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Enlightenment 17 (E17) Complete Desktop Review

Enlightenment 17 brings 12 years of development to your fingertips. Development for this version began in December 2000, and though we have seen many previews, the finished product has finally been unveiled.

What Is Enlightenment 17?

Enlightenment is actually older than many alternative window managers or full desktop environments. Dispite its age, Enlightenment has always had its eyes on the future. The Enlightenment 17 desktop is a traditional X11 style desktop, with numerous appearance and functionality enhancements. E17 offers a maximum level of effects and decorations, while at the same time guaranteeing optimal system performance.

Enlightenment 17 Desktop Environment Screenshot

About the Performance

The Enlightenment 17 desktop provides scalable performance that will work with as low as 200Mhz and 32MB of RAM. Enlightenment 17 will even work on some of the newest and best hardware available.

E17 Compositing

Compositing is available without OpenGL, but users can take advantage of OpenGL if they wish. This means that the rendering engine can use the CPU or the GPU as you desire.

Enlightenment 17 Setup Wizard

Lots of work has gone into the setup wizard for the Enlightenment 17 release. The massive amount of bug fixes and tweaks make the setup wizard even more efficient. When the setup is completed you are left with a desktop optimized for your needs.

Setup Process

The E17 setup process is very brief and takes place post-installation, after logging in. Users are automatically presented with a quick series of basic configuration questions. Thankfully clicking next repeatedly will solve all problems for the rushed or lazy individuals.

Note: The setup wizard defines the desktop appearance if yours is different from the default Enlightenment 17 desktop explained below.

Enlightenment 17 Desktop Details

Enlightenment 17 does have a feel of its own, but things can always be tweaked to something you are more familiar with. Of course every user has their own preferred settings, E17 tries to accommodate the user as much as possible.

Desktop Icons

The E17 desktop generally contains icons for launchers, files, or directories. Double clicking on icons will launch them. Directories open in the new Enlightenment 17 file manager which I will explain soon.

Desktop Menu

If you left click a blank spot on the desktop background you are presented with a menu. This menu contains sub-menus for installed applications, important directories, and lots of important settings. Windows, workspaces, and even shelves can all be managed from this menu as well. Sadly my applications sub-menu was not populated with launchers.

Tip: The Ctrl + Alt + M keyboard shortcut will also open the desktop menu.

E17 Shelf

Is it a dock or a panel? Is it a dash or taskbar? You are looking at the Enlightenment 17 Shelf, which contains several helpful gadgets that you can move around for convenience. Remove unwanted gadgets from the shelf or add new gadgets at any time.

E17 Workspaces

Traditional desktop workspaces are available which I find a necessity. Drag windows to the screen edge to move them to a new E17 workspace.

Enlightenment 17 Gadgets

Next here is a look at the default gadgets contained within the default E17 shelf.

E17 Start Menu

First, starting from left to right, is the start menu which is seen simply as a small up arrow.

Desktop Pager

The desktop pager is the next gadget in the list. Use the pager to switch between workspaces, simply click on the one you want. Even drag windows to different workspaces directly from the pager.

IBox and IBar

Next we have the IBox and the IBar which based on their names were at first a mystery to me. The IBox is used to hold minimized windows. The IBar works as a container for useful application launcher icons. Users can drag icons from the applications menu into the IBar at any time.

System Status Gadgets

You will then find several system status gadgets. There is a core temperature gadget, a CPU frequency gadget, and a clock gadget. You will then have one for Connman which is your connection manager.


Nearing the end of the E17 shelf you will see a keyboard gadget usually indicated by a flag of your country. You can use this gadget to switch between active keyboard profiles. The fact that they took the time to add flags for each country really reflects the care that went into the making of Enlightenment 17.


This gadget will be displayed only when there are open windows located on the current workspace. You can use the tasks gadget to quickly switch between open windows.

Enlightenment 17 File Manager

The E17 file manager may appear barren at first. No toolbar, sidebar, or status bar is visible. Right-clicking inside the file manager window will provide all navigation options and settings. From the settings dialog users can toggle a toolbar or sidebar thankfully.

Enlightenment 17 Desktop Environment Screenshot

File Manager Previews

File previews are available which is a key feature lacking in many file managers. The file preview feature works for files, videos, even directories. When the preview is active, several useful details are also visible.

Enlightenment 17 Themes

For themes Enlightenment 17 uses .edj files which will provide a completely new look for your desktop. Themes contain alternative images, icons, animations, effects, even layout styles.

How Do Themes Work?

Though these themes do come packages as .edj files they do not need to be extracted. Enlightenment 17 will pull important bits of data out of the theme file as needed, without actually loading the whole file. This way, only relevant information is loaded into the RAM, leaving more resources for performance. Unfortunately this approach does make it more difficult for users to make small theme changes. Tools are available to help users edit theme files as a remedy to this situation.

Enlightenment 17 Settings Manager

A respectable quantity of settings are available for users to experiment with. This desktop is highly customizable for either appearances or functionality.

Available Settings

To be brief, E17 contains settings for gadgets, modules, themes, shelves, and wallpapers. Windows, workspaces, and menus can all be customized as well. A vast selection of wallpapers is included, and many of them are very slick. They consist mostly of high quality nature photography.

Enlightenment 17 Desktop Environment Screenshot

Final Notes

Technically this is the 0.17 release, and yes it took twelve years to complete. On that note we can jokingly expect the release date for a 1.0 version some time nearing 3013, so please stay patient.

Enlightenment 17 Bugs

I was unable to change my screen resolution using the default display settings tool. This issue was first reported in our official bug tracking system, also known as the comments section. I would like to thank Zvacet for this important note.

Hibernation and Suspend Support

Another very helpful guest has contributed instructions for users wishing to add support for system hibernation or suspend options. Thanks to Rickard for this excellent tip. To do this you should first edit the file seen below with your favorite text editor.

$ sudo vim /etc/enlightenment/sysaction.conf

Now simply add the following lines to this file.


Install Enlightenment 17 on Ubuntu 12.10

Helpful Links

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