Deepin Linux is one of the best distributions a beginner can choose for his first steps in the world of Linux. Deepin incorporates all the essential tools most people would need for the daily use of their computer, while its creators take care of both its sleek looks and usability. Even a complete Linux beginner can start using it right away, enjoying one of the slickest open-source desktop environments. It does feel, though, more tailored to touch screens, with large icons and long lists you have to scroll through to find what you want. It also demands a brief familiarization period with its environment.
However, both this “brief familiarization with its environment” and the touch screen approach can be almost entirely eliminated, making Deepin’s desktop more familiar and friendly for those who come to it from the world of Windows and closer to how other “more mainstream” Linux desktop environments work. For this, you only need three simple tweaks.
Launchers and taskbars
Instead of a standard taskbar, Deepin Linux prefers the macOS approach, presenting a floating launcher with icons at the bottom and center of the screen. However, it is not mandatory to use it that way, nor do you have to install extra software or get deep in arcane settings to change this. On Deepin, it’s only a mouse click away.
Right-click on the first icon in the launcher, which shows the main menu. From the pop-up menu that appears, swap the active mode from “Fashion Mode” to “Efficient Mode.”
Deepin seems to follow the logic of touch interfaces by default, even when you’re using it on a huge desktop monitor with a mouse and keyboard. Thus, it presents all the contents of its main menu in a list in alphabetical order. A list where it is already difficult to locate a particular entry with the distribution’s default software, before even installing anything else. And, in the process, extending the list even more, making it even harder to find a specific entry.
For this reason, at the top and center of the screen you can find a search field. Unfortunately, while it certainly helps in finding the installed applications, it is far from ideal. And this is because it assumes you remember the name of the application you need. It’s the same problem Canonical had with their Unity desktop environment, the same problem Gnome 3 initially tried – and failed – to tackle.
Fortunately, an almost invisible icon, in the upper-left corner of the menu, can put some order in this icon mess. One click on it and all menu entries are sorted under their respective category instead of a vast alphabetical list-of-everything. At the same time, on the left side of the menu, a list of all categories of applications will appear, making it easy to jump between them.
Back to normal size
Organizing the list of applications into categories can make locating them more straightforward, but it is still too different to how you’d access your software in Windows. It might be an excellent approach for touch screens and work without a hitch on iOS and Android, but it’s just not as straightforward as a Start menu for typical desktop use. Fortunately, this is easily corrected: Deepin also has an alternative way of visualizing its main menu. It is accessible by the icon at the top-right of the menu “across” the category display button you used in the previous step.
A click on it and the Deepin menu will turn from a large window that covers the entire screen into a standard pop-up box that appears at the bottom left of the screen, just above the main menu button.
We think this version of the menu is better for everyday use, as it still gives access to the same number of applications – which are presented differently and with smaller icons. At the same time, however, it also gives permanent access to the list of categories, without having to explicitly “call for them” with a button. And it also displays, in a large and clear format, the time and date, while giving instant access to the computer’s log-out / shutdown settings and functions.
If, for some reason, you want to go back to the previous full-screen display mode, use the same button again, which in the small menu version, too, can be found in the upper-right corner. It works as a toggle between the two display modes.
Transparency in the elements of a desktop environment can help with both appearance and usability, as it allows you to “see through” windows and menus. Deepin, however, seems to overdo it, making its menus somewhat unreadable, especially when windows behind them display “bright” content, like a browser with Google Search open.
To reduce the transparency levels and make the desktop menus more readable, click the “Settings” button in the main menu. Turn your attention to the panel that appears on the right edge of the screen. Select Personalization, and from the list of parameters that appears, change the Transparency level by moving the slider to the right. The more you move it to the right, the less transparent the desktop elements will be.
Although we have changed only three options, they can make a significant difference in the daily use of Deepin’s desktop. Where Deepin initially “looks and works somewhat like a Mac,” with these tweaks it gets so much closer to the Windows paradigm that it’s also more similar to how everything looks and works in the most popular desktop environments in the world of Linux, KDE, Gnome 2, Mate, and XFCE.
Best of all, you don’t have to follow one specific approach. Apply all or no tweaks – feel free to mix and match as you please. For example, keeping the main menu huge but changing the launcher to a “proper task bar” or vice versa.