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MX Linux has an old-school look and feel. Here's why it's so popular

If you're looking for a Linux distribution with a perfect blend of usability and customization, MX Linux might do the trick.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Getty Images/iStockphoto

MX Linux is currently listed as the most downloaded Linux distribution on Distrowatch. This might come as a surprise to a lot of people, especially given it ranks above Linux Mint, Pop!_OS, and Ubuntu. For those who've never heard of MX Linux, it's based on Debian's stable branch as a cooperative venture between antiX and what's left of the MEPIS Linux communities. With Xfce as its default desktop (you can also download spins with either the KDE Plasma or Fluxbox desktops), it's a user-friendly, fast operating system that is a great option for those new to Linux and even those with years of skill under their belt. 

One aspect of MX Linux that appeals to me is that the flagship version (Xfce) looks and feels like old-school Linux but with just enough modernity to make it a viable option for today's users. 

Its focus is ease-of-use and high performance. If you want an even more modern interface, you can choose the KDE Plasma version. You can go with the Fluxbox edition if you need to eke even more performance out of your system. 

Included software

Out of the box, MX Linux includes plenty of tools you need to be productive, including: immediately

  • Firefox: Web browser
  • LibreOffice: Office suite
  • Conky: Desktop system monitor
  • Thunderbird: Email client
  • PDF Arranger: PDF tool
  • VLC media player: Media player
  • Clementine music player: Music player
  • LuckyBackup: Backup and Sync tool
  • antiX: Ad Blocker
  • Asunder: CD ripper
  • Blueman: Bluetooth manager
  • Catfish: File search tool
  • Clipboard manager
  • Foliate: ebook reader
  • Thunar: File manager
  • Gufw: GUI firewall manager

There's also a collection of MX Tools, which makes it easy to do things like configuring Samba, manage repositories for APT, snapshot management, system updates, menu editing, cleanup, job scheduling, and boot repair, disk management, codecs installation, user management, and more. 

The MX Samba Config tool alone is worth the price of entry (which is, of course, free). The one caveat to the MX Samba Config tool (which is something that should really be addressed) is that even though it does include a Samba User Management feature, you cannot add or enable new Samba users from this GUI. Instead, you must first add/enable Samba users with the commands:

sudo smbpasswd -a USER
sudo smbpasswd -e USER

Where USER is the username you're adding. That user, of course, must already be in the system. We may never know why this feature isn't a part of MX Samba Config.

Outside of that one caveat, the MX tools make managing the operating system really simple. One word of warning for new users, some of the MX tools do offer considerable power and should be used with great caution. You can see all of the available MX Tools by opening the desktop menu and clicking MX Tools in the Favorites tab (Figure 1).

The MX Linux Xfce desktop menu.

Figure 1: The MX Linux Xfce desktop menu gives you access to plenty of software.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once the MX Tools app is open (Figure 2), you can launch any one of the apps to make configuring and using your system even easier.


Figure 2: The MX Tools app open and ready to go.

Image: Jack Wallen

Another nice addition to MX Linux is the user manual (Figure 3), which covers topics like installation, configuration, basic usage, software management, and advanced use. This manual can be accessed directly from the desktop, along with a handy FAQ tool.

The MX Linux user manual.

Figure 3: The User Manual and FAQ tools are accessed directly from the desktop.

Image: Jack Wallen

The lack of bleeding edge software

The one knock against MX Linux comes by way of it being based on Debian Stable. The software installed isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, out-of-date, but it's certainly not the latest/greatest release. For instance, the installed version of LibreOffice is On my Pop!_OS instance, that version is However, the installed version of Firefox on MX Linux is up to date. So, what you'll get is a bit of a mixed bag. 

Even with that mixed bag of releases, you'll find plenty of reliable software to help make you productive right out of the box.

Who is MX Linux for?

In a word…anyone. Although it might not be the best-looking Linux distribution, MX Linux makes using the open-source operating system an absolute treat for any type of user. If you're new to Linux, you'll find this distribution to be a welcome respite from the complications found in many other operating systems. If you're an old-hat with Linux, you'll quickly come to realize there's plenty of power to be found in this take on the OS. And if you opt to go the Xfce route, you can get really granular with the desktop configurations, so to make the UI look and feel exactly how you like it.

In the end, MX Linux is a Linux distribution that is an outstanding choice for anyone looking to get a desktop operating system with an ideal blend of ease of use and customization. MX Linux might not be perfect, but it makes up for the rare misses with a lot of hits. Between the incredible amount of customizations, the MX Tools, and the speed/reliability of Xfce, you cannot go wrong with this distribution.

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