First Look at Crystal Linux, an Arch Linux-Based Distro Focused on Ease of Use and Usability

Crystal Linux

Today I am introducing you to Crystal Linux, an Arch Linux-based distribution focused on ease of use and out-of-the-box usability and accessibility for those who want to use Arch Linux.

Meet Crystal Linux, an aspiring Arch Linux-based distro that, just like EndeavourOS and other similar distributions, wants to bring the power, simplicity, and flexibility of the Arch Linux distribution to the masses, mostly targeted at users who want a great Arch Linux experience with a very easy setup process.

“We’ve realized that a lot of distros are rather “conservative” with the technologies they use, which is why we aim to make an easy-to-use desktop experience that also uses more modern/less popular Linux technologies. You could say it’s the Fedora of Arch, bringing new stuff to the Linux desktop, while also being relatively easy to use.”

Unlike other Arch Linux-based distros, Crystal Linux tries to be unique as it comes with its own in-house built installer that lets you set your timezone, choose a keyboard layout, create a user, set a hostname, partition the disk, and select a default desktop environment or window manager.

Users can choose between GNOME, KDE Plasma, LXQt, Cinnamon, MATE, and Budgie desktop environments, as well as AwesomeWM, i3, Sway, bspwm, and herbstluftwm tiling window managers. Also, the installer features the ability to enable zRAM for creating a compressed area of Swap in RAM.

The Timeshift app can also be installed during the installation if you want to have automatic Btrfs snapshots on package upgrades, along with an option in the bootloader menu for loading the system from older snapshots in case something goes wrong.

The Crystal Linux live ISO comes pre-installed with Onyx, a slightly customized GNOME desktop environment for usability and accessibility. Onyx relies on the Dash to Panel extension to offer users a familiar layout with a bottom taskbar and no top bar, as well as a few handy add-ons, such as a very useful updates notifier.

For gamers, there’s also Caffeine, which disables the screensaver and automatic suspend. In addition, GSConnect is installed as a complete implementation of KDE Connect for GNOME Shell that lets you easily manage your mobile devices for sharing links and files, send and receive messages, sync contacts and notifications, control media players and system volume, and even execute predefined commands.

“We ship GNOME and Onyx with Pipewire and Wayland/XWayland, we strongly believe in Flatpak and all of our apps are written with libadwaita. We don’t directly use ostree, but there may be an immutable version of Crystal Linux in the future, using Btrfs snapshots as MicroOS does.”

Crystal Linux doesn’t come with many pre-installed applications. In fact, in addition to the standard GNOME apps, you’ll find only Mozilla Firefox as the default web browser, as well as the Vim and Micro terminal-based text editors. However, the distro comes with built-in support for Flatpak apps.

What also makes Crystal Linux stand out from other Arch Linux-based distros is that it comes with its own pacman wrapper and AUR (Arch User Repository) helper called amethyst (ame), which the devs claim to be the fastest AUR helper yet. In addition, it offers Malachite (mlc), a simple tool for managing local repositories.

At the moment of writing, Crystal Linux is still in heavy development and it doesn’t yet have a stable ISO release. However, if you want to take it for a spin on your personal computer or a virtual machine, you can download the most recent ISO snapshot from the project’s GitHub page.

The first stable release of Crystal Linux is planned for November 2022 with even more goodies!

Last updated 2 years ago

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