EndeavourOS is a very user-friendly Arch-based Linux distro that fits into a similar-but-different niche as Manjaro. It includes simple, sane defaults and easy-to-use tools that make for an enjoyable user experience that many projects could learn from. This EndeavourOS Review will cover installation, customization, and features of the distro that set it apart from others in the arena.
EndeavourOS First Boot
The first boot screen is standard, but it does include a few important options. The option with “Nonfree new cards non hybrid” will allow you to boot into a live EndeavourOS environment with the Nonfree Nvidia drivers preloaded into the kernel. This is somewhat similar to what System76 has done with Pop! OS, where they provide two different ISO files: one for AMD and Intel graphics and one with Nvidia graphics. However, consistent with the theme of EndeavourOS, you can have whatever you need for your specific system and preferences without having multiple ISO files.
Once you choose your option, you’ll see a very friendly and clear window that allows you to make a few choices. Most notably, you can choose to just jump right into the installer, initialize your pacman keys to ensure security and trust for your packages, or make your own partitions before installing. This is useful for both new and advanced users alike. Often, both of those parties are dual- or triple-booting, and having that control over their partitions is paramount to avoiding data loss.
I chose to go straight to the installer, as there was no need to pre-partition my disk. After doing so, you get a window that asks if you want to do an online or offline installation. Offline is fairly straightforward, and you don’t get many customization choices, but you don’t need to have an Internet connection either. The online option gives you access to one of the coolest features of EndeavourOS installation: access to all eight of the desktop environments and window managers that are available to you on EndeavourOS.
You can choose between XFCE, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, GNOME, Budgie, Deepin, LXQT, and i3. This to me is one of the coolest features of EndeavourOS. Given that one of the great things about Linux is just how customizable it is, introducing this to new users like this is great. It could be intimidating, but I could also see that because it’s available, it can inspire the experimentation and customization that makes Linux so great.
Another great thing about choosing between these desktop environments is that you can choose the one that’s best for your system. If you are looking for a beautiful desktop, you may find yourself choosing Deepin or Budgie, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in customization, you may choose KDE or XFCE. If you have very few resources on your system, you can go straight for i3 window manager. The choice is yours, and your control is respected throughout the process. That’s the beauty of Linux.
The EndeavourOS Calamares Installer
The EndeavourOS Calamares installer is simple and easy to follow, in keeping with the theme. Options make sense by default, and it’s easy to navigate. There is one sticky part of the installer, and it’s something I would like to see some documentation on. The default option for Swap is no swap. This is something that could be potentially harmful to a new user, as they may not understand what Swap is used for and why the Linux Kernel will use Swap even in systems with copious memory. You can use a Linux system without Swap, but my guess is that the average new Linux user doesn’t have enough RAM to be totally safe if they don’t have Swap on their disk.
Additionally, a new user could get a little confused by the difference between the options of “Swap (no Hibernate)” and “Swap (with Hibernate).” Swap with Hibernate is only necessary if you plan to fully hibernate your system, mostly common on a laptop. I can see this being useful to describe more in detail, because a non-technical or new user may choose too little Swap to hibernate their system or more Swap than necessary and take up a lot of unnecessary space on their disk. These are little details, but those things add up.
Otherwise, all instructions are clear and straightforward. The installation does not take long, and mine completed without errors or complications. You’ll be greeted with a page guiding you on what to do after installation once you reboot your system. I chose vanilla XFCE4 to see what kind of theming would be available, and though I was greeted with a stock XFCE desktop, the system guided me through the process of changing my wallpaper and theme to the EndeavourOS theme, which is simple and beautiful, updating XFCE and making it a resource-efficient and modern-looking desktop.
Notable EndeavourOS Features
One of the first things that struck me about EndeavourOS is that even though they claim that it’s a terminal-focused distro, they still have excellent GUI tools in the system that make managing an Arch Linux system easy for new users. Package Updater works very quickly when the correct mirror is chosen. It’s simple to use and makes sure you are staying on top of updates in such a fast-moving environment.
Speaking of mirrors, it’s useful to mention the “Selecting Arch Mirror” tool. Often, mirrors and repositories are selected from the terminal. In this case they provide a very simple tool to be able to manage mirrors, a huge benefit to new users.
Another useful tool is the EndeavourOS Log Tool. This is an incredibly simple log-monitoring tool that allows for easy troubleshooting and debugging. A new user may or may not have to use this, but it becomes hugely useful when posting on forums to ask questions. The log files in Linux are usually incredibly descriptive, and many advanced users go straight to the logs to fix problems with their system.
I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the excellent Welcome tool. The EndeavourOS Welcome Tool gives you access to a huge range of documentation through links to the project’s website. You can learn about the AUR, package management, hardware and networking issues, Bluetooth, Nvidia support, and can even add more useful applications right from that welcome page.
The project is very open in saying that they will happily answer any questions, saying, “Stupid questions simply don’t exist with us, we’re happy to help you through your system and the terminal commands from beginning to end in a friendly manner.”
From what I can see, this is absolutely true. The Forums on its website are broken up into easily-recognized groupings, and they have many users in the community and contributors from the project that appear active in the forums answering questions that come up. They’re doing an excellent job at bridging the gap between advanced users who know how to work with an Arch system and new users who are looking for a powerful and flexible OS to make the most of the hardware available to them. It’s something to applaud.
Also, given that EndeavourOS is based on and quite close to Arch Linux, this opens up the future for growth in Linux beyond what many other beginner-focused distributions offer. Arch offers near-infinite complexity and learning, and all of that is documented in the legendary Arch Wiki. This makes EndeavourOS a great teaching tool to take somebody from a beginner in Linux to an expert without having to reinstall three or four times.
EndeavourOS is a great Linux distribution for new users that can span the full life cycle of growth from novice to advanced users. Though they are self-described as terminal-focused, there are several helpful graphical applications that help users navigate the complexities of an Arch Linux-based distribution. The bleeding-edge nature of any Arch Linux-based distribution, including the newest kernels and access to the AUR, will make for excellent hardware compatibility. I highly recommend trying out EndeavorOS, whether it’s your first distro hop or your 51st.