Enlightenment Review: Another Desktop Manager for Daily Use

Enlightenment Review: Another Desktop Manager for Daily Use

Continuing our series of reviews of the office environment, today is a choice that definitely has a specific purpose. Clarification is an extremely lightweight window manager that packs a huge amount of utility. It’s a really specific choice that you either like or dislike. In this Enlightenment review, we’ll cover its user experience, notable features, performance, and recommendations for who should use it and where to check out Enlightenment.

First impressions of the Enlightenment

What strikes me first is the extremely unique interface. There’s a built-in zoom dock, a huge 4 × 3 virtual desktop grid in the top right corner, and a relatively modern and competent icon theme. The icons are also animated and the background rotates several times per minute. I have never used anything like enlightenment.

Lights login screen
Office of LightsOffice of Lights
Lock screen lightsLock screen lights

User experience

The user experience reminds me of early versions of Mac OS X. The zoom dock and the nature / cosmic backgrounds that the system goes through really takes me back to the late 2000s. There is a dock at the bottom, and the only system tray available is to click on the Wi-Fi icon at the bottom right. The workspace grid at the top right is interesting, as I’ve never seen an office environment have vertical and horizontal workspaces right out of the box. They are sailed by Ctrl + Alt + To the top, Down, Left, and Right.

Window buttons

This is one of the first things that jumps out at me. On most windows there are 4 window buttons. We’re used to maximizing, minimizing, and closing, but with Enlightenment there is a fourth option: full screen. For anyone who has used macOS before, it’s the same full screen feature. It effectively decorates the window and just leaves you with content. For those who work with limited screen space or want to leave documents or full screen images on a workspace, this is a great feature.

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Keyboard shortcuts

The sheer number of keyboard shortcuts in Enlightenment is staggering. There is a PDF document available in the dock which contains most of the most useful shortcuts. This is a huge plus for those using Enlightenment on an older laptop that doesn’t have the best trackpad (or any trackpad at all).

You can manipulate the state of the windows with Crtl + Alt + X to close, I minimize, M to maximize, and F to switch to full screen mode. Switch between windows on the screen with Ctrl + Alt + Offset + To the top or Downand pull windows through your desks with Great + Offset + PgUp or PgDwn. Snap windows to different resized positions with Great + Offset + Left,Right, To the top, or Down. Roll the windows by double-clicking on the window bar at the top. Managing windows in general is made very easy on Enlightenment.

Enlightenment Doc hotkeyEnlightenment keyboard shortcuts document

Terminology

One of the really cool things about Enlightenment is that it’s so light that it will run on much older hardware. the Elive The project’s website says it will run on hardware from the mid-2000s onwards. For those with old hardware that they’re trying to revamp for personal use, Enlightenment is a fantastic choice. The terminology, the default terminal that ships with Enlightenment, has an incredible retro feel. It also has all kinds of amazing features under the hood.

One of the most obvious features is tabs / thumbnails. This happens in many terminal emulators, but the one that is built into such a light desktop environment is worth mentioning. With keyboard shortcuts, you can create tiles in your terminal, and each of these tiles can have multiple tabs. It’s great if you are using multiple top commands to monitor various system resources, run multiple terminal programs, or run multiple SSH sessions on servers or other remote systems.

Tiles Tabs Terminology of LightsTiles Tabs Terminology of Lights

Another cool feature is that you can configure OpenGL rendering, which is a feature most often limited to Alacritty. This way, by using some of the built-in features, you can play videos and display all kinds of images while using hardware acceleration. The terminology will revolutionize your workflow. You can find out more here.

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Performance

This is one of the strengths of the Enlightenment window manager. At rest, the system uses only 168MB of RAM and about 1.5% of CPU. The CPU usage is high, but that’s because I provisioned the VM it’s running in to be very thin, with access to just 1 CPU core and 1GB RAM. This window manager is incredibly light, and if your system has little to no hardware acceleration, Enlightenment will still work. It doesn’t need any hardware acceleration to work properly. It’s designed to be the lightest of the light, and it pulls it with aplomb.

Htop illuminationHtop illumination

The disadvantages of enlightenment

While I like a lot of Enlightenment’s features, the default desktop click feature is quite irritating. Left-clicking on the desktop doesn’t just focus on the desktop – it brings up a context menu with an app launcher, prompt, screenshot options, and a bunch of other options that are normally contained in a right click context menu. Right-clicking on the desktop opens a full search menu with settings and application menus. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to get used to, but as a user who logs in I feel like I don’t know how to use a computer.

Left click of the illumination on the desktopLeft click of the illumination on the desktop

Where to find enlightenment

One of the best places I have found to experience enlightenment is Elive. We’ve already written a review of Elive, a distro designed to be as light as possible.

Enlightenment screenshotEnlightenment screenshot

Who should use enlightenment

Anyone looking to keep things thin and mean on their desk should use Elive. In particular, all users who have older computers that they are looking to invigorate would greatly benefit from a distribution like Elive using Enlightenment.

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Apart from this Enlightenment review, be sure to check out our other Desktop Environment Reviews including GNOME, KDE, XFCE, Cinnamon, MATE, Pantheon, LXDE, LXQt, Budgie and Deepin.

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John perkins
John perkins

John is a young technical professional passionate about educating users on the best ways to use their technology. He holds technical certifications covering topics ranging from computer hardware to cybersecurity to Linux system administration.

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