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This is a long review about the new deepin 15.3 GNU/Linux operating system. deepin 15.3 released 13 September 2016 bringing a very beautiful desktop plus so many new features we excited to see. I consider now that deepin 15.3 desktop is one of the most beautiful GNU/Linux desktop systems ever made, besides the elementary OS Loki, and at the same time is also extremely useful in desktop features (except its inclusion of proprietary software). I divide this review in 9 parts, with 3 additional parts, and 1 bonus in the end. I hope this review will be useful a lot for everyone.
i. About Deepin
deepin is a free GNU/Linux software distribution from Wuhan Technology, a Chinese commercial company focused on R&D. A deepin GNU/Linux distribution product consists of the operating system itself, the software, and the repositories. Deepin OS is designed for desktop usage with its own user interface called Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE) and daily-usage desktop software such as Deepin File Manager, Deepin Screenshot, Deepin Store, and many more. Deepin itself is a derivative of Debian GNU/Linux, which makes use of the same dpkg/apt management system.
For deepin 15.3, these are the basic information:
- Architecture: 32 & 64 bit
- ISO size: 2 GB & 2 GB
- MD5 hash sums: 90404d0929499e652f373bfae9f07b41 and c52c6d309f311346e996aa82a34af286
- Type: desktop only
- Derived from: Debian sid
- Download: https://www.deepin.org/download.html
- Source code: https://github.com/linuxdeepin
- Price: gratis
- License: free software & open source (with some proprietary software component)
- Minimum requirements: Intel Pentium 4 (or anything else comparable) processor, 1 GB of RAM
ii. Memory Consumption
deepin 15.3 consumes around 400-500 MB of RAM when idle in my laptop (natively installed in an external HDD). It is already huge for desktop computers, but it is still lower than elementary OS Loki that consuming around 600-700 MB when idle.
a) RAM Usage
It eats around 519 MB of memory when idle in my laptop. So I can not recommend 512 RAM computer users to install deepin, because at least you will need 1 GB of RAM (but it will be a pain), rather, I recommend you to have at least 2 GB of RAM to install deepin.
b) Huge Processes
As you can see at running process list below (taken while it's idle), the most consuming process is deepin-wm with 34 MB usage of RAM and the "runner-up" is dde-launcher with 30 MB usage of RAM. Again as you can see, deepin as desktop OS, spends especially many memory on the desktop user interface. I recommend anyone to install deepin 15.3 in computer with RAM at least 2 GB.
iii. Shortcut Keys
deepin desktop has its own shortcut keys scheme. It has some different points from any other desktop environment in GNU/Linux. If you don't know, Super key is Windows key in most keyboards, a key placed usually between Ctrl and Alt keys.
- Super: show desktop menu (launcher).
- Super+S: activate multitasking mode.
- Super+D: show desktop or maximize all windows.
- Super+W: spread window.
- Super+E: open Deepin File Manager.
- Alt+Tab: switch between windows.
- Ctrl+Alt+T: open Deepin Terminal.
- Super+Up/Down: maximize/minimize window.
- Ctrl+Alt+A: take screenshot (whole desktop or region).
- Alt+PrintScreen: take screenshot of current window.
- Ctrl+PrintScreen: take screenshot with delay time.
- Terminal: Ctrl+Shift+J: vertical split.
- Terminal: Ctrl+Shift+H: horizontal split.
- Terminal: Alt+H/J/K/L: select a split window.
- Terminal: Ctrl+Alt+Q: close a split window.
Part 1: Desktop
deepin user interface is an integrated software stack called Deepin Desktop Environment (or simply DDE). It has a very different design compared to any desktop environment available for GNU/Linux. The most noticeable appearance of DDE consists of 3 aspects: the bottom dock, the right sidebar, and the desktop menu.
1.1 Desktop Menu
deepin DDE menu can be accessed by pressing Super key (Windows key, keyboard). It is the same behavior as Microsoft Windows desktop menu, and also Unity's, and GNOME's menu. While opened, the menu covers the display up, showing application icons plus a search bar.
