release (zenwalk-7.0), some to the previous stable release (zenwalk-6.4), and a few to the snapshot release. Why this mix of repositories? When is it appropriate to load a zenwalk-7.0, a zenwalk-6.4, or a snapshot repository? Here’s some assistance from the release notes of Zenwalk 7:

… from now, for each version of Zenwalk, we will provide a versionalized repository including extra packages, where all packages are “certified compatible” with the given version (ie : 6.4, 7.0, …). The “snapshot” repository will keep being an “experimental” work-in-progress repository, as usual.


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16 Responses

  1. I installed this in a VM and found it very unstable. Root terminal often crashed, edeb worked about 50% of the time. I could not find a GUI to create a new user. Midori crashes when I try to rename a bookmark. When I minimize any application I can not find a way to bring it up again (I read to use the middle mouse button but I have a touchpad only). IAN is right E17 is a gimic, I am sticking with Uubuntu 12.04 LTS

  2. Sorry but bodhi-linux is not a well made distro. Nothing about it seems to be finished. E17 is really a waste of time. Nothing about it looks to be finished and then the developers move on to making another unfinished environment. No it is not smooth nor is it minimal in any way. There is just nothing there to see, or use.

  3. Thanks for the nice review. I can share my experience with some of the lightweight (Openbox & e17 based) that I have used in 2012-2013. If I just go by the numbers:
    Parameters CPU Usage RAM (MB)
    Puppy/AntiX 12 1-5% 75
    Archbang 1-5% 75
    Bodhi 2.2.0 1-5% 80
    Bridge LXDE 1-5% 80
    Snowlinux 4 XFCE 1-5% 90
    Sparkylinux 2.1 Openbox 1-5% 90
    Manjaro 0.8.3 Openbox 1-5% 100
    Snowlinux 4 Glacier e17 1-5% 110
    Lubuntu 12.04 1-5% 120
    All these usage results are from the same system that I use for Linux distro testing and they reflect the resource usage to boot the desktop environment.

    Definitely Bodhi 2.2.0 is one of the better lightweight distros I have seen, buttery smooth to use and gives a full DE feeling with some cool subtle effects (with compositing running). Aesthetically e17 is much better than Openbox or IceWM/JWM.

    Further I compared the newly released Snowlinux 4 e17 and Bodhi 2.2.0 and undoubtedly Bodhi is way ahead of the Snowlinux spin in aesthetics as well as performance.

    I am using Bodhi in my Asus EeePC 1101HA with 1 GB RAM. I downloaded the Nikhil package and installed Skype 4.1 from external sources. It is superfast and gives amazing performance even on very modest specs.


  4. Interesting to see a number of Bodhi reviews lately. The thing for me, though, is that as an Ubuntu Unity user, the whole idea of menu-driven selection is simply now an outdated paradigm, no matter how artistic the implementation. I just don’t use menus to select or launch programs anymore, and to go back to that seems slow and painful now.

    1. Use super+space and the everything launcher pops up, and you can search the web, files and apps. Pretty much the same as the unity lenses.

  5. ***”A minimalist distribution does not present a very good candidate for the type of reviews I normally write,”***

    You should have stopped right there and skipped it. Since your opinion on minimalist distros is clearly expressed, why even bother. I like your stuff and I’m not trying troll,but stick to what you like. You like the kitchen sink style distros, then let that be your niche. You don’t have to be all things to all people. Been reading your stuff for a while now, I think I can tell a throw away article when I see it.

    1. But just because it’s not my thing does not mean I can’t ell others what it offers. I made that very clear.

      And saying that I don’t like it for the type of computing I do is not the same as saying it’s bad.

  6. In response to ian’s comment:

    Would you please give us a reason why you think E17 is dead? “E17 is dead dude” sounds like an opinion and not a statement of fact.

    Like with much in the Open Source/Free Software world, there are many options. If you don’t like E17, don’t use it. I love E17 and have used it for years. I have a friend that swears by Gnome. Personally, I can’t stand it. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that I don’t like it.

  7. Yeah, it’s fun to play with for a few minutes but I can’t really see any point in it. E17 is a really tough one for me to make an opinion on. It’s great that you can easily change between lots and lots of themes. Nice. It’s fast and seems fairly stable although I haven’t spent much time using it. Some people think it looks outdated but to me I think it looks pretty awesome. There’s just something that doesn’t feel right about E17 but I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly.

  8. A nice review. As Bodhi is a minimalist distribution you might have provided more information on what kind of performance a user might expect. On my laptop it only uses 85-90 MB of memory at idle, with compositing enabled. That indicates real speed. That would be a counterpart to the perceived hassle of not having everything included out of the box.

    1. I didn’t give hard numbers, but I did write that “Enlightenment is a desktop environment designed to run on high-end and low-resource computers.”

      For the record, on a test system, at idle, memory usage registers at 405 MB, with 295 MB cached.

      But that’s at idle. Those numbers go up when you start you start opening applications.

      1. Something must be wrong with your configuration then… right now with firefox (multiple tabs) open, xchat, gajim, and the bluetooth daemon running it’s sitting at about the same numbers you have. 377 cached instead, but total memory usage is not significantly different, on a system with 2GB of RAM.

        Anyway… what I wanted to comment on was that you should check the appcenter, at, or by clicking on the desktop, going to Bodhi Linux, and then “Add Software”. You only need 1 package if you want a kitchen sink distro:

        Or if you prefer the same basic functionality but with lighter system requirements,

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