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Review: Artix Linux in 2021

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Artix Linux is a fork (or continuation as an autonomous project) of the Arch-OpenRC and Manjaro-OpenRC projects. Artix Linux offers a lightweight, rolling-release operating system featuring alternative init software options, including OpenRC, runit, and s6. The distribution is available in many editions, including Base, Cinnamon, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, KDE Plasma and Xfce. With all of the desktop options, combined with the available init choices, there are 21 editions, not including community spins from which to choose. All editions appear to be built for 64-bit (x86_64) machines. Picking randomly, I selected Artix's Plasma edition featuring the runit init software. The download for this edition is is 1.3GB. Browsing the other editions it looks like most flavours are about 1.1GB to 1.3GB in size, though the minimal Base edition is a compact 618MB.

The project's live media boots to the KDE Plasma desktop. On the desktop we find multiple documentation and README icons. There is also an icon for launching the system installer. The default layout places a panel at bottom of the screen where we can find the application menu and system tray. The default wallpaper is a soft blue while the theme for windows and menus is dark with high contrast fonts.

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Artix Linux is one of those distributions I really enjoy using and yet struggle to review in a meaningful way because it doesn't really go out of its way to introduce new or exciting features and everything works smoothly. The distribution is wonderfully easy to install, offers top-notch performance, and is unusually light on resources. Artix is somewhat minimal, but still ships enough software to be immediately useful right out of the gate. We can browse the web, install packages, view files, and play videos. Meanwhile the application menu isn't cluttered with a lot of extras. The developers clearly expect us to install the functionality we need, while doing a really good job of providing enough for the desktop environment to feel base-line useful right from the start.

Artix does a nice job of balancing performance and functionality while also juggling ease of use against not getting in the way. There is a little documentation, but no initial welcome screen or configuration wizards that might distract the user.

The one piece I felt was missing was a graphical package manager which would have made it easier to build the extra functionality I wanted on top of the base distribution. However, that one piece aside, I felt as though Artix was really well designed and put together, at lease for someone like me. It's not a distribution geared toward beginners, it's not a "first distro". It is a bit minimal and requires command line knowledge. However, for someone with a little experience with Linux, for someone who doesn't mind the occasional trip to the command line or installing new applications as needed, then Artix provides an excellent experience. It's fast, light, looks (in my opinion) great with the default theme, and elegantly walks the line between minimalism and having enough applications ready to go out of the box to be immediately useful. I'm unusually impressed with how smooth and trouble-free my experience was with this distribution and the fact it offers such a range of desktop and init diversity is all the more appealing.

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