1.2 Desktop Menu (Alternative)
While we point the cursor into the top-left corner, and click the button, we can change the icons arrangement with the categorized style (alternative). It groups the icons into categories, to help new users differentiate between them. Click it once again, the icons arrangement goes back to default. It's a new thing for desktop menu to place the categories list in the left and using horizontal lines to separate the icon groups.
The first thing to notice from deepin DDE is the bottom dock. It reminds us to Apple MacOS style, but without the top panel on the desktop.
1.4 Dock (Alternative)
Also, it reminds us to elementary OS style. The most different thing between DDE's one and them is that DDE dock is changeable into a fully-horizontal bottom panel (taskbar). If you look at this picture below, you will notice that this style is very similar to Windows 7's or 10's taskbar. It has the task switcher, a system tray, and also place for docked icons. If you like the time always shown, then this alternative style is the best.
Because it has no window for System Settings (explained in next part below), deepin has its own style to change desktop wallpaper. It has an on-the-fly wallpaper changer, a bottom panel with wallpaper pictures, when the user activates wallpaper changer. We can slide it to right or to left to see the pictures available and click one to activate it.
deepin DDE has its own style in multiple desktop (workspaces) feature, similar with any desktop environment for GNU/Linux, but it's still different. Press Super+S and you see the desktop rearrange itself in wokspaces overview mode, with plus button (+) on the top, workspaces selection bar on the top, and the actual desktop on the bottom.
What is this? Workspaces (or also known as virtual desktops) is a desktop multitasking feature where the user can place different running windows in different workspaces, and switch among them quickly without restart/relogin.
We can slide around the workspaces by sliding mouse wheel-button, we can move an application window by dragging it into any of workspaces on the top bar or left/right desktop selection on the bottom.
To be honest, this style is very similar with elementary OS style, except elementary places the workspaces selection bar (the one where "+" belongs) on the bottom; while deepin places it on the top.
1.7 Disk Mounter
It's an undockable icon on Deepin Dock, responsible for listing & mounting/unmounting any disk drive quickly. Its very useful to place such feature in desktop, to ease all users accessing their drives. To safely remove disk is very easy, just clik on the unmount button (the black reversed-triangle with underline).
1.8 Audio Volume
It's also an undockable feature on Deepin Dock, to control the sound volume of whole system and each running audio/video software. But, to control input volume, we use the Control Center sidebar.
1.9 End-Session Screen
While we press the Power button on Deepin Dock, we see this screen overlays our screen. We do logout, restart, sleep, or shutdown from this screen. This Power button is a button to show End-Session Screen, and also as an battery power indicator (for laptop computers). It shows thunder icon in charger, and shows power icon in battery.
1.10 Icons on The Desktop
It's different with popular desktops for GNU/Linux, which usually doesn't allow desktop icons. For example, see Unity and GNOME 3. On the other hand, in Microsoft Windows, the user makes use icons on the desktop quite frequently. But deepin DDE, is different from them both, it allows the user to create shortcut icons for files and folders only, not for applications. So you still can place shortcuts on the desktop, and also you still can rearrange the icon positions as you wish, but they are not application shortcuts (like in Windows or KDE).
It is a very good desicion. I like DDE to walk this way. But it's partial, I hope Wuhan Technology will soon add the application shortcuts on the desktop feature.
Part 2: System Settings
deepin DDE does not have any dedicated window for System Settings, as I said, different with openSUSE with YaST or Windows with Control panel. As a replacement, it has a sidebar on the right edge of screen, it appears while the user points the cursor to bottom-right corner of screen. It's called Control Center.
Sidebar as a control panel is a new approach in desktop environment world in GNU/Linux. As far as I know, per October 2016 there are just three desktop products moving to this approach: Manokwari (BlankOn GNU/Linux), Budgie Desktop (Solus OS), and of course DDE (deepin OS). I don't know why, but I suppose this is an influence from Microsoft Windows 8 or 10.
2.1 Control Center Sidebar
Push the cursor into bottom-right corner of screen, and the Control Center sidebar appears. This sidebar is a new approach for a desktop, where the traditional "Control Panel" window abandoned and replaced with it. We control every aspect of desktop with this sidebar, starting with the user accounts, monitor, desktop appearance, until shutdown.
