I’ve been using Linux since 1997, which (for me) is a badge of honor. Then, using Linux was a serious challenge, and the options were limited. A few years into my journey, those limitations were removed, and all of a sudden, I was staring at more choices than I ever imagined possible. If you didn’t like the desktop interface, change it. If you didn’t like the default software, change them. There was practically no limit to what you could change.
Although that still holds true, most Linux distributions have curtailed such widespread options — at least on the surface. Unlike those distributions of old, where you could select from any number of desktops during installation, now you’re lucky if your distribution of choice includes more than one desktop option. Of course, you could always download a respin of your favorite distribution, such as Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu or any -buntu available, but that’s not the same.
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And then there’s the likes of Makulu Linux Shift, a new(ish) distribution that makes it amazingly easy to “shift” between desktop layouts. With the help of the Desktop Manager, you can quickly move from a Windows-esque desktop to a Pantheon-like desktop, Unity, GNOME, KDE Plasma and more. Or, if you opt to pay for the Pro version, you get even more options. With the Pro version, you get 16 different desktop configurations to choose from.
Even better, these choices aren’t limited to the installation. Even after installing Makulu Linux Shift, you can open the Desktop Manager and select your desktop of choice (Figure A).
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Makulu Linux Shift doesn’t actually install the full-blown desktops. So although you can select a very Plasma-like desktop option, it’s not really KDE. Instead, Shift uses various combinations and configurations of Xfce and Cinnamon, with elements of GNOME, to achieve the results. I went with the Core layout which includes the Pie menu, which is a fantastic and unique menu layout.
And the results are pretty spectacular.
What’s fascinating about Shift is that the developer has pulled off something truly remarkable in that it’s not only a superficial aesthetic change. Instead, Shift completely removes the previous desktop and replaces it with the appearance and performance enhancements of the new desktop, including menus, docks, panels, icons, themes and color-grading. So, when you shift from LinDoz to Core, you’re effectively getting an entirely new desktop.
That alone is worth the price of entry. Speaking of which, if you opt to go the Pro route, which you should — it’s only $30.00 and helps support the developer, you pick up the following additional features:
- Eight additional desktop layouts
- Additional wallpapers, icons, shades and themes
- Customize and save your layout changes
- Additional special effects
- Touch gesture feature
- Create your own distribution with Makulu Constructor
- Additional GUI interfaces
- Access to future layouts and wallpapers
If I had to knock Makulu Linux Shift for one thing, it would be the lack of productivity tools installed by default. You won’t find an office suite, an email client or an image editor in the menu. You will, however, find the Chrome web browser; VLC media player; DroidCam; Leafpad; PlayOnLinux; Warpinator; Weather; and quite a few system tools, such as BleachBit, dconf Editor, Desktop Manager, Disks, GDebi Package Installer, GParted and more.
Of course, solving the case of the missing office suite and email client is as simple as firing up GNOME Software (the included app store) and installing those missing pieces with a couple of clicks. And because the app store supports both Snap and Flatpak packages, there’s no end to what you can install on Makulu Linux Shift, even the likes of Zoom, Spotify and Skype.
If a few missing pieces of software are the biggest hit against this distribution, I’d say that’s a big win. And it is, as Makulu Linux Shift is an absolutely brilliant take on Linux that everyone should experience, even if it doesn’t become your go-to distribution. For any Linux user who is guilty of distro-hopping, something I spent years doing, Makulu Linux is the solution. The second you get bored with your desktop, fire up the Desktop Manager and hop to a different layout.
Although Makulu Linux Shift won’t be pulling me away from my go-to Linux distribution, Pop!_OS, I could, without hesitation, recommend this distribution to anyone looking to give Linux a first glance. With the ability to easily switch desktop layouts to find the best match for a user, Makulu Linux Shift would be an outstanding option for those looking to migrate away from Windows or macOS.
Give Makulu Linux Shift a try, and see if it doesn’t quickly become the one distribution you start recommending to users of all skill levels. While you’re at it, make sure to support the developer with either a donation or by purchasing the Pro version of the distribution.
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