Thoughts On: Enlightenment Desktop Environment

Enlightenment is one of the most unique desktop environments in the open source ecosystem. It is built from the ground up starting from the low-level libraries that supply its functionality and up to the high-level applications which are run by the user. Being a system that is developed on so many levels gives E the

Updated Sep 18, 2016Reviews
Enlightenment E19

Being a system that is developed on so many levels gives E the advantages of being lightweight, fast and easy to manipulate.

  • Lightweight – since it doesn’t need to rely on components developed elsewhere in order to run – thus it can take less space by not incorporating programs / libraries that are only partly utilized.
  • Fast – for the same reason as above, loading less leads to faster loading time.
  • Easy to manipulate – whenever a drastic change is required (such as the move from X11 to Wayland display server), E can be relatively easy to manipulate since, once again, it doesn’t needs to rely on other components to go through a similar transition as well.

Enlightenment aims at being featureful and lean, nonetheless it doesn’t skimp on eye-candy effects while at it.

What originally started as a project dedicated for creating a window manager for X11 has grown much larger ever since.

Winning Users Hearts

Today, despite reaching a state where it can be referred to as a fully-fledged desktop environment, many open source users are still refraining from using it full-time on their daily routine.

The reason for that being is, perhaps, mainly rooted in E’s visual appeal and following is a short explanation why;

As mentioned above, E has pretty nice set of visual effects to accompany its functionality and leanness however, it’s not the effects that lack the visual appeal but the design and order by which E is organized.

For instance, take the default theme which E ships with. It is dark and may be perceived as dreary by most users who are inevitably coming from more colorful DEs.

As someone who spends many hours staring at computer screens every day though, I can appreciate the consideration E developers has regarding my eyes and the level of brightness they can withstand.

Nonetheless, I’m not so sure the average Joe would find that look attractive enough as well.

Another example I’d like to mention is with regards to the way E is organized.

E has its own way of doing things and that in itself is not a bad thing, contrary, that’s what makes it unique compared to other DEs out there.

Enlightenment's Terminology switch tabs

Two tabs opened in Terminology (E’s terminal) switched using expose’ effect.

Yet sometimes, doing things in a different manner can also be counter-intuitive and hinder the first impression users may get upon trying a new desktop environment for the first time.

So when Enlightenment is configured to open a menu upon clicking the desktop with the left mouse button by default, many users may sometimes miss that option or perhaps grouse in light of it.

And also, the amount of configuration options displayed inside Settings by default – may look intimidating and cluttered for newbies.

Enlightenment Settings

However, having a less visually appealing design is actually not the real problem E is suffering from but a symptom of it.

What E, which is a relatively small scale project compared to other fully-fledged DEs, really is missing is a work force comprised of designers dedicated to organize and to follow well established guidelines (such as the ones mentioned here) that will only contribute to user experience.

Beyond that, there might be some features that could be added in future releases for E to be on par with its competitors such as: windows (aero) snapping and tabbed browsing (to its file manager) for example.

Building On A Good Basis

With all the above being said, it’s important to mention that the current state of E is considerably a good one and there are also many points it should preserve.

One of the things E should not neglect is the effort they invest in developing home-made apps, such as Rage for instance, which are unique and are able to utilize the potential embedded in it.

Yet another feature E should and probably will be maintaining in the future is the Scene-graph which is so deeply ingrained in it. With it, E can utilize hardware-acceleration more efficiently and make user experience smoother and sleeker.

So if you feel (justly) inclined to give Enlightenment a whirl now, check your distribution documentation for whether and how it can be installed on it.

Or, simply click on the button below to go straight to Enlightenment’s official website.

Go to Enlightenment’s website