In this Linux Desktop Environment review, we have a slightly controversial choice. Deepin, both as a distribution and as a Desktop Environment, is one that not everybody feels comfortable using and trusting. However, we’ll be setting that aside, dispelling some myths, and looking at the beautiful Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE), its user experience, some notable features, and giving some recommendations on where to experience it and who should use it.
Deepin First Impressions
One of the first things I was struck by while using Deepin is how visual it is. It takes many really great design elements from around the Linux ecosystem and combines them into one Desktop Environment. It’s a little of this, a little of that, and is a really unique experience to use. It feels complete, like something that someone would customize a KDE Plasma install to look like.
The User Experience for Deepin is remarkably like a traditional desktop paradigm, even if it’s a little fancier than normal. You have everything in the bottom task bar, including a searchable application menu, pinned icons for favorite applications, and a system tray with all kinds of useful information. It’s surprisingly traditional.
One of the major features of Deepin is the Deepin Tool Kit or DTK. It’s a framework for creating Deepin applications, similar to GTK. DTK allows Deepin to have a very specific appearance, and it makes applications developed for Deepin look very cohesive, much like GNOME applications tend to.
Speaking of Deepin Applications, there are several applications that are native to the Deepin Desktop Environment. Everything from the File Manager to the App Store to the Calculator have all been designed specifically for Deepin. This is very similar to Pantheon, where the developers had a very particular image in mind when they were creating Deepin.
Deepin File Manager
One of the great things about creating your own applications for your Desktop Environment is that you have control over every little detail. The Deepin File Manager is one of those examples. I’ve never seen a file manager bring in so many useful details from other desktop operating systems.
It has great folder icons at a reasonable size to most Linux Distros but also has a great place where it shows you the mounted partitions in the “Computer” folder. Rather than going all the way to the “/” directory and finding your different partitions that way, or even worse going to “Other locations,” you can just reach it from the default screen of the file manager. I really like this, as it gives me full transparency and control into my file system.
Deepin App Store
The Deepin app store reminds me a lot of Discover from KDE Plasma, but it’s a little better integrated. There are tons of categories on the left, and there are a bunch of applications in the Deepin App Store that have (wine) next to them. This means that they are Windows applications that run under Wine. The whole process is seamless. All you have to do is click, “Install” and the application installs and runs under Wine.
Additionally, nothing is hidden from you. VNC servers and sensor applications are all visible to you. There’s nothing that’s hard to find. It makes me feel like there’s so much software available for my Linux desktop.
One thing that’s really lacking for me in most Linux desktop environments is a good settings menu. The Settings menu from macOS is so simple to navigate and makes me want something like that on my Linux desktop. The Deepin Control Center is just that: an icon-based, dead simple settings manager that gives me what I need without a bunch of extra cruft in the way.
Performance is one of the areas where Deepin begins to suffer. At idle, Deepin hovers at about 870MB RAM and 8% CPU usage. This is a lot to ask of a machine, especially considering one of the things that’s so great about Linux is the “revive your old hardware” thing. Deepin is not a great fit for those of you looking to use it on much older hardware.
That said, if your hardware can handle it, the actual performance of the system is great. Applications open quickly enough, switching from virtual desktop to virtual desktop is seamless, and it’s overall a great experience to use on capable hardware.
The Cons of Deepin
One of the biggest cons for me is the feeling of being juvenile. It’s a hard line to walk, but between the default icon theme looking cartoonish to the strange look of the multitasking view, it feels like a system that is for someone half my age, or even younger. I don’t personally enjoy the visual design and am having a hard time getting used to it.
Where to Experience Deepin
The most obvious place is Deepin. It has been my model for this review, and I would say it’s a shining example of the good things about DDE. If you don’t want to use Deepin, DDE is also available for a variety of distros.
Who Should Use Deepin
Anybody who really likes the aesthetic of Deepin would be a great candidate. The DE is very focused on aesthetics, and it’s a perfect fit for someone who wants exactly this.
Make sure to check out our other Desktop Environment reviews, including GNOME, XFCE, Cinnamon, and more. Also, check out our other Deepin content: like our Deepin Linux review and a great guide on making Deepin more like Windows in 3 clicks.