Welcome to The Privacy Dad's Blog!

Taking Control with Bodhi Linux

I discovered Bodhi Linux last month. I was looking for a a way to turn a laptop into a dedicated word processor. That is a project for another day, but during my research, Bodhi caught my eye with the promise of a fast desktop system and a minimal set of features.

The short review below is based on some notes I took on my second install. I'll summarise first impressions and surprising positives, some of the problems I ran into right away, and how I was able to fix those over time.

Bohdi Linux is a distro for people already familiar with Linux desktop, but who might need a push to learn more. Due to Bodhi's minimalist set of features, you are forced to engage with settings and create own shortcuts. It's a small learning curve but totally worth it in terms of learning more about Linux desktop systems.

First impressions

I was struck by the streamlined look of the desktop interface, which is named Moksha. On the right side, there are four small representations, miniature windows into your work spaces. You can see what's open in each space. Clicking on one brings you to that workspace, creating an efficient work flow.

Bodhi Desktop Screenshot of Bodhi Moksha desktop

There is an emulated analogue-style clock in the upper left corner, and a set of tiny icons on the bottom toolbar. I did find I missed being able to check the time in the lower right corner, so I added it there later.

Bodhi uses Chromium as the default browser. I had no prior experience with Chromium, and don't know enough about its default privacy settings to make a comparison to Brave or Firefox.

Everything feels snappy. I timed a reboot, including manual, typed login and auto-startup of key apps pCloud and KeePass. It took 45 seconds to reboot, which is not bad for a laptop built over ten years ago!

Internet and wireless printing worked right away. The other drives in my device were accessible right away. The handful of applications that are installed with the system are purposeful; you get the sense they were carefully selected by the Bodhi development team. I liked, for example, that Take Screenshot has a prominent place in the start menu. (Consider what a pain it is to take a screenshot in Windows, for comparison!)


My Thinkpad is attached to a docking station on my desk. I use an external screen as my main monitor when I work there. Bodhi has a handy tool for monitor settings, and so I set the external monitor as my primary screen. However, removing my laptop from the dock without shutting down the laptop caused mayhem, to the point I had to reinstall Bhodi to fix this. Luckily, I discovered this early on, before I had invested too much time setting things up.

One of the first applications I installed was Tuta's AppImage for Linux, but when started it up, it showed the warning 'could not access secret storage'. Presumably, secret storage (whatever it does) must be one of the tools not pre-installed with Bodhi. I use KeePass as my password manager, and discovered that the app KeePassXC can take over this function with a tool called Secret Service Integration. See Documents below for details.

What may drive new users away from Bodhi is how applications are handled. As a minimalist interface, there is little visual feedback for the user about app status, or even how to start one up!

I almost gave up here, but this is where Bodhi comes into its own as a learning platform for Linux desktop users who, like me, are not used to customisation and personalisation of their desktop system. I have always been a passive desktop user, running the whole look and feel of a desktop like Pop!_OS with its default settings, but that was about to change.

Solutions—taking control

A quick note about the monitor settings—if you use your laptop with an external monitor as I do, use the Screen Layout Editor in the Monitor Settings tool to select the external monitor as your primary screen, drag the rectangle that represents your external monitor over the one that represents the laptop's own monitor, and click the check mark to implement these changes. It is important to then press Save to Moksha Startup, the small green floppy disk icon. That should enable Bodhi to start up correctly each time.

Screen Layout Editor
For external monitors, drag one screen over the other

As for the lack of clear visual feedback on the status of applications, this is where you need to learn to customise your setup in a way that suits you. I must add here that when I discovered the flexible system for customisation of applications control, that's when I was sold on Bodhi.

A note of warning: right-clicking on app icons in the menu bar at the bottom to add them to shortcut menus didn't work consistently. It's best to go directly into the Apps menu under Settings.

Bodhi Applications Menu The Bodhi Apps menu can be found in Settings

In this menu, you'll see a wide range of options. For example, you can add applications to a Favorite Applications menu and adjust the order they're listed in. This results in your most commonly used applications appearing whenever you press right-click anywhere on the desktop space. Now that I have have this working, I can't think of a better way to access your most-used applications.

You can also create Personal Application Launchers. I had to do this for KeePass, which runs as an AppImage. You can add the path to the AppImage to create a custom launcher in this menu. You can 'bind' these individual app launchers to keyboard shortcuts. Whenever I need my password manager now, I just press a key combination and, presto, it appears!

Finally, you can add applications to the IBar at the bottom of your screen, where you can arrange and adjust the setup to your liking. And you can add specific key apps to activate with each startup, reboot and in other situations. It's a most thorough customisation menu.

Final thoughts

All of this customisation was probably achievable all along in most Linux desktop distros I have used. Similarly, the concept of workspaces is not new. But no other distro has pushed me to explore these features like Bodhi has. The flip side is that this learning curve may be off putting to newcomers, but if you push through that small barrier, you end up feeling more in control of your desktop system, with faster processing speed to boot. Bodhi has great support resources, but I found the menus intuitive enough to discover how they worked on my own, given a bit of time.

If you are interested in testing out different Linux distributions yourself, take a look at the DistroWatch website. I believe it's good to step out of your comfort zone once in a while in order to develop a broad and flexible approach to computer operating systems. On this site, you can apply filters to narrow your search results to a handful of Linux distributions to test out, one of which may fit your unique needs. That is how I found Bodhi.

Oh, and one more thing about Bodhi's desktop. If you hover the mouse pointer over the top bar of any open app and scroll up with the mouse wheel, the app window will roll up, leaving only the bar on your desktop. Neat!


Since publishing this article, I have been in touch with the small team (two?) of developers and joined the Bodhi Discord. Regarding my questions about starting applications, one of the developers directed me to this excellent short video:

Bodhi Linux Launching Apps Tutorial

If you do decide to try out Bodhi, I recommend joining the Discord server.


KeepassXC and secret service, a small walk-through


Bodhi Linux website

Bodhi Linux on DistroWatch 9+ average user rating!

Bodhi Linux tutorial by Learn Linux TV

-----Discuss on Reddit-----

Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed.

Find me on Mastodon and Twitter.

Back to Blog

Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed.

Back to Blog

#digitalprivacy #journey #linux #review