Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon: A Spectacular GNOME 3 Fork
When I first tried out Cinnamon, I was extremely disappointed to be honest. It was bloated, counterintuitive, and utterly incompatible with my netbook’s resolution of 1024×600 pixels. The latter issue is particularly what irked me, But with Clement’s upcoming Mint 13 release, all the above problems were fixed, Cinnamon became stable and fluid, and they added a host of other innovative and useful features that make Linux Mint 13 a truly stellar release.
Linux Mint 13 has two main flavors this time
Linux Mint has historically had one flagship flavor release (the one released first, and that got the most effort put into it), which was Linux Mint proper, the Ubuntu GNOME-based version, with LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) a runner-up flavor. For this release, there are two main releases: Mint Cinnamon and Mint MATE. This particular review is of Linux Mint Cinnamon.
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So what does Cinnamon 1.4 have to offer in Mint 13?
In their release notes for Cinnamon’s 1.4 release, the Linux Mint team highlights some of the major new features that provides the spectacular experience that we’ve come to expect from Mint:
- Expo Overview: the “Expo” workspace overview mode is a great example of how Cinnamon takes the innovative efforts of the GNOME 3 platform and makes it even better! It looks and behaves like the Compiz Expo plugin (from which it gets its name), and makes workspace management a delightfully dynamic experience. More on that later.
- Settings Applet: This provides a host of very useful options, including Troubleshooting options (restart Cinnamon, looking glass, restore settings to default), the Panel Edit Mode (see below), and Quick access to system settings.
- Panel Edit Mode: This is a new concept in Cinnamon developed as part of the effort to rework GNOME 2 applets to take advantage of GNOME 3 technologies. Applets are not movable by default; to change their position, activate “Panel Edit Mode” (see screenshot) and color-coded panel zones will appear, easing your ability to customize applets on the panel as you see fit. This feature is similar to the “lock/unlock taskbar” feature that was introduced in Windows XP.
- Localization: Cinnamon is now localized for 39 languages and has support for RTL (right-to-left) languages. They’ve also set up a launchpad-based translation infrastructure.
- New Configuration Options: “Only use workspaces on primary monitor”, Configurable hot corner position and behavior, Menu hover delay, and Draggable panel launchers.
- Various Improvements for: Mint Menu, Window List, Applets, and Cinnamon Settings.
For the complete details on Cinnamon 1.4 improvements, see the release notes.
Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon is Polished
The previous releases of Cinnamon were disappointing for me, as the overall experience was buggy, sluggish, visually-limited, and generally lacking in customization and functionality. For this release, all of the problems I had with it just “disappeared”, and what I got instead was a very satisfying and speedy experience, with customization becoming a strength instead of a weakness. I would also like to note that overall Cinnamon integrates far better with Linux Mint than it does with Sabayon, likely because Cinnamon is the brainchild of Clement Lefebvre, the creator and lead developer of Linux Mint. Cinnamon was previously considered alpha software, but with the level of performance, stability, and feature-completeness I’m experiencing, I greatly approve its promotion to the “Stable” branch.
The Cinnamon Mint Menu Rocks
This is one of the best-put-together menus I’ve seen, and now that they’ve fixed the problems with resolution scaling (they cleverly overcame this through the “shrinking icons” trick we’ve seen in the GNOME Shell / Unity sidebar), it’s damn near perfect. Cinnamon’s menu is aesthetically pleasing, feature-filled, and efficiently intuitive. Definitely WIN in my book.
Compiz Effects Are Interactive, But Not Gaudy
One of the major problems with Compiz, interestingly enough, is that it’s overused! For the individual user this level of customization isn’t a problem (it’s most definitely a good thing!), But for the Linux Mint team, I applaud them for providing a default Compiz experience that is noticeably interactive, but they don’t go overboard (like dare-i-say “Ultimate Edition”, but I suppose that’s their niche!) The amount of Compiz effects used in this release was pleasantly balanced.
Expo Is Amazing
The screenshots do not do justice to how well-put-together and useful Cinnamon’s new Expo mode is. It’s a vast improvement over the GNOME 3 overview, as it allows you to control your workspaces completely. The best part of Expo is that there actually are workspaces! You can choose how many workspaces you have (like you used to in GNOME 2), and drag and drop to choose what applications go in what workspace, This makes managing workspaces and application-switching a lot more fluid, feature-filled, and poweruser-friendly.
I cannot emphasize enough just how important of an improvement this is to Cinnamon! So let’s highlight some of the uses that make Expo invaluable to a Linux Mint user:
Multimedia/Graphics Editing: If you regularly use multimedia or image editors like the GIMP, Blender, Inkscape, Rosegarden, or Kino, you will love the powerful workspace management that Expo provides.
Multi-monitor computers: Expo is optimized for managing workspaces for multiple monitors, with many new features (such as “only use workspaces on primary monitor”) added to Mint 13 to capitalize on Expo’s appeal to multi-monitor users.
Workspace Powerusers: I’m an incurable poweruser, and I love workspaces! All of you powerusers out there, I know you can relate to the workspace madness that comes with being a poweruser, and Expo is by far the more versatile and functional workspace management application I have seen!
Linux Mint 13 is exploding with new features and improvements
There is so much amazing new stuff to review, that it would be near-impossible for a review to properly highlight all the amazing things that the Linux Mint Team has done with this new release. The best review you can possibly find, is your own raw experience. I recommend you give Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon a spin as soon as you can. It’s still just a release candidate but in my opinion this release couldn’t get much better than it already is. Both as a Linux Mint release and a Linux distro, I can sincerely give it a critical rating of 10/10 stars. Check it out for yourself and see what I mean.