2.2 Boot Menu
Another new thing in deepin is about editing your GRUB bootloader via desktop menu, specifically via Control Center sidebar. It is a smart idea to have a bootloader editor like this, so the new users can do hard task easily and safely.
Part 3: Default Software Applications
deepin 15.3 brings many software applications that can be divided into 2 categories: original software from Wuhan Technology itself and third-party software.
3.1 Original Software
They are software developed by deepin developers included by default:
- Deepin Desktop Environment (the user interface)
- Deepin Store (the software center)
- Deepin Screenshot
- Deepin Photo View
- Deepin Boot Maker (USB bootable creator)
- Deepin Dock
- Deepin Control Center (the sidebar)
- Deepin Music (audio player)
- Deepin Movie (video player)
- Deepin Calendar
- Deepin Remote Assistance (remote desktop program)
- Deepin Cloud Print
- Deepin Cloud Scan
3.2 Third-Party Software
They are desktop software developed by another teams outside of Wuhan Technology Team, but unfortunately many of them are proprietary software (Green color is free software, red color is proprietary software):
- GNOME Gedit (text editor)
- Mozilla Thunderbird (email client)
- CUPS (printing system)
- ChmSee (CHM reader)
- Evince (PDF reader)
- Simple Scan (scanner program)
- GNOME System Monitor (task manager)
- GNOME Font Viewer (font installer)
- GNOME Archive Manager (compressed-files manager)
- GNOME Calculator (calculator program)
- Linux Mint Driver Manager (driver installer)
- GDebi (.deb package installer)
- GParted (partition editor)
- WPS Office (office suite)
- Spotify Client (music streaming)
- Google Chrome (web browser)
- CrossOver Linux (Windows' applications emulator)
- Steam (gaming system)
- Skype (internet telephony)
- Free software inclusion: deepin still includes third-party's free software.
- Proprietary software inclusion: unfortunately, this inclusion of those proprietary software built-in is bad. I hope Wuhan Technology reconsiders this. Furthermore, I hope Kingsoft, Spotify, Google, Valve, and Microsoft reconsider and re-release their products that available in deepin as free software. Please read FSF article about proprietary.
Part 4: Deepin Store
deepin 15.3 is based on Debian Sid, it means it uses the dpkg and apt package managers, it uses the trio main-contrib-nonfree repositories, but the main difference is deepin has a brand-new software center GUI called Deepin Store.
4.1 Deepin Store
Note: there are limited numbers of software you can install from Deepin Store, but the rest of them are installable using Deepin Terminal.
4.2 Deepin Store: Application Entry
deepin Developer Team strives to provide beautiful, tidy, and informative details at the same time for every application entry in Deepin Store. Every application entry has its icon, its detailed information, screenshots, and even user rating. It looks very professional, even when we compare it with Ubuntu Software Center, or even more elementary OS AppStore. It looks that Wuhan Technology takes visual appearance very seriously in here.
- Visually beautiful, professional layouts.
- Easy to understand, simple to navigate.
- Social, community oriented. Deepin Store and its system let the users to leave comments and to rate every single application available.
- Considerably lightweight, especially when compared to Ubuntu Software Center. Deepin Store consumes about 63 MB of RAM when idle in my laptop.
- No proxy settings. It can be a big obstacle for those using deepin in universities or offices, where the internet connection is filtered by proxies (e.g. Captive Portal). I hope Wuhan Technology adds this feature soon.
- No repository settings. For long-term usage, an ideal GNU/Linux desktop should let the user to change their repository settings easily and clearly. Deepin Store does not have it. I also hope Wuhan Technology to reconsider this.
Part 5: File Manager
- Simple & generic user interface.
- Search facility, real time searching.
- It has no multiple tab, just like Windows Explorer.
- It has no split view, just like nowadays GNOME Nautilus.
- Is has no title bar & menu bar, just like any of nowadays GNOME applications.
- Recycle bin, pressing Delete key are moving the file into the Trash, not delete it permanently.
