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Puppy Linux version 4 represents a major upgrade to this popular Linuxdistribution. Version 4.00 was released in May 2008, while the currentrelease, 4.1.2, came out in December. In this article I'llsummarize all the improvements made to Puppy for version 4 on up.

How is Puppy Different?

Puppy Linux distinguishes itself from other distros with its unique goals, priorities and innovations. Only a couple years ago, Puppy ranked in the high 20's in DistroWatch's popularity rankings. Today it's in the top ten. Why? Puppy --
  • Runs on computers with limited resources like netbooks, thin clients, and Pentium III's and II's
  • Includes all the applications that consumers need -- in a download that is less than 100M
  • Runs completely from memory if the computer has at least 256M. This means good performance even on low-end machines
  • Is so easy to use that consumers like it
  • Flexibly uses devices. Boot Puppy from any bootable device and install it to any writable device. You can even mix devices together -- for example, boot from Live CD but save your working environment to hard disk or a USB device.
  • Provides numerous install options. Run Puppy as a Live CD, install it to disk or USB, or use the simple, space-saving frugal install
Puppy is a very fast Linux distribution that runs even on limited-resource systems, yet it includes all the applications and ease of use consumers need. This detailed article summarizes recent Puppy improvements. If you'd prefer an overview or introduction to Puppy please see this article at DesktopLinux or this one in Free Software Magazine.

What's Included

Puppy version 4 includes many of the same applications as previous versions, but of course many are newer releases. It also comes with a significant number of new applications. Some of the highlights are:
  • Editing -- Abiword word processor, SeaMonkey Composer HTML editor, Geany and Leafpad text editors
  • Graphics -- mtPaint image editor & screen capture, Xsane image scanner, Gtkam camera manager, and InkscapeLite vector editor
  • Internet -- SeaMonkey browser, mail & news, Ayttm* chat, Psip* VIOP and IM client, tools for FTP, telnet, torrents and downloads
  • Networking -- Pwireless and Xautoconnect for wireless scanning & connections, and dialup, PPPoE, and VPN clients
  • Personal -- OSMO personal organizer, PPLOG* personal blog, DidiWiki personal wiki, and notes and password managers
  • Multimedia -- Gxine media player, AlsaMixer and sGixer audio mixers, Pmusic* audio player, and various CD/DVD and music tools
  • Calculate -- Gnumeric spreadsheet, HomeBank finance management, and several calculators and converters
  • Filesystem -- ROX-Filer file management, Pmount drive manager, GParted and Pdisk partition managers, and lots more
  • Configuration -- The Wizard wizard, and many individual wizards and GUI panels for easy device configuration and administration
Applications that are starred (*) above were added in release 4.1. View the bundled applications and their release numbers for 4.00 and 4.1.2 here. See here for a list of all installable 4.x packages.

One factor driving the adoption of new applications in version 4 is that the graphical system was fully upgraded to GTK2. GTK1 and Tcl/Tk were eliminated. This gives Puppy 4 a consistent user interface and more integrated feel. It also means that more programs than before fit into the product's small footprint. Puppy 4 is still less than a 100M download.

The version 4 release notes list these applications resulting from the GTK2 upgrade: "ePDFView (PDF viewer), Pschedule (cron GUI), Osmo (personal organiser), Pcdripper (audio CD ripper), RipOff (audio CD ripper), mhWaveEdit (audio editor), Pburn (CD/DVD burner), MTR (traceroute), Pnethood (Samba client), Pwireless (wireless scanner), pStopWatch (stopwatch), HomeBank (personal finances), ExpenseTracker (personal finances), ChmSee (CHM help viewer), Gmeasures (units converter), Fotox (image viewer), Gwhere (disk catalogger), Prename (batch file renamer), gFnRename (batch file renamer), Pfind (file search), Pprocess (process manager), Chtheme (GTK theme chooser), HardInfo (hardware information), PcurlFtp (simple network file sharing), Pidgin (multiprotocol chat client), Gadm-Rsync (GUI for rsync), Wireless Autoconnect, Gtkam (digital camera interface), Xsane (scanner interface), Figaro's Password Manager 2, HotPup (drive icons on desktop)."

The Main Puppy Screen -- as with any Linux you can easily alter the background image, desktop icons, and the like.


With the Gnome Office suite and tons of supporting tools, Puppy provides a full desktop for office workers and students. Version 4 expands Puppy's multimedia offerings so that the base product is now also a complete multimedia environment.

The Live CD now supports both scanners and digital cameras. The former is based on the full SANE driver library and the Xsane GUI, while the latter is the Gtkam GUI and libgphoto2 with complete drivers. Release 4.1 adds the Pmusic audio player.

Along with the Gxine media player, the Gutenprint print drivers, and a slew of tools for audio recording/editing/conversion, Puppy achieves full out-of-the-box multimedia capability in version 4.

The Basic GUI -- Puppy uses Joe's Window Manager, a graphical user interface reminiscent of XFCE. Right-clicking anywhere on the desktop brings up the main menu. Here we see some of the multimedia tools that come with Puppy 4.

Package Management

Puppy's one-click installer for new packages is called PETget. The PETget GUI has been completely redesigned in version 4 for clarity and ease of use, featuring package categories and multiple repositories.

Another big change is that Puppy 3.01 was built from Slackware-12 binaries and included all the necessary dependencies to install Slackware-12 packages. This meant you could use PETget to install Puppy 3 packages, or you could install Slackware-12 packages directly yourself.

