REVIEW

New MakuluLinux Brings ‘Shifting’ Innovations to Desktop Design

Linux software review

MakuluLinux Shift is one solution to standardizing the Linux desktop.

From a marketing standpoint, two big impediments block a more widespread adoption of the Linux operating system for business and consumer desktop use. One is easily selecting a desktop environment from among varied options. The second is wading through the myriad of independently developed Linux distributions.

These two barriers are both a blessing and a curse of open-source desktop computing. MakuluLinux offers a simplified solution to both.

MakuluLinux, around since 2013, does not have the name recognition of more popular desktop distributions. But do not overlook a gem that gets shinier with each new release.

Jacque Montague Raymer, developer and creator of MakuluLinux, released the latest upgrade on June 13 to his new Shift distro. It continues to revolutionize the Linux user interface scenario.

These innovations push the Linux desktop to new limits. No other Linux OS is developing at this level.

The shift distro should provide other Linux developers with a solid concept to pursue similar innovations.

Shifting Gears

The Shift 2022 release is an ideal computing platform for Linux newcomers and seasoned users alike. Shift removes any need for Linux users to distro hop to find their ideal desktop experience.

Shift is a uniquely designed multi-desktop platform that bundles up to 16 of the best user interfaces (UIs) with performance features not found elsewhere. One of Shift’s most unique features, which Raymer greatly expanded in this year’s release, lets you modify major design elements effortlessly. Hence, its name.

MakuluLinux Shift is a rolling release distro with a variety of one-click desktop layout transformations built in.


Shift does more than repaint a pretty desktop picture. It does a system-wide adjustment of all things desktop-related. The entire desktop literally changes before your eyes with a click of a button.

Say goodbye to downloading multiple ISOs and installing separate versions of the same distro just to try new desktop environments. Within seconds, the complete operating system is transformed. That includes menus, docks, icon sets, cursors, panels, styles, and themes.

Innovative Progress Continues

Earlier versions of MakuluLinux offered a choice of Xfce, KDE, and Enlightenment 17 desktops. Rebuilt from the ground up in 2015, Raymer re-engineered his distro into three different editions.

With this year’s release, Raymer dropped many of the separate distros designs he added along the way; they are no longer needed. With his click-and-change “live” desktop shifting scheme, downloading separate versions with their own single desktops is redundant and old school.

The new Shift distro comes in two versions. The fully functional free option has eight desktop designs from which to choose. But Raymer stripped out some of the higher-end features in favor of adding them to a Pro version for users who want a higher level of options.

Of course, he also needed an innovative way to keep the lights on.

Shift Pro, a $30 upgrade, offers 16 desktop transformations. Just click the upgrade button from within Shift’s regular 2022 version to pay for the Pro version. That upgrade purchase automatically downloads the scripts to install the additional eight desktops and other premium features.

“It has been a long journey, and putting together such a complex/unique distro has been very challenging,” said Raymer in his website release announcement.

Awesome Experience

Shifting desktops internally is not a one-time option. You can repeatedly move from one included desktop to another. No limits impede transitioning among the bundled desktops.

It takes just seconds for the transformation process to complete. Shifting gears, so to speak, transforms the entire desktop including panels, docks, menus, wallpapers, themes, icon sets, extensions, cursor options, special effects, color schemes, and even scripts that handle third-party applications and menu entries.

I have followed the progress of MakuluLinux since its debut. I ran several earlier versions on numerous computers. Now those separate distros are bundled into one OS. This all-in-one transformative design does not disappoint.

Last year’s Shift rebuild impressed me. It worked out of the box as advertised. Shift 2022 works even better.

Next-Level Transformation Process

“We are aware that some other distros can change the layout of the desktop in some form or other. However, those are merely simple overlay theme changes or moving of a panel or dock. Shift takes it to another level,” noted Raymer.

