Although Manjaro is Arch-based and Arch compatible, it is not Arch. As such, far from being just an easy-to-install or pre-configured version of Arch, Manjaro is actually a very different kind of beast.
In fact, the differences between Manjaro and Arch are far greater than the differences between the popular Ubuntu distribution and its many derivatives, including Mint and Zorin. To help provide a clearer understanding of Manjaro, a few of its main features have been outlined.
- Manjaro is developed independently from Arch, and by a completely different team.
- Manjaro is designed to be accessible to newcomers, while Arch is aimed at experienced users.
- Manjaro draws software from its own independent repositories. These repositories also contain software packages not provided by Arch.
- Manjaro provides its own distribution-specific tools such as the Manjaro Hardware Detection (mhwd) utility, and the Manjaro Settings Manager (msm).
- Manjaro has numerous subtle differences in how it works when compared to Arch.
A more detailed outline of these differences has been provided below.
Manjaro kernel management
When reading Manjaro documentation either on this Wiki or the forum you will often see an expression such as latest stable or latest LTS and those is the terms used the by upstream project.
A stable kernel is NOT LTS - a subtle but very important difference.
When a Manjaro ISO is released it contains the latest Long Time (LTS) as defined by upstream kernel project. This practise makes it possible to install Manjaro and keep it running using the LTS kernel - if not for ever - then for a very long time.
The latest and greatest hardware may have poor or non existing support using the LTS kernel. Such hardware will require you to use what is referenced as the stable kernel.
The stable kernel goes End Of Life (EOL) when the next mainline becomes stable which happens roughly every 2 months. If you are using the stable kernel - not LTS - you will have to ensure you are syncing the next stable kernel.
A stable kernel on Manjaro is never synced to the next stable kernel like you may be used to with an Arch Linux install.
If you neglect you are running an EOL kernel you will get various driver issues - most prominently Nvidia drivers - when the EOL kernel is removed from the repo. Such issues is not a Manjaro fault but a fault of the system admin who neglected proper system maintenance.
To ensure continued stability and reliability, Manjaro utilises its own dedicated software repositories. With the exception of the community-maintained Arch User Repository (AUR), Manjaro systems do not access the official Arch repositories.
Manjaro package repository
There is no solid rule indicating when Stable branch is snapped from testing. It can be anything from one to four weeks. The packages on stable branch are the default repositories used by Manjaro systems to provide updates and downloads to the general user base. The best indication will be to watch the Testing Announment thread to follow possible issues with specific software or hardware.
Testing branch is snapped from unstable at irregular intervals - but usually shortly after the syncronization from Arch stable. This branch is used as a testing area for packages build by Manjaro developers such as kernels, kernel modules, nvidia graphics, software patches, Manjaro inhouse applications. The package may be subject to further checks by developers and testers for potential bugs and/or stability issues, prior to being released to the stable branch. Testing branch is for the knowledgeable user looking for a way to contribute to keep Manjaro running at it's best.
Unstable branch is synced several times daily from Arch stable and the packages from Arch repo is generally considered stable as they have been vetted by the Archlinux QA and the Archlinux community. Manjaro maintainers build kernels, kernel modules and nvidia graphic drivers from kernel source. This branch is also the entry point for Manjaro's inhouse applications. The latest available versions of software will be located here and using the unstable branch may cause issues on your system but you are proficient, motivated and have no problem solving minor isssues on your own.
Not as bleeding edge as Arch
A consequence of accommodating this testing process is that Manjaro will never be quite as bleeding-edge as Arch. Software may be released to the stable repositories days, weeks, or potentially even months later; however, users who wish to access the very latest releases can still do so by switching to testing or unstable branch. Doing so will prove you are knowledgeable and a Manjaro Linux poweruser.
Exclusive User-Friendly Tools
Another feature that sets Manjaro apart from Arch and other Arch-based distributions is its focus on tools to ease the general system maintenance. This extends far beyond just providing an easy graphical installer and pre-configured desktop environments. Manjaro also provides a range of powerful tools developed exclusively by the Manjaro Team.
Manjaro Hardware Detection
The mhwd command enables the automatic detection and configuration of your hardware for you, usually undertaken during the installation process. This includes support for hybrid graphics cards, as well as setting everything up such as module dependencies for Virtualbox virtual machine installations; however, it can also be used by users with limited technical knowledge to easily undertake this task for themselves.
A guide on how to manually configure graphics cards has been provided.
Manjaro Kernel Detection
While automatic support for the use of multiple kernels is a defining feature of Manjaro, the mhwd-kernel command also empowers users with no technical knowledge to easily manage them as well. This includes automatically updating any newly installed kernels with any modules being used, such as those required to run Manjaro within Virtualbox.
A guide on how to manage kernels has been provided.
Manjaro Settings Manager
This user-friendly application allows you to quickly and easily manage user accounts, install new language packs, and even switch your system's default language and keyboard layout on-the-fly. msm will also automatically notify you of any updates available for installed language packs, too.
Recently new features were added such as easy ways to choose and install between multiple kernels and drivers for your graphics card.
Please look here for more detailed explanations about Manjaro Settings Manager.
Pamac Package Manager
Exclusively developed by the Manjaro Team, this intuitive application allows you to easily search for, install, remove, and update software applications and packages. pamac will also automatically notify you of any updates; keep your system up-to-date with just a single click!
There are more detailed explanations available for Pamac Package Manager.
Manjaro is definitely a beast, but a very different kind of beast than Arch. Fast, powerful, and always up to date, Manjaro provides all the benefits of an Arch operating system, but with an especial emphasis on stability, user-friendliness and accessibility for newcomers and experienced users alike.
Any enquires about the Manjaro operating system should therefore be directed towards the Manjaro Forum in order to receive the best help and support possible. All are welcome!