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Opinion: Best Linux Distro for Me Has a Refreshing Burst of Cinnamon

 

Just in time for the holidays, Clem and the gang from Linux Mint start sprinkling Cinnamon, well, everywhere.

Cinnamon desktop, using the built-in Zukitwo theme

Anybody who's talked with me about running Linux on the desktop within the past year has almost certainly gotten an earful about Cinnamon. If you haven't heard of it, here's the basic description: clean, beautiful, fast, and traditional desktop environment.

I know, I know. That "T" word - and it's the one that's unfashionable for desktop UIs these days, too.

Not "T"ablet, not "T"ouch. "T"raditional.

As in, you know exactly what that launcher in the lower left does, the icons make sense; applications each have their own button in the window list; menus are attached to their windows; and you can even launch apps from the menu without ever letting go of your keyboard. That kind of traditional.

Just enough knobs, switches, bells, whistles, etc.

I've been a full-time Linux desktop user since 2003, and have given every modern environment out there an honest try. Cinnamon is - hands down - my favorite.

The thing is, I use it on a day-in, day-out basis at work. My laptop runs Linux, so I want something that is fast, intuitive, reasonably stable, and that gets the heck out of the way.

My desktop is like my Galaxy S3 or the IVI system in my wife's car - I'm thrilled that it runs Linux, but most of the time I don't want to be reminded of the technology, and least of all when I just need to finish a financial report, make a phone call, or find the airport. It just needs to work without being a distraction, and Cinnamon has performed like a champ in this regard.

I'll admit to being a sucker for eye candy... if it's fast

The developers behind Linux Mint have historically done a great job in striking a comfortable balance between beauty and usability, but it's also worth calling out the team's ability to execute. While its roots go back to a number of Mint-specific GNOME Shell extensions, Cinnamon itself is quite stable despite being not quite one year old.

They've largely accomplished this by reusing components from upstream projects, and tweaking, repackaging, or forking as necessary. For example, Cinnamon uses many GNOME 3 components, but not necessarily the ones exposed to the user, so the end user experience is totally different. In some cases it adds new functionality (the desktop look and feel, for example), in other cases they retain features that have been deprecated upstream (as with Nemo).

The Nemo file manager, new in Cinnamon 1.6.7

Development has been really rapid, so until recently your best bet for running the latest Cinnamon release was Linux Mint or LMDE. (I happen to prefer Debian distros, so Mint has worked well for me.) But it's steadily making its way into the repos of other distros like Fedora and OpenSUSE, and there's a Cinnamon PPA for Ubuntu.

It's great to see Cinnamon gaining traction above and beyond the fast growth of Linux Mint. Clem Lefebvre (founder and maintainer of both Linux Mint and Cinnamon, and release manager for MATE) and the rest of the team have really done a solid job.

If you get some spare time over the holidays, give it a try. Your mileage may vary of course, and I've found the occasional rough edge, but it's certainly worked well for me.

 

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  • Dexter Colorado Said:

    I still wish they'd do a full feature version of gnome that is closer to gnome 2. by that I mean everything you can do in gnome 2 but with gtk3 and perhaps absolute perfection of compiz. Not a different project, not fallback. Just the classic Gnome experience that made me love linux in the first place

  • Brian Warner Said:

    Have you tried MATE? It's a maintained fork of Gnome2, and the Linux Mint team are also really active with it. It's one of their official environments.

  • simon Said:

    Im very lazy, is there a way to make the menu appear instantly when the start icon at the bottom left corner is clicked? I hate the pause, otherwise I'm very impressed...

  • Josh Said:

    Yes there is Simon. Under the Cinnamon Preferences there are some values in milliseconds that should be around 400 - 450 just lower those values, and you will see the UI become more responsive. Those values determine how fast, or slow the menu, windows, etc... open as well as close.

  • Gonzalo Said:

    Lots of people are talking about Cinnamon, not acknowledging other very good DEs like KDE, XFCE and other modifications in Gnome as the one made by in SolusOS (more stable than Cinnamon, over all other things). FLOSS community cannot be myopic like that! Tastes are tastes. Use what you want, _vive la liberté_. But look to your sides to see there's a world out there!

  • FY Said:

    Yes KDE and XFCE might be great; but those are established DE's that most people will have tried already. i think this article was gently invited gnome3 users to give cinnamon a try. i find cinnamon more functional than XFCE (of course) and faster than KDE. :)

  • Ryan Northrup Said:

    More functional than XFCE? I'm not sure if I'd agree with that notion. XFCE can do quite a bit. It's certainly faster than KDE (pretty much anything besides Windows' or OS X's DEs is faster than KDE, albeit never nearly as pretty).

  • Brian Warner Said:

    Agreed, KDE and XFCE have their place, as do Gnome 3, MATE, Unity, etc. In all honesty, I was gently inviting _anyone_ to give Cinnamon a try, particularly those who want a modern, traditional desktop to get stuff done. This article was a result of the news that Cinnamon is making its way into other distros' repos, and given its relative youth, I wanted to call some attention to their great work so far.

  • DRC Said:

    I enjoyed Cinnamon on Mint and Fedora. As of now, however, I'm sticking with CentOS and Gnome 2.