Version 4 takes a different approach. It was completely recompiled from source for greater efficiency and to reduce space requirements. This is how it manages to include more applications in the same amount of space as previous releases. Since version 4 is no longer strictly Slackware-12 compatible, it includes a set of Slackware packages called the compatibility collection. With this, you can download and install many of the Slackware-12 binary packages.

Puppy 4 continues to use SFS files, groups of packages put together and managed as a single file. Just include an SFS file in the proper location and when you boot Puppy it includes all the packages in that file ready-to-use. Combined with PETget and the Puppy repositories, SFS files provide a complete system for convenient, dynamic package management.

Kernels and Internals

You can download the latest Puppy releases with either of two Linux kernels, or the older The newer kernel comes with updated drivers and provides better wireless support, for example, as well as the libata PATA drivers for IDE drives. The older kernel is conservatively configured to run on even the oldest Pentiums. Puppy brings older computers back to life with the older kernel.

Among the other "under the hood" hardware improvements in Puppy 4 and 4.1 are:
  • Faster booting
  • Better hardware detection
  • Better modem detection and configuration
  • Auto-resolution for LCD monitors
  • Improved PCMCIA support
  • Improved timezone setting
  • Improved Installer
  • Many re-written wizards and utilities, for example, the Network Wizard, Pmount the drive mounter, and PETget for installing additional packages
Combined with all-updated applications, these internal improvements take Puppy 4.x significantly beyond the previous release, Puppy 3.01.

Writing a CD or DVD -- This screen shows me using PBurn, the CD/DVD burner tool to back up data from an infected Windows system to disc. Even though I booted Puppy from CD-ROM, I can remove the system boot disc because Puppy runs from memory, and now I use the burner to write a new CD or DVD.


I like Puppy's fresh new look. The work on theme consistency and the move to pure GTK2 have paid off. Combined with Puppy's responsiveness, this is an interface many will love.

Experienced Puppy users will be struck by how many more applications and utilities Puppy 4 contains in the same size download as its predecessors. The move to GTK2 and the full recompilation have accomplished their goal -- Puppy provides more functionality than ever while retaining its tiny sub-100M footprint. And much of the system has been rewritten and improved.

Puppy still runs entirely from memory if your computer has 256M. I believe that keeping Puppy within this limit is wise. Many Pentium III's shipped with 256M and this is the maximum allowable memory for most Pentium II's. It's also the base memory for early netbooks. Along with the option to download either the newer or older kernels, the 256M target ensures continued support for older machines, while moving the product forward and keeping it within the Linux mainstream. This, of course, is an issue for any Linux distro that runs on low-end equipment -- how does one keep up with Linux enhancements while not disappointing users who depend on the product to support older machines? Puppy resolves this dilemma in part by quickly evolving while still offering older releases and their add-on packages, all from one easy download site. Plus the 4.x releases offer a choice of kernels.

Puppy Linux versions 4.0 and 4.1.2 are major accomplishments. But one must wonder: what comes next? Puppy's founder and "benevolent dictator," Barry Kauler, is leaving Puppy for other challenges. While he'll still consult on the project, the Puppy community itself will become responsible for future product development. Can they come together and succeed with another big release? Can they improve this unusual Linux distro even further? There are no guarantees in life or Linux, but I'm placing a big bet on "yes."

For more information on Puppy Linux, visit the official and community websites, the forums, and the download page.

Howard Fosdick is a database administrator and technical support specialist who works as an independent consultant. His free 40-page consumer guide How to Secure Windows and Your Privacy has been downloaded a half million times. Thanks to reviewer Ed Jason for his input to this article.

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Comments about this article
Puppy 4.2 is now available
writen by: on 2009-05-18 23:17:28
Puppy 4.2 is now available. [url=http://www.puppylinux.org/?q=wiki/development/puppy-4-series/archivesold-wikka-wikkicategoryusercontributionspuppy-42-release-not]Details here[/url] [url=http://www.puppylinux.org/downloads]Download here[/url]
RE: Puppy 4.2 is now available written by :
Puppy 4.2 links
writen by: on 2009-05-18 23:21:14
Links didn't take. Here's another try. Puppy 4.2 is now available. Details here: http://www.puppylinux.org/?q=wiki/development/puppy-4-series/archivesold-wikka-wikkicategoryusercontributionspuppy-42-release-not Download here: http://www.puppylinux.org/downloads
RE: Puppy 4.2 links written by :
Nice review; a newer version is available
writen by: masinick on 2009-07-16 13:27:06
I see that in your comments section that there is mention of a V4.2. That is true, but there is also a V4.2.1. I found V4.2 to be a bit of a bust, though I worked around the issues. The next release, however, V4.2.1, fixed the issues. Primarily the issue I was having was that the wireless firmware drivers that I use somehow got broken in V4.2. I was able to grab an ndiswrapper Windows driver for the Broadcom 4311 interface, believe it or not, from the PCLinuxOS partition, which I was able to mount from Puppy, get what I needed, then start wireless networking. V4.2.1 did not have this problem; I checked. Also, I believe that some people were experiencing issues with Abiword in V4.2, which led to a spat between the 4.2 project leader and a developer of another Puppy community derivative. That led to the V4.2 project leader choosing to resign as project leader and let someone else take on the headaches, though he did a good job - can't remember, he may have led the 4.2.1 effort before resigning; in any case, V4.2.1 is perhaps the finest Puppy version ever.
RE: Nice review; a newer version is available written by masinick:

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