EndeavourOS 2021.04.17EndeavourOS is a rolling release distribution based on Arch Linux. The project started as a spiritual successor to Antergos and offers both on-line and off-line install options which I will discuss later.
At the moment EndeavourOS is available in just one edition with a single build for 64-bit (x86_64) machines, though an ARM branch of the project is under development. Since I last tried EndeavourOS the project has dropped support for the Deepin desktop at install time due to performance issues. A problem with auto-login has been fixed, and there is an option to switch between themes on the welcome window. The latest snapshot of the distribution no longer includes a button to update packages in the welcome window when running from the live media. The welcome application now has a button for seeing recent project news which will provide information on potential upgrade issues or important changes to the distribution.
I downloaded the project's 1.9GB ISO file and launched the live environment. The live media's boot menu gives us the option of starting the distribution in regular live desktop mode or with support for the latest NVIDIA video cards. Starting the live desktop brings up Xfce 4.16. A panel is placed across the bottom of the screen with an application menu, quick-launch buttons, and a system tray. There are no icons on the desktop which features wallpaper that is mostly purple.
Shortly after loading the Xfce desktop a welcome window appears. This window features two tabs. The first tab presents us with buttons that perform actions. These actions include running the system installer, changing the display's resolution, updating package repository information, and running the GParted partition manager. The second tab lists buttons we can click to open the Firefox browser and access key parts of the EndeavourOS website, such as the forums, wiki, and news sections. All of these buttons in both tabs worked and I found the welcome window acted as a pleasant hub for accessing information and settings.
Endeavour offers two approaches to installing: off-line and on-line. These two approaches act very similarly from the user's point of view. In both cases the Calamares installer is launched. In both cases we are walked through selecting our language from a drop-down list, choosing our time zone from a map, and given the option of tweaking locale information. Both versions of the install process offer guided and manual partitioning. The manual version is quite friendly and supports most Linux filesystems. The guided option will set up a single ext4 filesystem for Endeavour and give us the option of using a swap file, a swap partition, or having no swap space at all. We are then asked to make up a username and password for ourselves.
There are two noticeable differences between the on-line and off-line install processes. When we use the off-line approach Endeavour automatically sets us up with the Xfce desktop and a minimal set of applications. A custom theme is installed for us. When we use the on-line process we are shown a list of software groups Calamares can install right after the disk partitioning screen. The package groups include base components for the core operating system, eight desktop environments and window managers, printing support, and accessibility options. We can expand these groups to pick which specific programs in each group we want to install.
When performing an on-line install fresh packages are downloaded from the Endeavour repositories. This approach takes longer than the off-line process where everything we need is available directly from the local live media. During the on-line install process Calamares occasionally appeared to lock up, sometimes for a few minutes, but it eventually finished its work. When the on-line installation is finished the desktop environment we end up with uses a generic theme.
My new copy of EndeavourOS booted to a graphical login screen. Signing in brought back the Xfce 4.16 session. The welcome window appears again, this time featuring an extra option for installing software updates. There are also some options in the welcome window for switching between the generic Xfce theme (which places a thin panel at the top of the screen and a dock at the bottom) and the custom Endeavour theme which places one thicker panel at the bottom of the screen. Attempting to change themes displays a warning that switching the theme requires a restart. This means we are not only logged out, but the computer reboots once we agree to change the theme.
The welcome window has another tab which provides access to some additional, popular software. This tabs presents us with buttons which, when clicked, will install such items as LibreOffice, the Chromium browser, the Gufw firewall tool, and a kernel manager. There are also buttons which will open Firefox and display a list of available software in the Arch Linux repositories.
I tried the welcome window's software update button and found it opened a terminal window which then displayed a list of available updates. I was prompted for my password and then the pacman package manager refreshed its information, listed the available updates again, and offered to install them. It then prompted me as to whether it should proceed or abort. I opted to continue and the update process completed successfully.
EndeavourOS 2021.04.17 -- Running Xfce with the custom EneavourOS theme (full image size: 151kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
When I started using Endeavour it was in a VirtualBox environment. The distribution performed well in the virtual machine. Performance and desktop responsiveness were pretty good and the system ran smoothly. The Xfce desktop did not dynamically resize with the VirtualBox window, but I could adjust the screen resolution using the Xfce Display module.
