MakuluLinux: A Lot of Fun for Distro Hoppers

MakuluLinux is an Ubuntu-based multi-faced distribution aimed at desktop Linux users who value diversity and gamers.

We’ve always maintained and believed that one of the most powerful and essential aspects of Linux is the diversity and choices it offers its users. MakuluLinux is living proof of this. But first, let’s give readers a quick overview of this Linux distribution.

What is MakuluLinux?

MakuluLinux is a distribution focused solely on desktop Linux users and gamers. It is available in two free-to-download editions: MakuluLinux Shift and MakuluLinux Gamer.

However, both have their own PRO editions with extra features, which we will review later in this article. So, understandably, MakuluLinux Shift Pro and MakuluLinux Gamer Pro are paid, priced at $30.

The distro’s most recent version is based on Ubuntu, specifically the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release. At the same time, a version called MakuluLinux Max, based on Debian is being developed.

Interestingly, the distro’s name was significantly influenced by Ubuntu. As with it, they chose a word from the African Zulu language, “Makulu,” which means “Figure of Authority.”

It ties in nicely with the Hippo logo, which is one of the largest and most dangerous African animals. The name and Logo reflect who we are, we are exotic, and we like pushing boundaries, often doing the unexpected.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the two major MakuluLinux editions.

MakuluLinux Shift

MakuluLinux Shift Edition

MakuluLinux Shift is entirely aimed toward the average Linux desktop user. I purposefully avoid using the term “novice” because some gaps in the preinstalled applications it ships with necessitate that they are additionally installed. However, this can be challenging for inexperienced Linux users.

What exactly do I mean? The complete lack of an office suite is immediately noticeable – a must for any desktop-oriented distro. Furthermore, the absence of an e-mail client is also obvious. But, of course, they can be easily added to the system using the “Software Center” app.

And now it’s time to focus on the essential feature that distinguishes the MakuluLinux Shift edition from all other Linux distributions. It is a highly innovative technique for the on-the-fly application of different desktop layouts. The specially designed “Desktop Manager” app handles this.

More specifically, you have 16 different desktop layouts to choose from, but you can only use 8 of them freely. The remaining eight are locked, and you must upgrade to the paid MakuluLinux Shift Pro version to use them.

The gallery below shows the eight free layouts that are available to everyone.

Each has its unique layout, color scheme, panel, icons, and so on. It is important to note that switching from one to another does not necessitate a logout. As previously said, you must launch the “Desktop Manager” app and select the desired layout.

The MakuluLinux developers handle all the other magic behind the scenes. So, after picking a layout, the desktop environment completely changes in seconds.

But don’t be tricked by the names of the various layouts – Plasma, Gnome, Unity, and so on. A new desktop environment is not installed on your PC in any way.

In truth, the “magic” happens thanks to the preinstalled and preconfigured impressive 50 or so GNOME extensions, multiple icon sets, mouse cursors, etc., with which MakuluLinux comes this functionality is achieved.

MakuluLinux Gamer

MakuluLinux Gamer Edition

Things are more than clear here. Everything in the MakuluLinux Gamer edition has been built with gamers in mind, and nothing has been missed. Of course, the well-known Valve’s Steam digital distribution service comes preinstalled and ready to use.

In addition, you may also find the GameHub desktop app for Linux distros here, which allows you to manage all of your games in one centralized place. But things don’t stop there. The MakuluLinux Gamer edition has a lot more to offer.

Lutris, an Open Source gaming platform for Linux, is also available. PlayOnLinux, a graphical frontend for the Wine software compatibility layer which allows Linux users to install Windows-based video games, is the following app on the list that comes preinstalled with MakuluLinux Gamer.

We can continue the list with apps like Heroic, Minigalaxy, RestroArch, etc. On top of that, the GeForce NOW app is also included by default for Nvidia GPU owners.

The “Driver Manager” tool will provide you with the most recent and up-to-date versions of the drivers you require for your GPUs. In other words, everything in MakuluLinux Gamer edition is intended to make it as simple as possible for Linux gamers to enjoy their favorite games without any added complexities.

Finally, we’ll add that with this edition, you receive a single default desktop look, with the sixteen different layouts remaining “trademarked” just for the MakuluLinux Shift edition.


Software selection in MakuluLinux is addressed interestingly. For example, the only browser available by default here is Google Chrome, which is uncommon in other Linux distros where Firefox is nearly always the favored choice.

Including some extra software that is strictly exclusive to a particular Linux distro makes a positive impression. For example, the Timeshift app, which takes a snapshot of your system and is in-house developed by Linux Mint, is available in MakuluLinux.

In addition, Warpinator, another Linux Mint tool that allows you to transfer files between your Linux PC and Android devices, has also found a home in MakuluLinux.

We continue with the unusual decision to include Discord in MakuluLinux’s default app palette. Of course, this makes sense in the Gamer edition, where Discord is the favorite choice of gamers. On top of that, Leafpad, the simplified GTK+ text editor, has replaced the popular Gedit app, which comes by default with GNOME.

Furthermore, MakuluLinux provides additional apps that give the user some useful functionalities. For example, the “Grub Customizer,” as the name implies, allows you to modify the GRUB bootloader’s settings.

In addition, “LightDM GTK+ Greeter” allows you to customize the appearance of your login screen.

In conclusion, we should also mention that MakuluLinux relies on the official Ubuntu repositories for software and security updates and its repos to provide additional distro-specific applications.

MakuluLinux Pro Features

You’re probably wondering what the MakuluLinux Shift Pro versions include. Here are the main points:

  • You get full access to the Gamer Pro ISO, which unlocks all of MakuluLinux Gamer’s pro features.
  • An additional eight desktop layouts bring the total to 16.
  • New Layouts include more wallpapers, icons, shades, and themes.
  • The ability to customize and save changes to your layout.
  • Some fantastic window special effects include Wobbly, Bouncy, Min/Max, and more.
  • Control your computer with the gesture system using the Touch Gesture function.
  • Makulu Constructor App enables you to rebuild your system into an ISO image, then re-spin your own distro.
  • Additional graphical user interfaces that make system navigation easier and more smooth.
  • Access to future layouts and more wallpapers.

MakuluLinux Release Cycle

This is another uncommon aspect of MakuluLinux’s approach to delivering new versions. So, don’t expect a lean road map or anything like that here.

We don’t like making road maps and announcing releases far ahead because it puts pressure and expectations on us that we feel put limitations on the project.

In other words, the next MakuluLinux release is ready when it is ready. So, the developers do not make any commitments in advance with deadlines.


MakuluLinux Desktop Manager

In conclusion, we can say that our experience with MakuluLinux left us with mixed sentiments. The distribution worked smoothly and fast. The idea of changing the layouts on the fly is unique and won our sympathies completely.

On the other hand, there were several aspects we didn’t enjoy. The must-to-watch 2-minute video at the start of each installation and the “important” Conky information on the desktop dating back one year leaves us with a taste of fan bias.

We also believe there is room for improvement in the default apps that MakuluLinux provides. The offered ones look to be the developer’s favorite ones, with little regard for typical user expectations.

Of course, if you’re just making a distribution for fun, that’s perfectly OK. However, if you have larger claims, as this distribution has, some things may need to be reconsidered and changed.

Despite these remarks, MakuluLinux is a distribution that deserves more attention and popularity. Its developers have put in a lot of effort, and we strongly advise you to try it.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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