I’d been meaning to try ArchBang for awhile. I heard that it was basically Arch with some extra things added, and I hadn’t heard wrong.
Its installer is very similar to Arch’s, minus a couple of configurations that I never changed anyway. It’s when you reboot into the installation that ArchBang differentiates itself. It comes with the X server, the openbox window manager, the tint2 panel, the pcmanfm file manager, the geeqie image viewer, and some other basic lightweight desktop applications and helpers preinstalled. Some I’d already used (openbox, pcmanfm), and some I’d learned about from ArchBang and use now (tint2, oblogout, geeqie).
I understand that there are some Arch users who view ArchBang derisively. I, though, quite like it. Granted, it does come with some things that I don’t quite like, namely the entire list of xf86-video drivers. But it cuts the installation time in half, and after configuring regular Arch a few times, that song-and-dance gets a little old. Also, the additional applications and things aren’t heavyweight or useless. On the contrary, the default set is reasonable and lighTweight, and gave me several ideas for applications that I now use regularly. It’s also just as easy (of course, being Arch) to use pacman to add and remove.
I think ArchBang serves two purposes. First, if diving headfirst into Arch seems intimidating, give it a try. It’ll help ease you in more than what I tried using, Chakra. It also makes trying Arch afterwards much more appealing and understandable. Second, if installing Arch from the ground up for the umpteenth time gets boring, it takes a lot of the rote calls to pacman out of the equation. Mass-installing ArchBang on multiple computers is much less daunting than trying to do so with Arch itself.
The ArchBang forums are also a little more forgiving of newbie questions (like mine would be) than the Arch forums. They’ll warn you if you don’t follow the forum etiquette rules, but it’s just a bit less curt. The Arch forums are terrific information-wise, but the community can be a little intimidating.
Granted, I still use Arch on every computer I use on a daily basis. I like knowing exactly what goes into my computer, and since I can, I do. But ArchBang is a reasonable option for multiple computers and for people who are less…well…obsessive than me. 🙂