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The time I spend on distro watching (various linux distributions) has come down a lot after working on Ubuntu for last one year. But I use to revise my soft corner with Ubuntu by testing some other distro also. I am not a linux server guy. I am a programmer who needs good stable home pc with programming environments, a lot of packages, multimedia features, personal management suites and internet applications with reasonably latest release also. Ubuntu fulfills this to good extent. Now I have legacy PC (PIII/192MB), the speed of Ubuntu is not enough for smooth work flow (But still it holds good for all purpose, my favourite distro…). So I am trying to find some other alternative also. There I found Zenwalk. Since I like Slackware, I tried slackware based Zenwalk 3.0.

I am not going to show you variety of screenshots here (BTW: how to take screenshots in Zenwalk? – I don’t find any tool, anyone knows? I used GIMP). Let me test the five point of agenda of Zenwalk.

  • Modern (latest stable software) – YES

Yes, it is modern with latest stable software. XFCE (Xfce 4.4 RC1) with wonderful Thunar file manager works integrated. Desktop’s default look and feel gives unique look to Zenwalk. Latest Firefox, Thunderbird, Abiword and GNumeric are latest and best.


  • Fast (optimized for performance capabilities) – BIG YES

My legacy PC (PIII/192MB) is doing magic while Zenwalking. It is flying. Boot time is just 30 seconds with nice login screen. XFCE does not take much time to be active. Firefox works faster than the same on Ubuntu. Thunderbird too. Abiword and Gnumeric, no need to say.

  • Rational (one mainstream application for each task) – YES

It is a good approach. I have seen many people complain about the choice of application. Zenwalk makes it easy for beginners to work.

  • Complete (full development/desktop/multimedia environment) – BIG NO

The major issue I find with Zenwalk is the lack of choice of applications for other specific purpose than the normal desktop use. I tried to install and mplayer from repository. It works fine. But there is no mplayer plugin for Firefox, that is minimum requirement of an average user nowadays, which is not available in respository also. This is just an example. When I browse for sometimes, I came to know that Flash plugin is not there. It is not in repository also. When I try check for my favourite application on repository, I was disappointed mostly. The repository is very small.

  • Evolutionary (simple network package management tool – netpkg) – BIG NO

The package managers “Netpkg” and “Pkgtool” are just sugar coated slackware tools. As a experienced Linux user, I myself not comfortable with the package manager. Definitely average desktop user will find difficulty in getting things done.


Zenwalk walks proudly in the roads of linux distributions except packages availability and package management. I request Zenwalk developers to concentrate on these points also to bring it near Ubuntu. Ubuntu, Keep yourself alert! Hats off to Zenwalk developers, Great software has come from great people!


  1. dude its not because zenwalk’s abilities that your computer is working so fast. its because zenwalk runs xfce.

    u can get an xfcw based ubuntu with Xubuntu. –

  2. Both Zenwalk and Xubuntu are nice but Dreamlinux is even better. Dreamlinux is based on Debian, Kanotix, and Morphix and it uses XFCE.

  3. everythingelse said : “its not because zenwalk’s abilities that your computer is working so fast. its because zenwalk runs xfce.”

    This is mostly wrong, of course : did you try Zenwalk ? Did take the time to understand everything ?

    Zenwalk is optimized for performance in a variety of places : kernel configuration is unique, hardware management subsystems are original developments, most design choices are made with responsiveness in mind.
    Of course using XFCE on a Slackware style distribution is already faster than any GNOME + Debian based distribution, but it’s only a minor part of the problem.

    Zenwalk design is not only meant to make it fast , it’s also an atempt to build something rational and conform to the UNIX philosophy. You can study how things are implemented in Zenwalk , this may give ideas, if you’re a developer.

    Best Regards


  4. netpkg and pkgtool are not just sugar coated slackware tools, they just do the job. The first one gets package you want on repositories and install it with deps. There is a current repository, with the latest evolutions, a stable one, and a game one (
    The second tool give you the ability of install a slack-based package (find on linuxpackages for exemple), or one find on the users community web site (
    Those tools avoid to have the problems you can have with deps on other distro (circular deps) because they are simple and efficient. Today, I have no problem to add packages : as with synaptic (I was a debian user before), you open netpkg, you choose what you want to do (add packages, search one package, upgrade your packages), and just click OK… packages are installed, that all.

    For flash plugin, you will not find it on repository, it’s NOT FREE, so not GNU GPL compliant. (K-X)Ubuntu doesn’t care with that, and so, they shouldn’t be GNU GPL compliant 😉 .

