Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Gnome Refugee's Guide to Enlightenment

The third major installment of the Gnome desktop released earlier this month and I am sure many users found themselves shell shocked with more than a few of the changes. Some will adjust, some will stick with Gnome 2 (or the classic desktop), and I am sure more than a few will go looking for something else to use as their desktop of choice. Bruce Byfield recently did an overview of seven alternatives to the Gnome 3 desktop and the second one he lists is the Enlightenment desktop.

The Enlightenment desktop is sleek and lightweight, in fact there are many reasons to give the E desktop a try. If you are coming from the Gnome 2.x desktop there are a few things you will need to adjust to when you first start using Enlightenment.

Panels are now Shelves
E's equivalent to Gnome's Panels are the "shelves":

Like most things in E, shelves are also a bit more customizable than the Gnome panel is. You can configure your shelves to only appear on certain desktops (or all of them), be positioned in one of twelve spots around said desktop, and appear in one of four different looks based on your current theme (including an invisible mode).

Gnome Do by Default
One application most people install under the Gnome desktop is "Gnome Do" for quickly launching their applications. Well Enlightenment has a default module known as "Run Everything" that really does run everything!

By default "Run Everything" is bound to super+space and alt+escape so pressing either key combination will call up the smart launcher.

File Manager Management
Gnome uses nautilus as it's default file manager. E's built in file manager is still a work in progress, however it is stable should you choose to use it. What E does include also is the "places" module that lets you use any file manager as your default. For instance I prefer PCManFM as my file manager:

The Clean desktop is a Menu
Your desktop stays clean of desktop icons by default you will notice, this is because left clicking anywhere on the desktop gives you the main menu.

Right clicking anywhere on the desktop short cuts you to a menu that displays the applications you have flagged as "favorites".

Enlightenment can look like most anything - Even Gnome 2.x

I know one thing that is putting most people off of Gnome 3 is just how radically different it looks and behaves (without a real need for it IMO). Enlightenment is flexible and can look like anything you can imagine, including like the classic Gnome desktop:

If you'd like to easily emulate the setup in the above image, then download this file and extract it to your ~/.e/e/config folder. Then restart Enlightenment and the "Gnome" profile will appear in your profiles list.

If you're interested in further reading about the Enlightenment Desktop be sure to check out the following:

Ten Linux Distros that use Enlightenment
Enlightenment FAQ
More Enlightenment FAQ
Enlightenment 101

Have any other questions feel free to drop a comment below and I'll be sure to lend a hand.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Kinda like Openbox, my DE of choice. Not sure about the wood panelling ;)

  2. Oh that's just one of hundreds of themes that can be used in Enlightenment. It is one of the most customizable and skinnable desktops if not the best in that regard and can be made to be extremely beautiful one way or another to match your tastes.

  3. Any good place to get ubuntu packages?



  4. The best way to get a current E desktop on Ubuntu is to use the to compile from source -

  5. Or the best place to get enlightenment on ubuntu, is to install Bodhi Linux which is built on Ubuntu but uses enlightenment for the desktop. The only thing is it come with next to no preloaded software, or printer set up. But the make it easy, they have packages on thier website you can install directly if you don't want to use apptitude.

  6. @Jeff, you people talk about using special keys combinations (using shift alt ctrl etc) as if doing so is a real achievment in ergonomics. It's not. Having to memorise special key combinations, then drop everything and use both hands, or perform gymnastics with one hand is an incredible time waster, and requires concentration, and definately inteerrs with ones train of thought.

    My current desktop, based on GNOME2 doesn't require any such thing, I can do all my desktop navigation with the flick of a mouse. It is a genuainely eronomic desktop.

    All it required was some simple settings in compiz-fusion, use of the Gnome-settings-manager and the replacement of the gnome-window-list applet with the DockBarX applet, to provide me with multiple window previews (like windows 7).