When I switched over to running Endeavour on my workstation, the distribution performed very well. The system was highly responsive, applications opened quickly, and all of my hardware was properly detected. Endeavour was able to boot in both Legacy BIOS and UEFI modes.
The operating system's default configuration is fairly light. The system consumed just 340MB of RAM when signed into the Xfce and a fresh install used 4.9GB of disk space. This gives us a relatively minimal set of applications, but enough tools to accomplish basic tasks and get started.
When using the generic Xfce theme the application menu has a classic, tree-style layout. This is fairly simple and easy to navigate. When using the Endeavour theme the application menu uses what looks like a tree-style menu to show categories. However, when we select a category the right side of the menu shows a grid of available applications. This 3x4 grid of icons is also fairly compact and easy to navigate, in my opinion.
EndeavourOS 2021.04.17 -- Running Firefox and a text editor (full image size: 196kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
Browsing through the application menu we find Endeavour ships with the Firefox web browser, the Parole Media Player, a PDF viewer, an image viewer, the Thunar file manager, and a text editor. The distribution ships with codecs for playing popular media formats and Parole handled the media files I threw at it. There are some Endeavour-specific tools such as the welcome screen, one for updating installed packages, and one for selecting software mirrors based on our region. There are also several Xfce configuration modules for customizing the desktop.
This is a fairly sparse collection of software and it means we will be installing a lot of extras if we want to do more than browse the web and look at pictures. Digging further we find the GNU Compiler Collection is installed and the systemd init software is present. Version 5.11 of the Linux kernel is installed for us. Apart from some basic GNU command line utilities this is about the extent of the software provided out of the box.
When I tried running Endeavour about a year ago, I found the distribution shipped with a graphical software manager. This graphical front end has been removed and now package management relies on the pacman command line package manager. I find pacman to be fast and reliable, but its syntax is a bit unusual and terse. Using a combination of pacman and the tab granting access to some popular applications in the welcome menu eventually gave me access to all the software I wanted.
EndeavourOS 2021.04.17 -- Running LibreOffice after installing it from the welcome window (full image size: 204kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
By default Endeavour does not ship with support for portable package bundles such as Snap and Flatpak, though the Flatpak framework is available in the distribution's repositories if we wish to add it.
When software updates are available for Endeavour, a notification window pops up in the upper-right corner of the desktop. Clicking this notification does nothing, other than dismiss it, but it lets us know we can install new packages from the command line.
I'm always a little sceptical of on-line installers (also known as network installers) and I frequently had trouble getting Antergos (Endeavour's predecessor) to install properly. I was pleased to find that Endeavour not only supplies an off-line install option, but both its on-line and off-line install processes worked without any problems.
The relatively light default collection of software, along with a friendly welcome window which helps us find information, install a few popular applications, and tweak some settings offered a great first impression of the distribution.
Endeavour ran quickly for me, offered me just enough tools to get up and running, was stable, and worked with all of my hardware. I feel like Xfce is a suitable desktop for the audience Endeavour is reportedly targeting (users with enough experience to be comfortable with the command line) as it balances performance with features. Plus people can install alternative desktops if they wish.
The one piece I felt was missing from Endeavour was a graphical package manager. The distribution previously featured one and I think removing it was unfortunate. When running distributions that start with a minimal number of desktop applications I appreciate the convenience of being able to quickly browse and install popular applications and items I use most days. Thanks to Arch's large collection of up to date software Endeavour can provide everything I want, but installing all of these packages through pacman gets tedious compared to a nice, point-n-click experience.
This concern aside, I really like what the Endeavour team is doing. I'm already finding it faster and more reliable than Antergos was and the project is offering a pleasant, up to date platform without distractions or clutter. I don't think I encountered a bug during my entire time with the distribution, which is a pleasant change of pace. People who like the appeal of Arch's rolling release model while also appreciating a convenient system installer and pre-configured desktop environments will feel right at home with this distribution.
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Hardware used in this review
My physical test equipment for this review was a desktop HP Pavilon p6 Series with the following specifications: