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PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Review

Remain blissfully ignorant, or experience nirvana today with this powerful, lightweight, and highly customizable release from PCLinuxOS. Zen Mini provides a useful LiveCD and a minimal list of applications making this an ideal distribution for people looking to manufacture their own environment.

Zen Mini Details

As a user with some previous Zen Mini experience I found this slim distribution to be an excellent choice for older hardware or a small hard drive.

PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

What The Future Brings

Unfortunately rumors suggest that one of the primary contributors for this release, Siamer, may be ending his time with PCLinuxOS due to shortage of time. He will be missed, but I have high hopes that Zen Mini will carry on in the future.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Features


  • A minimalistic application list, and interface, perfect for those who enjoy customization.
  • Say your last goodbyes to Gnome 2.32.0 with Drak3d and Compiz Fusion providing the desktop effects.
  • Available in many different languages using addlocale 4.0.
  • Excellent support for most sound, graphic, and peripheral devices.
  • The PCLinuxOS Control Center makes all of your options and settings easy to find.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Applications


  • Firefox 5.0.1
  • Synaptic Package Manager 0.57.2
  • GParted 0.7.1
  • Gedit 2.30.4
  • Gnome Terminal 3.0.1
  • Nautilus 2.32.2.1
  • File Roller Archive Manager 2.32.2
  • LibreOffice 3.4.2

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Installation


PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

The installation process went smoothly as usual, and it was effectively swift. The boot menu also embodies the elegant Zen Mini theme, and provides the option to boot from the LiveCD or to Install PCLinuxOS Zen Mini.

Installation Steps

If you choose to start the installation process, you will first be asked to select your keyboard settings. Next you can configure your hard drives for installation or configure several advanced boot options. You are then asked to restart to proceed with the next steps.

Finalizing The Installation

After the restart you can select your time settings and login information and you will immediately arrive at the login screen. The whole process only took a few minutes, I was actually very impressed.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Desktop


I thoroughly enjoyed the sleek and elegant desktop environment, everything is neatly arranged and easy to find. Even the login screen is very stylish and obviously highly customized.

Desktop Details

The desktop provides a few icons to setup some useful applications, a network manager icon, and a couple of Nautilus Launchers.There is only a single panel along the bottom of the screen, but the Gnome interface is highly customizable as most people already know.

PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

More Coming Soon

The introduction of Drak3d with Compiz fusion certainly adds a whole new layer of functionality and, of course, personality to your desktop. I intend to cover all of the details of Drak3d, as well as the PCLinuxOS Control Center in future posts for those seeking further details.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Menus


PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

The Zen Mini menu structure was excellently organized, and very easy to navigate. The menu can be found by clicking on the Zen icon at the far left of the main panel. Many of the popular installed applications can be found neatly arranged into categories inside the main menu.

More Menus

You will also find a sub-menu for places which will open your file browser, and another for system administration and preferences options.

Other Menu Items

Also conveniently located at the bottom of the main menu you can find a lock screen option, a logout user option, and a system shutdown option. Launchers for most newly installed applications will automatically appear in the application categories of the main menu as well.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Panels


Zen Mini did add some style to the Gnome panel making it easier on the eyes. As always properties and settings can be found by right clicking on an empty spot inside the panel.

Panel Options

The pop-up menu also offers the ability to add new panels to the desktop, or click add to panel to see the available applets. The usual list of Gnome applets are available, some of them include weather notifications, a system monitor, disk mounter, and sticky notes.

PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

Panel Contents

By default the main panel already holds a menu icon, a few launchers, a show desktop button, and the system notification area where you can keep an eye on the status of your computer and some applications.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Software


PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

The Synaptic package manager is available if you are interested in installing additional software. You can find a launcher for Synaptic on the left side of the bottom panel. With Synaptic you can also check for package updates to keep your system stable and secure.

More About Synaptic

The ability to manage your repositories via a GUI is also quite convenient. The Synaptic package manager interface is easy to navigate, the shortcut bar across the top of the window will help you with most of the basic functions.

Using Synaptic

From the shortcut bar you can search for available packages, search for upgrades, mark all upgrades, or apply all changes. Simply mark the packages you wish to install and press apply.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 File Manager


The default file manager is Nautilus which you can launch at any time simply by double clicking on the computer or home folder icons which sit on the desktop. Other important locations on your computer can also be found inside the places tab of the main menu.

Nautilus Interface

When the Nautilus window opens you will have a number of important locations on your system listed on the left hand panel, there is also a useful toolbar along the top of the screen.

PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

More About Nautilus

Nautilus is highly stable and offers top level reliability for connecting to servers and devices. Nautilus is famed for its simplicity and reliability. The interface is well designed and highly customizable, and it looks good with the default window theme.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Themes


PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

Zen Mini offers a number of exceptionally stylish window themes that will offer your desktop a new look whenever you wish. As usual you can reach your desktop settings by right clicking on the desktop and clicking on the change desktop background option from the popup menu.

Default Theme

The default theme appears to be a custom theme created for Zen Mini and it goes perfectly with the wallpaper and many applications in my opinion.

Theme Customization

Pressing customize at the bottom of the themes window gives you the ability to create and save your own themes exactly as you prefer, mouse pointers, icons, and all the rest.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Wallpapers


As mentioned above you can change your desktop background at any time by right clicking on an empty spot on the desktop, and clicking on the change desktop background option.

Get More Backgrounds

Unfortunately only the default theme is available, but there are still many options for you to spice up your desktop if the Zen look is not your thing, I love it however! After opening the appearance preferences window just click get more backgrounds online to search through a variety of unique wallpapers.

PCLinuxOS Gnome Zen Mini 2011 Screenshot

Background Settings

After making your selection you have the ability to zoom, scale, center, style and stretch your images to fit your needs, this allows you to experience a lot of different looks.

PCLinuxOS Zen Mini 2011 Synopsis


Zen Mini also delivers exciting 3D effects using Drak3D and Compiz Fusion. This allows you to experience the rotating 3D desktop cube, enhanced window transparencies, wobbly windows, and much more. And to make all of your settings easier to find, you can find an icon that says configure your compute in the Gnome panel. This will open the PCLinuxOS Control Center where many of your options and settings can be configured from one location. All said, the stability and integrity of this distribution deserves far more recognition than I can offer. Be sure to try Zen Mini today!

Zen Mini Homepage
PCLinuxOS Homepage
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