We wanted to know the secret behind Manjaro’s success, which is how this detailed comparison came to life. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned Arch Linux veteran with a desire to explore what other Linux distributions have to offer or you’re a Linux newbie who’s not sure which of the two distributions to use, this article is for you.
The first version of Arch Linux was released in 2002. Since then, the developers behind this lightweight Linux distribution have been following the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) as the general guideline. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than during the installation process, which is entirely console-based and largely manual.
You can read more about it on the ArchWiki, so we won’t go into further details here. It’s not that Arch Linux is difficult to install per se, but the installation process is very unfamiliar, requiring you to complete a series of steps without any guidance whatsoever. Most Arch users open the ArchWiki on their smartphone so they can follow it whenever they decide to reinstall their system.
Manjaro is very much the exact opposite of Arch Linux when it comes to installation. If you’ve ever installed Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or even Windows, you won’t have any problems when installing Manjaro. When you boot into Manjaro’s live-environment, you simply select “Install” to start the installer, go through a couple of screens, and you’re good to go.
Depending on your internet connection and hard drive, the whole process shouldn’t take more than just a couple of minutes, and at no point will you be required to mess around with console commands. The simplicity of Manjaro’s installation process is an important reason why many Arch Linux veterans who no longer have the time or energy to install Arch Linux have decided to switch to Manjaro.
Arch Linux uses its own Pacman package manager. Pacman is console-based, and it combines an easy-to-use build system with a simple binary package format. Arch users can install packages either from the official repositories or the Arch User Repository (AUR).
Manjaro uses Pacman as well, but it also provides several pre-installed Graphical Software Managers to let users easily install software and update their system. Of course, you can install the same Graphical Software Managers on Arch Linux as well, but it’s nice to have them ready for use right after installation.
Both Arch Linux and Manjaro are rolling distributions, which means that updates are released on an ongoing basis, and there’s no annual system reinstallation to worry about. In a certain way, Manjaro uses all Arch Linux users as beta testers. Only when Arch Linux users find a package stable is it included in the unstable version of Manjaro. From there, it graduates to the Testing and, finally, Stable version.
As you can probably imagine, the Stable version of Manjaro is far more reliable than Arch Linux, making it great for people who are willing to use slightly older software to enjoy extra stability. The few bugs that make it into Manjaro Stable are typically not serious enough to make the whole operating system unusable.
Neither Arch Linux nor Manjaro forces its users to use a particular desktop environment. Arch Linux starts you off with a clean slate, and you can then install any desktop environment you want on top of it. Desktop environments in Arch Linux are provided in convenient bundles, so you seldom have to install more than one package. The list of officially supported desktop environments in Arch Linux includes Budgie, Cinnamon, Deepin, Enlightenment, GNOME, GNOME Flashback, KDE Plasma, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, Sugar, and Xfce.
There are three main editions of Manjaro—Xfce, KDE, and GNOME—but many more desktop environments and windows managers are available via community editions, including Awesome, BSPWM, Budgie, Cinnamon, Deepin, i3, KDE, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, Openbox, and JADE. You can also choose Manjaro Architect, which is a console-based net-installer set up Manjaro from a minimum ISO so you can end up with an operating system that has all the packages you need and nothing else. That’s pretty in line with Arch’s core philosophy as far as we’re concerned.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Arch Linux is its community. If it wasn’t for the ArchWiki, troubleshooting all sorts of Linux problems—not just those related to Arch Linux—would be much more difficult than it is.
The official discussion board of Arch Linux and the distribution’s IRC channel are great places where you can meet fellow Linux users and discuss everything from Arch Linux to software development to casual topics that have nothing to do with Linux.
Fortunately, Manjaro’s community is nearly just as great—perhaps because a lot of Manjaro users have migrated from Arch Linux. The community is friendly to beginners and available in around 30 languages for non-English speakers.
Manjaro is sometimes described as Arch Linux for people who can’t follow instructions, but it’s so much more than that. Manjaro’s developers have managed to create one of the most accessible Linux distributions in the world, and they’ve successfully preserved everything that has made Arch Linux so great. Not everyone has the time or the desire to install Arch Linux, but everyone can enjoy Manjaro and everything it has to offer. Arch Linux is great for purists who want maximum control over their operating system, and we applaud the developers of the distribution for staying true to their core principles over the years.