New desktop: Deepin Desktop Environment

Software

To install additional software, you use the Deepin Store package manager, which provides a convenient interface (Figure  3). You launch it in the dock by clicking the orange icon with a shopping bag. In contrast to Synaptic, it primarily lists commonly used programs and hardly any libraries, unless you enter information in the search box at top left.

Figure 3: The Deepin store serves as a centralized management tool for installing and uninstalling programs.

The vertical bar on the left divides the software in the program window into subgroups. Under each application, a downward-pointing button selects the program for installation when pressed, which is reflected in the Installation tab at the top. Clicking on the tab opens a list of all the tagged programs and indicates the state of installation in a progress bar. The uninstall programs work just as easily: Navigate to the Uninstall section and click on the trash can icon next to the appropriate application. Finally, confirm the selection by clicking on the check mark that appears.

Installing or uninstalling applications does not require a password, which makes use of the operating system very convenient; however, it also presents a security risk. The software collection, which Deepin offers exclusively in its own repositories, is on a par with other major distributions.

The transfer rate achieved by the repositories, which are hosted in China, was poor. In our lab, it often took five minutes for Deepin just to update the meta-information. The download rate varied between 20 and 80Kbps. In a later repeat of the test, the transfer rate reached an acceptable 250Kbps.

Tailor-Made

Like all major desktop environments, DDE also comes with custom applications that blend especially well with the system. These include Deepin Game, Deepin Music, and Deepin Movie, which you can access via the dock. Whereas the multimedia applications offer sleek playback software for a wide variety of generic formats, Deepin Game is still primarily tailored to the Chinese market.

The games on offer here are partly online games, some of which display advertising. Some games can also be installed locally. The Deepin developers have added some categories for different game genres to improve navigation in the Deepin Game interface, which helps you find well-known games faster. The customization options in the My Games tab let you store and recover game states. Incomplete localization, however, renders the application not entirely suitable for use outside China.

That said, the concept of grouping different games in an interface with additional online access does show a potentially interesting approach that any Linux for gamers could follow (Figure  4).

Figure 4: The Deepin Game application primarily offers games in Chinese at this time.

The multimedia applications provide only relatively simple playback functions. Through the integration of various codecs, in most cases, they do play back movies and music; however, the video player in particular still shows some weaknesses. For example, it fails to detect the aspect in some movies, thus resulting in distortions. However, this shortcoming can be adjusted manually with relative ease in the context menu.

More serious problems occur if a movie has several audio tracks and subtitles. Thus far, the software does not let you change the audio track and only displays subtitles if they are stored in a separate file. Multimedia lovers are thus advised to install VLC via the package manager.

Finally, Deepin Boot Maker helps you create a bootable USB flash drive (Figure  5). You need only the Deepin ISO image and a USB stick on which the software can set up a system for mobile use. Much like the rest of the system, managing Boot Maker is easy thanks to its graphical interface.

Figure 5: Deepin Boot Maker creates a bootable flash drive.

Conclusions

The developers from China offer a strong system in Deepin 2014. The innovative DDE, completely implemented in HTML, not only presents an elegant design, it shows what a mature desktop can look like.

The relatively close visual relationship to Gnome  3.x at first glance does not mean that the Deepin interface is also conceptually based on this model. In fact, the opposite is the case: Eliminating conventional controls and the consistent relocation of setup menus to the borders of the screen not only help exploit today's popular widescreen displays in a better way but also ensure ease of access to all the necessary options. This means that users are neither frustrated by overloaded menus nor treated like five-year-olds. Linux Deepin thus offers an alternative to users who are looking for an agile all-around system with an elegant interface, a stable base, and state-of-the-art control concepts.

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