As I work my way down the list of Linux operating systems in the Distrowatch rankings I have landed an unlikely candidate at number 4 in the form of MX Linux.
I am not suggesting that MX Linux isn’t a worthy operating system to be placed in position 4 but the fact that it has risen so high, so quickly is unusual.
Created from the developers that brought you AntiX and Mepis, MX Linus is aimed at mid-range computers which means it doesn’t consume the resources as some operating systems but it also doesn’t class itself as lightweight. In a fairytale called Goldilinux, baby bear would say it was just right.
MX Linux is based on the Debian Stable branch which means it should be stable and solid.
How To Get MX Linux
You can download the MX Linux ISO from https://mxlinux.org/download-links.
The default desktop environment for MX Linux is XFCE.
Rather unconventionally the MX Linux desktop has the XFCE Panel on the left hand side of the screen as opposed to at the top or bottom.
Conky is installed and set up so that you can see the time and system resource usage in the centre of the screen. The clock is also shown at the top of the left panel.
The panel by default is made up of the following icons from the bottom to the top:
- Menu – When clicked brings up the Whisker menu for selecting applications
- Workspace – Choose which of the 2 virtual workspaces you wish to view
- Unmount devices – If you have a USB drive or external device installed you can unmount it using this option
- Power settings – Shows how much charge your battery has and allows you to adjust settings to save power
- Audio settings – Change the volume
- Network settings – Connect to WIFI
- Language settings – Keyboard language settings
- History – clipboard style history
- Bluetooth settings – connect to bluetooth devices
- Package manager – install software
- File manager – copy, delete, move, create folders and files
- Firefox – Web browser
Clicking on the menu icon brings up a menu as shown above. A list of categories appears on the right side of the menu and clicking on a category changes the items in the main panel.
You can search for applications by typing in a search term in the search bar.
Clicking on the clock icon on the panel brings up the calendar.
Connecting to the internet
To connect to the internet click on the network icon on the panel and a list of WiFi networks will appear. Click on the name of the network you wish to connect to and enter the security key.
Web Browser – Firefox
The web browser installed with MX Linux is version 58.0.2 of Firefox Quantum. It is worth noting that the latest version of Firefox is 63.0.3. Not many distributions will provide you with the latest version. If you want version 63 then you can download it from the Firefox website.
Email Client – Thunderbird
The default mail client is Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a fully featured email client with mail, contacts, task scheduling and the ability to manage RSS feeds.
When you first start Thunderbird you are given the option to create a new email account but lets face it, most people already have one. You can click on the “Skip this and use my existing email” account whereby you can then set up your mail.
If you use one of the major email providers such as GMail you can simply enter your username and password. With GMail in particular you are then asked to authorise Thunderbird as a client.
As well as dealing with email you can use Thunderbird as an RSS reader.
Graphics – GIMP
The default program for editing images is GIMP version 2.8.
Audio – Clementine
The default audio application is Clementine and what a pick that is by the way. Definitely one of the best audio applications Linux has to offer.
By default Clementine will import music from the Music folder within your home directory but you can choose to use any folder to import from.
The list of artists are shown in the left panel and you can drill down in to get to the songs. You can create playlists or choose one of the smart playlists which includes things like 50 random tracks, newest tracks, never played, most played, favourite tracks and least favourite tracks.
The song info button returns the lyrics for the song and the artist info provides details a biography of the band or singer.
Videos – VLC Media Player / SM Tube
The VLC media player is something of a standard when it comes to playing back video files so instead of going into too much detail about that I thought I would highlight the other video application installed with MX Linux which is SM Tube.
SM Tube is a video search tool which lets you find videos on Youtube and other video sites.
Office Suite – LibreOffice
LibreOffice is the default office suite and it includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database package.
With the odd exception, LibreOffice is the default office suite for the majority of Linux distributions.
MX Linux has its own package manager, although Synaptic is installed as well.
Using the default package manager you can work your way through the list of the most popular packages. I’m obviously not going to list every package but just as an example here are the sorts of things you can find:
- Audio – Audacious, Audacity, DeaDBeef, MOC, MPD, Pithos, QMMP, Spotify and XMMS
- Browser – Firefox, Chromium, Opera, Palemoon
- Email – Thunderbird, Claws
- Games – PlayOnLinux, Steam, SuperTux
- Graphics – GIMP, Imagemagick
- Mediacenter – Kodi, Plex
- Misc – Google Earth, Virtualbox, WINE
- Video – Kdenlive, Openshot
The full app catalog has a lot more applications available and you can choose which repository to use (Stable, MX Test, Debian backports).
As you can see, by default Steam and Spotify are available in the package manager.
Customising MX Linux
MX Linux uses the XFCE desktop so the world is your oyster when it comes to customisation. I don’t think there is a desktop environment that is quite as customisable as XFCE (perhaps Enlightenment?!?).
For those of you who just like to change your wallpaper you can do that by right clicking on the desktop and choosing desktop settings.
The images provided with MX Linux are fairly uninspiring but you can easily download one from the internet or indeed use a photo you have taken yourself.
The menu tab lets you choose whether to have a context menu when you right click and lets you manage the behaviour of the menu.
The icons tab lets you add icons to the desktop for home, file system, wastebasket and removable devices.
If you want to go a bit further than a background change and changing your wallpaper then you can start messing with panels.
The only limit for customising MX Linux (or indeed any Linux distribution with XFCE installed) is your imagination.
For instance the image below shows MX Linux with the Cairo dock installed.
MX Linux is exactly what the website describes. It doesn’t use much in terms of resources, the software selection is decent and anything that doesn’t come pre-installed is easy enough to acquire.
The system is fairly easy to use although I’m not sure about the panel on the left hand side. It is easy to configure the XFCE desktop to work the way you want it to and I haven’t hit any real issues whilst using MX Linux.
By default I don’t think it looks as crisp and polished as say Linux Mint but it works well and you can always customise it to make it look better. I would say MX Linux goes more for function over good looks as opposed to Elementary which appears to go for looks over function.
There isn’t really much to complain about. The installer is fine although the partitioning might be more confusing than Linux Mint’s installer if you choose to dual boot. It is easy to install MX Linux as the only operating system on a computer.
There aren’t many developer packages within the repositories. No VSCode, Brackets, IntelliJ, PyCharm or other popular IDEs. These can be downloaded however from the developer’s websites.
If I had to describe MX Linux I would say it is solid but not spectacular.