Want Deepin Desktop without privacy worries? Try ExTiX Linux

If you're looking for a Linux distribution that ships with the Deepin Desktop Environment, ExTiX is a gorgeous, easy-to-use alternative.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Woman using a laptop while working from home.
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Back in 2018, a YouTuber who went by the name QuidsUp posted a video alleging that Deepin Linux was spyware that sent information from the desktop operating system back to servers in China via the CNZZ tracker. Since then, it's been rumored that CNZZ has been removed from Deepin Linux. Deepin's response was that the collection of data was similar to what Google does with Analytics for collecting anonymized data.

The thing is, our information is being collected by numerous companies, and many times users have to opt out of the collection of such data. Unfortunately, not every app or service makes it easy to opt out.

So, what if you want to use the Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE), but you'd prefer not to use Deepin Linux because of its data collecting?

One way to do that is with the ExTiX Linux distribution with the Deepin Desktop Environment. ExTiX is from Sweden, hosted by the Swedish Linux Society, and can be installed with different desktop environments (such as KDE Plasma, LXQt, or LXQt Mini), one of which is DDE. That means, if you want DDE without Deepin, there's an alternative distribution for you.

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution 

When I first experienced ExTiX, I found it to be beautiful but in serious need of polish. For example, back with ExTiX 21.1, I had to manually set the runlevel so the operating system would boot into graphical mode. Even then, the fix was buggy and I had a lot of trouble getting the distribution to boot to the GUI. Another issue was the lack of a pre-installed office suite. In fact, the list of pre-installed software was quite minimal. Fortunately, those apps are fairly easy to install, especially given this is a Ubuntu-based desktop distribution.

That was then, this is now. Although some of the polish has been added, there's still a lack of pre-installed applications (although it does now have the Deepin Email app). And I still have questions about ExTiX, some of which make me curious as to why the developers didn't make even deeper changes to Deepin.

Let's talk about the good first.

ExTiX is gorgeous

If you're looking for a beautiful desktop, ExTiX's take on Deepin is quite lovely. It's also very stable (which is a vast improvement over the last time I tested the distribution). Anyone who has ever used Microsoft Windows, KDE Plasma, or just about any desktop with a traditional panel, menu, and system tray will immediately feel right at home with DDE. And, as I said, it's quite beautiful. 

The default ExTiX Deepin desktop.

ExTiX Deepin edition is quite lovely.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

One thing ExTiX and DDE do is ensure that all aspects of the desktop are unified. No matter what app you open it looks like it belongs on the desktop. 

Also: XeroLinux could be the most beautiful desktop on the market

The theming is so well done that it makes for such a pleasant experience.

The Deepin Calendar app.

The ExTiX Deepin theme is consistent throughout.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ExTiX performs very well

Much to my surprise, ExTiX performs really well. In my last experience with the operating system, I found it to be quite sluggish and unreliable. Now, apps open quickly and show zero signs of instability. So, for anyone looking to use a beautiful and stable desktop that rivals that of MacOS, the Deepin version of ExTiX is a great option.

ExTiX is user-friendly

Truth be told, most modern Linux distributions are user-friendly, so this isn't unique to ExTiX. You'll find plenty of pre-configured app launchers on the panel and a desktop menu that is simple to navigate. The only quirk to the menu is that you have to click All Categories at the bottom to see a list of everything installed. 

The default ExTiX Deepin desktop menu.

The ExTiX Deepin desktop menu is very user-friendly.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

If, however, you don't want to go that route, you can always just use the search feature in the menu to find the app you're looking for. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, you won't find much in the way of pre-installed apps. You do get:

  • Firefox
  • Deepin Email
  • Deepin Music
  • Deepin Movie
  • Deepin Draw
  • Deepin Document Viewer
  • Deepin Text Editor
  • Leaf Pad

That's a lot of default Deepin apps, which leads us to the bad.

The Deepin AppStore

At first blush, the Deepin AppStore is not bad. It's well-designed and easy to navigate, and makes installing applications simple. The problem with the Deepin AppStore is that it was tied to the collection of user data that QuidsUp spoke about in his video. That's all fine and good because you can get around that with the command line. For example, you can install Snap with the commands:

sudo apt-get install snapd -y
sudo snap install core

When the installation completes, refresh the installation with:

sudo snap refresh

Once you've installed Snap, you can then install applications with commands like:

sudo snap install spotify

If you want LibreOffice installed, do so with:

sudo snap install libreoffice

That all should work just fine. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Any time you attempt to install an app via Snap, it errors out.

Fortunately, Flatpak works fine, which can be installed with:

sudo apt-get install flatpak -y

Once it's installed, add the required repository with:

sudo flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

You can now install LibreOffice with the command:

sudo flatpak install libreoffice

If that doesn't work, you'll need to download the flatpak file for LibreOffice from the Flatpak site and then issue the command:

flatpak install ~/Downloads/org.libreoffice.LibreOffice.flatpakref

When the installation completes, log out of the desktop and log back in, so the LibreOffice menu entry is added for the convenient launching of the app.

Also: Office app equivalents in Linux: Make the jump

Or, you could take your changes with the Deepin AppStore and install anything you need from there. I've used the Deepin Store and it's really quite easy to work with. For the average user, I don't see how using the Deepin AppStore via ExTiX will be problematic. But, if you are paranoid about your data privacy, I'd go the Flatpak route.

The verdict

If you're looking for a beautiful desktop Linux distribution, the ExTiX Deepin edition will certainly fit that bill. And, since this is Linux, even with the concerns surrounding the Deepin AppStore, there are ways around those issues. Either way, you'll find ExTiX to be a gorgeous desktop operating system that is easy to use, performs quite well, and is as stable as any desktop out there.

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