The Linux Mint Desktop
The Linux Mint distro is based on Ubuntu, so you may have flashes of deja vu if you have switched to the former from the latter! That said, the Mint desktop bears more of a resemblance to the older Gnome 2.0 desktop rather than the current Unity one that it's sibling has recently adopted.
One of the huge plus points of Mint over it's rivals .. is the amount of software that it comes pre-installed with
Unity is currently a contentious point in the Ubuntu community, with many long-time users execrating it when it was introduced in the 11.04 release. As a result, we may see more users switching to Mint - as it has many of the advantages of Ubuntu (-notably, virtually all the packages available for Ubuntu will work on Mint without changes) but with a more traditional approach to the desktop.
However, if you are new to Linux, then which desktop (-and therefore which distro) you choose will depend purely on personal taste: all GUIs do the job adequately - but some may suit your needs better than others.
One of the huge plus points of Mint over it's rivals for the Linux newbie is the amount of software that it comes pre-installed with - meaning that you can start using it straight out of the box. Here is a taster of some of the applications the latest release 11 (LXDE version) is currently shipping with:
|Word Processor ||abiword|
|Media Players||Gnome MPlayer, VLC and Exaile|
|Chat||Pidgin and XChat IRC|
|Web Support||Java 6 / Adobe Flash Support|
In addition, it comes with all the Ubuntu system tools, plus a few extra of it's own - as well as the ability to fully customize the look and feel should you so desire.
Note that even if an application is not in the default installation, it can be easily downloaded using the Mint Software Manager within minutes.
The downside is that the Mint distro is larger than most others, so it will not fit on a CD - and will require more disc space. Also, should you prefer different applications to those supplied, you are going to have to remove the unwanted apps and install the desired ones anyway, so the pre-install might not give you anything!
In summary, Mint is gaining wide popularity - with claims that it may have overtaken Fedora in popularity of late. Old hands at Linux have yet to be convinced that it has anything to offer over Ubuntu or Fedora - but Linux newcomers may find it is right up their street! In use, it is slick - and if you have a grudge against Ubuntu or are not experienced enough to throw your lot in with Fedora - it is definitely worth a try!
Note: the screenshots in this section were taken from Linux Mint 11 LXDE (-also known as "Katya"). LXDE is a fully-featured, lightweight GUI desktop, based on the X-Windows subsystem.
When you boot Mint, the desktop will display:
As you can see, the default desktop is a fairly spartan one - with just two icons (-both invoking the file manager) and the bottom panel. The desktop background can be customized as desired, using options under the "Preferences" heading in the Mint Main Menu.
Open windows and applications display in the main desktop area.
Mint allows files and shortcuts to be saved to the desktop, by simply dragging the desired file to the "Desktop" heading in the left hand pane of the file manager window. An icon will then appear on the desktop, which can be dragged around or renamed / deleted as desired.
The bulk of your desktop interaction with Mint will be through the panel at the bottom of the desktop:
This can be divided into four parts:
Clicking on the cog wheel icon in the bottom left hand corner of the screen () displays the Main Menu, which allows the user access to all the Mint functions. This can be likened to the "Start" menu in Windows:
Many Main Menu options will, in turn, have sub-menus off them:
From here you can access functions such as:
|Accessories||Programs to help you achieve common desktop tasks|
|Graphics||List programs for dealing with images|
|Internet||List programs for accessing the internet|
|Office||List any applications commonly used for business purposes|
|Sound & Video||List programs for dealing with sound and video files|
|System Tools||Click this icon to access various system administration tools|
|Preferences||Click this icon to customize your system|
|Software Manager||Click this to install or remove applications|
|Terminal||Click this to open a command line window|
|Run||Click this to open a dialogue to run a program or script without dropping to the Terminal window|
|Logout||Options to close the current session, power off, restart, etc|
The icon immediately to the right of the Main Menu cog is the "Iconify" icon: click this icon to quickly minimize all open windows on the desktop:
In the middle part of the toolbar, the thumbnails of all open applications are listed: click on these to jump directly to that window -or to restore it to it's former size if it was previously minimized (iconified):
On the right hand side of the toolbar is the system tray: this allows you to interact with any system program and processes (daemons) running in the background. What appears here depends on what you are doing and what it running on your system, but in the case above, the icons are as follows:
The Mint File Manager works very much like that of it's Ubuntu counterpart upon which it is based, with only superficial differences (-mainly the general look and feel).
The two default icons on the desktop both open the File Manager, albeit placing you in different directories (/home/<user> or / respectively):
It is also accessible from the Mint Main Menu (-under the "Accessories" option).
When you have finished with Mint, select the "Logout" option in the Mint Main Menu:
A dialogue box will display listing several options, such as:
- Shutdown : shutdown the PC (power down)
- Reboot : power down and power back on
- Suspend : spin down the discs and put the computer into power save mode
- Hibernate : save the current state to disc and power down
- Switch User : log in as a different user whilst retaining the current user session
- Logout : quit this user session and return to the logon menu
- Cancel : quit this dialogue and return to the desktop
Simply choose the desired option in order to carry it out.