5.1 General Appearance
It is a beautiful, new file manager for GNU/Linux. The combination between its own interface and deepin icons set is pretty. In general, Deepin File Manager (DFM) visual and features are very simple and minimalistic, probably too simple, even if we compare it with GNOME Nautilus. It shares few same concepts as Nautilus: icon-style left sidebar, no Up button, icons & list view modes. Because of its simplicity, new users do not need to learn about how to use it, hence it is easy to use. But it has strongly different points from Nautilus, especially in preferences (DFM does not have any) and multitab.
DFM search facility is a step better than elementary OS File Manager, because it does the search in real time, showing the results in real time.
5.3 Send to Desktop
5.4 File Properties
DFM shows every file properties in an elegant small-window. This small detail brings a little information about the file. The information showed is very understandable, and the design of every window makes me think that Wuhan Technology cares about the visual design very seriously. But again, because of its minimalistic design, even it does not have Permissions Control (rwx) like every file manager in UNIX-like should have.
- Simple to use. It is very simple in both feature and appearance, even it is simpler than GNOME Nautilus, so it will reduce the learning curve for most users.
- Beautiful to see. The icons used, the arrangement of buttons, the mixed titlebar-addressbar, the combination of them all, are (subjectively, but considerably) very neat to see.
- There is a recycle bin (called "Trash"). It is important for many users, to have a copy of deleted files (as long as Delete is not Shift+Del) especially for Windows users.
- Open in terminal. This allows the user to open current or selected directory in Terminal. It is very useful for new users, a great plus point.
- Create desktop shortcut. This allows the user to create a shortcut icon of a file or folder, on the desktop. It's extremely useful, and it shows clearly that deepin is created for desktop users.
- It has no split view, multitabbing, and preferences. This point is a considerably bad for a formerly GNU/Linux user, because usually a graphical file manager has those three features.
- It has no tree view mode. For most users come from Windows, and else, it is a minus point where we can not browse the folders in a hierarchical tree view.
- It does not remember user's sorting setting. It's the most discomfort point of DFM, where the user can not set custom "sort by", because DFM forgets the user's sorting every time user changes directory. I hope Wuhan Technology reconsider this, and soon adds this feature to DFM.
Part 6: Technical Details
This part explains some technical details about deepin 15.3.
- License: free software (with some proprietary software packages included by default)
- Source code: https://github.com/linuxdeepin
- Developer: Wuhan Technology Co., Ltd.
- Derived from: Debian Sid
- Architecture: 32 bit and 64 bit
- ISO size: 2 GB (32 bit) and 2 GB (64 bit)
- Download: https://www.deepin.org/download.html
- Desktop environment: Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE)
- Init system: systemd
- GNU bash version: 4.3.42
- GNU libc version: 2.22
- GNU coreutils version: 8.25
- Linux (kernel) version: 4.4
- dpkg version: 1.18.7
- apt version: 1.1.10
- sources.list: sources.list (default)
6.1 System Info
We can see our "system details" from sidebar > System Information. For example, it shows at picture below, my hardware specifications Celeron 2GB etc. And not only that, this section also shows license information and software updates information.
6.2 GNU OS & The Linux Kernel
deepin 15.3 ships with kernel 4.4.0-2, as a derivative of Debian Sid (unstable), using GNU bash 4.3.42, GNU libc 2.22, and GNU coreutils 8.25.
6.3 Deepin Desktop Environment
If you want to know what DDE packages installed, type the command line dpkg -l | grep -i dde . It shows that dde-desktop version is 3.0.15.
6.4 X.Org X Window System
If you want to know about the X Window System library & software packages installed, use the command lines dpkg -l | grep -i xorg and dpkg -l | grep -i x11 . They show that xorg version is 7.7.
deepin 15.3 ships with systemd version 229.
6.6 Apt Database
Performing the command line apt-cache stats gives us the summary about how many software packages available in deepin repositories. And it says that deepin has more than 84000 packages available (Normal Packages). It is a quite huge number for a GNU/Linux distribution.
Part 7: Terminal
A more surprising feature of deepin 15.3 is the Deepin Terminal program. At a glance, it is a window with semi-transparent background, without menu bar, with green theme of text on the console screen. At the first time, I think it is just another ordinary terminal, but it comes with "split window" feature, both horizontally and vertically. It is a feature loved by much console users, especially in another terminal program such as Terminator or tmux.
