If you've ever dipped your toes into the Linux waters, you've probably heard of Arch Linux. On the scale of Ubuntu (user friendly) to incredibly challenging (Gentoo), pure Arch Linux lands somewhere near the top. But even Arch Linux is making strides to achieve a much more user-friendly platform (such is the case with the release of the new menu-based installer).
But for those who want to lower the barrier of entry for Arch Linux, there are options, one of which is EndeavorOS. This version of Arch Linux strives to be accessible and usable to anyone, regardless of skill level. And although EndeavorOS isn't nearly as user-friendly as the likes of Ubuntu and Linux Mint, it is at least considerably easier to install than pure Arch Linux. And the inclusion of a handy Welcome app makes getting up to speed with EndeavorOS a fairly painless process.
Recently, the developers launched the latest version of EndeavorOS, Apollo, and although it includes all the tools necessary to make it a power user's dream distribution, I'm confident this new release would feel right at home under the fingers of someone who has only recently discovered Linux.
But why Arch Linux?
Before we get into the thick of EndeavorOS, you might be asking yourself, "Why should I bother with Arch Linux?" That's a good question. When there are far easier Linux distributions available to use, the idea of challenging yourself has to be a reason in and of itself. Outside of that using Arch Linux:
Gives you more control over every aspect of the operating system.
You will have a better grasp of Linux.
It's a rolling release, so you'll enjoy a new kernel and software as soon as it's released.
There's a vast repository (AUR) of software to install.
Completely created and supported by the community.
If a sense of accomplishment gives you a case of the feels, Arch Linux might well be a great operating system for you.
Now that you may (or may not) be tempted to dig into Arch Linux, let's pull it back a bit and take a look at the reasons why you might want to give EndeavorOS a try:
You want an incredibly stable OS.
You want to use Arch Linux but prefer a GUI installer.
You want a rolling release distribution.
You want to choose between several desktops during installation.
Although it was announced that EndeavorOS would ship with a new window manager (Worm), I've run two different installations and have yet to see it available in the Apollo ISO. Even still, you have the choice between:
For new users, I would highly recommend either Cinnamon or KDE Plasma as your desktop of choice (which can be selected during the installation process - Figure 1).
Interestingly enough, the desktop environment used during the installation is XFCE. That makes sense, as XFCE is a fairly lightweight desktop, so it will run from RAM without a problem.
I chose to go the KDE Plasma route to see how well EndeavorOS runs with that familiar desktop. I also ran an installation with the Budgie desktop (a more minimal environment) to see how it faired. I came away equally impressed with both editions.
Out of the box applications
Once you've installed EndeavorOS, one of the first things you'll probably notice is that there are quite a lot of pre-installed applications. You'll find applications like Firefox, a video player (Dragon), a music player (Elisa), an advanced text editor (Kate), KDE Connect (for connecting your mobile device), and several other utilities.
What you'll find missing are productivity tools. Look in the Office menu and you'll only see Okular (Document viewer - Figure 2).
Fortunately, this lack of software is easily overcome with the help of the Welcome tool. Open Welcome and then, in the Add More Apps tab (Figure 3), click Choose popular apps to install.
In the resulting window (Figure 4) expand the Office entry and then check the box for libreoffice-fresh and then click Install Now.
You'll be first prompted for your user password, and then (upon successful authentication), you will have to OK the installation by typing Y. The installation will go off without a hitch and you then have a full-blown office suite to use (for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, formulas, databases, and drawings).
New features to be found
Besides the new window manager (that I've yet to be able to test), there are several new features and improvements to be found in Apollo, such as:
Linux kernel 5.17 (which makes it possible for the OS to support next-gen hardware).
A new Quickstart app (which is the Choose popular apps to install option in the Welcome tool that allows you to quickly install applications).
New NVIDIA driver installer.
FirewallD is installed and enabled by default.
Mesa 22 graphics stack.
The overall impression
Once upon a time, reviewing Linux distributions was all about how easy they could be adopted by new users. Modern Linux distributions have managed to kick that concern to the curb. It's been a long time since I've come across a Linux distribution that couldn't be easily adopted by users of any skill level and EndeavorOS follows down that same path.
You might think because it's based on Arch Linux, that using EndeavorOS would require working with the command-line interface (CLI). That's not the case. In fact, during my entire review period of EndeavorOS, I didn't open the terminal window for a single command. Everything I needed could be done via a simple to use GUI. It really is that easy to use.
I also found EndeavorOS to be just as stable as Arch Linux (which is saying something, given how rock solid Arch is), no matter which desktop environment I chose. And as far as performance, it doesn't matter if you go with a lightweight desktop or a full-blown environment like KDE, EndeavorOS performs like a champ. Even as a virtual machine (with limited resources), apps open very quickly and perform even better than I expected.
All in all, EndeavorOS is an outstanding entry to the Linux desktop distribution community. If you're looking for an operating system that can grow in complexity as your skillset grows, you could do a lot worse than this. Download an ISO of EndeavorOS Apollo and spin up a virtual machine to kick the tires. If you like what you see, install it on bare metal and enjoy that user-friendly take on Arch Linux.