MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0

Once in a while I run into a Linux distribution that surprises me in terms of how much I enjoy using it. MakuluLinux is definitely one of those distros. I found an article about it when I was doing my usual news roundup article for my blog Eye On Open on ITworld. I was intrigued enough to want to do a full review here on Desktop Linux Reviews.

Here’s some basic information from the Makulu site:

Makululinux ( Pronounced “Ma-Cool-Loo” ) Means “big Chief” in the Zulu Language is Debian Based, running on a PAE Kernel, provides a Sleek, Smooth and Stable user experience that is able to run on any computer from old to new, from netbooks to notebooks, desktops to server stations.

Makulu provides software and codec’s pre installed on the OS, to provide an out of the box experience for the end user and his day to day tasks.

Steam is pre installed on Makulu, you can simply log into steam and start playing your favorite game titles. Wine is pre installed on Makulu, installing windows software has never been easier, simply double click your installer or exe files and they will operate in linux much the same way they do in windows.

You can get MakuluLinux in Xfce, Cinnamon or KDE versions. I’m a big fan of Xfce so I downloaded that version for this review.

What’s new in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
Here’s a sample of the new features and changes in this release:

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 was built from the ground up
Based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS PAE 3.13.xx I686 Kernel, 5 year support life
A blend of Xfce 4.10 and 4.11 packages
Speed improvements
Smaller ISO file
Beautiful theme
Settings center improvements
Compiz improvements
Emerald theme manager
Steam and PlayOnLinux included
WPS office suite
Wine included
Variety wallpaper changer
Alternative Whisker Menu
Synapse replaces Slingscold
Docky included but not on by default
More PPAs

This is the first time I’ve reviewed MakuluLuLinux so I am not sure how much it has improved in terms of speed from previous releases. My experience with it was that it seemed quite speedy when opening or closing applications, and I saw no signs of overt slowdown or hesitations. So I have no reason to doubt the developers claims of improved speed in this release.

The inclusion of the WPS office suite definitely sets Makulu apart from some other distributions that include LibreOffice. Which one is better? Well, I suspect that the answer depends solely on your individual needs and preferences. Bear in mind though that the version of WPS available for Linux is in alpha as a I write this, so it’s probably a good idea to install LibreOffice. Running an alpha version of an office suite might not be a good idea if you are trying to get work done.

Wikipedia has a good background article on WPS:

WPS Office (an initialism for Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets,[1] previously known as Kingsoft Office) is an office suite for Microsoft Windows, Linux (currently in Alpha state), iOS[2] and Android OS,[3] developed by now Zhuhai based Chinese software developer Kingsoft. Kingsoft Office is a suite of software which is made up of three primary components: Kingsoft Writer, Kingsoft Presentation, and Kingsoft Spreadsheet.[4]

The basic version is free to use,[5] but a fully featured professional-grade version is also available. The current version of Kingsoft Office is KSOffice 2014.[4]

The product has had a long history of development and success in the People’s Republic of China under the name “WPS” and “WPS Office”, and under the “KSOffice” brand is currently attempting to gain a foothold in international markets. Since WPS Office 2005, the user interface is similar to that of the Microsoft Office products, and supports Microsoft document formats besides the native Kingsoft formats.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 download and install
You can download MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 from this page. Makulu is also a live distribution, so you can run it off a disc to check it out without having to do a full install on your system.

The installer itself is basically a tweaked version of Ubuntu’s, so it’s quite easy and fast to get it running on your system. When you first begin your install you have the option of downloading updates and adding some third-party software. I did this as I usually do since it helps save me time later on.

The rest of the install was quite painless, and there is the usual kind of slideshow you can watch while waiting for the installer to finish it’s job.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 desktop
When you first load Makulu’s desktop you’ll see a gorgeous wallpaper and a quote in the bottom right. I must admit that I enjoy such eye candy, and I like the added flavor of having an amusing or informative quote to read. While the default wallpaper is quite attractive, there are others included that are just as beautiful (two screenshots of desktop wallpapers are included below with the rest of the screenies for this review).

The panel at the bottom contains icons on the left for the menu, minimize/show desktop, updates, the Software Center (App Grid), the terminal, Firefox and the file manager. On the right you’ll find icons for languages, networking, the Variety wallpaper manager, sound, time and the Synapse search popup.

MakuluLinux Xfce uses the Variety wallpaper manager by default. You can access it in the menu on the panel (click the menu button and then go to All then scroll down) as well as via the icon on the far right on the panel, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to check it out. There are eight different tabs: General, Effects, Sync and Social, Manual Downloading, Color and Size, Customize, and Tips and Tricks. Variety offers quite a bit of control over how your desktop wallpaper looks so do take a peek at it after you’ve installed Makulu.

Compiz is also available if you want to use it. Just look in the menu for a toggle switch to turn it on or off. I opted to skip it as I’m not a big fan of the doodads that Compiz offers. But I’m glad to know it’s available for those who choose to use it on their systems.