Shift does not just switch to a different layout. It completely removes the old desktop with all its adornments. All of that is replaced with the appearance and performance of the selected desktop, including the placements of menus, docks, panels, icons, themes, and color grading,

The transformation takes between 10 and 30 seconds depending on the hardware. The process includes configuring extensions and setting up effects. All of this is done offline. No special scripts or packages need to download first.

End users simply think a theme overlay change was implemented, observed Raymer. They are completely unaware of all the complex scripts that had just been activated on their system.

If the ability to transform desktops was not enough, Shift also allows users to save their own desktop layout style with all the modifications with a single click. They can restore their layout configurations, again with one click.

What’s Inside

The normal or free build of Shift 2022 is fully functional. You can use it just fine as a daily driver in both home and business environments. Based on Ubuntu Jammy, it comes with the typical daily computing tools to handle web work, office suits, and more.

The release comes with ample support for hardware drivers and audio/video codecs. You need a 64-bit CPU to run MakuluLinux.

The eight desktop layouts include three that previously were separate MakuluLinux releases: Core, Flash, and LinDoz. Core, which introduced some radical changes, uses a highly customized desktop forked from Xfce and Cinnamon, with elements of GNOME. Flash comes from MakuluLinux’s in-house Xfce desktop. LinDoz features an in-house modification of the Cinnamon desktop.

The other five included layouts are Unity, GNOME, Plasma, Dash, and Simple. Dash is from a previous MakuluLinux offering that resembled a simplified, traditional style the likes of Matte.

The Software Center in both Makulu Shift versions fully supports both Flathub and Snaps. Users can install free open-source software from a selection of thousands of titles for business and personal tasks, including games.

Both the free and the Pro versions of Shift 2022 have their own eclectic, colorful collections of wallpaper artwork.

Each desktop design configuration has its own eclectic, colorful collection of wallpaper artwork.


Shift is designed on the GNOME framework, so it supports the use of GNOME extensions. You can either make use of the current extensions or install your own. A large inventory is available at the GNOME extension web hub.

Incentivized Upgrade

The “shift” to a premium tier of the MakuluLinux Shift distro this release cycle is an unfortunate development. But Raymer insists it is a necessary one to continue developing his distributions.

Previous fundraising campaigns since the pandemic hit have not been as fruitful as he hoped. Thus, taking some of the best features of the Shift OS and offering them for a fee was his only course of action.

Clearly, many newcomers to MakuluLinux are well served using the less-endowed “regular” Shift. But those users serious about going to the next level of functionality will not be unhappy with the premium features.

Shift Pro brings eight more desktop layouts that really expand the computing experience. I was hoping for more of a standard collection of popular layouts. Instead, Raymer cobbled together numerous design variations that seem to mix and alter some of the basic designs. The names are Pop, Flipped, Docky, Runner, Remmer, Roller, Eleven, and Panel.

In the free version, the layouts are locked so you can only modify them for the current session but not save them for permanent recall. The Pro version removes that limitation.

Other paid tier features — some of which used to be in the previous Shift release — include:

  • Special effects such as Wobbly, Bouncy, Min/Max, and more
  • Touch features to control your computer use the gesture system
  • Rebuild your operating system back into an ISO
  • Re-spin your own distros using Makulu Constructor
  • Access to future layouts and wallpaper changes

Bottom Line

MakuluLinux is one of the more up-and-coming distributions in terms of its innovation. It offers features that really engage users and enhance their computing experience.

For instance, with Wine preinstalled on Shift, you can also run Windows applications out of the box. Shift is game ready with PlayOnLinux preinstalled. Shift fully supports Steam plus Proton as well.

Coming soon is the final release of the GameR Edition of MakuluLinux. This is specifically tailored to hardcore gamers using platforms such as Steam, Lutris, GameHub, Itch, GeForce Now, and Epic Games.

Also under development is a Debian version of Shift due later this year.

Finally, if you’re interested in running Android apps on your Linux desktop, be sure to check out MakuluLinux Droid.


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Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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