    The repository is not very small, it is the result of the “good approach” : one mainstream application for each task. But you can now get another packages with the zenwalkers community ( where users share packages with the other users. You will see that there is a lot of things there.

    Finaly, thanks for your review, and welcome on our zen-walk.


  5. Hi,

    I found this revue very nice but i don’t agree with minor things ;).

    You said: Complete (full development/desktop/multimedia environment) – BIG NO
    I don’t see why, you’ve got all that you need just after the install.

    You said: that is minimum requirement of an average user nowadays to have the mplayer plugin
    That makes me laughing, i don’t think that mplayer is the default linux media player ;).
    I have no troubles opening all streams with gxine.

    Flash is easily installed via firefox itself, why do you request a package ?

    You said that Netpkg is sugar coated, that makes me thinking that you are not the experienced linux user that you said.
    Do you know how the deps are managed by .deb ?
    Search and you will be disappointed, i’m sure that you have already seen:
    “X-2.0.6 can’t install because it requires Y-0.0.2 and Y-0.0.1 is installed.”

    Netpkg manage deps in a very simple way, all is done by this file:
    Just take a look, i think that you will understand what IS a simple way.
    Of course, ZenCommunity and TuxGames have their depfile.

    A last point, if you’re lovely package is missing and you aren’t be able to build it, just ask the ZenCommunity people, those nice guys will surely build it for you.

    Another last point for everythingelse, install Xubuntu and Zenwalk and ……, no i will not tell you, you will see.

    Best regards.


  6. Hi,

    I reviewed Zenwalk-3.0 a few weeks ago and basically agree with you. The system is fast, simple to use, up to date and stable. But also found the package part a bit lacking: the repository had an outdated mplayer and no mplayer-plugin for firefox (and gxine can’t handle all things, no), no good music manager like QuodLibet,…Netpkg does the job, but I stated that slapt-get + gslapt could be a better solution. However, compiling from source is much easier than in any Debian system. Overall, a very nice system if you don’t have big needs for packages and want something fast, simple and stable.

  7. I tried Zenwalk as well, but switched to Vector. It is also a Slackware distro, but comes in several flavors including standard/soho/delux.
    Standard comes with xfce and fluxbox window managers and abiword etc.
    Soho has KDE and Openoffice.
    Delux adds more recent software and Gnome.
    Multimedia software is available in all releases, but deluxe (US$26) has realplayer gold and others.

    Thanks for the review

  8. To GNEMAN, and others :

    If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the standard Zenwalk install, then
    – you can search in netpkg database,
    – still nothing? OK, now search in zencommunity ( ,
    – you still can’t find it? Well now take a look in the large package database at,
    – nothing yet ? So take a look in Slackware repository,
    – nothing again? So ask on zenwalk forums : maybe someone has built a package, or will, just for you.

    If my list of places did not bring you to your package, then :
    – check that the software you’re looking for really exists
    – if it exists, then verify that you’re not the only one on earth to use it
    – if the previous 2 checks are ok, then it’s probably a Windows software 🙂


  9. PIII/192MB: this is my only PC at home. As soon as I got fast internet access, first thing I did was to search for a lightweight distrib. Tried Vector, Puppy, Yoper, and remains with the first that suited my needs, namely Arch Linux. Did not try Zenwalk though.

    Using Arch for a couple of years now I am quite satisfied. However I wonder how Zenwalk compares with Arch wrt performance and responsiveness. I am stunned by a boot time ~30 secs, mine is at least 80 secs into X.

    “kernel configuration is unique, hardware management subsystems are original developments, most design choices are made with responsiveness in mind.”
    I would be curious to know more about that also. Is there any site describing in details these optimizations ? I did not found much info in the zenwalk manual.

  10. Zenwalk vs. Xubuntu:

    Zenwalk is booting much faster than Xubuntu: 1’30” vs. 2’15” on my 600MHz/256MB home PC. I’m also searching for a fast and well equipped distro and there is a “battle” between these two. At this moment Zenwalk leads…

  11. Thanks for you valuable informative comments. Some people have replied on behalf of me.. here are some of my own reply.

    hi boeingboeing, Andreq and Didje – I am yet to test ArchLinux and DreamLinux. Eagerly waiting for Slackware 11… let us hope for stunning slackware.

    hi Rose – I meant “mplayer-plugin” for firefox, not mplayer application. mplayer-plugin is the best companion for firefox than any other multimedia plugins AFAIK.

    thank you GNEMAN – I fully agree with you.

    thanks John for your valuable suggestion – those are good, but we expect is the integrated simple package management tool with big repository.