Docky is also included, but it’s not turned on by default. To change that just go to the menu, click on the Docky On/Off menu item and then you’ll need to restart your computer for the change to take effect. I also skipped it since it’s not something I’m likely to use.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 uses Whisker Menu and it works very well on the desktop. As I noted above, Slingscold has been removed in favor of Synapse. The combination of Whisker Menu and Synapse provides a great experience. It’s very easy and fast to find and launch applications in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0.

Overall, I think the Makulu desktop is set up quite well for most users. It won’t take you long to find your way around even if you’ve never used Makulu or Xfce before, and you should settle in very comfortably after spending a little time on your desktop.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 system settings
You can access the Settings menu via the icon on the bottom right on the menu. Settings lets you control all of the usual things including preferred applications, screensaver, Compiz and many other options. You can also configure Wine, your Display settings, and you can customize Grub.

The Settings menu is broken down into Personal, Hardware, System and Other sections so it’s easy to locate the icons you need to click to make the changes you want for your system. You should check out Settings right after you install Makulu to make sure everything is set up just the way you prefer it.

Linux software included in MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
AisleRiot Solitaire
Mahjongg
PlayOnLinux
Steam
Sudoku

Graphics
ImageMagick
Nomacs
Pinta
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail

Multimedia
Rhythmbox
Videos
Xfburn

Office
FoxitReader
Orange Calendar
Orage Globaltime
WPS Presentation
WSP Spreadsheets
WPS Writer

As you can tell from the list above, Makulu has an interesting and somewhat different selection of software. LibreOffice is nowhere to be found and neither is GIMP. But the software that is included represents a fairly good selection that should fit the needs of most desktop users, even if it does differ a bit from what you’d get in Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

If you need more software you can get it from the App Grid (Software Center). I must admit that the interface for Makulu’s App Grid surprised the heck out of me when I first saw it. When you first launch it you’ll notice that it doesn’t look anything like Ubuntu’s or Linux Mint’s. The title of the window is “App Grid” and that’s exactly what it seems to be.

At the top of the App Grid is a search box, as well as tabs for Category, State and Sort. The Category tab breaks applications in the following categories: Arts, Games, Productivity, Programming, Sciences and System. The State tab lets you see which applications you have currently installed on your system. And the sort lets you filter applications by Top Rated.

If you click on an application, you’ll see a large image, with a description and some other information right below it. On the right side you will see user reviews, complete with smilies to indicate whether or not the user liked the application.

To install or remove an application, just click the Install or Remove link at the top right of the application’s page in App Grid. After the application is installed you can click the Launch link to start using it right away.

The App Grid in MakuluLinux takes a bit of getting used to if you are coming from another distribution. And yet I think it mostly works well because the layout is easy to read and understand. The colors and fonts are attractive and easy on the eye, and it’s simple to find your way around once you start using it.

I do think that the developers might want to add an easier to see Install or Remove button under the identifier/addons/etc part of each application’s description. The text link at the top works fine but it’s somewhat unintuitive to look up there after you’ve read the description of the app lower down on the page.

I’m nitpicking a bit here about the lack of download buttons. Adding them would be nice but it’s certainly not required to enjoy using the App Grid to install or remove software.

The Software Updater is the other important tool for managing software. I ran it and had no problems while my system and applications were updated. It notified me when I had updates and I just had to click to install them and then type in my password.

Where to get help for MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
If you’re having problems, please post your questions in the comments below. You might also want to check out these MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 resources:

MakuluLinux Forums
MakuluLinux Contact

Final thoughts about MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0
As I noted above, this is the first time I’ve reviewed any version of MakuluLinux. I must admit that I am very impressed with it. It was quite stable for me, I didn’t experience any crashes or other problems. And it was also very speedy when it came to launching and running applications.

Makulu’s desktop also worked very well for me. Not only does this version use Xfce, but it adds some additional value to the overall Xfce experience by including Whisker Menu and Synapse. I also really liked the wallpapers bundled with this distro, and the Variety wallpaper manager made it very easy to manage them while also providing some additional functionality.

If there’s one tiny onion in the ointment here, I think it might be the App Grid (Software Center). It’s definitely a different cup of tea than what most people are probably used to in terms of software management (at least visually). Adjusting to it might take a little bit longer than going from the Ubuntu Software Center to Linux Mint’s Software Manager. But don’t let it keep you away from MakuluLinux, it’s definitely something that you can get used to fairly quickly.

Overall, I was very pleased indeed with MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0. It’s definitely worth considering if you need a new desktop distribution. And it should certainly be added to any distrohopper’s list of distros to run regularly.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0? Tell me in the comments below.

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 screenshots:

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 VLC Media Player

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 VLC Media Player

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Top Rated Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Top Rated Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Updater

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Updater

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Center App Grid

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Software Center App Grid

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Settings

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Settings

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Login menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Login menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installer Slideshow

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installer Slideshow

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installed Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Installed Software

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 1

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Install 1

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Desktop 2

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Variety Wallpaper Manager

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Variety Wallpaper Manager

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Boot Menu

MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 Boot Menu


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MakuluLinux Xfce 7.0 comes from the Desktop Linux Reviews blog.

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