  • Ryan Northrup Said:

    I wasn't a fan of Cinnamon. The customization features are lacking (I don't like the green color and there's no obvious appearance setting that lets me get rid of it entirely; themes only seem to change the panel and notifications), window manipulation is buggy (maximizing a Chromium window will cause it to disappear, as will restoring it, until you minimize and restore it afterward - a problem that I've never seen in any other WM or DE, so I'm doubtful that the application is to blame), and it wasn't really impressive to me. I almost reformatted my Mint partition until I decided to try MATE, which I enjoy leaps and bounds more over Cinnamon (even if it does look pretty much like a mostly-unchanged GNOME 2); I'm finding it to be more stable and vastly more customizable than Cinnamon. Basically, between Cinnamon and MATE, I'd hands-down recommend MATE instead, especially if you want a GNOME 2-style desktop that actually looks like GNOME 2.

  • charlieg Said:

    Good article, and for the right reasons. Been with Mint ever since Ubuntu went Unity. Love it.

  • Brian Warner Said:

    @charlieg: Thanks, I appreciate the kind words and am glad it's worked well for you, too. I took the same route, and have certainly been pleased.

  • Arnold Said:

    I would like to recommend you Cr OS Linux, which is based on the latest openSUSE and has Cinnamon as a default desktop!

  • Robert Said:

    Are you kidding? Mint is a children's distribution that doesn't support version upgrades and buries its head in the sand over licensing issues. And with their keenness for proprietary drivers, I'm sure their kernel team have a fun time trying to fix hardware problems. (do they even have a kernel team?)

  • Kirk M Said:

    Robert - No, Mint does not support in place version upgrades and for a good reason. In place upgrades cause nothing but problems which has been proven time and time again. Back up your data (which you should do on a regular basis anyway), perform a clean install and restore your data. Takes me about an hour to 2 hours depending on the computer I'm updating to the next version. And this BS about licensing issues is a fool's game at best. This is a Irish/European release, not an US release so licensing doesn't apply. However, Linux Mint also offers a non-codec etc release just for people who are concerned about this. As far as the rest of your comment is concerned, you obviously know nothing of Linux Mint, what it's based on or kernel development and who is actually doing it. And proprietary drivers can be installed in any distro, there is no keenness involved. Linux Mint is hardly a children's distro. Learn of what you speak before posting, yes?

  • igor Said:

    I'm running Linux Mint Xfce now and keeping my eye on Cinnamon. When the next LTS rolls around, heck yes you'd better believe I'm jumping over to the nice and modern Cinnamon. But for now I want the developers to take their time and shake any bugs out...

  • peeulosi Said:

    I'm glad someone had success with Cinnamon. If froze up 7 different times when I tried to select the backgrounds themes* It was too fudged up for my tastes. I downloaded MATE and used that again. I liked Mint13 MATE and am staying on that with MINT14 after this bad taste of Cinnamon.

  • dashesy Said:

    I am using Cinnamon on Fedora starting with a private ppa on Fedora 16, and it works great. With many OSes shifting to tablet paradigm, Cinnamon is the best hope to win back the loyalty of normal desktop users who cannot tolerate the likes of "Windows 8" but want a beautiful and easy environment.

  • JoeG1484 Said:

    I have to agree with you on this... Most any "Gnome 3" based distro (Using mutter as the WM) crashes on my system (AMD Phenom(tm) II X6 1055T Processor with 8 gigs and Nvidia 550 GTX). Unity also - constant pop-ups about crashed applications... To be honest, KDE 4.9.4 with Kubuntu runs most stable and fast on my system. However, Cinnamon is looking very good and is MUCH less buggy as it was when it first came out. Might try it again in a few years, but for now, its back to simple, functional, stable, and speedy KDE for me!!!

  • simplesimon Said:

    Any basic distro (arch,slack,debian...) with openbox/conky/tint2.

  • kuldeep Said:

    @simplesimon : I understand your problem you can find your solution in the linux section

  • kuldeep bharti Said:

    @simplesimon : I understand your problem you can find your solution in the linux section

  • MichaelB Said:

    I really like LMDE 13 with Cinnamon. I used to for several months after release without issue until one update insisted on removing anything and everything related to the GUI! I reinstalled and went through all the updates, and sure enough - it uninstalled the GUI. There is some conflict with my AMD A8 APU or motherboard, just haven't been able to track it down. I switched to LinuxMint 13 with KDE, and haven't noticed any slowdowns that people complain about. KDE is pretty, yes - but I like the "traditional" feel of Cinnamon better.

  • 4ensicPenguin2 Said:

    I've been using Cinnamon with Ubuntu 12.04. works great for me.

  • oldrocker99 Said:

    I've been using MATE since Mint 12, although I now use it with Ultimate Edition 3.4 on my desktop, and Xubuntu 12.10 on my aging single-core laptop. I have had trouble with Cinnamon (no menus), but MATE runs great on both machines, and gives me that good ol' GNOME 2.x feeling that I first fell in love with using Ubuntu 8.04, when I started using Linux, and cemented my enmity toward Micro$oft. WE have the *freedom* to change our GUIs, and the poor bastards who are buying Windows 8 without a touchscreen have few options. Ha, ha.

  • NJ732 Said:

    Nothing wrong with having lots of alternatives, Unity works nice for me.

  • Ari Torres Said:

    Give Unity a chance,try it for a couples of day and admire beauty and power.Ubuntu 13.04 it's still in the making but I can assure you it's stable,fast,secure and beautiful,besides having the latest versions of everything you like,Ubuntu is the leader of all Linux Distros and it's going every where.Desktops,Laptops,Tablets and even Phones.Don't be fool.Stick with the Leader(Best). Ari Torres.


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