    • everythingelse
    • Posted September 25, 2006 at 11:44 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    oh well shouldnt have shot my mouth off about stuff i knew nothing about. sorry about that. its true i never used zenwalk. i take back whatever i said earlier.

  12. I would strongly suggest zenwalk team to add slapt-get support in zenwalk’s software repository. That wouldn’t be hard; I think just add some PACKAGES.TXT/CHECKSUM.MD5 files. I have also read some similar requests from zenwalk’s user forum, but it seems that the developers just ignore them. netpkg is, at least in its current stage, not strong enough. I seriously suggest the developers will add slapt-get support in their repository, and at the same time, strengthen netpkg.

  13. John:
    “hardware management subsystems are original developments,”

    Can you back that up with any info? Do you even know what a hardware management subsystem is? WTF are you talking about? I like zen, but thats a total lie.

  14. maple said : “”Can you back that up with any info? Do you even know what a hardware management subsystem is? WTF are you talking about?””

    LOL, so when YOU don’t understand somebody, the only reason you can think about is that HE doesn’t know what he’s talking about ?

    You’re a funny guy maple…

    Have fun

  15. I had a wierd thing on latest Zenwalk,..I logged in as root to change something and it later asked me to type in my root password,..and it returned a message saying wrong password.
    with a simple password such a – william – how is that possible

  16. What you were tying to change? which application asked for your root password? It is strange… can you be specific so that we will also know more on that?

  17. I’ve run both Xubuntu and Zenwalk side-by-side on the same PC (actually dual booting) and Zenwalk was clearly quite a bit faster. I really like the rational approach to packages and find Zenwalk really lacking in nothing for developers.

    Linux, in general needs a few more powerful and simple CSS/xHTML editors for web standards in my opinion, but and experienced designer can handle it all through Geany, any text editor, Bluefish, or even Nvu.


  18. Hello,

    I’m agree with the author of this review of zenwalk. You can try frugalware =>, it’s almost same of zenwalk but you have more package by default than zenwalk.

    Sorry for my bad english (i’m french).

  19. Zenwalk smply rocks. I am yet to find a full fledged distro with xfce that is faster than it and yet as functional. Now they have added gslapt. This was the defacto package manager in Vector linux which is also fast.

    Coming from Ubuntu side and still using Ubuntu sometimes, I think although default repo is lacking in certain packages, I find that I can obtain those packages from, or many other places. Even google.

    It is almost as easy as finding a windows .exe application file. You type slack vlc package or amarok for slackware, and there it is in google most times or it may direct you to linuxpackages.

  20. Slapt-get is a great tool. Here is a quick script to get it up and running for the newbies.

    Just run gslapt or slapt-get. (Under Zenwalk, open your menu, go to system, run GSlapt Package Manager)

    Make sure you run this as root or it will not work. (i.e. run ‘su’ from terminal and type in the password then run this script).

    echo 2 > selection
    echo 4 >> selection
    netpkg select-mirror  /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    echo 'EXCLUDE=^kernel-.*,^alsa-.*,^glibc.*,.*-[0-9]dl$,^devs$,^udev$,aaa_elflibs,x86_64' >> /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    echo 'SOURCE=' >> /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    echo 'SOURCE=' >> /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    echo 'SOURCE=' >> /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    echo 'SOURCE=' >> /etc/slapt-get/slapt-getrc
    rm selection


  21. kazuya said : “I think although default repo is lacking in certain packages”

    The default repos is not the only place to find packages, Slackware community provides a very complete set of packages from various places.


  22. Letting christmas fade off to the past and going thru some of my bookmarks…I was here before because I have this blog bookmarked…. But Ido not recognize it, so you must have made some serious changes in the design?

  23. Yes, Joanne. I am trying to sync the look and feel of this with my home page ( – which is under development).

  24. Letting christmas fade off to the past and going thru some of my bookmarks…I was here before because I have this blog bookmarked…. But Ido not recognize it, so you must have made some serious changes in the design?

  25. Zenwalk is absolutely flying! I’ve tried several light distros in my AMD K6 450Mhz box with 256 MB RAM. I think Zenwalk become my final choice. Keep working, Zenwalkers!

  26. I’m a new linux user and currently trying many lightweight distro on old my Athlon 800 + 256 RAM.

    I tried both Xubuntu Gutsy yesterday & right now I’m typing this on my Zen machine.

    IME, Xubuntu is way faster.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Review: Arch Linux 0.7.2 | Black God on 28 Mar 2009 at 2:26 am

    […] test a distribution only if it is having some unique feature in it. Zenwalk is one such promising. Here is my review on it. I came to know about Arch, which is optimized for i686 processors, so it is meant for recent […]

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