How to Run Enlightenment (E17) On Ubuntu Karmic

Every once in a while we here at MakeTechEasier like to take a look at where things stand with the notoriously still-in-development Enlightenment window manager. I say “notorious” because version 0.17 (hereafter called E17) has been in development almost 10 years, long enough to invite a fair share of Duke Nukem Forever analogies. While some have got tired of waiting and just think of E17 as vaporware, the fact is that it has been making progress the entire time. Slow progress, sure, but progress nonetheless. These days E17, while not complete, is still a very slick and powerful desktop with some beautiful graphics and effects. Today we’ll cover how to install E17 onto a standard Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) system.

Getting E17

In the terminal, open the /etc/apt/sources.list file with the following command:

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the following repo to the end of the file.

#  E17 repo for Karmic
deb karmic main extras

Save and close the file. Type the following commands to install E17:

wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install e17

That will do the base install with all needed dependencies. There’s a little bit more you might like to add though, like various modules to enhance the E17 user experience. I’d recommend emodule-bling, emodule-net, and emodule-cpu. If you want to go all out and install ALL the optional modules, try installing emodules-all.


Now that it’s installed, it’s time to give E17 a test run. You can choose it by logging out of your current Gnome session and choosing Enlightenment from the Sessions dropdown box at the bottom of the GDM Login screen. Karmic’s GDM seems a bit strange about exactly when it shows that dropdown box. For me, it seems to work once I’ve selected my username but before entering password.

One of the more unusual things about the current E17 package is that it comes with a first-time setup wizard. It’s just a few options to make sure the desktop is set up correctly on the first run.


Once you’re done with the wizard you should have your basic desktop up and running.


Here’s where the real fun begins. For starters, let’s go over the way E17 handles things like the “dock” and items within it. What many UIs would call the dock or panel, Enlightenment calls shelves. A shelf is a container for other objects like launchers, menus, and applets.

To change the contents of the current shelf, right click on some empty space. In the context menu you’ll see shelf 1. Choose Shelf Settings and you’ll have placement options. As a long-time WindowMaker user, I moved my shelf to occupy the right-most edge of the screen. Choose Advanced for more placement options, or choose Set Contents to begin adding/removing/rearranging the items in that shelf.

Even if you installed emodules-all in the earlier step, you may not see much in the Set Contents screen. That’s because we haven’t made those modules active yet. To start and stop any E17 modules, left-click the desktop to bring up the main menu and choose Settings > Modules. From there you can load whichever modules you like. Depending on what the particular module is supposed to do, it may have an immediate effect, or it may just give another option when you go to add items to your shelves. I recommend using extra modules sparingly, as some of them are not entirely stable.


You can get to the main Settings tool by left-clicking the desktop to bring up the menu, where you’ll find Settings > Settings Panel. This panel gives a wide variety of config options, so take your time and browse through.


You can also add various E17 gadgets directly on to the desktop. Left click to pull the menu back up, go back to Settings, and choose Gadgets. You’ll see various gadgets that can be embedded into the desktop.


Once you know how to work with the Settings Panel, gadgets, and modules, you should be well on your way to building your perfect E17 desktop.

Joshua Price

Josh Price is a senior MakeTechEasier writer and owner of Rain Dog Software

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