Enlightenment DE

The Enlightenment Desktop has been around for decades (1997). Sees regular releases (last stable 5 months old). Was designed to be lightweight for running on very resource limited devices like smartphones. It has seen major contributions by Samsung [2]. Supports Wayland and even working on having their own compositor. Can be used along side GNOME/KDE libs and hence applications.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightenment_(software)
[2] https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=EFL-2.0-First-Bits-In-2018


Does it have any lower RAM requirements than XFCE or otherwise better performance in VMs? How much RAM does it require vs XFCE?

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  • Very low memory requirements (about one third of Xfce).
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Wayland support would give GUI isolation which would substantially improve security.


comparing the deployment and usage of xfce over enlightenment DE within distros is a major difference hence using it adding more load/headache from our side.

about wayland its in the roadmap for xfce specially after being ported to Gtk3. The good news is the founder of xfce Olivier Fourdan is working actively on wayland.

So we just wait and will see wayland landing into xfce. (and this will give more time for wayland to replace more components of x11 which might found missed).

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The last version of XFCE took over 4 years to be released. Somehow, I don’t think wayland support is coming anytime soon.

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Anyone please feel free to install enlightenment inside Whonix and then compare RAM use.

Are there any enlightenment based (Debian?) Linux distribution which could be looked at as a show case?

Any usability differences?

Does enlightenment have its own set of default applications? For example, for Whonix XFCE we switched the file manager from dolphin to thunar. Does have enlightenment its own file manager or would be keep using XFCE-ish default applications?

//cc @Algernon

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xfce free -m

              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           1994         268        1458           8         267        1574
Swap:             0           0           0

enlightenment free -m

              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           1994         202        1002          10         789        1616
Swap:             0           0           0

Not sure how to interpret these numbers. Took a Whonix-Workstation XFCE, installed sudo apt install enlightenment, XFCE logout, start enlightenment session. Maybe I did something wrong. Will re-start with Whonix-Gateway CLI and install enlightenment vs XFCE there.

Whonix-Gateway CLI + sudo apt install lightdm kicksecure-desktop-environment-essential-gui --no-install-recommends (for xserver). Default RAM.

free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:            482         320           7           6         154         143
Swap:           495          31         464

Increased to 2 GB RAM.

free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           1994         343        1331           8         319        1501
Swap:             0           0           0

Whonix-Gateway XFCE, default RAM.

free -m
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           1994         395        1263          10         336        1447
Swap:             0           0           0

Seems the RAM savings potential is around ~ 50 MB?

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wayland would be nice to have for better security (didn’t try yet) but even enlightenment with X would require significant development work. Here is an initial list:

TODO enlightenment first start wizard:

  • system language (asks only English) - skip (todo preconfigure)
  • keyboard layout question - actually useful - keep
  • profile - not sure what that is. Window looks cut. - skip (todo preconfigure)
  • select prefered size - todo preconfigure
  • focus (window is clicked | whenever mouse enters window) - preconfigure to “window is clicked”
  • enlightenment default mouse bindings - dunno yet what that is - todo skip / preconfigure
  • connmann network service - ? - skip?
  • disable composite effects - probably yes - todo preconfigure
  • enable update checking - say no - todo preconfigure
  • enable taskbar - probably say yes [1] - todo preconfigure

usability issues:

  • I didn’t have mousepad or any graphical editor installed yet. [2] Double clicking on a config file opens the “open with” dialog. But that dialog is minimized by default. When choosing an application (mousepad) and clicking OK, nothing happens. And when trying again to open the file, it restarts at [2].
  • The taskbar looks more confusing than XFCE. But maybe I am just not used to it or it can be configured.

Other TODO:

  • figure out how to use enlightenment with wayland
  • disable battery widget in VMs if possible
  • disable power savings inside VMs
  • re-implement Live Mode Indicator
  • Change default theme? Any theme packages in packages.debian.org?
  • Any other default settings that aren’t suitable for us and/or VMs?

wayland related TODO:

  • lxsudo will probably no longer work and therefore break some things, because quote Debian wayland:
    • I’m accustomed to running various programs (e.g. synaptic) as root in my X session. How will this work under Wayland?

      • (In fact, synaptic was removed from buster because it doesn’t work under Wayland.)

      • There are plans to allow X11 applications running as root to use XWayland but native Wayland applications need to be restructured into a GUI part and a root part.

    • For example lxsudo /usr/bin/tor-control-panel would break. Some of our GUI applications would have to be modified to run as user and then perhaps using a sudoers exception to run the actual part where these requires roots.

That is if it’s even worth going for enlightenment. Debian doesn’t even have a dedicated wiki page about enlightenment.


site:debian.org enlightenment


I wouldn’t want to port to a desktop environment that is more likely to be removed from Debian due to low popularity and maintainers orphaning the package.

Is enlightenment a choice in Debian installer?

Before jumping straight into enlightenment, are there other desktop environments worth considering?


Another option could be Openbox.


Openbox is only a window manager. We’d need to choose a task bar (and maybe a systray) application. Perhaps among other components. Kinda building a custom desktop environment. That might actually work better than XFCE (or any desktop environment) and cutting what we don’t need to actually pull any dependencies that we do need.

Mostly unrelated to Openbox, i found this I found the explanation very good.

To understand what Openbox actually is, it’s important to know the difference between a window manager and a desktop environment.

A window manager is the program which draws on your screen the “boxes” in which other programs are run. A window manager controls how program windows work, look and act. It decides what window decorations to use and gives you a way to move the windows, hide them, resize them, minimize them and close them. It controls what buttons you push to do those things, and what keys you press to make those things happen.

On the other hand, a desktop environment minds the entire desktop. It provides a taskbar, a system tray, a login manager, additional menus or perhaps screensavers and desktop icons. It might include a file manager, a text editor or some other accessory programs, too.

Openbox is a window manager, not a desktop environment. Openbox is only responsible for maintaining the windows you open on your screen – nothing else. That means installing Openbox won’t give you easy menu access to wallpaper options, a taskbar or system panel, or most of those other doo-dads. It does, however, give you a framework to incorporate other programs that do those things – and usually with a greater degree of freedom over the style and interface.

Openbox can be used alone, without a desktop environment, or it can be used to replace the window manager in a complete desktop environment. Either way is acceptable.

I.e. if it’s “just” about getting wayland support could we just swap out the XFCE window manager which isn’t wayland capable and replace it with a wayland capable window manager? That might be a lot more doable and sensible than reinventing the whole desktop environment implementation.


[1] Unless we were to use another taskbar package

It must have become much more bloated with recent releases than when I last used it with Bodhi Linux. From a resource perspective, the amount of work needed to switch just isn’t worth it.

Wayland is a good point though.

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+1 It seems Wayland has it’s own Window manager implementation that can be tried out. They plan to make the underlying code a generic lib for rebranding /reuse in other projects.


While window managers are a great direction, I still think we need something that allows access to system settings so brightness and resolution can be easily adjusted,

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While I certainly won’t dislike the switch to Wayland in general, I would still suggest staying away from Enlightenment, as it is based on the EFL, which is maybe… less than ideal:

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