(MX-18 desktop with start menu and system info opened)

MX is an interesting desktop GNU/Linux based on Debian but without Systemd.  It's powered with simple and user friendly interface thanks to XFCE Desktop. It's actually very lightweight, shipped with a lot of MX own tools (including remastering and tweaking ones), available in 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. The latest version, MX-18 "Continuum", equipped with ability to search and install Flatpak applications. Last but not least, MX exists as collaboration between two big communities, Mepis and antiX, hence the name MX since 2008 up to today. I hope you enjoy my overview below introducing several good points of MX. Enjoy!

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1. About MX


MX is a desktop operating system with simple user interface and without Systemd Init based on Debian GNU/Linux and exists as a collaboration project between Mepis and Antix communities. It's available for 32-bit and 64-bit computers with ISO download and repository mirrors available worldwide. Its slogan is "Midweight Simple Stable Desktop OS". Its first version was MX-14 on 2014 and the latest one is MX-18 on 2019. And, it's currently ranked #1 on Distrowatch over Manjaro and Ubuntu. MX website is located at https://mxlinux.org.


(MX official logo)

(Welcome screen appears on LiveCD session of MX-18 showing help and resources for user including username and password of the session)

What's so interesting about MX is not only its Sysvinit, but also its commitment to support 32-bit computers as stated on their FAQ "MX has no plans to discontinue 32-bit releases for the foreseeable future." This is a really good news for old-computer users.

For whom MX is? In my opinion, MX is mostly suitable for people who avoid Systemd looking for a well-maintained desktop GNU/Linux. You see, all desktop GNU/Linux are now using Systemd, just say Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Manjaro, even Debian itself. On the other hand, non-Systemd distro number is very limited, just say Slackware, Gentoo, and others and at best Devuan (new, just released 2014). MX came since 2008 and is supported by two large and active communities, Mepis and Antix; it's based on Debian which everybody is accustomed to its Synaptic and APT; it focuses solely on desktop with XFCE. Last but not least, as you can see below, MX community is quite active and large, a good place for everybody getting help.

(MX popularity on Distrowatch is now #1 among the big five)

Important links of MX are available here:

2. Desktop


A custom XFCE with unusual taskbar on left and start menu button on bottom. Fortunately, Super key is enabled to open/close the start menu.


MX-18 includes a lot of MX wallpapers. And just like other XFCE distros, like Xubuntu, right-click on desktop shows the long context menu like below.


3. Applications and Flatpak


MX-18 ISO size is 1.4GB for either 32-bit or 64-bit versions. With such size, surprisingly MX includes so many applications. It includes LibreOffice (replacement to Microsoft Office), GIMP (r. to Photoshop), qpdfviewer (r. to Foxit Reader), Swell Foop (amusing game), Geany (r. to Sublime Text), VLC (video player), Clementine (r. to Winamp), Xfburn (r. to Nero Burning), etc.

 (Gif animation: MX start menu viewing every one of application installed)

 (MX-18 includes the whole LibreOffice version 6.0)

What's interesting is the inclusion of Flatpak on MX-18. And, users can easily search and install any Flatpak application using MX Package Installer. Flatpak, is an alternative method to obtain more software on GNU/Linux regardless the distro. By this inclusion, MX users have direct access to all applications available at Flathub, the central app store of Flatpak for all distros.

 (MX Package Installer showing applications with sizes, total items, and repository source (Flathub.org); and I find that it runs very quickly, far beyond Ubuntu Software Center for instance)


(Flathub.org as the main source of Flatpak applications today)


4. Repository and Updates


MX has multiple repositories of MX itself, antiX's, and Debian Stretch's. They are maintained by 3 different communities. All lists are available under /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ directory and unusually, there is no actual /etc/apt/sources.list file. And as an information, MX has additional nonfree software source called various.list which points to Opera Browser and VirtualBox.


To install software, MX users mainly use Synaptic Package Manager. For individual DEB package, users can use GDebi instead. Both are from Debian.


Speaking about mirrors, fortunately MX mirrors are now available worldwide. Go to start menu > MX Repo Manager and you will see full table with country flags. For instance, suppose you live in Indonesia, just choose Indonesia mirror there (or the closest one geographically) and then Reload on Synaptic to change the download source to server in Indonesia. This way, installing software could be faster for everybody.

(List of mirrors available worldwide for MX-18)

5. Tools


MX is special because of it includes a lot of useful tools. Among them are MX Tweak (similar to GNOME Tweaks) and MX Tools (similar to Control Panel). MX Tweak makes it easy to rearrange panel and theming on desktop. MX Tools gives you central place to access all MX settings. To make you more interested, MX even includes a remastering tool called MX RemasterCC.

(MX Tweak allows you to switch panel position, desktop theme, and shadow effects)

(MX Tools is a central place to access all facilities available)

6. Documentation & Community


MX-18 includes 170 pages User Manual in PDF we can access from start menu > MX User Manual. Not only that, for built-in utilities like MX Tools, clicking Manual button views this User Manual.

(PDF as User Manual; this is similar to Manjaro's)

The forum is located at forum.mxlinux.org and it's quite active with total post of 180,000, 15,000 topics, and 6100 members and still counting. As a non-member, I like to see this forum, as everything you see on main page is dated 2019 meaning the discussions are very lively!

(The forum is by number even larger than Antix forum)

7. Init System


Finally, the init system used by default is Sysvinit. Actually, systemd is preinstalled as well but it's not enabled. Some other components comes from systemd but as stated in the documentation, they are merely helpers for compatibility.

(DPKG shows all Sysvinit related packages installed)

(DPKG shows that Systemd is actually installed)

Final Thoughts


Honestly, MX feels lightweight despite it states it's "midweight". Thanks to XFCE desktop, it runs flawlessly on my old laptop (Aspire One Pentium 4GB). I can say to people looking for good non-Systemd distro to try MX as the real alternative to Devuan. And for those looking a distro with a lot of its own tools, MX is a good alternative to either deepin or elementary OS. I like the fact that MX still supports 32-bit so everybody can run latest software on oldest computer possible. And the tool I like the most for now is the Flatpak section in MX Package Installer, as no other distro has such Synaptic-like Flatpak manager, it's really to-the-point in showing name and size of every Flatpak available. With large size community (along with tight collaboration from antiX's as well), everybody will feel at home using MX. I hope you enjoy this overview and try MX now. Enjoy!


This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


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