Besides the split window, Deepin Terminal comes with top screen drop-down console (Guake-like), multitab, and preferences features. With this Deepin Terminal alone, deepin is considerably suitable for programmers, especially if they come from Microsoft Windows.
7.1 Guake-like Top-Screen Terminal (Alt+F2)
Pressing Alt+F2 shows the top-screen terminal in deepin. It reminds us to Guake Terminal in GNOME. It is a keyboard-oriented feature that can boost the user's productivity. It's just like a famous FPS game (Quake) where the player can open the console while keeping the crosshair on the game.
7.2 Multitab & Split Screen
Just like another Terminal Emulators in GNU/Linux, Deepin Terminal has multiple tab feature. But it does not like another, Deepin Terminal comes with split screen feature. Combining multitab and split screen is really a very good idea from deepin's developers. It helps both new and advanced users.
7.3 Terminal Settings
The appearance of this settings makes Deepin Terminal better (more configurable) than elementary OS Pantheon Terminal. You can change the fonts, shortcut keys,
Part 8: Help & Documentation
deepin 15.3 comes with its own Help System. You can reach deepin Help for each of deepin applications from the three-horizontal-lines menu on every title bar. Both documentations and help system are very beautiful visually. More than that, deepin includes help system for GNOME applications (such as Gedit). I appreciate the design decisions for every single Help documentation of Deepin Applications, they are really elegant.
8.1 Where The Help Is
The Help for every Deepin Application is available at title bar > stacked-lines button > Help.
8.2 Help: Deepin File Manager
DFM has its own Help documentation, showing elegantly both the document and the Help window. It reminds me back when I read Qt API Reference documentations in Qt Creator (you knew how tidy they are), and it is very amusing to read Help in this way.
8.3 Help: Deepin Store
Just the same as DFM's one, even the screenshot is very amusing. I'd like to add it more here. Wuhan Technology must be taken very great amount of time to provide Help documentations in this way.
8.4 Help: Deepin Image Viewer
By these screenshots alone, it is clear that Wuhan thinks about every detail of visual appearances very seriously. It is a great feature in itself to provide the end-users both beautiful and useful Help for every Deepin Application.
8.5 Help: GNOME Applications
Fortunately, deepin also includes GNOME Yelp (this program below) to provide the users Help documentations for every GNOME application. If the user installs any GNOME application, the help of that application can be viewed from this GNOME Yelp.
8.6 man & info
In deepin 15.3, man system has already installed built-in. But, GNU Texinfo and GNU info are not installed by default.
Part 9: Technical Support
If you are serious in using deepin GNU/Linux, Wuhan Technology gives many external helps available online at listed below.
- Forum: http://bbs.deepin.org
- Wiki: https://wiki.deepin.org
- Send your feedback: http://feedback.deepin.org
- Blog: http://blog.deepin.org
- IRC: #deepin @ freenode
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deepinlinux
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/linux_deepin
deepin 15.3 is one of the most beautiful GNU/Linux desktop systems in 2016. As an operating system, it is suitable for both completely new users (to use a new OS) and ex-GNU/Linux users (to come back), because of its very elegant, amusing, extremely unique (among another GNU/Linux systems), and simple user interface; and at the same time the Debian sid background and the Deepin Terminal are suitable for advanced users. deepin 15.3 desktop operating system is really ready for any desktop use, because of its DDE flexible usability and so many software packages (more than 80,000) installable via Deepin Store or Deepin Terminal. The only message from me to Wuhan Technology left is I hope Wuhan reconsiders to remove all proprietary software out from deepin soon.
- For you server mirror admins, if you want to provide mirror repositories for deepin 15.3, follow this official guide https://www.deepin.org/mirror.html#serve.
- For you programmers, if you want to develop deepin software, see the whole deepin OS source code at https://github.com/linuxdeepin.
- For any of you willing to contribute, see the official community collaboration page at https://en.bbs.deepin.org/forum.php?gid=51.
- If you want a what to do after install article, we already have one WTDAI deepin 15.3.