    I have 9 virtual desktops, two monitors (one above the other to take advantage of the fact that they are both 1920 px wide). I can preview all my desktops with one mouse click, select the appropriate one with 2 mouse clicks, I can display all open windows from a single desktop with one mouse click all open windows from all desktops with another mouse click. I can select the window from several of the same application, no matter what desktop they are on by mousing over the DockBarX applet icons, on my panel, and select the one I want with a mouse click.

    I have no desktop icons to distract me, or which require that I clear the desktop so I can locate them, everything is available in the panel or from a proper menu.

    Setting the whole thing up required very little work, merely the setting on or off of che ckboxes in Compiz-fusion and Gnome-settings-manager.

    Sho me a desktop that I can achieve that with as easily and I'll move to it.

    (GNOME DO is a peice of Macintosh like excrement)

  7. Going to disagree with you on this one tracyanne. A skilled typist using purely a keyboard is almost always faster than having to stop and move a mouse IMO, this is doubly so when that mouse is a laptop trackpad.

  8. I am with Jeff on the use of the keyboard as opposed to using only the mouse for navigation. I do use both, but when I want fast movement and I am typing a lot, I am definitely more apt to use the keyboard than I am the mouse - and like Jeff says, that is particularly true when I am using a mobile device, such as a laptop or netbook system.

  9. @tracyanne I disagree. Key combinations and memorizing them isn't difficult. It's muscle memory. Using the keyboard is faster and more efficient than the mouse.

  10. What is the name of the wood paneled skin you are using? also how well does enlightenment go with gtk apps

  11. PS. I am with everyone else on this one. Netbook trackpad is hard to use. I even chose to buy the HTC G1 over the G2 over the keyboard. Totally worth it. typing can be very fast. although it does require a small learning curve. Granted I am the type that uses latex on a daily basis, program in joe(commandline text editor), regularly has at least one virtual terminal running bash open, and prefers launcing mplayer from the commandline to watch movies even from Gnome2(my current favorite)

  12. @Paul You can find those E themes and GTK themes to match at the Bodhi art page -

  13. @tracyanne

    You don't know what you're talking about. The real time waster is taking your hand off the keyboard to reach the mouse/trackpad, then back to the keyboard, then back to the mouse, etc etc

    I used to do a lot of desktop publishing using PageMaker, a program that most people can't even conceive of not using with a mouse. But when I figured out the keyboard shortcuts I was MUCH MUCH faster than everyone else in the office.

    Think of it this way: riding a trike is a lot easier when you start, but once you learn how to ride a bike you realize how much those extra wheels have been holding you back.

    And all those "nifty" things you talk about doing with your mouse? Yea, E can do those too.

  14. @tracyanne

    you can't type using mouse(unless you are using virtual keyboard and using it is very time consuming in desktop).. so if you are using computer you need to use keyboard.. so it is always easy to use keyboard shortcuts than mouse...

  15. Hi jeff, very useful article for an e17 newbie like me.. could you please do a weekly how to about enlightenment so that we can learn some cool tricks from you...also it would be great if you can do video tutorials about enlightenment...

  16. @jai ho

    Hi Bodhi linux has a quick start guide about Enlightenment which is a great place start. You can also find more info at the


  17. Folks, we might ought to take it easy on @tracyanne. Winblows users come from a "point and click" culture. And I'm sure that the next gen will just want to point (touchscreen). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do this. Society and its institutions encourage "less thinking, less doing". We should think of them as having been crippled by culture. They will begin to see the wisdom of thinking a bit if we don't push them away. Kb shortcuts are easier for us because we have actually used them more. And let's face it, kb shortcuts are called shortcuts for a reason... they do what "point and click" does from the keyboard. So, if they want to p&c, let them. If and when they do it enough they will come to realize what we already have: the mouse is a crutch.

    And, Bodhi rocks!

  18. Instead of arguing about which is better, these things should be able to be done BOTH ways: with keys if you are typing on the keyboard and don't want to take your hand off to reach for the mouse, AND have something to click on for when you are sitting back just surfing the web with your mouse or trackball and don't want to have to stop and reach for the keyboard, possibly requiring both hands.