|Main Screen + KDE Kickoff|
I've tried Chakra a number of times before. It was originally derived from Arch, but since a couple years ago it has been developed in a fully independent manner. It uses a "semi-rolling" release model, in which applications like Mozilla Firefox and other front-end features like KDE are updated on a rolling basis, while core system components are held to be more stable.
I tried this (64-bit version, as there is no 32-bit edition anymore) on a live USB system made through the "dd" command; due to Chakra now using the GFXBoot tool for booting, neither MultiSystem nor UnetBootin worked, and I didn't have any other data on this USB drive, so I was OK with using that tool. This review almost didn't happen because right after the boot menu, the message "invalid or corrupt kernel image" would come up. I decided to give this one last shot by downloading the ISO file again and trying again, and it worked! Follow the jump to see what it's like.
|Chakra Bundle Manager + Pacman|
The desktop is fairly typical of KDE and Chakra, which is to say that there is one standard panel on the bottom, and the KDE Plasma widget on the desktop is the one helping new users navigate Chakra. The KDE Plasma theme is called "Dharma", and it looks really slick; one thing I particularly like about it is that it makes distinguishing active, inactive, and minimized windows in the taskbar very easy, which is something that a lot of other popular KDE Plasma themes fail to do. Other than that, the desktop is fairly standard.
|Mozilla Firefox + Calligra Words|
In keeping with the theme of pure KDE applications, the default productivity software is Calligra. It focuses very heavily on templates, which isn't quite like how I learned to use these programs, so using them was a little strange; anyway, I don't use these except for the spreadsheet program much, so it isn't a huge deal.
Aside from that, included in the live session are some standard KDE tools, along with Dragon Player, SpiderOak, and others.
Dolphin is as usual the default file browser. I was also able to install KLook, which is the KDE equivalent of Gloobus-Preview, through CCR. Unfortunately, although it generally worked, it would not start simply by pressing 'SPACE'; I had to manually pick it from the list of programs available to make it preview a file. It seems like an additional patch is required for Dolphin to make it recognize and work with the existence of KLook. Anyway, Dolphin's preview pane does a fine job of previewing files, although it is always present in the main window and thus takes up too much space when it is not previewing anything.
Also, I've found that Dolphin doesn't do as good of a job at recognizing external partitions as Nautilus, and I wanted to see if that has changed. Thankfully, Dolphin in Chakra now recognizes both my external and internal hard drives as well as my video camera, which is great.
|Dolphin + KLook + Desktop Cube|
There were a few other things that I did to make the desktop feel more like mine. I replaced the KDE Kickoff menu with the KDE Lancelot menu in the panel; unfortunately its "no-click" menu item activation never seemed to work as advertised, so maybe a fix is needed. I replaced the button to activate KDE activities with a button to show the desktop as well as a virtual workspace switcher. I replaced the icon-only task manager with a normal task manager. I added the Redshift widget to the panel. I changed the time and date format of the clock, and added a weather widget next to it. I replaced the guide on the desktop with parts of the KDE Lancelot menu to show bookmarked locations as well as mountable partitions. Finally, I enabled tabbed windowing and made the menu into a button in the titlebar, which is a new feature to KDE 4.10. All of these things really made KDE feel more warm and welcoming for me.
That is where my review of Chakra 2013.02 "Benz" ends. Aside from the inability of KLook to play nicely with Dolphin (which is remedied somewhat by Dolphin's own preview pane) along with the general latency in performing desktop and window actions, Chakra fulfills basically all of my needs, and I could definitely see myself using it as my main OS. That said, such a statement always causes some apprehension in me, so I would first try a long-term review of this on my UROP desktop computer. Anyway, for the time being, I can give this my highest recommendation; it isn't meant for Linux newbies, but beginners to Linux who may be getting comfortable with CLI package management now would probably enjoy using this a lot.
You can get it here. Be warned that there is no 32-bit edition, so only those with 64-bit computers who are willing to use a 64-bit Linux distribution should try this.