Deepin 2014, the latest version, which was released about two weeks ago, uses a custom desktop environment called Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE). And it is the first version that shipped with the second edition of that desktop. It is also the first version that shipped with a new graphical installer.
I like Deepin and what the developers are trying to do – build a desktop distribution that just works and is fun to use. With this review, I’ll take you through the different aspects of Deepin 2014 and what I think about them.
Let’s start with The Installer: Deepin’s brand new graphical installer, like every custom application from Deepin, is simple to use and cool to the eyes. However, it lacks some very important features. For example, there’s no support for LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, full disk encryption, or even home folder encryption. I’m sure those features are in its roadmap, but right now, they are not supported.
Most of the features that it does have work as expected. This screenshot shows the installer’s user setup step, which also happens to be the first step of the installation process. It has the basic features, nothing more. What I’ll like you to see at this step is an option to encrypt the home folder. A password strength indicator would be nice, too.
This screenshot shows the installer’s second step, which is also its disk partitioning step. It has a Simple Mode and an Expert Mode. The simple mode is supposed to be the automated disk partitioning mode, but you have to be careful if there’s an existing OS on the target disk. Depending on the layout of the existing partitions, an attempt to set up a dual-boot system could leave you with an unbootable system. For such a setup, it’s better to have a free space that you can partition manually. (See Manual disk partitioning guide for Deepin 2014 and Dual-boot Deepin 2014 and Windows 7 on a PC with UEFI firmware.)
And this shows the expert mode. A number of features are missing here. There is, for example, no support no GPT partitions when creating partitions manually. And there’s no option to create a new partition table on the target disk, if you ever need to. Now you see that this graphical installer still needs a lot of work. I hope it gets all the missing features before Deepin 2015 is released.
The Desktop: Deepin Desktop Environment 2.0, which made its debut on Deepin 2014, is a redesigned version of what shipped in Deepin 2013. (See Linux Deepin 2013 review.) Not only does it look better than the earlier version, but it feels just right. There’s no fighting the desktop just to get stuff done. There’s a natural flow as you move from one task to the another. True, there are features that have not been implemented and a few that are buggy, but in general, the DDE 2.0 is a beautiful thing. And most of that stems from the design and location of the Control Center. Before getting deeper in to what makes the desktop fun to use, let’s make a brief stop at the login screen.
The Deepin 2014 Login Screen
This screen shot shows the default login screen.
And this one shows the same screen after the built-in guest account had been enabled. How to use Deepin 2014 Guest account shows how to activate it, a process which should not need a guide to setup, but which took me more time than I’ll like to admit to figure out.
Now to the desktop itself. In terms of look-and-feel, the desktop is simply the best I’ve come across. Yep, that includes Cinnamon. Yes, it still has some rough edges, but the design and layout are about as intuitive as it gets. It feels just right. And the three features that make it feel that way are the dock, the launcher and, most especially, the Control Center. Below is a view of the default desktop without the default wallpaper.
Three of the desktop’s corners are hot corners. Right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Corner navigation from the context menu gives you a view of the hot corners. Modifying the action of a hot corner is just a matter of selecting a different option from a list of available actions. Part of what makes the desktop a joy to use is that most aspects of the system can be configured and customized without opening a window. This screenshot shows the hot corner view of the desktop.
Out of the box, Deepin 2014 comes with four workspaces (virtual desktops) activated, but the only out-of-the-box method of showing them is to use keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl 1 to Ctrl 4). However, the unused corner (top-right) can be configured to show all open application windows of the active workspace or all four workspaces. Once configured, bounce the mouse cursor off the hot corner to show open windows on the current workspace. While still in that view, repeat the mouse action to show windows from all four workspaces. As cool as that feels, I think it will be better to also have icons on the dock for navigating between workspaces.
The open application windows visible in this screenshot are from all four workspaces.
The Deepin 2014 Dock
The dock is not the fisheye type and is glued to the bottom-edge of the desktop. There’s nothing flashy about it. It just works, though it could use a bit more customization options. As it is now, the only thing you can do to the dock is hide or autohide it. You can’t flip its position to any other edge of the desktop or reduce the size of the icons. Both those customization options would be really nice to have.
Out of the box, there are 13 applications on the dock. They are for the launcher, Deepin Store (graphical package manager), Deepin Games, Deepin Movie, Deepin Music, Chromium (default Web browser), Files (file manager), Control Center, calendar, Network Manager applet, volume controls, and Trash icon. Applications may be added to it by right-clicking on the application’s icon from the launcher and selecting Send to dock. You could also achieve the same effect simply by dragging and dropping an application’s icon from the launcher (to the dock).
To remove an icon, right-click on its icon and select Undock. The same effect can also be accomplished simply by dragging the icon out of the dock.