You Want A Beautiful OS? Try Elive

What do you get when you put a stable operating system, an innovative desktop manager and plenty of eye candies together? You get nothing short of a beautiful and functional OS.

Elive is a Debian-based Linux distro, customized with Enlightenment e17 desktop manager. It is designed with the aim of providing a stable, fully functional and beautiful operating system that can run with minimal hardware requirement.

The current stable version is based on Debian-etch while the version that is under development is based on the recently released Lenny. Knowing the stability and versatility of Debian and the elegant and simplicity of Enlightenment, there are little things that Elive can go wrong.

Testing it out

As the same as any other distros, Elive comes with a live CD that you can use to boot up (and test) in your computer. When you first boot up the Live CD, it automatically detects your hardware and auto-configures it for optimum setting.

If you are using hardware that requires the restricted driver, such as broadcom wireless card and nVidia graphics card, Elive will also prompt you to install the necessary drivers so you can use your hardware straight away. I was happy that it is able to configure my Broadcom wireless card correctly during the boot up. This is one of the few distros that I can boot it up and connect to the Internet straight away, without any configuration or driver installation.

In addition, if you are dualbooting with a Windows partition, or are testing out Elive on your Windows-only computer, Elive will ask if you want to mount the NTFS partition on boot up.

elive ntfs support

The Frontend

Once you reach the desktop, you will be greeted with the familiar Enlightenment desktop environment (or unfamiliar if you are used to Gnome or KDE). The first thing that you will find missing is the panel (aka as menu or application bar). In case you don’t know, there is no application bar in Enlightenment. You simply click your mouse anywhere on the desktop to access the menu and applications. In my opinion, this is a much cleaner and faster way to manage your applications.

Elive desktop

The layout of the desktop is well designed, with clever use of the various corners.

At the bottom of the screen is the e17 iconbar (also known as IBar) that serves as a dock for your frequently used applications.

The left bottom corner is the Xpad where you can quickly fire up to input a short note or access your todo list.

The right bottom is where all the gadgets reside. You are free to add/remove any of the gadgets from the shelf. I particularly like the Internet Configurator that cleverly detect my wireless network without much configuration.

The top right corner is where you can access any of the 12 virtual desktops in Elive. Note that you can easily move an active window to any of the virtual desktop by dragging it to the edges, including the corner. The transition from a desktop to another is seamless. You don’t even notice the differences. Also, one of the best thing that I find it difficult to implement in Gnome is that you can set a different wallpaper for each virtual desktop.

Accessing minimized windows

As mentioned above, there is no menu bar in Enlightenment. When you minimize a window, it will turn into an icon on the desktop instead. To retrieve the window, simply click on the icon and it will maxmize back to its original size.

The following screenshot shows the iconify windows, Xpad todo list, active windows in different virtual desktop and accessing the menu by mouse-clicking on the desktop.

Elive desktop

On the application side, some of you (especially me) might be disappointed by the exclusion of OpenOffice. Abiword is used as the default office suite instead. Luckily this distro is Debian-based, so installing OpenOffice on it is just a breeze. The file manager used is Thundar, which is a great replacement for the commonly used Nautilus. Other applications include:

  • XMMS
  • Mplayer
  • Iceweasal (a Debian rebrand of Firefox)
  • GIMP
  • aMSN
  • Skype
  • Transmission torrent client
  • Avidemux
  • Acidrip
  • xine
  • poedit
  • scite text editor
  • and many more

On the gaming side, I am surprise to find a collection of several good and interesting games. The Torus Trooper and Tuxpack are two great games that I have wasted countless hours playing. Yes, if you are missing your old console games, the ZSNES Nintendo Emulator, ScummVm and Dosbox emulator are also included.

Elive Tours Trooper


The backend

On the configuration side, Elive has created beautiful and user-friendly GUI for its user to configure and change any of the system setting. It might take some exploration to find out where all the configuration options are, but once you got that sorted out, everything is just a simple click and select.

On the IBar, there is the Elive Panel where you can access and configure most of the system stuffs. The configuration options are categoried into three main areas:

  • Look and feel setting – the place where you customize the desktop theme and overall look and feel.
  • Personal settings – the place to personalize your settings, like which applications to load on startup.
  • Systems settings – This is where you configure the system setting.

All the configuration options are nicely laid out and there are little chance that you need to hit the terminal to fix things up.

Elive panel

elive panel


There are three mode of installation that you can select from: Novice, Normal and Advanced. I must admit that even the Novice mode is not as straight forward as Ubuntu. There are several things that Elive do before installing: partition your hard disk, download the installer file, verifying the system, verifying the installer source. At times, it will prompt you to enter information such as the security code, your username, password etc, which can be quite a hassle.

Various version of Elive

There are currently two version of Elive that are under development: standard Elive and Elive Ecomorph.

The Ecomorph version is a special version that is coupled with Compiz. If you think that Debian + e17 is great, then Debian + e17 + Compiz is even better.

Here is a video on Ecomorph:

Both the development versions are free to download, but are not stable enough for daily usage.

For the existing stable version of Elive, it is more of a donation-ware rather than a freeware. You have to donate (any amount) before you can download the LiveCD.


Alternatively, you can get invitation codes from your friends who used Elive. For MakeTechEasier readers, on courtesy of EliveTeam, we have 5 invites ready to be given away. If you are interested to try out and install Elive (stable), be among the first to leave your comment below. Remember to include your name and email address.


Elive is a great distro that gives you functionality, stability and beauty. While there are a few other distros that are based on the Enlightenement desktop manager, this is so far the most elegant distro that I have ever encountered. I am pretty impressed by it and I guess it will remain on my computer for a much longer time than any other OS.

For those who want to try out Elive, here are the links:

Elive (stable)

standard Elive (development)

Elive Ecomorph (Compiz)


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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